Ethiopia – Ethiopian police had reportedly arrested 25 people accused of plotting attacks in the country and suspected of having links to Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants, officials said on the 5 Jun 14. Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal explained the suspects had been trained by al-Shabaab in Somalia and were planning a series of attacks in Jimma, about 305 kilometres southwest of Addis Ababa and where the arrests were made. Ethiopia, which shares a 1,600-kilometre border with Somalia, sent troops into the country in 2011 to help the African Union Mission in Somalia and Somali forces fight al-Shabaab. It currently has around 4,500 troops in Somalia and has spearheaded a recent offensive against the militants. The United States and British embassies have upgraded their travel warnings for Ethiopia in recent weeks, alerting visitors and residents to an increased threat of attacks. Al-Shabaab leaders have vowed to attack Ethiopia to avenge the presence of its troops in Somalia. Last October, two Somali nationals blew themselves up while crafting a bomb in Addis Ababa, which police said they planned to detonate at a crowded football match.
Ethiopia/Somalia – At least 74 people were killed in fighting near Somalia's border with Ethiopia on the 1 Jun 14. Somali and Ethiopian forces attacked the bases of Al-Shabaab Islamist’s near the south-western town of Ato. Hassan Ibrahim Lugbur, the deputy governor of Bakool region where Ato is located stated that over 74 Al-Shabaab fighters were killed in the battle. It is believed that the assault was undoubtedly in retaliation for Al-Shabaab raids on bases in a village on Somalia-Ethiopia border, in which 30 Somali and Ethiopian soldiers were killed during the week of the 18 – 31 May 14.
Cameroon – Cameroon soldiers have killed around 40 Boko Haram Islamist militants in clashes in the far north of the country it was reported on the 1 Jun 14. The bloody skirmish took place on the 1 Jun in the western town of Kousseri, in the region bordering Nigeria and Chad. Cameroon sent in 1,000 troops to the area during the last reporting period (16 – 31 May 14) in response to criticism from Nigeria for not doing enough to fight Boko Haram gunmen. Nigeria's head of counter-terrorism Sarkin-Yaki Bello accused neighbouring Cameroon of failing to make a serious effort to drive Boko Haram insurgents from its territory.
Earlier on the 1 Jun 14 two Italian priests and a Canadian nun abducted by gunmen in northern Cameroon in Apr 14 were freed. Priests Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri and nun Gilberte Bussier, who were kidnapped from their parish in Tchere, in Cameroon's far north, on 4 Apr 14, were released in the early hours of the 1 Jun 14 near the Nigerian border. Security forces escorted them to the military base in Maroua, from where they were flown on board a military aircraft to the capital, Yaounde. No group had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping but suspicion has fallen on Boko Haram.
Suspected Boko Haram militants from Nigeria attacked a town in Cameroon's far north on the 7 Jun 14 but local security forces fought them off, killing at least two gunmen. Cameroon recently deployed 1,000 troops to the far north and the attack in the Mayo Tsanaga Division in the Far North Region is the latest in a series of clashes between Cameroon security forces and the terrorist group. Cameroon government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma Bakary said a raid was carried out early on Saturday morning by 50 well-armed gunmen believed to be members of Boko Haram. "Our defence and security forces fought back immediately. (They) killed two of the assailants, seized one of their vehicles and a Kalashnikov war weapon, forcing them to run back crossing the border into the Nigerian territory," he said.
Djibouti – The United States Department of State on the 8 Jun 14 issued a warning to its citizens about "potential terrorist threats" against Western and Djiboutian interests in Djibouti following an al-Shabaab suicide attack in the capital city last month. (See 361 T & S Report 31 May 14). "The US Government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at Western (including US) and Djiboutian interests in Djibouti," the statement said. "Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings (to include car bombings), kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Djiboutian ports." "Attacks may target official government facilities, including embassies and military installations, as well as soft targets such as restaurants, clubs and commercial entities," it said. "While Djiboutian officials continue the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities, many of those involved remain at large and still operate in the region." The announcement comes in the wake of a suicide attack on 24 May 14 on La Chaumiere restaurant, a popular destination for foreigners located on Djibouti's busy square. The attack killed the two bombers and one Turkish national, and injured more than a dozen others. Al-Shabaab later claimed responsibility for the attack and warned of more to come. Djibouti's Minister of Interior Hassan Omar Mohamed said the location and the timing of the attack indicated that "the people behind the attack wanted to kill as many Westerners as possible". The terror warning also comes days after United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah met with Djiboutian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Mahamoud Ali Youssouf in Djibouti for talks on the agency's commitment to capacity building the labour and energy sectors.
Kenya – Kenya is investigating reports that British terror suspect Samantha Lewthwaite - known as the "White Widow" - has been sighted in the country it was reported on the 3 Jun 14. Reports say an unknown woman, possibly Ms Lewthwaite, was given a police escort to visit a Kenyan army base in Somalia before disappearing. She is accused of links to Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab, which has attacked Kenya several times. Kenyan police officers in the coastal town of Lamu provided an armed escort to an unknown white woman who disappeared after her attempts to enter Somalia were blocked by immigration officials. She had said we was working for a United Nations agency and wanted to visit a camp belonging to the Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia, police say. But upon reaching the Kiunga border post, customs officials questioned her identity and refused to grant her permission to enter Somalia. Kenyan Army spokesman Willy Wesonga has confirmed that a team of detectives is investigating whether the woman was Ms Lewthwaite and, if it was her, why she intended to visit the Kenyan army camp. Lamu Police Commander Leonard Omollo said the woman had provided documents showing a different identity so their suspicions were not aroused. 361 COMMENT: The only reason that this person would want to go to the camp would be for reconnaissance for a future attack by al-Shabaab. Using a white women posed as a United Nations agency or a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) to gain access for an operation of this kind shows that the group is using her as an asset and wisely. Countries in central-western Africa would best work together and issue an alert that the terrorist group is firstly using a white female, secondly she is conducting reconnaissance operations so that she would not arouse suspicion and thirdly the type of target that the reconnaissance was being conducted on. 361 COMMENT ENDS
At least 48 people were killed and others wounded when more than two dozen unidentified gunmen attacked a coastal Kenyan town overnight on the 15 Jun 14. The attackers targeted two hotels, a bank and a police station with guns and at least one explosive device on the 15 Jun. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The assault was the latest in a string of gun and bomb attacks that have hurt Kenya's vital tourist business and which have been blamed on Somalia's Al Shabaab militant group. Western nations have issued travel warnings. Mpeketoni is about 130 km (80 miles), or more than three hours' drive along poor roads, from the border with Somalia, where Kenya forces have joined an African peacekeeping force fighting al Shabaab militants.
Libya – Fierce fighting between Islamists and a rogue Libyan general killed at least 18 people in Benghazi on the 2 Jun 14 triggering fears of an all-out war as hospitals urged citizens to donate blood. The government of outgoing Prime Minister Abdullah Al Thani said it was holding an “emergency meeting” on the violence during the early part of the reporting period. An air force commander said the clashes erupted when three Islamist groups, including Ansar Al Sharia, attacked a base of elite forces who support the renegade general, Khalifa Haftar. The latest bloodshed comes a day after Haftar’s forces launched fresh air raids on Islamists in Benghazi, with one strike targeting a meeting of Ansar Al Sharia. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has urged Libyans to fight Haftar and his so-called National Army, labelling the ex-army general an “enemy of Islam”. Authorities have denounced Haftar as an outlaw, but after thousands of Libyans rallied for his support he said he has a mandate from the people to pursue his offensive to crush “terrorism”. Ansar Al Sharia, classified as a terrorist group by the United States, was backed by the February 17 Brigades of ex-rebel leader Rafallah Al Sahati and the Libya Shield Force Islamist groups.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on the 5 Jun 14 that it was temporarily freezing its operations in Libya to assess the security situation after a Swiss staffer was killed by gunmen. A spokesperson stated that, “We are freezing movement [of personnel] for the time being to analyse the situation so we can adapt our operations,” but stressed there were no plans to permanently halt operations in Libya. The announcement came a day after Michael Greub, a 42-year-old Swiss citizen heading the ICRC’s office in Libya’s third city Misrata, was killed by gunmen in Sirte, some 200 kilometres further along the coast. Greub had been leaving a meeting with two colleagues when the attackers shot at their vehicle at “point-blank” range, an ICRC spokesman said on the 4 Jun 14. The ICRC counts some 30 expatriate staff members and around 150 local staff in Libya. Journalists and Non Government Organisations no longer have the ability to move around without some form of security in a number of danger zones throughout the globe.
Mali – A suicide attack at a UN camp in northern Mali killed four Chadian peacekeepers and wounded 10 others including six peacekeepers and four Malian soldiers, the country's peacekeeping mission reported. A vehicle exploded at the entrance of the camp in the town of Aguelhoc, in the Kidal region, at 1530 hrs according to a UN statement issued on the 12 Jun 14. Tensions escalated sharply last month when Prime Minister Moussa Mara visited Kidal for the first time since his appointment. In response, Tuareg rebels launched an assault on government buildings in the town, killing eight soldiers, six local government officials and two others in what the government described as a "declaration of war." No-one had claimed responsibility for the attack during the reporting period.
Nigeria – The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) declared a ceasefire on 30 May 14, one day after Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan offered amnesty to armed groups willing and ready to renounce violence and seek the path of dialogue and reconciliation. In April 2013, MEND began a campaign of violence known as Hurricane Exodus against the Nigerian government and oil facilities in the Niger-Delta. Since then, MEND has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the 18 May 14 attack on the pipeline terminating at the refinery jetty in Okrika, Port Harcourt, belonging to state-owned entity the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
At least 14 people have been killed in a bomb attack on a bar that was screening a televised football match in north-eastern on the 1 Jun 14. The attack place in the town of Mubi in Adamawa state, close to the border with Cameroon. Adamawa is one of three states that have been placed under emergency rule because of the insurgency waged by Islamist Boko Haram militants.
Gunmen opened fire on a church service in a remote village in north eastern Nigeria, killing nine people as worshippers fled into the bush it was reported on the 2 Jun 14. The attack took place in Attangara in the Gwoza hills the main stronghold of Boko Haram. Reports stated that more than 10 of the terrorists were riding motorcycles and were driving one car. Reports also added that some local people had pursued the attackers, killing four of them and capturing three.
Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted at least 20 women close to where 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in northern Nigeria during the reporting period (10 Jun 14). The women were loaded on to vans at gunpoint and driven away to an unknown location in Borno state. Despite a state of emergency in place in the region, residents say the army is largely inactive or even absent, allowing the Boko Haram militants to continue their attacks.
Somalia – Somalia's al-Shabaab militants have rounded up around 100 women and ordered them to comply with a strict Islamic dress code or risk being whipped. The women were arrested in Buale, about 300km (185 miles) south-west of the capital, Mogadishu. BBC Somali analyst Mohamed Mohamed says it is rare for al-Shabaab to carry out such mass arrests. The al-Qaeda-linked group controls much of southern and central parts of Somalia. The women were arrested in the market, taken away and warned before being released. Because it was their first offence, they were not punished but they could be whipped in public if caught again.
Tanzania – One person was killed and several others were wounded in a bomb attack near a mosque on Tanzania's Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar on the 13 Jun 14. Police said the bomb went off in the Daranjani commercial district of Stone Town, the UNESCO-listed historical centre of the semi-autonomous Tanzanian archipelago at approximately 2015 hrs. Witnesses said the casualties included worshippers who were coming out of evening prayers from a nearby mosque. The island is also currently hosting a religious gathering of Muslims from across the east Africa region. Zanzibar has been the scene of sectarian and political tensions in recent years, although the island has been generally quiet for several months. In February two improvised bombs exploded at Stone Town's Anglican cathedral and a seafront bar popular with tourists, without causing any casualties. Last year suspected Islamist attackers hurled acid into the faces of two British teenage girls as they strolled through Stone Town, as Zanzibar's Muslim majority were preparing to celebrate the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Some have blamed the hard-line Islamic group Uamsho, Swahili for "The Awakening", a minority group but believed to be growing in influence, especially among disaffected and jobless youth. While the group denies involvement in any of the attacks, they have widely succeeded in funnelling cultural and political tensions into support for radical Islam. There have also been incidents of acid attacks and shootings targeting religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim.