Libya – Two powerful militias that earlier demanded that Libya’s interim parliament step down or face arrest now say the country’s political factions have 72 hours to resolve their crisis, while the United Nations urged on the 18 Feb 14 that the deadlock be resolved by holding new elections. The demands issued on the 17 Feb 14 by Al Qaeqa and Al Sawaaq militias, which some politicians likened to an attempted coup, brought the restive North African country’s long-running political showdown to a head. Parliament is split between Islamist and non-Islamist blocs. Its mandate was to have expired this month, but the Islamists led a motion to extend its mandate by another year. Under street protesters’ pressure, the parliament voted to hold early elections in the spring. But many are angry that parliament, widely viewed as a failed institution, should hold power until then. The two militias at first said that parliament had until 0900 hrs on the 17 Feb to hand over power or be arrested as “usurpers,” but later said they had extended their deadline to the 21 Feb after meeting with UN special representative Tarek Mitri. Their second ultimatum said all parties should reach a “final and radical solution” to the crisis, but did not spell out any consequences if they failed to do so. Mitri says he met with the commanders of the two militias and appealed to them to “give a chance to political dialogue about holding general elections at the earliest possible” opportunity. He warned that the use of force “threatens the stability of Libya and the political process”. The country’s embattled Prime Minister Ali Zidan told news reporters late on the 17 Feb that he had held meetings with the rival militias and UN envoy in an attempt to reach a “truce” and defuse the crisis. “We reject a military coup, we reject the use of force to push Libyan people to take any action,” he said. He said the only way forward is through ballot boxes and the peaceful transition of power through elections. The interim parliament, elected in 2012, was to guide a transition that would see a constitution drafted then new elections before the 7 Feb. Libya is preparing to elect a 60-member constitutional panel to draft the charter on the 20 Feb. The crisis comes as Libyans mark the third anniversary of the 17 Feb 11 start of the uprising that toppled the 42-year-old dictatorship of Muammar Qadhafi. As a result, after rebel forces toppled Qadhafi, the country was left bereft of functioning institutions. Successive governments relied on militias made up largely of ex-rebels to impose order. But those militias have allied with parliamentary blocs, while a series of assassinations and abductions mostly blamed on militias have further destabilised the country. Libya’s now split spans regional, ideological and ethnic divides. Al Qaaqaa and Al Sawaaq, from the western Libyan town of Zintan, back the non-Islamist National Forces Alliance in parliament. Other militias, including those from the port city of Misrata, are allied with the Muslim Brotherhood behind the Islamist bloc. The National Forces Alliance issued a statement distancing itself from the militias, saying it has no armed wing.
On 18 Feb 14 the Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia released a statement commenting on the ongoing political dispute over the extension of the General National Congress (GNC) mandate. In the communiqué, Ansar al-Sharia blamed "the conflicting parties" for promoting their interests, seeking to gain power, and failing to protect the revolution. The group, which is mainly based in eastern Libya and has branches in Benghazi, Sirte, and Derna, proclaimed it would protect all Muslims living in the area under its control. It also pledged to prevent the return of the Ghadaffi government under any guise. This was probably a veiled warning to opponents of the GNC extension, which include members of the former Transitional National Council, civil society groups, and armed militias including the Zintan-allied al-Qa'qaa and al-Sawaeq brigades.
Nigeria – Islamist fighters from the Boko Haram group killed at least ninety people in an early morning attack on a village in remote northeast Nigeria on the 15 Feb 14. The Boko Haram gunmen surrounded the village of Izge, near the Cameroon border, spraying it with bullets, setting off explosions, and burning dozens of houses with the people still inside. The Islamists simply retreated into the hilly Gwoza area bordering Cameroon, and into Cameroon itself, from where they have continued to launch deadly attacks, which have so far killed thousands of Nigerian civilians. On the 23 Feb 14 the terrorist group again returned back to the same village and attacked it. The 15 Feb raid in the mostly Christian village saw suspected Boko Haram fighters, who arrived in trucks and wearing military uniform, go door-to-door looking for those hiding in their houses.
Somalia – In a news article from Al-Jazeera on the 24 Feb 14 Al-Shabaab has stated that it intends to make a come-back. Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked rebel group, al-Shabaab, has vowed to recapture all Somali territory that it lost in the past year during battles with government forces and African Union peacekeepers. In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera conducted earlier this month, al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Dheere said the rebel group was not on the back foot despite the recent losses. "Al-Shabaab leaving those towns only shows a change of tactics. We will not be finished. Somalia belongs to al-Shabaab. The land and the people are ours. We will not leave our land because of an enemy," Ali Dheere said, adding that there was no chance of holding talks with the government. Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud last week said the group will be finished by end of 2014. However, al-Shabaab carried out a daring attack on the presidential palace on the 21 Feb 14 leaving at least a dozen people dead. The group has also targeted Turkish nationals and organisations in the capital, Mogadishu, recently. Ali Dheere said they are "legitimate targets". "The biggest enemy of the Muslim people is NATO and Turkey is part of NATO. NATO is a union of Christians. NATO uses Turkey as hammer to crush the Muslim people." "Anywhere we see Turkish people, they are no different to us than the Americans, the British and AMISOM."
On the 21 Feb 14 Armed men wearing suicide vests attacked the presidential palace in Mogadishu, killing scores of people. The militants, believed to be Al Shabaab, were reported to have used a car filled with bombs to ram into the barricade outside the presidential palace, and then tried to fight their way in amid resistance from presidential guards. The president, obviously the most high profile target of the attack, was reported to be unharmed. Details regarding the number of attackers and casualties were not clear. The top UN official in Somalia Nick Kay tweeted: "President just called me to say he's unharmed. Attack on Villa#Somalia had failed. Sadly some lives lost. I condemn strongly this terrorism." African Union peacekeepers led by Uganda have been fighting to restore order in Somalia since 2007 but despite significant success such as driving the militants out of Mogadishu two years ago, Al Shabaab still control vast parts of the Somali countryside and are capable of launching attacks such as this in the capital.
At least 10 people were killed in an explosion when a suicide bomber drove his car into a tea shop near the national security headquarters in Somalia's capital. The al-Qaeda linked group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on the 27 Feb 14 and threatened to carryout more attacks. "We are responsible for the car bomb blast," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's military operations spokesman saying the attack had killed 11 members of the security forces and injured 15 others. "We targeted the national security forces who were sitting in the tea shop. Today's blast was part of our operations in Mogadishu and we shall continue," he added. Abdullahi Hassan, the district commissioner of Mogadishu's Abdiasis district, said the target of the attack was a national security car passing the tea shop.