Egypt – Militants in Egypt claim to have beheaded four men they had accused of being Israeli Mossad spies in a video which appears to have been inspired by the tactics of the Islamic State. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has been described as Egypt's most dangerous militant group, released the video, in which it accused the four Egyptians of spying for Israel's Mossad agency on the 29 Aug 14. In the video, the captives can be seen kneeling on the floor with armed men in black masks standing behind them as one of the militants reads out a statement. Minutes later the four men have been beheaded. Security sources said four headless corpses were found in the Sinai Peninsula earlier this month - the first time any decapitations had been made public in Egypt. The men had reportedly been abducted by gunmen two days earlier while driving in the town of Sheikh Zuwaid, which is just a few miles from the Gaza Strip. The filmed killings are reminiscent of images posted online by militant group Islamic State. This has led to suggestions that Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis might have been inspired by the group, notorious for beheadings and executions. The Sinai militants are not believed to be officially linked to Islamic State insurgents. However, Egyptian intelligence officials say the group has influenced Egyptian militants who are based just over the border with Libya. The officials say the Libya-based fighters have also established contacts with Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. In the video, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis presented what it said were confessions by the men. Two of them said they had spent time in Israeli jails for smuggling. The other two said Mossad had paid them for information. The group said the men provided intelligence used in an airstrike on the 23 Jul 14 in northern Sinai that killed three of its fighters. At the time, the Egyptian army said no Israeli aircraft or drones had crossed into Egyptian airspace.
Libya – On the 23 Aug 14 it was reported that Fighters of the Libyan Central Shield said that they had captured Tripoli's battered international airport after ten days of clashes with nationalist armed groups. A statement shown on screen on An-Nabaa television, regarded as close to the Islamist fighters, said: "Fajr Libya announces that it totally controls Tripoli international airport", referring to the Libya Dawn brigade that is fighting under the umbrella of the Libyan Central Shield. The airport changing hands is a major defeat for the nationalist fighters from Zintan west of Tripoli who had held the airport since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Earlier on the 23 Aug 14 leaders of the Libyan Central Shield, partly comprising men from Misrata, east of Tripoli, said their forces were advancing on the airport, having taken a bridge and a military base. The strategic site 30km south of the Libyan capital, has been shut since 13 Jul 14 amid skirmishes between Libyan Central Shield fighters and the Zintan force which is allied with renegade general Khalifa Haftar. The claim of control followed a setback the previous night when an unidentified jet raided the positions of the Libya Dawn, killing at least 10 fighters, a spokesman for the militia said. Libyan Central Shield spokesman Mohamed al-Ghariani said he could not identify the warplane that carried out the raid, just as two aircraft which bombarded Islamist positions on night of 18 Aug 14 night remain unidentified. Neither the targeted fighters nor the Libyan government, lacking real power and holed up in Tobruk 1,600km east of Tripoli, have been able to shed light on the provenance of the two planes in the raid.
Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations sounded the alarm on the 26 Aug 14 when he warned of a “full-blown civil war” if the chaos and division in the Arab country continue.
Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the U.N. Security Council that he had always excluded civil war as a possibility, “but the situation has changed.” “The situation in Libya is complicated,” Dabbashi was telling the council. “Yet the situation since the 13 Jul 14 has become even more complicated and the situation might unravel into a full-blown civil war if we’re not very careful and wise in our actions.” On 13 Jul 14 heavy fighting broke out between rival militias vying for control of Libya’s main airport, killing at least seven people and forcing a halt of all flights in the worst fighting in the capital for six months. The council, meanwhile, unanimously approved a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, tightening arms embargo on Libya and sanctions to groups and individuals that threaten the country’s peace and stability. Libya currently has two rival parliaments in different parts of the country, and two different governments, after the outgoing parliament reconvened and appointed a new prime minister. The divisions are rooted in rivalries between Islamists and non-Islamists, as well as powerful tribal and regional allegiances. “In the past, security incidents were limited, isolated and rare," Dabbashi added. “But today the clashes ... (are) between two armed groups using heavy weaponry. Each group (has) its own allies scattered in the other regions of the country.” He said it was crucial to disarm those groups.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the current Security Council president, said the council’s Libya sanctions committee will meet early next week to decide which individuals will be sanctioned. The U.N. secretary-general’s special representative to Libya, Tarek Mitri, said the U.N. had no way to confirm that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly carried out airstrikes against Islamist militias inside Libya, as the United States publicly acknowledged on the 26 Aug 14. “It’s worth noting there was no clear denial of those airstrikes,” Mitri said, adding that such a move cannot help Libya achieve a cease-fire.
Mitri also stressed that no military solution is possible in Libya, which continues to be torn apart by turmoil more than three years after the uprising that forced longtime strongman Muammar Qaddafi from power. Council members expressed concern about regional rivalries and their effect on Libya’s divisions. Lyall Grant called the situation “extremely worrying” and discouraged regional countries from taking sides among militia groups.
Last week and again on the 30 Aug 14, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined forces to conduct a series of airstrikes against Islamist militias in Libya. In recent months UAE Special Forces, operating out of Egyptian bases, destroyed an Islamist camp in eastern Libya without detection. The United States was not informed of the airstrikes, and U.S. permission was not sought. The move by Egypt and the UAE is but one more indication that after two years of introspection and confusion, the moderate forces in the Arab world have begun to assert themselves in an effort to gain a measure of control over post-Arab Spring developments in the region. The airstrikes by Egypt and UAE against Libya’s Islamist militias are thus an intensification of the regional campaign, led by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, to confront and defeat the Qatar- and Turkey-supported Islamist forces in the region.
The United States embassy compound in the Libyan capital Tripoli has been raided by militiamen, but no Americans were present as the embassy was evacuated more than a month ago it was reported on the 31 Aug 14. The attack came as fighting between rival militias rages in Tripoli and Benghazi, the second city in the east. Even though the US suspended its mission in Tripoli for the second time in three years in Jul 14, the US Secretary of State John Kerry had said that the embassy was not closed, and its staff had been evacuated to neighbouring Tunisia. The US ambassador to Libya said the embassy was being safeguarded and had not been ransacked. A video that emerged on YouTube showed a crowd of cheering men standing on buildings near a swimming pool. Several men are seen diving into the pool off a nearby rooftop, to a chorus of cheers. Jones, who is in Malta, stressed however that the area depicted in the video "appears to be a residential annex" of the US mission, adding that she "cannot say definitively since [I am] not there." Members of the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) group said they had gone in to secure the complex of several villas in southern Tripoli to prevent it from being looted. The Obama administration has been particularly sensitive about security of US government employees in Libya since the September 11, 2012, attack on the US mission in Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Mali – Two UN peacekeepers have been killed and seven others were injured in a suicide attack on a UN patrol base in northern Mali it was reported on the 17 Aug 14. A pick-up truck laden with explosives drove into the UN camp in Ber, 50km (30 miles) east of Timbuktu, on the 16 Aug 14. A suicide attacker was among the dead, which included two soldiers from Burkina Faso serving with the UN. There was no checkpoint. The bomber was able to drive the vehicle right into the camp, among the tents, before blowing himself up. It comes after three other international peacekeepers - two Bangladeshi, one Chadian - were injured when their vehicles drove over mines in two separate incidents at the end of last week. Militants belonging to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are known to use similar tactics such as the ones used in this last attack. Peace talks aimed at drawing up a road map for peace between the Malian government and Tuareg separatist rebels are due to resume in Sep 14. One of the separatist groups involved in talks, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), issued a statement on the 17 Aug 14 condemning the Ber attack and offering its condolences to the people and government of Burkina Faso.
Nigeria – Northern Nigeria's riot police training academy has been overrun by Boko Haram Islamist militants it was reported on the 21 Aug 14. Shots were heard after the militants arrived in three armoured vehicles and on dozens of motorcycles. A police spokesman confirmed the attack while a senior security source said it had not been possible to communicate with the academy since the 20 Aug 14. In recent weeks, the militants have been moving from their rural camps and taking over substantial towns. The militants have been in control of Gwoza, which had a population of about 50,000, since the beginning of Aug 14. They apparently retreated about 100km (62 miles) to Gwoza after losing control of Damboa - both large towns in Borno state. But attempts by the security forces to retake Gwoza have failed - and a group of about 40 soldiers is now refusing to fight, saying they are too poorly equipped to take on the heavily armed insurgents. 361 COMMENT: If the other three countries in the new anti-terrorist group continue with successes Boko Haram will probably stay within Nigeria and its own area of influence thus denying the other countries success. COMMENT ENDS
Boko Haram's leader has declared an Islamic caliphate in a northeast Nigeria town seized by the extremist militants earlier this month. Abubakar Shekau made the statement during a video which shows a group of prisoners being shot with assault rifles as they lie in a ditch. He declared that Gwoza, in Borno State, now has 'nothing to do with Nigeria' and said 'by the grace of Allah' they will not be leaving the town. 'Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in (the town of) Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,' he claims during the 52-minute video. 'By the grace of Allah we will not leave the town. We have come to stay,' said Shekau, who has been designated a global terrorist by the United States and sanctioned by the UN Security Council. Boko Haram is also believed to be in control of other areas near the seized town in southern Borno, as well as large swathes of territory in the north of the region and at least one town in neighbouring Yobe state. Mapping the precise areas which have fallen into Islamist hands is nearly impossible. There are few humanitarian workers on the ground in the northeast, travel is dangerous and the region, which has been under a state of emergency since May 13, has poor mobile phone coverage. Experts have described Boko Haram's gains in recent weeks as unprecedented, saying the group was closer than ever to achieving its goal of carving out a strict Islamic state across northern Nigeria.
On the 27 Aug there were reports that Boko Haram were attempting to blow up a bridge to Cameroon. This will be an attempt to stop Cameroon forces attacking the terrorist group and isolating itself. The problem with isolation will be logistics as nothing will get in to rearm and feed the group.
Somalia/African Union – Somali and African Union forces have launched a long-awaited fresh offensive against al-Shabaab fighters aimed at capturing remaining ports from the armed group, army and government officials have reported on the 30 Aug 14. "Operation Indian Ocean started late last night (29 Aug 14)... the enemy is fleeing and the forces are making successful advances so far," said Abdukadir Mohamed Nur, the governor of southern Somalia's Lower Shabelle region. The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab are still a powerful and dangerous force but have lost a string of towns to the 22,000-strong AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM and Somali government troops were seen on roads towards Barawe, the last major port held by the armed group. The operations will not stop until the Al-Qaeda militants are eliminated, sources explained. "This offensive is called Operation Indian Ocean. It is about denying al-Shabaab any access to the sea to stop the group from bringing in arms." The southern port of Barawe is now one of the few major settlements under their control, and is vital to al-Shabaab finances, as the main hub of a multi-million dollar charcoal trade. The fighting comes as UN and aid workers warn large areas of Somalia are struggling with dire hunger and drought, three years after famine killed more than a quarter of a million people.
Al-Shabaab launched an attack on the country's intelligence headquarters in central Mogadishu, setting off a bomb and opening fire on the complex it was reported on the 31 Aug 14. The car bomb was followed by a fierce exchange of gunfire killing at least seven rebel fighters. A spokesperson of the armed group stated that its fighters were involved in the attack and that they had entered the building. A police spokesman stated that "It seems their target was to cause a mess here and thus free their militant colleagues held in the underground cells, but that will not happen." That compound is near the national intelligence site, and it was also attacked using what has become a familiar tactic: a vehicle tries to blast its way through perimeter security and gunmen charge in afterwards. 361 COMMENT: This attack will be in retaliation for the new offensive on al-Shabaab which reportedly started on the 30 Aug 14. The group will be attempting to take the initiative by storming intelligence building in order to create a distraction, free those belonging to the group and thus claim a huge propaganda exclusive; especially when the AMISOM forces are attacking the terrorist group in other locations. It would have been proof to the group, its supporters and followers that they are still a strong force and are not, nor will be, defeated by Operation Indian Ocean. COMMENT ENDS.