Egypt/Coptic Christians/Da’esh – Dozens of Coptic Christians have left Egypt's Sinai Peninsula after a string of jihadist attacks killed three Christians in the restive province, church officials said. On the 23 Feb 17 suspected ISIS jihadists killed a member of the minority in the North Sinai city of El-Arish and set his house on fire. About 250 Christians took refuge in the Evangelical Church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya, said church deacon and administrator Nabil Shukrallah. “They've come running with their children. It's a very difficult situation. We're expecting 50 or 60 more,” reporters were told on the 25 Feb 17. Other church officials said they have also received Copts fleeing the peninsula. Families sat in the Evangelical Church's courtyard amid bags filled with their belongings and blankets, some of them still terrified of the danger they escaped. On the 23 Feb 17, police officials said two Coptic Christians, a father and son, were shot dead behind a school in El-Arish. Christians have been attacked before in the Sinai, where ISIS’ Egypt affiliate is waging an insurgency, but there has been an uptick since ISIS released a video on the 19 Feb 17 calling for violence against the minority. The video included an anti-Christian speech by a militant who later detonated an explosive vest in a Coptic church in Cairo on the 11 Dec 16 killing 29 people. The bombing of the church within a compound that also holds the seat of the Coptic papacy was the deadliest attack against the minority in recent memory. Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 90 million population, say they are sidelined in both the education system and state institutions. Jihadists and Islamists accuse them of supporting the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters.
Morocco/Algeria – Morocco said on the 26 Feb 17 it will pull back from a zone of the contested Western Sahara that has raised tensions with Algeria-backed Polisario Front separatists. "The Kingdom of Morocco will proceed from today with a unilateral withdrawal from the (Guerguerat) zone," the foreign ministry said in a statement. It said the decision was taken by King Mohammed VI at the request of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Rabat now "hopes the secretary general's intervention will allow a return to the previous situation in the zone concerned, keep its status intact, allow the flow of normal road traffic and thus safeguard the ceasefire", it said. In a telephone call to Guterres on the 24 Feb 17 the king called on the United Nations to take urgent measures to end "provocation" by the Polisario Front threatening a 1991 ceasefire. Morocco insists that the former Spanish colony is an integral part of its kingdom, but the Polisario is demanding a referendum on self-determination. The two sides fought for control of the Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, with Rabat gaining control of the territory before the UN-brokered ceasefire took effect. In the phone call, King Mohammed VI condemned "repeated incursion by armed Polisario men" in the Guerguerat district. Tensions flared last year after the Polisario set up a new military post in Guerguerat district near the Mauritanian border, within a stone's throw of Moroccan soldiers. The move came after Morocco last summer started building a tarmac road in the area south of the buffer zone separating the two sides.
Nigeria/Boko Haram – At least seven suspected Boko Haram fighters were killed on the outskirts of the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, officials and witnesses said. Three female suicide bombers blew themselves up at a truck station on the 17 Feb 17 detonating vehicles at Muna Garage on the city's eastern outskirts it was reported quoting Deputy Police Superintendent Victor Iskukwu. The attack targeted refugees preparing to return to their home villages, according to witnesses. Muna Garage has been attacked many times in recent months. Two civilians were killed in the blasts and seven militia; known as Self-Defence Fighters, were wounded, Ayub Ibrahim said. "Most of the trucks that were loaded with goods for export to Chad and the border communities were destroyed, along with commodities worth millions of naira," Ibrahim said. Another blast took place as people were trying to board the trucks. Soldiers shot at gunmen on motorcycles who were escorting other suicide bombers, killing at least four of them. In Dec 16 President Muhammadu Buhari said the capture of a key camp marked the "final crushing" of Boko Haram in its last enclave in Sambisa forest, once the group's stronghold. But since then, the group, which split into two factions last year, has stepped up its attacks. One Boko Haram faction is led by Abubakar Shekau from the Sambisa forest. Abu Musab al-Barnawi leads the other faction, based in the Lake Chad region, which allies itself to Da’esh.
Somalia/al-Shabaab – Somalia's Shabaab extremists claimed a mortar strike that left two children dead near the presidential palace on the 16 Feb 17 during a handover ceremony at which new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed officially took office. Several explosions were heard near the palace during the handover ceremony, which comes several days before Mohamed, better known by his nickname Farmajo, was officially sworn in. "Two innocent children were killed and three others including their parents wounded after a mortar shell landed on their house near (a school) behind the presidential palace, the incident is still being investigated," said local police commander Mohamed Abdukadir. "We don't know where it was fired from but it targeted civilian houses." The Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on its Telegram and Twitter accounts, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist accounts. Witnesses reported about three mortar blasts, one of which hit a house. The attack underlines the challenge facing the new president, who has inherited an administration with limited control over Somali territory due to the presence of Shabaab, and is heavily propped up by the international community. Farmajo, whose brief stint at prime minister in 2010-11 showed him to be a no-nonsense leader set on improving governance and cracking down on corruption, is hugely popular in the country. However turning around one of the world's foremost failed states will be no easy task and Farmajo appealed for patience from his countrymen. Farmajo's election is seen as a step toward full democracy for Somalia, which has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre's military regime in 1991, which led to civil war and decades of anarchy in Somalia.
Somalia/al-Shabaab – At least 14 people were killed on the 19 Feb 17 when a car packed with explosives blew up near a busy intersection in Mogadishu, officials and witnesses said. "We have counted about 14 people killed and more than 30 others wounded... the area was a busy intersection alongside the road and there were many civilians when the blast occurred," said local security official Mohamed Jilibey. The explosion is the first big attack in the Somali capital since the election of new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, nicknamed Farmajo, although several mortar blasts claimed by Al-Shabaab Islamists marred the official handover of power last week. Witnesses said the bombing targeted an intersection in southern Mogadishu's Madina district where soldiers, civilians and traders were present. The latest attack underlines the challenge facing the new president, who has inherited an administration with limited control over Somali territory due to the presence of Shabaab, and is heavily propped up by the international community. Farmajo's inauguration takes place on the 15 Feb 17 although he officially took office this week at a ceremony marred by a series of mortar strikes near the presidential palace which left two children dead.