Monday 20 November 2017
(AFP (eng) 11/06/17)
Niger will allow US forces stationed in the country to arm the drones being used to track jihadists, having previously allowed their use only for surveillance, the government said Saturday. The decision comes a month after jihadists ambushed a joint US-Niger patrol in a volatile area near the border with Mali, killing four American soldiers and four Nigerien troops. But Defence Minister Kalla Moutari said the decision had been taken before the October 4 attack at Tongo Tongo. "It was a negotiation that had been underway for a while. Arming the drones is an option we decided on before we learned of the tragedy at Tongo Tongo," Moutari told state radio. "We are dealing with very well-armed groups," he said,...
(Reuters (Eng) 11/06/17)
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Africa’s mobile internet connections are set to double in the next five years, a study showed on Monday, thanks to affordable smartphones and the roll-out of high-speed networks. A report by research and consulting firm Ovum in London estimates that mobile broadband connections will rise from 419 million at the end of this year to 1.07 billion by the end of 2022. “Data connectivity is growing strongly in Africa, and there are also good prospects on the continent in areas such as digital media, mobile financial services, and the Internet of Things,” said Matthew Reed, Practice Leader Middle East and Africa at Ovum. “But as Africa’s TMT market becomes more convergent and complex, service providers are under...
(AFP (eng) 11/04/17)
In a cloud of ochre dust, a column of army pickup trucks slowly advances on a dirt road near Mali's border with Burkina Faso -- one of the world's hotspots for jihadism. The national flag of Mali flaps in the wind: an appropriate symbol for a brand-new force whose first task is to assure terrified locals that governance is returning to lawless lands. "We are here to secure the zone and to reassure people that they can live a normal life," Lieutenant Gaoussou Diara, who commands 100 Malian troops in the convoy, told AFP. "The track between Tessit and Kayrougouten (in central Mali) is a major route, used by traders and the population." The new force, called the G5 Sahel,...
(AFP (eng) 11/04/17)
The West African state of Niger has ordered the closure of 14 privately-run health establishments after inspectors uncovered "alarming" failings, Health Minister Idi Illiassou said Friday. A months-long check of privately-run clinics, physicians, pharmacies and maternity hospitals, mainly in the capital Niamey, resulted in "36 summons, of which 14 entailed immediate closure while 22 resulted in warnings," he said on television. He said inspectors had uncovered an "alarming situation... (in which) regulations, legislature and procedures for opening (medical) establishments are not respected". "(Ordinary) treatment rooms are being used for bed patients or to carry out surgery and doctors' consulting rooms are being used as laboratories," he said. Illiassou also complained of "anarchy" in pricing among pharmacies, with as much as...
(AFP (eng) 11/03/17)
The military operation that left four US commandos dead in Niger was actually a mission to capture or kill a jihadist leader, not a routine reconnaissance patrol as asserted by the Pentagon, ABC News reported Thursday. The target of the October 3-4 overnight operation was a jihadist leader -- known locally as Dandou -- linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, the network said, quoting senior Nigerien officials. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, told reporters last week the operation was a reconnaissance mission.
(AFP (eng) 11/03/17)
US politicians are voicing concern over America's growing military presence across Africa, where they worry the Pentagon is getting ever more embroiled in a secretive campaign against a shifting enemy. Last month's killing of four US soldiers in a Niger ambush has thrust the issue into the spotlight, with lawmakers calling for greater transparency on what is going on in Africa. "The footprint in Africa is much bigger than the American public understands," Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said this week. The Niger ambush has also rekindled debate over the legal authorities the Pentagon uses to fight jihadist groups overseas, particularly in Africa where about 6,000 US troops are deployed across the vast continent. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis this week faced...
(AFP (eng) 11/03/17)
The West African state of Niger has ordered the closure of 14 privately-run health establishments after inspectors uncovered "alarming" failings, Health Minister Idi Illiassou said Friday. A months-long check of privately-run clinics, physicians, pharmacies and maternity hospitals, mainly in the capital Niamey, resulted in "36 summons, of which 14 entailed immediate closure while 22 resulted in warnings," he said on television. He said inspectors had uncovered an "alarming situation... (in which) regulations, legislature and procedures for opening (medical) establishments are not respected". "(Ordinary) treatment rooms are being used for bed patients or to carry out surgery and doctors' consulting rooms are being used as laboratories," he said. Illiassou also complained of "anarchy" in pricing among pharmacies, with as much as...
(AFP (eng) 11/01/17)
A joint anti-jihadist force linking countries in the Sahel began operations on Wednesday, the French military mission in the region, which is providing support, told AFP. "The deployment of Malian, Nigerien and Burkinabe troops in the G5 Sahel force began this morning," said a colonel for France's Barkhane mission, speaking on condition that only his first name of Marc-Antoine was used. Several hundred troops have been deployed in the initial operation, codenamed Hawbi, he said. It will "provide a show of strength and demonstrate presence" in the Mali, Burkina and Niger border regions "and impede freedom of movement, which several armed groups have enjoyed for months," Marc-Antoine said. "The ultimate goal is to boost the power of the G5 Sahel...
(AFP (eng) 10/31/17)
The UN Security Council looked at ways of shoring up a new G5 Sahel regional counter-terrorism force on Monday, with France seeking UN funding and support for the fight against jihad in Africa. What are the origins of the force to number up to 5,000 troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, and why is it needed? - Why now? - Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- the so-called "G5 Sahel" countries just south of the Sahara -- first raised the idea of a regional force in November 2015 in Chad's capital, N'Djamena. The idea resurfaced in the light of the deteriorating security situation in Mali, and following mounting incidents of jihadist violence in neighbouring Burkina...
(Reuters (Eng) 10/31/17)
HARARE (Reuters) - Economic growth is expected to rise to 3.4 percent in sub-Saharan Africa next year from 2.6 percent in 2017, the IMF said in a report on Monday, but warned that rising debt and political risks in larger economies would weigh down future growth. Nigeria and South African are the biggest economies in Africa south of the Sahara, but both nations have been clouded by political uncertainty linked to the tenure of their leaders. The IMF said a good harvest and recovery in oil output in Nigeria would contribute more than half of the growth in the region this year while an uptick in mining and a better harvest in South Africa as well as a rebound in...
(AFP (eng) 10/30/17)
The United States will pledge $60 million to support the new G5 Sahel regional counter-terrorism force, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday, ahead of UN talks on the operation. "This is a fight we must win, and these funds will play a key role in achieving that mission," he said, describing G5 members Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger as "regional partners." Washington has previously expressed support for the force, and has troops and drone operators in the region supporting operations against Islamist militants, but opposes United Nations involvement. The UN Security Council was due to meet later Monday to look at ways of shoring up the G5 force, with France seeking a multilateral platform to provide assistance...
(Reuters (Eng) 10/30/17)
UNITED NATIONS/ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The United States has promised up to $60 million to support the Group of Five Sahel States (G5 Sahel) Joint Force’s counter-terrorism efforts, the State Department said on Monday. The force - which will eventually comprise nearly 5,000 troops units from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania - is meant to counter a growing jihadist threat in West Africa’s arid Sahel region that includes groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State. It is due to begin joint patrols along the borders between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in the coming days. An ambush by unidentified militants earlier this month in Niger killed four U.S. Special Forces troops and threw a spotlight on American involvement...
(AFP (eng) 10/30/17)
Twenty-three police were hurt and a police station was set on fire in demonstrations against financial reforms late Sunday in the Niger capital of Niamey, the interior minister and private TV stations reported. "The toll sadly is high: we have 23 injured policemen, four of them seriously hurt. Fourteen vehicles have been destroyed, 10 of them police vehicles," Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum said on television on Sunday. The police commissariat at the Habou Bene market, the country's biggest trading spot, was torched and the front of the building housing the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Niger's voting watchdog, was vandalised, private television reported. "All those who bear responsibility for these events... will respond for... their acts," Bazoum said. Local civil...
(AFP (eng) 10/30/17)
Angry protesters and police clashed in Niger's capital Niamey on Sunday as a demonstration against financial reforms in the West African nation turned violent. Local civil society organisations have for weeks been denouncing the 2018 budget for one of the poorest countries on the planet. More than 1,000 demonstrators rallied near the city centre to protest against the government's financial plan that they branded "anti-social" and said created new taxes. The protest began quietly but quickly degenerated when a group of people defied a ban and headed to a square opposite the country's parliament. Police used tear gas to stop the group from reaching parliament, an AFP correspondent said.
(AFP (eng) 10/27/17)
A second team of American soldiers was operating close to the site of a deadly ambush on a US-Niger patrol, the Pentagon said Thursday, adding a new element to the much-scrutinized operation. "There are other teams that operate in Niger. There was one that had something to do with this operation," Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said. He declined to immediately give many additional details, telling Pentagon reporters: "It's involved in the timeline and we just want to make sure that we have the opportunity to get it right and understand the totality of it before we bring it forward." The Pentagon is investigating the October 4 clash in Niger, West Africa, which cost the lives of four...
(AFP (eng) 10/27/17)
The killing of four US soldiers in Niger has highlighted the geo-strategic role the mainly desert west African nation plays in the American fight against Islamist groups in Africa. In the aftermath of the soldiers' deaths, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, revealed that about 800 US troops are now based in Niger -- more than in any other African country. Many Americans were shocked to learn of such a large US military presence in the country, three-quarters of which comprises arid territory on the southern edge of the Sahara. Niger's landlocked position in northwest Africa makes it vulnerable to armed violence coming from neighbouring countries. It shares borders with Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso,...
(AFP (eng) 10/26/17)
The Nigerian military on Wednesday said it was investigating reports that a recent bombing raid killed one of the wives of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. Fighter jets attacked what was said to be "a large gathering of Boko Haram terrorists" at the Durwawa settlement, near Urga in the Konduga area of Borno state on October 19. The bombing killed jihadists on the ground and triggered a fire, air force spokesman Air Commodore Olatokunbo Adesanya said in an emailed statement. "Efforts are ongoing to confirm the reported killing of Shekau's wife, alongside other BHTs (Boko Haram terrorists)," he added.
(AFP (eng) 10/26/17)
Five nations in Africa's Sahel region are progressively deploying a counter-terror force to combat jihadist groups but the project will be vulnerable during its fledgling stage, diplomats and military sources say. The so-called "G5 Sahel" states are some of the world's poorest and least developed nations, comprising Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Spread across largely tough, desert terrain, the G5's counter-terror force will launch its first operation against jihadists at the end of October, codenamed "Buffalo" in a local language according to official documents seen by AFP, with several more planned. At the new force's military headquarters in Sevare, central Mali, Commander Didier Dacko is highly aware of vulnerabilities linked to incomplete troop numbers and a funding gap...
(The Associated Press 10/25/17)
The U.S. special forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn’t call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general says, conceding many questions linger about the assault that killed four American troops and triggered a political brawl. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the American people and the fallen soldiers’ families deserve answers about the deadly ambush in the West African nation. But Dunford said Monday that he still lacks many details about how the attack unfolded. At a Pentagon news conference, Dunford asked for patience as the military continues to investigate the incident. Dunford’s description of the assault, however, underscored how long...
(The Associated Press 10/25/17)
The Latest on the four service members killed in Niger (all times local): 8:15 a.m. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says an examination of U.S. military involvement around the world needs to be a part of the discussion around this month’s fatal ambush of four U.S. soldiers in Niger. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee tells NBC’s “Today” that what happened in Niger will launch a bigger debate that was already under way. Corker says his committee will hold hearings on the matter. He adds that it may be time for Congress to update the rules for U.S. military engagement with terrorists across the globe. Corker notes that U.S. soldiers are operating under rules first put in...

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