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Posts tagged ‘Africa Section’

New report blames South Sudan military for civilian deaths

June 21, 2017

ABUROC, South Sudan (AP) — Albin Koolekheh watched his 4-year-old son die in his arms. He and his family were among tens of thousands of people who escaped a wave of fighting in South Sudan’s civil war, only to find themselves living in a filthy camp near the border with Sudan.

A new report by Amnesty International says South Sudanese forces burned, shelled and ransacked homes between January and May, killing civilians and forcing thousands like Koolekheh from the Shilluk ethnic minority to flee.

“Even considering South Sudan’s history of ethnic hostility,” the mass displacement was shocking, the report says. As South Sudan faces its fourth year of civil war, the fighting shows no signs of ending. Both government and opposition forces have been accused of war crimes including mass rape and targeted killings, while the United Nations warns of ethnic violence. While the focus has been on ethnic tensions between the Dinka of President Salva Kiir and the Nuer of rebel leader Riek Machar, the new report highlights the threat to others caught in the crossfire.

When government troops attacked his hometown of Wau Shilluk in January, Koolekheh grabbed his wife and three children and left. After a day of walking through the bush, his youngest son fell sick. With no food or water, the boy died on the side of the road.

“Bullets, guns, screaming, it was everywhere,” the weary 32-year-old father told The Associated Press this week. “This violence is known to the world. But what is everyone doing about it?” Now Koolekheh crouches on the dirt floor in the back room of a small shop, scrubbing metal bowls with a rag, his eyes fixed on the floor.

He and his family are sheltering in Aburoc, an ad hoc displaced person’s camp. At the peak of the fighting, 25,000 people were living in this bleak shantytown. Now roughly 10,000 remain, the rest gone to Sudan or nearby villages.

Makeshift houses with plastic roofs are scattered across muddy fields. Food is scarce and disease is rife. A cholera outbreak threatened the population in May. Yet many have no choice but to call this town home. This is their third or fourth attempt at finding refuge in less than six months after being uprooted over and over by violence.

Satellite imagery collected by Amnesty International shows the destruction of homes and other civilian buildings, including a temple, in the central areas of Wau Shilluk. The group’s report says government troops often deliberately killed civilians, shooting them in the back when they tried to flee.

“These accounts are unfounded,” said a South Sudan military spokesman, Col. Santo Domic Chol. He said it isn’t within the military’s mandate to kill civilians and chase them from their homes. Yet stories abound of families fleeing for their lives.

When government forces attacked the nearby opposition-held town of Kodok three months ago, Victoria Adhong said she fled and will never go back. Although Aburoc is currently peaceful, Adhong, the acting governor of Fashoda state, said it’s hard to feel safe when the “enemy’s next door.”

Another of the displaced, Elizabeth Adwok, said she fled Kodok with her seven children amid gunfire. They arrived in Aburoc in April and have struggled to find food, with little in the market and prices high.

“We’re not here because we like it,” Adwok said. “But we have nothing.” The International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the few organizations with a presence in Aburoc, warned that with the onset of the rainy season things will only get worse.

“Access to food, water and health care is extremely limited,” said Matthieu Desselas, head of the office in Kodok. But for the thousands of civilians already so far from their homes, this town is their last hope.

“It’s the only place left for me in South Sudan,” Koolekheh said. “I’ll stay here until there’s peace.”

Gunmen attack resort in Mali’s capital, killing 2

June 19, 2017

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Jihadis attacked a hotel resort Sunday in Mali’s capital, taking hostages at a spot popular with foreigners on the weekends. More than 30 people managed to escape though at least two people were killed, authorities said.

Moussa Ag Infahi, director of the national police, told The Associated Press that three of the assailants had been killed while a fourth escaped. Gunfire first rang out at the Campement Kangaba on the outskirts of Bamako in the late afternoon, according to a security guard who was working at the time.

Mahamadou Doumbia said a militant on a motorcycle entered the area around 3:40 p.m. and cried “Allah Akbar” before jumping off and running toward the pool area. “Then a car with three jihadis entered the resort and they started to fire their weapons,” he said. “A French soldier who had come for the weekend but had his gun shot and wounded” a jihadi.

Mali’s security minister later issued a statement confirming at least two deaths, one of which was a dual French-Gabonese citizen. As night fell, witnesses saw smoke rising from the Campement Kangaba, which features three swimming pools and is a popular escape from the Malian heat. It was not immediately clear what was burning, although extremists in other attacks have set cars ablaze.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place amid the final week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In predominantly Muslim Mali, people have been fasting from sunrise to sundown for three weeks.

Sunday’s violence came about a week after the U.S. State Department warned of possible attacks on Western diplomatic missions and other locations in Bamako that Westerners frequent. A U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to journalists said those at the resort when the attack began included people affiliated with the French military mission, as well as the U.N. and European Union missions in the country.

Religious extremism in Mali once was limited to northern areas, prompting the French military in 2013 to lead a military operation to oust jihadis from power in the major towns in the north. But the militants have continued targeting Malian forces and peacekeepers, making it the deadliest U.N. mission in the world.

There are no French troops based in Bamako, but about 2,000 French troops are based in northern Mali fighting Islamic extremists. French President Emmanuel Macron was informed about the attack and was following the events carefully, according to an official in his office.

In recent years, the extremists have become even more brazen, attacking sites frequented by Westerners. In March 2015, five people died when militants hit a popular restaurant in the capital. A devastating attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako later that year left 20 dead – six Malians and 14 foreigners.

That attack was jointly claimed by both the regional al-Qaida affiliate and a group known as Al Mourabitoun, which was founded by Moktar Belmoktar after he fell out with al-Qaida leaders. In a video released in March, jihadis said those two were joining together along with two Mali-based terror groups.

Associated Press writers Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

Algeria’s Belhadj slams boycott of Qatar

June 15, 2017

Co-founder of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front, Sheikh Ali Belhadj, has criticized the siege imposed by a number of Gulf and Arab countries on Qatar.

In an interview with Quds Press, Belhadj strongly criticized the involvement of Islamic institutions and using them to achieve political purposes against the State of Qatar.

“The involvement of the Muslim World League, with the aim of gaining legitimacy for the siege against Qatar, is an insult to this institution and to the teachings of Islam which refuse such behavior in the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.

The Muslim World League should have remained neutral towards this dispute and sought to heal the rift instead of involving itself in such a way.

Belhadj pointed out that Qatar is not the target of the blockade, but the aim is to strike every Arab or Islamic country that wants to support the oppressed or the Palestinian cause.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170615-algerias-belhadj-slams-boycott-of-qatar/.

Turkey to open its largest military base in the world in Somalia

19 March 2017 Sunday

Turkey will open its largest military base in the world in Somalia in April. Soldiers from the Somalia National Army and soldiers from many African countries will be trained by the Turkish Army in the base that is being constructed in Mogadishu.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar are expected to attend the official opening.

Somalia’s Defense Minister, General Abdulkadir Ali Dini, visited the military base yesterday with a military delegation.

Minister Dini, who visited the base near its completion, thanked the Turkish military and civilian authorities for preparing the base.

Somali President Mohammad Abdullah Muhammad ‘Farmajo’ tweeted from his official account and announced that the base would be opened very soon. “Turkey’s largest military base in the world is almost complete. Soon the Somali Army will return strongly,” President Farmajo said.

Cost of $50 million

The construction of the $50 million base began in March 2015. It will have the capacity to train 500 soldiers at the same time.

The facility is located close to Mogadishu’s airport and three kilometers (1.8 miles) from Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital and the Port of Mogadishu.

The base will occupy 400 hectares and house three military schools, dormitories and depots.

Somalia and Turkey share multi-tiered cooperation. Turkey provides Somalia with military aid, education support, infrastructural development and skills training.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/186505/turkey-to-open-its-largest-military-base-in-the-world-in-somalia.

Syria refugees still stranded between Morocco and Algeria

2017-06-07

ALGIERS – Dozens of Syrian refugees remained stranded in no-man’s land between Morocco and Algeria on Tuesday, non-governmental groups said, despite an Algerian offer to help.

Algiers said last week it would take in the refugees after the United Nations urged both sides to help the Syrians, who include a pregnant woman and have been stranded in the desert area since April 17.

“The Syrian refugee families are still blocked on the border between Algeria and Morocco. Authorities on both sides are passing each other the buck,” said Noureddine Benissad of the Algerian League of Human Rights.

Saida Benhabiles, the head of the Algerian Red Crescent, said a joint team from her organisation and the UN refugee agency have been waiting on the Algerian border since late Monday.

“There’s no obstacle on the Algerian side,” she said. “But the problem is they’re in Moroccan territory and we can’t go to get them.”

In a statement, non-governmental groups including the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, International Federation for Human Rights and the Algerian League of Human Rights urged “authorities in both countries to find an immediate solution”.

The zone between the two countries has been closed since 1994. The North African rivals have very difficult relations, especially over the question of Western Sahara.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83429.

Protests continue in Tataouine, Tunisia

May 30, 2017

The wave of protests in the Tunisian province of Tataouine to demand development and jobs is still ongoing.

The El Kamour sit-in is continuing in the desert of Tataouine for the second month in a row. In addition, a week ago, a group of El Kamour protesters headed to the province’s headquarters for a sit-in, while waiting for the resumption of talks with the government.

Movement through the Dhehbia-Wazzin border crossing has been blocked for a week due to a decision by Libyan border guards to ban Libyans from crossing in light of the tense situation in the region.

Last week, Imed Hammami, the minister of employment and vocational training, who is in charge of the issue of development in the province of Tataouine, called for holding negotiations at his ministry to end the protests. The session was however postponed after the region’s governor resigned last Wednesday.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170530-protests-continue-in-tataouine-tunisia/.

Morocco fossil discovery obliterates two decades of scientific consensus

2017-06-08

BERLIN – Early Homo sapiens roamed Africa 300,000 years ago, sporting modern-looking faces that would not stand out in a crowd today, according to research published Wednesday that pushes back our origins by a hundred millennia.

A groundbreaking fossil discovery in Morocco obliterates two decades of scientific consensus that our forefathers emerged in East Africa about 200,000 years ago, according to two studies published in the science journal Nature.

The findings may also re-organize the human evolutionary tree and eliminate certain extinct Homo relatives as potential human ancestors.

Two teams of researchers reported on skull and bone fragments from five ancient humans, along with the stone tools they used to hunt and butcher animals, from a prehistoric encampment at Jebel Irhoud, not far from modern-day Marrakesh.

“This material represents the very root of our species, the oldest homo sapiens ever found in Africa or elsewhere,” said palaeoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

“Regarding Homo sapiens, what we say is that the dispersal of the species predates 300,000” years ago.

Previously, the oldest dated Homo sapiens remains, at 195,000 years, were from Ethiopia. This led to the contention that East Africa was the evolutionary “Garden of Eden” where our species arose before spreading through Africa and beyond.

– If they wore a hat… –

The new results suggest the so-called cradle of humankind was continent-wide, the teams said.

The same types of “Middle Stone Age” tools found with the Moroccan group, and dated to roughly the same period, have been found in several spots around Africa, but were previously thought to have been made by a different Homo predecessor.

Now it seems likely that they were produced by our own species, living in separate groups spread throughout the continent.

“Long before the out-of-Africa dispersal of Homo sapiens, there was dispersal within Africa,” said Hublin.

With few fossil remains to work with, the evolutionary history of modern humans is full of holes and relies heavily on conjecture.

It is believed that our lineage diverged from Neanderthals and Denisovans more than half-a-million years ago, but evidence for what happened since is hard to come by.

The new data suggests that an archaic version of our own species shared the planet with related groups such as Neanderthals, Denisovans, the more ape-like Homo naledi and the pint-sized Homo floresiensis or Flores “hobbit”.

Remarkably, the small, flat face and jaw shape of those ancient Homo sapiens closely resembled today’s humans, the team said.

Brain size was similar too, though arranged in a flatter, more elongated skull.

“If they would have a hat, probably (they) would be indistinguishable from other people,” Hublin told journalists ahead of the study release. “It’s the face of people you could cross in the street today.”

More likely to give them away would have been a strong, stocky, muscular body.

– ‘A more complex picture’ –

Human remains, including a skull, were first discovered at the Jebel Irhoud site by miners in the 1960s.

The fossils were initially dated to about 40,000 ago, and later to about 160,000 years.

For the new study, the teams relied on these old fragments but also newer ones dug up since 2004.

Dating was done by thermoluminescence, a pinpoint-accurate technology which measures the accumulated exposure of stone minerals to radiation generated by heat from the Sun, a volcano, or a human cooking fire.

They used the technique on burnt flint stone flakes discovered with the skull, tooth and long bone remains belonging to three adults, a teenager and a child of about eight.

The researchers said their work revealed a “rather more complex picture” of the physical evolution of our species, with different parts of the anatomy changing at different rates.

While the face shape was determined almost from the start, today’s high, rounded skull took millennia to evolve.

“The story of our species in the last 300,000 years is mostly the evolution of our brain,” Hublin said.

This fits with genetic analysis showing a series of mutations in the modern human lineage, compared to Neanderthals and Denisovans, in genes involved in brain development.

“Maybe what we see in terms of gradual change in the brain case… might be the effect of the accretion of these mutations,” said Hublin.

– What distinguishes us? –

What set our species apart, even from this early phase?

Compared to Neanderthals, early Homo sapiens had a larger cerebellum — the part of the brain that governs body movement.

“So it looks like we, our lineage, is the lineage where we started to grow a bigger and bigger cerebellum already at this stage,” said Hublin.

“It’s one of the features distinguishing us along all these hominins.”

Experts not involved in the research praised the findings.

The Jebel Irhoud fossils “now represent the best-dated evidence of an early ‘pre-modern’ phase of H. sapiens evolution,” said Chris Stringer and Julia Galway-Witham from the Natural History Museum in London.

“This is a major extension of the evolutionary record of our species,” added Lawrence Barham, an archaeology professor at the University of Liverpool.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83441.

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