Cameroon – On February 19, it was reported that seven French tourists, including four children, of the Moulin-Fournier family had been kidnapped by an unknown terrorist group, and taken across the border into Nigeria. On February 25, a TouTube video was posted that showed that the seven members of the family were alive and had been captured by Boko Harem (BH). On April 19 the seven members of the family, including all four children, were released unharmed and reportedly without a ransom being paid. The family were also reported to be in good health.
The Nigerian government has been discussing giving BH an amnesty in an attempt to stop the violence that is occurring in the north of the country. Although reports suggest that BH is not interested in an amnesty deal, it remains to be seen if the release of the hostages is a prelude to either peace talks or that the amnesty may be agreed upon. Shortly after the release of the family, however, there were rumors from various media sources claiming that there was a ransom paid for the release of the family. At present, there is neither concrete proof of a ransom, nor has there been any indication as to who might have paid for the family’s release.
Egypt – The Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-led upper house of the Egyptian Shura Council has recently gone ahead with a controversial law which is forcing over 3, 000 judges into retirement. The judges were appointed by the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and are considered by the current government to be corrupt. The judges are being forced out by lowering their retirement age.
This appears to be the MB ridding itself of judges so that they appoint their own, who will no doubt side with the current government rather than voice opinions against it. The decision should not be expected to go down well with the Egyptian public, and will most likely lead to further disorder that challenges the country’s security.
Libya – In the Hay Andalus District of the capital of Tripoli, a Vehicle Bourne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) is believed to have been exploded outside the French Embassy. Responsibility for the attack is not clear at the present time.
The possibility of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) cannot be ruled out after its statement in which it vowed to attack France following the invasion of Mali. Stability and security within Libya is still a problem, so the ability to either bring the device into the city, or to smuggle the components to create the device in the city, would be comparably easy.
Nigeria – Intense fighting in the remote north-eastern town of Baga, which is near the border with Chad, was reported between government forces and Boko Harem (BH). It is no secret that BH wants to carve part of northern Nigeria and create an independent state. The Nigerian government is against the idea. There were a large number of people reportedly killed, with numerous houses being destroyed. The Nigerian government has had a huge problem with this militant organization, and it is possible that it is attempting to destroy it as it seems that BH has no intention of accepting the Nigerian government’s offer of amnesty to it.
On February 23, there was also a report that Iranian agents had been rounded up in northern Nigeria. The Iranian government is reported to have been providing intelligence and support to BH via intelligence and special operations agents. Iran could be attempting to destabilize the Nigerian government in order to see it overthrown. BH’s founder Muhammad Yusuf followed a Sunni Salafi strain of Islam, however, so it is unclear why the Iranian government, which is dominated by Shiites, is supporting BH. If the reports are true, it is possible that the Iranians are purposefully instigating BH into not accepting an amnesty with the Nigerian government.
Paul Ashley is the Senior Counter-Terrorist Analyst at 361 Security