Kenya – Kenyan police say they have foiled a "large-scale" biological attack using anthrax, by a terror group with links to so-called Islamic State (IS) it was reported on the 3 May 16. A man (Mohammed Abdi Ali), his wife (Nuseiba Mohammed Haji)and another woman (Fatuma Mohammed Hanshi) have been arrested. Rewards have been offered for two other men. Police did not name the network, but said it stretches across the country and outside its borders, including to Somalia, Libya and Syria. There was no immediate independent confirmation. In a statement, the police said Mohammed Abdi Ali, a medical intern at a Kenyan hospital, was in charge of a "terror network... planning large-scale attacks akin to the Westgate Mall attack" in which 67 people were killed. They say he was also "engaged in the active radicalisation" of students and helped recruit Kenyans "to join terror groups in Libya and Syria". The statement says Mr Ali's network included medical experts who could help organise a biological attack using anthrax. His wife, Nuseiba Mohammed Haji, a student, was also arrested, in Uganda, as was a friend, Fatuma Mohammed Hanshi. The police said accomplices of Mr Ali had gone in to hiding, including Ahmed Hish and Farah Dagane, who are medical interns. Police described them as "armed and dangerous" and offered two million Kenyan shillings (£14,000; $20,000) for information leading to their apprehension.
Libya/European Union/Migrants – The EU naval mission to tackle people smuggling in the central Mediterranean is failing to achieve its aims, a British parliamentary committee says and was reported on the 13 May 16. In a report, the House of Lords EU Committee says Operation Sophia does not "in any meaningful way" disrupt smugglers' boats. The destruction of wooden boats has forced the smugglers to use rubber dinghies, putting migrants at even greater risk, the document says. Operation Sophia began in Jun 15, as the wars in Syria and Iraq fuelled an unprecedented flow of refugees from the Middle East to Europe. But the majority leaving Libya - itself wracked by fighting and human rights abuses - are migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. The operation was launched in the wake of a series of disasters in which hundreds of migrants drowned while trying to cross from Libya to Italy. The numbers risking their lives on the Libya-Italy route have been increasing, while the numbers reaching the Greek islands from Turkey have dropped. An EU agreement with Turkey to intercept migrant boats in the Aegean Sea and send many migrants back took effect in Mar 16. Last year the EU authorised its vessels to board, search, seize and divert vessels suspected of being used for people smuggling in the central Mediterranean. The House of Lords report states that "the arrests made to date have been of low-level targets, while the destruction of vessels has simply caused the smugglers to shift from using wooden boats to rubber dinghies, which are even more unsafe". It says that there are also "significant limits to the intelligence that can be collected about onshore smuggling networks from the high seas". "There is therefore little prospect of Operation Sophia overturning the business model of people smuggling," the document concludes. It adds that the mission is still operating out in international waters, and not - as originally intended - in Libyan waters.
- Almost 14,000 migrants rescued since operation began (22 June 2015)
- 114 people smugglers' boats seized
- 69 suspected smugglers and traffickers arrested by Italian authorities
- Operation has five warships - Italian flagship Cavour, two German, one UK, one Spanish
- And seven aircraft (three helicopters, four planes)
Morocco – A recently busted Islamic State (IS) linked cell in Morocco planned terrorist attacks in Brussels, local media reported on the 1 May 16. Three IS suspects arrested on 29 Apr 16 in the north eastern city of Nador were planning to attack sensitive sites not only in northern Morocco, but also in Brussels, Xinhua cited Le360 news website as saying. According to an intelligence services source, the suspects coordinated with an IS fighter, who received training in Iraq, to carry out the attack in Brussels. The Moroccan Interior Ministry announced on the 29 Apr 16 the arrest of the three IS suspects in the north eastern city of Nador. The suspects have received instructions from IS leaders to establish an emirate north of the kingdom and planned to carry out attacks against state institutions, the ministry said in a statement. They also planned to target "a sensitive site" in the city of Nador as part of their terrorist project, it added. Dismantling the cell is part of Morocco's proactive efforts to face terrorist threats, the ministry added. Morocco has seen a growing threat from the IS. The ministry said it has dismantled 31 terrorist cells since 2013 and foiled "numerous terrorist plans" targeting vital national, Arab and Western interests.
Nigeria – They call themselves the Niger Delta Avengers. Little is known about the new radical group that has claimed a series of pipeline bombings in Nigeria’s oil-producing region this year and evaded gunboats and soldiers trawling swamps and villages it was reported on the 14 May 16. Their attacks have driven Nigerian oil output to near a 22-year low and, if the violence escalates into another insurgency in the restive area, it could cripple production in a country facing a growing economic crisis. President Muhammadu Buhari has said he would crush the militants, but a wide-scale conflict could stretch security forces already battling a northern rebellion by hard-line Islamist group Boko Haram. Militancy has been rife over the past decade in the Delta, a southern region which is one of the country’s poorest areas despite generating 70 percent of state income. Violence has increased sharply this year – most of it claimed by the “Avengers” – after Buhari scaled back an amnesty deal with rebel groups, which had ended a 2004-2009 insurgency. Under the deal, more state cash was channelled to the region for job training and militant groups were handed contracts to protect the pipelines they once bombed. But Buhari cut the budget allocated to the plan by about 70 percent and cancelled the contracts, citing corruption and mismanagement of funds. The “Avengers” have carried out a string of attacks since Feb 16 that reduced Nigerian oil output by at least 300,000 barrels a day of output, and shut down two refineries and a major export terminal. The group emailed journalists on the 12 May 16 a statement saying they were fighting for an independent Delta and would step up their attacks unless oil firms left the region within two weeks. “If at the end of the ultimatum you are still operating, we will blow up all the locations,” it said. “It will be bloody. So just shut down your operations and leave.” “To international oil companies, this is just the beginning and you have not seen anything yet. We will make you suffer,” it said. Authorities have no hard facts about the group – such as its size, bases or leadership, Nigeria-based diplomats say. Diplomats and security experts say it has shown a level of sophistication not seen since the peak of the 2004-2009 insurgency, which halved Nigeria’s oil output. They say it must be getting help from sympathetic oil workers in identifying the pipelines to cause maximum damage. “It’s scary. Their demands are impossible to meet so there will be probably more attacks,” said a security expert, asking not to be named. In Feb 16 the group claimed an attack on an undersea pipeline, forcing Shell to shut a 250,000 barrels a day Forcados terminal. Last week, it took credit for blasting a Chevron platform, shutting the Warri and Kaduna refineries. Power outages across Nigeria worsened as gas supplies were also affected. There have been other smaller attacks and this week another explosion, which bore the hallmarks of the group, closed Shell’s Bonny Light export program. Reuters, like other media, has been unable to reach the group, which mainly communicates via Twitter, with the location tracker switched off, and on its website. Its members describe themselves there as “young, well-travelled” and mostly educated in Eastern Europe. Given the lack of intelligence about the militants, the army launched a wide-ranging hunt across the Delta this week, sending gunboats into mosquito-infested creeks and searching villages in the middle of the night. But some residents say such a heavy-handed military approach stokes dissent in the Delta where many complain of poverty despite sitting on much of Nigeria’s energy wealth. They say some villagers help militants to hide in the hard-to-access swamps. “The military came at 0030 hrs with two gunboats ... they went from house to house. Many ran into the bush,” said Godspower Gbenekemam, chief of the Gbaramatu area. “The military stayed on until about 0530 hrs during which nobody was able to move out,” he said. “We are not part of the people blowing up pipelines. We do not know them so the military should leave our community alone.” Alagoa Morris, an environmental activist based in the Delta, said unless soldiers acted with restraint, more people would join the militants, with a risk of “the Niger Delta returning to another round of full-scale militancy.” Even oil majors, which have long pressed for better pipeline protection, worry the tactics could backfire. Executives met Vice President Yemi Osinbajo this week and one of them warned the government was being “too direct and blunt” and needed to find some balance, according to a source familiar with the discussions. The military has not said how many soldiers have been involved in the sweep. The army searched several villages around Gbaramatu because that part of the Delta is home to former militant leader Government Ekpemupolo, better known as Tompolo. Some officials have linked Tompolo to the “Avengers,” pointing to the fact the attacks began after authorities issued an arrest warrant for Tompolo on graft charges in Jan 16. Tompolo has denied any ties, saying he himself is a victim as the group had asked him to apologize for criticizing it. For Buhari, the campaign against former militants is a part of his election promise to fix a country gripped by graft and mismanagement, but many locals in the Christian south see him, a Muslim northerner, as an oppressor. Buhari’s cutting of the amnesty plan’s budget has also caused widespread resentment in the Delta, as it helps fund job training for the unemployed. Tapping into such anger, the “Avengers” point out that the former military ruler has never visited the Delta, where many roads are pot-holed and some villages are polluted from oil spills. In a flurry of statements, the militants have published a list of demands, from cleaning up oil spills to keeping the amnesty plan, leading up to Thursday’s (12 May 16) ultimatum. Diplomats say some of Tompolo’s followers have probably joined the “Avengers” and that the group’s ranks could be swelled by an army of unemployed willing to work for anyone. But, adding to the confusion surrounding the group, some former rebels have denied knowledge of the militants and say they have brought unwanted military attention to the area. “Niger Delta Avengers are not fighting for the sake of Niger Delta,” said Eris Paul, a former leader of the now-defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which was one of the most powerful militant groups. “We don’t know them.”
Somalia – Islamic jihadists killed three police officers in a bomb and gun attack on a police station in the Somali capital on the 9 May 16 city authorities said. A suicide car bomber and a gunman also died, as did two civilians, apparently shot by police responding to the attack claimed by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-aligned Shabaab. Other civilians were also injured. "The attack involved two Shabaab members, one of them driving a car loaded with explosives, and another tried to storm the police headquarters but was shot dead. We have lost three policemen," said Abdifatah Omar Halane, spokesman for the Mogadishu city administration. He added that two civilians were also shot dead.