Central African Republic – At least two people were killed and 20 others wounded when heavy fighting broke out in a Muslim enclave of Central African Republic's capital Bangui as a vote in a constitutional referendum was under way on the 13 Dec 15. Gunfire and the explosion of rocket-propelled grenades were heard in the PK5 neighbourhood, witnesses said. The charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said it treated 12 people for gunshot wounds. Following months of relative calm in Bangui, clashes in late Sep 15 sparked a fresh wave of inter-religious fighting that has killed more than 100 people in and around the PK5 neighbourhood, according to rights campaigner Human Rights Watch. Residents of the isolated enclave marched to the headquarters of the country's UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, to complain that they were unable to cast their ballots. The mission responded by sending soldiers to protect voters and poll workers in PK5. The new constitution - seen as crucial to restoring stability in the restive country - is set to replace a transitional charter that currently governs the former French colony. About one-quarter of CAR's 4.7 million population have been displaced since March 2013, when Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew Christian president Francois Bozize. Fighting has been ongoing between armed Christian groups and Muslim fighters since then, despite the deployment of the 11,000-strong UN force last year. If approved, the new charter will bar members of current interim government from standing in the 27 Dec 15 legislative and presidential elections. It will also limit the presidency to two terms and has provision for a senate - which will be the main legislative body. The landlocked nation is currently led by interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian, and Prime Minister Mahamat Kamoun, a Muslim. Voting got off to a late start in many neighbourhoods in the sprawling, riverside capital, but queues formed in front of polling stations across the city. "We received all the necessary materials for voting yesterday (12 Dec 15), and it was all monitored by MINUSCA agents," said Fabien Kodou, a member of the National Elections Authority. "This morning we started work very early. We were missing certain things, including the electoral list. It's quite disorganised and there's nothing we could do about it. But we're trying our best and at least we had a good start."
Chad – Three female suicide bombers have blown themselves up at a market in Chad, killing at least 27 people it was reported on the 5 Dec 15. Boko Haram is suspected of orchestrating the blasts on Koulfoua Island in Lake Chad, which borders Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Security officials said that at least 90 people were injured in the attack on the 5 Dec 15 carried out by three women. General Banyaman Cossingar, the director general of Chad’s national police, said there had been no official claim of responsibility but Boko Haram was suspected. The terrorist group has carried out several bombings and massacres in the region, causing the government to impose a state of emergency last month. Thousands of refugees have been fleeing to Lake Chad in recent months in efforts to escape the Boko Haram’s violent insurgency in Nigeria. A report by the UN’s refugee agency described people arriving in canoes and boats, including many who had survived massacres that killed their families and friends. But they arrived to become the targets of yet more attacks, with previous suicide bombings targeting fish markets and refugee camps.
Egypt/Russia – Egyptian investigators say they have so far found no proof that terrorism caused a Russian jet to crash in the Sinai in October, killing 224 people. The plane came down en route to Russia from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. A group linked to so-called Islamic State (IS) said it bombed the plane. Nearly all the victims were Russians. Russia has said a bomb brought down the Metrojet Airbus, after finding what it said were "traces of foreign explosives" on the debris. It has vowed to "find and punish" the perpetrators. In response to the 14 Dec 15 findings, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov re-iterated that "our experts concluded this was a terrorist attack". Russia suspended all flights to Egypt in the wake of the attack, with the UK also suspending flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh. However, the head of the Egyptian committee investigating the crash, Ayman al-Muqaddim, was quoted by state TV on Monday as saying there was "no evidence that there is an act of terror or illegal intervention". IS-affiliate Sinai Province said it had destroyed the plane because of Russian air strikes on Syria. Last month IS's magazine published a photo of what it claimed was the improvised bomb that brought down the airliner. The picture in Dabiq showed a Schweppes Gold soda can and what appears to be a detonator and a switch. The crash has dealt another blow to Egypt's vital tourism industry, already struggling after years of unrest. Egypt's tourism minister said earlier this month that tourism revenues for 2015 will be at least 10% below last year's.
Libya/France/Da’esh – There is an increasing risk of Libya becoming a haven for combatants from ISIS, even as western nations target the extremist militant group in Iraq and Syria, the French defence minister warned in comments published earlier in the week on the 5 Dec 15. “We see foreign jihadists arriving in the region of Syrte (northern Libya) who, if our operations in Syria and Iraq succeed in reducing the territorial reach of Da’esh (ISIS) could tomorrow be more numerous,” defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Jeune Afrique weekly. Le Drian ruled out military intervention in Libya but warned the West had to try to foster Libyan unity in the face of such a threat. “It is a major risk and that’s why they’re absolutely must be understanding between the Libyans,” said Le Drian. Analysts believe Libya would present a less hospitable environment for ISIS than Syria and Iraq. But Tripoli is hampered in presenting a united front as rival governments compete for power - a militia alliance including militants that overran Tripoli in August 2014, and the internationally recognized administration that fled to eastern Libya. The current chaos in Libya with groups of competing militias since the overthrow and death of Dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 has allowed ISIS to build influence, notably in Qaddafi’s coastal home town of Sirte, east of Tripoli. And there are widespread fears the group could exploit tribal conflicts further into Africa. Recognizing ISIS’ increasing Libyan reach, Le Drian said he feared that ultimately the group could form one half of a double-edged militant challenge in conjunction with Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to their fellow militants in March and which has been bringing terror to Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. “There is a major risk of a link being forged with Boko Haram,” said Le Drian, urging Libya’s rival administrations to make common cause while urging neighbours Algeria and Egypt to work diplomatic channels to that effect. But Le Drian insisted that France would not countenance military action at least while the Libyans are divided among themselves. “That’s not on the agenda. One cannot release the Libyans from their responsibilities by suggesting there might one day be an intervention. They must find solutions themselves.”
Libya – Warring Libyan factions meeting in Tunisia said on the 6 Dec 15 they had reached an agreement to be approved by rival parliaments on ending the political deadlock that has plagued the country since Moamer Kadhafi’s overthrow. “This is a historic moment the Libyans were waiting for, the Arabs were waiting for and the world was waiting for,” said Awad Mohammed Abdul-Sadiq, the first deputy head of the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC). GNC officials had been holding talks in the suburbs of Tunis for several days with delegates from the internationally recognised House of Representatives. Abdul-Sadiq called on Libyans to support what he called “a historic opportunity”. “If this solution receives real Libyan support -- from the people and institutions -- we will surely arrive in no more than two weeks or a month to a solution to solve the political crisis,” he told a press conference. Amna Emtair from the GNC delegation said that the agreement would set up a new representative body that would choose a committee to nominate a prime minister within 15 days, while another committee would conduct a review of Libya’s constitution. “It is a major breakthrough,” Emtair said.
Libya/Europe/Da’esh – A report from Fox News and reported on the 5 Dec 15 claims that ISIS are training pilots at an airbase in Libya using small planes some possibly left over from the Qaddafi regime and at least one flight simulator in an effort experts fear could lead to aerial attacks targeting Europe, according to regional experts. The terrorist group which is bulking its footprint in the chaotic North African nation is functioning unfettered in the Mediterranean city of Sirte. Given that Sirte is just a short flight from mainland Europe, Italy is closest of all; the development could mean ISIS is closing in on a bid to take its terrorism to a frightening new level with a multitude of high-profile targets within range. “We know that the jihadists are trying every means to hurt the West and if they can blow themselves up in cars they can certainly do the same with airplanes; this would be a great novelty and is in line with their thinking and purpose to do as much harm as possible,” Col Jacques Neriah, the retired former deputy head for assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence and an expert on North Africa affairs told FoxNews.com. “We are not talking about MIG-31 or F-16 pilots,” he continued. “We’re talking about very basic, rudimentary pilots who can take off a light plane and crash themselves into the Vatican for instance. It takes only an hour and a half to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Rome.” The paper cited a security official in Libya who said the Libyan Air Force had attempted to destroy ISIS training camps in Libya but had met with limited success and highlighted the facvt that a brand-new aircraft training simulator has been acquired by the radical Sunni terrorist organisation as recently as Oct 15.
Libya/Da’esh – Experts from the United Nations (UN) say there are between 2,000 and 3,000 members of Da’esh Takfiri terrorist group in Libya. The experts, in a 24-page report released on the 8 Dec 15 said “that, in total, Da’esh has no more than 2,000-3,000 members in Libya,” with about 1,500 now being in Sirte, which is located 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of the capital city of Tripoli and was overrun by the extremists in Feb 15. The report added that the Libyan branch of Da’esh “faces strong resistance from the population, as well as difficulties in building and maintaining local alliances,” stressing that the Takfiris’ threat “needs to be realistically assessed.” It said Da’esh is taking advantage of its “appeal” and atrocious campaign in the Middle Eastern countries of Iraq and Syria, and poses “an evident short and long-term threat in Libya” since it regards the country as the “best” opportunity to expand its militancy. Nonetheless, the experts said there is concern about the spread of Da’esh in Libya, given the country’s strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea and its use as a transit point in North Africa. UN officials also expressed concern over the growth of the Da’esh terrorist group in Libya, warning that more territory would enable the militants to provoke more tensions in North Africa and the Sahel region, which they may use as a launching pad for terrorist attacks. They said around 800 Libyans, who previously fought for Da’esh in Syria and Iraq are now fighting for the Takfiri militant outfit in Libya, and Da’esh chiefs continue to send emissaries from the Middle East to Libya with instructions. Da’esh has also benefited from a significant number of recruits from Libya’s neighbours as well as a sizable contingent of defectors from local Libyan militia groups. Over the past four years, Libya has been grappling with political uncertainty and violence committed by militants, including Da’esh.
Libya/Da’esh – Islamic State fighters have seized control of the Libyan town of Sabratha, site of one of the world’s best-preserved ancient Roman theatres it was reported on the 11 Dec 15. The fighters moved in a long column of Toyota pick-up trucks into the centre of town on the 10 Dec 15 in what was initially thought to be a retaliatory raid after two of their men were arrested in a house nearby. However, they then set up checkpoints around the town, with little opposition from the local militias that were supposed to be in control of the area. The town is 50 miles from the Libyan capital Tripoli, which is now facing a threat from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from both west and east. On the eastern side, the group has moved on from its base in Sirte and is attacking Khoms, 70 miles away. Khoms is the site of Leptis Magna, once the capital of the Roman province of Africa and now one of the finest set of historical remains in the world. Destruction of the ruins, which rival or even surpass those of Palmyra in Syria, would be regarded as one of the great cultural disasters of modern times. The jihadists have already blown up the Temple of Baal and other parts of Palmyra. Islamist groups set up training camps west of Tripoli off the road to the Libyan border with Tunisia not long after the fall of Col Gaddafi. At first, they were controlled by a mixture of militias. However, some were taken over by the hard-line Ansar al-Sharia, and began to be used as training camps for fighters from both Libya and Tunisia. Eventually, fighters from both countries announced themselves as loyal to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. According to local media, the ISIL incursion was sparked when security forces of the Libya Dawn faction which runs most of the west of Libya arrested two men in the nearby town of Surman, an Islamist hotspot. One was said to be Tunisian, the other a Libyan who had recently returned from Syria, and weapons were also found. The Libyan was said to be related to a local member of ISIL. The resolution to the immediate dispute will be of concern to the West and the United Nations, which are trying to reconcile Libya Dawn and the western Libya militias with the recognised government, which only controls part of the east of the country. The mayor of Sabratha, an Islamist allied to Libya Dawn, is said to have released the man who was arrested after meeting his ISIL-linked relative, saying that the local ISIL members were “peaceful” and not dominated by foreign fighters. The recognised government has accused Libya Dawn of allowing extremism to flourish as the country has fallen apart.
Morocco – A court has sentenced 11 Moroccans to prison terms ranging from two to seven years for their involvement in “cases related to terrorism”, the official Moroccan news agency MAP reported on the 4 Dec 15. The 11, convicted on the 3 Dec 15 were accused of “having formed a gang to prepare and commit terrorist acts... and undermine public order” and “raising funds to finance terrorist acts”, MAP said. Over the past few weeks, the authorities have announced the uncovering of a number of “terrorist cells” whose members were allegedly linked to the militant ISIS group. Last year, Morocco introduced new security legislation under which dozens of prison sentences have since been handed down for offences related to “terrorism”.