Burkina Faso – Seventeen people have been killed in a suspected jihadist attack on a restaurant in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, the government said on the 13 Aug 17. "The attack claimed 17 victims, their nationalities are yet to be confirmed, and eight injured," according to a government statement. Burkina Faso’s government says suspected jihadist attack on restaurant in Ouagadougou that killed 17 people.
Gaza Strip/Egypt – An Islamist killed a Hamas security official on the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt on the 17 Aug 17 in what was described as the first suicide bombing against Hamas. Hamas, which runs Gaza and has an uneasy truce with Israel, has stepped up patrols on the frontier aiming to prevent hard-line extremists moving to and from the Sinai Peninsula, where Da’esh insurgents have battled Egyptian troops for years. Hamas has also worked to prevent extremists from breaching the truce that ended its 2014 war with Israel, Gaza's other neighbour. "A security force stopped two persons who approached the border. One of them blew himself up and was killed. The other was wounded," the Hamas-run interior ministry said in a statement. It said several Hamas security officials were hurt, and hospital officials told reporters that one of them died of his wounds. An extremist group claimed the men who clashed with Hamas as its members, saying they tried to reach Sinai so as to attack Israel from there. Israel and Egypt have been cooperating in Cairo's crackdown on the Da’esh terror group in Sinai. "The brothers didn't find a place to breathe in Gaza, so they headed towards the Sinai front to take part in the fight against the Jews and those who protect them there," said a statement posted on a pro-Salafi website, Ibn Taymia Media Centre. Hamas has been pursuing improved relations with Egypt, which keeps its border crossing with Gaza largely shut. Cairo has accused the group in the past of aiding Sinai militants. Hamas has denied those allegations. Gaza's Salafis are proponents of global holy war endorsed by the Da’esh terror group and Al Qaeda. Hamas, which has carried out suicide bombings in Israel in the past, seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It has shown little tolerance for Salafi movements, detaining many of their members and raiding homes in searches for weapons.
Kenya/al-Shabaab – Suspected members of Somalia's al-Shabaab armed group beheaded at least three men in an attack on a Kenyan village. "They were slaughtered. Their heads were cut off from the rest of their bodies," a police source said on the 18 Aug 17. Police said four bodies had been found at Maleli village in Kenya's coastal county of Lamu. Area county commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo said he was aware of three deaths. "A group of armed suspects raided and killed three locals. All the three were men," Kitiyo said, adding the suspects set houses ablaze before disappearing into a nearby forest. "We cannot speculate but from previous attacks, the nature and style of this attack can only be associated with these al-Shabaab criminals." However, coastal Police Chief Larry Kieng said the attack appeared to be motivated by local grievances. "The number of people killed are four and we have established it is a conflict between herders and farmers," Kieng said. He said three suspects had been taken into custody. In July suspected al-Shabaab attackers fighters beheaded nine men in villages near Maleli and killed three police officers in another attack in the area.
Libya – The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for a senior Libyan military commander allied with Khalifa Haftar who is suspected of involvement in the deaths of 33 people in the eastern city of Benghazi. Haftar is the controversial chief of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which now controls key Libyan oil ports. Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 civil war that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, and the country is now split between rival governments and militias. The ICC document, which was seen by a newspaper on the 15 Aug 17says: "Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli [is] allegedly responsible for murder as a war crime in the context of the non-international armed conflict in Libya." The murders were committed "in seven incidents, taking place from on or before 3 Jun 16 until on or about 17 Jul 17, in Benghazi or surrounding areas", the warrant says. Werfalli allegedly personally shot or ordered the execution of people who were either civilians or injured fighters, according to the document. "There is no information in the evidence to show that they have been afforded a trial by a legitimate court, whether military or otherwise, that would comport to any recognised standard of due process," the ICC's judges say. The charges are backed up by recordings of witness interviews, video material and other evidence, the warrant said. One video purportedly shows Werfalli shooting a hooded and unarmed person and afterwards telling the dead body: "You have been misled by he who did you harm. You have been misled by Satan." In another incident, Werfalli is allegedly seen in video footage reading from a document before personally commanding a firing squad which then shoots 15 people wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods, the ICC's judges said. "After reading the document, Mr Al-Werfalli says ...'Ready! Aim! Fire!," the judges said, after which the executioners shoot the prisoners in three groups of five. Al-Werfalli and two other men then allegedly personally execute three people, before he orders the execution of yet another two others. "The video depicting the incident, involving a total 20 executed persons, was posted on social media on 23 Jul 17," the judges said. Fatou Bensouda, ICC's chief prosecutor, called on Libyan authorities to arrest and hand over Werfalli to ensure his surrender to the ICC "without delay". "Such egregious crimes, including the cruel and dehumanising manner by which they were perpetrated against helpless victims, must be stopped," she said. In a statement, Heba Morayef, director of Amnesty International's North Africa Research, said the ICC's decision was "a significant step towards ending the rampant impunity for war crimes in Libya". "The Libyan authorities must urgently comply with this arrest warrant and hand [Werfalli] over to the ICC to face his accusers in a fair trial," she said. "This warrant sends a clear message that those who commit or order horrendous crimes are not above the law and will not go unpunished." Werfalli, born in 1978, is a senior commander in the Special Forces Brigade, or al-Saiqa, which defected from the Libyan military after the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi. He joined al-Saiqa after Gaddafi's fall and has "played a commanding role since at least 2015", the ICC's judges said in the arrest warrant. Since then, al-Saiqa has been battling alongside forces loyal to Haftar in Benghazi. Haftar is a dominant figure for factions in eastern Libya that have rejected the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), contributing to its failure to expand its power in the capital, Tripoli, and beyond. Libya's eastern-based parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR), is a rival of the GNA and allied with Haftar.
Libya/Europe – An unknown armed group in Sabratha, to the west of Tripoli, is reportedly preventing and detaining migrants in Libya from boarding boats destined for Italy and the European mainland it was reported on the 30 Aug 17. News of the group’s activities helps explain the recent dramatic drop in migrant arrivals in Europe from North Africa. Arrivals in Italy from North Africa, the main route for migration to Europe this year, were off more than 50% in July from a year earlier. Figures for August indicate a further reduction. Thought to be made up of former police officers, military personnel and civilians, the precise identity of the group remains unknown. Speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, a civil society organiser said the group is conducting a “very strong campaign” launched by a “former mafia boss,” a second Sabratha source said. A third source told Reuters that the group was detaining migrants turned back while en route to Europe and provided an image of hundreds of potential migrants sitting in front of a high wall as evidence. It was not possible to contact the group, which the third source said was called Brigade 48, although other sources did not confirm this. European countries and international agencies have been seeking to work with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli to formulate a cohesive response to migrants travelling to Europe from North Africa. Their efforts have only had limited success, however. One of the sources contacted by Reuters speculated that the Sabratha group may be seeking both funds and legitimacy from the GNA in helping it achieve one of its key aims. Italy has been especially affected by migrant flows into Europe and in recent years has been trying to support the GNA with cash, training and by sending a ship to repair Tripoli’s Coast Guard and naval vessels. Approximately 600,000 migrants have reached Italy by sea from North Africa since 2014. More than 12,000 others died trying. Reports of the armed group’s activities were supported by testimony provided to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which interviewed migrants who arrived in Trapani, Sicily on August 19. The NGO’s spokesman said: “They said that it was very difficult to depart from Sabratha. There are people stopping the boats before they set out and if they get out to sea they’re immediately sent back." Some migrants spoke of being turned back before reaching Sabratha, they said. News of the drop in migrant numbers was welcomed in Italy, with Interior Minister Marco Minniti saying that he could see the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Italy wants to replicate a deal with Libya that the European Union struck with Turkey last year, largely shutting down the migrant route through Greece and the Balkans. With a national election looming during the first half of next year and fears of widespread civil unrest commonplace, the government in Rome is under pressure to show it can stop, or at least slow, migration.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.
Somalia/al-Shabaab – A renegade leader of Somalia's al-Shabaab has defected to the regional government, severing ties to the armed group that has been carrying out attacks in the country, according to a Somali military official on the 13 Aug 17. It was reported that Mukhtar Robow has been airlifted to Mogadishu, after surrendering earlier on the 13 Aug 17 to Somali forces in the government-controlled town of Hudur in the country's southwest. Ahmed Mohamed, a senior government security official, earlier said Robow was taken from the Bakool jungle area, where he and hundreds of his fighters had been battling al-Shabaab since early last week. Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, who had interviewed Robow, said the defection is significant as he is one of the founding leaders of al-Shabaab, and is the only one living today. Earlier this week, Robow lost at least 19 of his fighters to al-Shabaab, our correspondent said. Robow's defection comes after the United States in Jun 17 cancelled a $5m reward offered for his capture. His surrender is the culmination of months of talks between the Somali government, and it is believed the cancellation of the bounty for his capture helped convince Robow to turn himself in. Robow, who was the deputy director of al-Shabaab, is the most senior figure to have quit the group since its founding in 2001. Estimated to be in his 50s, Robow is one of al-Shabaab’s most experienced leaders, having travelled to Afghanistan and trained alongside al-Qaeda back in 2000 after studies in Sudan. Robow had served as an al-Shabaab spokesman, military commander and spiritual leader who planned and executed deadly attacks on Somali government troops and African Union peacekeeping forces, according to the US government. Robow and al-Shabaab parted ways in 2013, and since then he had been laying low in the jungles with his forces. Al-Shabaab had launched multiple attacks to try kill or capture him. It was not immediately clear what would happen to Robow now that he has been captured. But residents and an analyst were doubtful over the impact of the move.Mohamed Aden, a history lecturer at a Mogadishu University, said: "If criminals are not taken to court, then there will be no peace." Al-Shabaab last year was named the deadliest armed group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington, DC-based Africa Centre for Strategic Studies. The fighters pledged to step up attacks after the recently elected government of President Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed launched a new military offensive against it. Al-Shabaab also faces a new military push from the US after President Donald Trump approved expanded operations, including air attacks.
Tunisia/Da’esh – Tunisia said on the 15 Aug 17 it had foiled a "terrorist plot" aimed at allowing Islamic State group jihadists to seize part of its territory. Authorities had "uncovered a terrorist plot" targeting police and military units in the southern town of Ben Guerdane in a fresh bid to claim territory for IS, the interior ministry said in a statement. In Mar 16 jihadists mounted a coordinated assault on security installations in the town on Tunisia's border with Libya, aiming to win over residents and establish an IS "emirate". That attack cost the lives of seven civilians and 13 members of the security forces. Fifty-five assailants were killed. The latest plot sought to "take advantage of social unrest, to help Da’esh elements infiltrate our country in order to carry out terrorist attacks and try to seize security and military buildings," the ministry said. Five people were arrested, it added. Since its 2011 revolution, which sparked the Arab Spring, Tunisia has seen a rise in jihadist activity.