Libya – A series of suicide bombings in Libya has left at least 40 soldiers dead, as opponents and supporters of a former general clashed for control of a key air base in the port city of Benghazi it was reported on the 3 Oct 14. Four separate suicide attacks targeted the Benina air base on the 2 Oct 14 killing at least 40 soldiers loyal to former General Khalifa Haftar and wounding dozens more. Fighting was ongoing around the strategic Benina air base, with militias seeking to capture the base before Eid the 4 Oct 14. The air base houses heavy weaponry and is crucial for the militias as they attempt to seize control of Benghazi. The Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries said it carried out the attack in conjunction with the Libya Shield brigade and Ansar al-Sharia. Special army forces allied to brigades of Haftar have been fighting Islamist forces including Ansar-al-Sharia. The current crisis is rooted in the successive Libyan governments' dependence on those militias, originally anti-Gaddafi rebel forces, in restoring order in the absence of a strong national army or police. Western powers worry Libya will become a failed state as a weak central government cannot control the competing armed groups in a country awash with arms.
Libya’s Islamist militant group Ansar al-Shariah has declared an “Islamic emirate” in the eastern city of Derna and pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to media reports coming out from the North African Country on the 6 Oct 14. A video posted on YouTube shows a military parade in Derna with militants holding ISIS flags and shouting pro-ISIS ISIS slogans. Ansar al-Shariah was accused by Washington of killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012, held a rally on the 5 Oct 14 the city’s so-called “companions square” where it announced allegiance to ISIS, which has declared an Islamic caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq.
Fighting between Islamist militias and rival groups in a western Libyan town has killed at least 23 people it was reported on the 12 Oct 14. The intense battle in Kikla also left 43 people wounded, mainly from shrapnel wounds. The fighting is part of a nationwide power struggle between Islamist-backed militias, which have seized control of most of Tripoli, including its international airport, and their opponents, who back an internationally recognized government based in the far eastern part of the country.
Niger/Mali/Chad/Libya/France – France is setting up a base in northern Niger as part of an operation aimed at stopping Al Qaeda-linked militants from crossing the Sahel-Sahara region between southern Libya to Mauritania. Paris, which has led efforts to push back Islamists in the region since intervening in its former colony Mali last year, redeployed troops across West Africa earlier this year to form a counter-terrorism force it was reported on the 2 Oct 14. Under the new plan, about 3,000 French troops are now operating out of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — countries straddling the vast arid Sahel band — with the aim of stamping out Islamist fighters across the region. Another 1,000 soldiers are providing logistical support in Gabon and Senegal. "A base is being set up in northern Niger with the throbbing headache of Libya in mind," a French diplomat said. French officials have repeated for several months they are concerned by events in Libya, warning that the political void in the north is creating favourable conditions for Islamist groups to regroup in the barren south of the country. Diplomatic sources estimate about 300 fighters linked to Al Qaeda's North African arm AQIM, including a splinter group formed by veteran Islamist commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, are operating in southern Libya, the start of smuggling and trafficking routes across the region. Three years after they launched air strikes to help topple Muammar Qadhafi, Western powers including France have ruled out military intervention in Libya, fearing that it could further destabilise the situation given that countries across the region are backing different political and armed groups in Libya. However, with France particularly exposed in the Sahel-Sahara region and its forces now engaged in a support role against Islamic State militants in Iraq, Paris is stepping up efforts to squeeze militants in the area. The murder of a French citizen last week in neighbouring Algeria by former AQIM militants who pledged allegiance to Islamic State also appears to have toughened Paris' resolve. “The approach to [fighting terrorism] is global,” Army spokesman Gilles Jaron said on Thursday. “We are on the front line in the Sahel-Sahara region and supporting in Iraq.” The French operation, dubbed Barkhane after the name of a kind of sand dune formed by desert winds, has set up its headquarters in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, but also placed an outpost in northern Chad about 200 kilometres from the Libyan border. Jaron said that in Niger, where French and American drones are already operating, the base was still being finalised, but would have capacity for as many as 200 soldiers with aerial support. “The aim is to bring together areas that interest us. The transit points which terrorists are likely to use,” he said. There have been some notable successes in recent weeks. Two diplomatic sources said Abou Aassim El Mouhajir, a spokesman for Belmokhtar’s “Those Who Sign in Blood” brigade, was captured by French troops in August. French media said he had been taken in Niger. Jaron said four suspected militants were also captured on the 24 Sep 14 near Gao in northern Mali, where France handed the bulk of the security control to the UN MINUSMA peacekeeping forces. At the same time there has been an increase in attacks on foreign troops in Mali, including the death of 10 Chadian soldiers in Sep 14. The UN’s peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said last week that with many French troops leaving the north of Mali, UN forces were being targeted and finding it difficult to respond due to a lack of helicopters and special forces. “It’s a problem that is being resolved. We want the MINUSMA to be up to scratch so we can focus on our number one job: getting rid of AQIM,” said a French defence ministry source.
Niger/France – France says its forces in Niger have destroyed an Al-Qaeda convoy carrying a large amount of weapons from Libya to Mali. The convoy of vehicles belonging to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was "intercepted and destroyed on the night of the 9 Oct 14 in northern Niger, said a statement from the French presidency. The operation, backed by Niger's authorities, had allowed French forces to seize a large quantity of weapons and to neutralise the transporters, some of whom were captured, it said. In late Sep 14 French forces taking part in the Barkhane operation in the Sahel conducted two similar operations in Niger and in northern Mali. A close ally and several presumed partisans of Algerian jihadist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar were captured.
Nigeria – A video has been released showing the purported leader of Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram dismissing the military's allegations that he is dead. In the video, Abubakar Shekau says his fighters shot down an air force jet that went missing three weeks ago. During the last reporting period the Nigerian military claimed a man posing as the Boko Haram leader in videos had been killed and in August 2013 said that Shekau may be dead. Security analysts had questioned the credibility of the military's claims. In the video a heavily bearded man stands on the back of a pick-up truck firing an anti-aircraft gun into the air. He mocked the Nigerian military for reporting that he had been killed and was surrounded by heavily armed masked gunmen. But towns and villages are still under the militants' control and reports that Abubakar Shekau is still alive will once again make it hard for people to believe the information coming from the Nigerian military is correct. The militant group has changed tactics in recent months, holding on to towns in the north-east, where most people are Muslims, rather than carrying out hit-and-run attacks. "Here I am, alive. I will only die the day Allah takes my breath," he says, mocking the military's "propaganda". "We are running our caliphate, our Islamic caliphate. We follow the Koran... We now practise the injunctions of the Koran in the land of Allah," he says, referring to Sharia punishments. The video contains images of extreme violence, including graphic scenes of an amputation, a stoning to death and a beheading.
Boko Haram militants killed seven people on the 6 Oct 14 in the remote northeast of Nigeria, residents and an official said, with reports indicating the victims were beheaded in a revenge attack. The overnight raid targeted the town of Ngamdu in troubled Borno state, the area hardest hit in the Islamists' five-year uprising. The gunmen slit their (victims) throats just the way people slaughter goats it was reported.
Somalia – Somali government troops backed by African Union (AU) forces have taken the last coastal stronghold of the al-Shabab Islamist group it was reported on the 5 Oct 14. But the AU told stated the joint forces were not yet in full control of the town, and the AU had parked its heavy armour on its outskirts. Barawe, 220km (135 miles) south-west of the capital Mogadishu, has not been run by the central government for 23 years. The AU says al-Shabaab used Barawe as a base to launch attacks on the capital. Residents said many of the al-Qaeda-aligned militants had begun withdrawing from the key port town on the 3 Oct 14. Al-Shabaab has lost control of several towns in the past month, but still controls large swathes of territory in rural areas. The news is a significant blow to al-Shabaab because they had used Barawe as a supply route for weapons and food and as a base for a lucrative charcoal business.
A car bomb exploded outside a popular cafe in Somalia’s capital, killing 11 people and wounding eight others, a senior police official said on the 12 Oct 14. The blast struck the Aroma cafe in Mogadishu, and the bomb was believed to have been detonated by remote control, said the police official, Mohammed Hussein. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion has fallen on al-Shabaab, the militant group with links to Al Qaeda, whose members have vowed to avenge the death of their leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane. Al-Shabaab have continued to carry out attacks on Somalia’s capital despite being pushed out of Mogadishu in Aug 11 by African Union forces supporting Somalia’s weak government. The Somali government troops backed by the African Union forces are making progress in capturing the remaining al-Shabaab strongholds. During the first week in Oct 14 they captured the port town of Baraawe.