Egypt/Da’esh – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a three-month state of emergency following twin church bombings by the Islamic State group that killed dozens on Palm Sunday (09 Apr 17), the deadliest attacks on the minority in recent memory. The attacks in the Nile Delta cities of Tanta and Alexandria followed a Cairo church bombing in Dec 16 and came weeks before a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for Egypt's Christian minority. Sisi declared the "three-month" state of emergency, which he must present to parliament within a week, during a defiant speech warning that the war against the jihadists "will be long and painful". The first bombing at the Mar Girgis church in Tanta city north of Cairo killed 27 people, the health ministry said. Emergency services had scrambled to the scene when another blast rocked St Mark's church in Alexandria where Coptic Pope Tawadros II had been leading a Palm Sunday service. Seventeen people including at least four police officers were killed in that attack, which the interior ministry said was caused by a suicide bomber who blew himself up when prevented from entering the church. The ministry said Tawadros was unharmed, and a church official said he left before the explosion. The private CBC Extra channel aired footage of the Alexandria blast, with CCTV showing what appeared to be the church entrance engulfed in flame and flying concrete moments after a guard turned a man away. Eyewitnesses said a police officer detected the bomber before he blew himself up. At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and 40 in Alexandria, the health ministry said. Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions, and Francis sent his "deep condolences" to Tawadros. IS claimed two Egyptian suicide bombers carried out both attacks and threatened further attacks in a statement published on social media. After the bombings, Sisi ordered military deployments to guard "vital and important infrastructure", his office said. State television reported that the interior minister sacked the provincial head of security and replaced him after the attack. "I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up... some people, only half of their bodies remained," Nabil Nader, who lives in front of the Tanta church, said. Worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, marking Jesus's triumphant entrance to Jerusalem. Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt's population of more than 92 million and who celebrate Easter next weekend, have been targeted by several attacks in recent months. Jihadists and Islamists accuse Copts of supporting the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters.
Follow-on Report: The suicide bombers behind the blasts which targeted two churches in Egypt on the 9 Apr 17 were identified as Abu Ishaq and Abu al-Baraa al-Masri, Abu Ishaq al-Masri is allegedly responsible for targeting the church in Alexandria. He was born in September 1990 in Manyat Al Kamh. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Commerce. He worked as an accountant in Kuwait for four months then he travelled to Turkey then to Syria on December 26, 2013. He later returned to Sinai. The man responsible for the blast at the church in Tanta was identified as Abu al-Baraa al-Masri. He was born on December 13, 1974 in the town of Abu Tabel in Kafr El Sheikh. He has an industrial secondary school diploma, and he is married and has three children.
Morocco/Da’esh – Morocco’s security forces dismantled 12 Apr 17 a suspected terrorist cell linked to the Islamic State group operating in Fez and Moulay Yacoub, according to the interior ministry. Investigations led by the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) revealed that the seven members of the cell had links with an extremist network that had been recently dismantled and was seeking to boost the terror organisation with Moroccan fighters, said the interior ministry in a statement. The first elements of the investigation also established that the members of this cell intensified their recruitment and the sending of Moroccan volunteers to both Syria and Iraq in coordination with elements in the field responsible for external IS operations, where they carry out military training in IS strongholds, it said. The leader of the dismantled cell has recently financed the sending of three Moroccan extremists to the IS ranks to acquire combat techniques, it noted. The interior ministry reported that the brother of one of the members of suspected cell was convicted in connection with the dismantling of a terrorist cell that planned major destruction operations in Morocco and a European country while the other members have relatives who fight in IS ranks in Syria and Iraq. The dismantling of the terrorist cell is part of the efforts of the Moroccan security services in fighting IS threats.
Nigeria/Boko Haram – An "alarming" number of children in Africa, most of them girls, have been used as suicide bombers by Boko Haram in 2017, according to UNICEF and reported on the 12 Apr 17. In the countries fighting Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region - Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad - 27 children have been used in suicide attacks by the armed group in the first three months of the year, UNICEF said in a report and statement. There were nine cases in the same period last year, and 30 children used for bombings in all of 2016, it said. The Boko Haram campaign is now in its eighth year with little sign of ending, having claimed more than 20,000 lives. The group has increasingly been using children to attack crowded markets, mosques and camps for internally displaced people in northeast Nigeria and the broader Lake Chad region. "These children are victims, not perpetrators," said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF's regional director for West and Central Africa. "Forcing or deceiving them into committing such horrific acts is reprehensible." One 16-year-old girl from Chad lost her legs after being drugged and forced by Boko Haram to take part in an attempted suicide attack on a crowded market, according to the report. Though the girl survived, her family initially rejected her "out of fear of stigma". Children who escape Boko Haram are often held in custody by authorities or ostracised by their communities and families. In a separate statement, UNICEF said it was concerned that children were being held by the Nigerian military for alleged association with Boko Haram fighters. "They are held in military barracks, separated from their parents, without medical follow-up, without psychological support, without education, under conditions and for durations that are unknown," said Patrick Rose, a UNICEF regional coordinator. On the 10 Apr 17 Nigeria's military released 593 people, including children, after clearing them of having ties with Boko Haram. A UNICEF spokesperson said that about 370 remain in custody. "Society's rejection of these children, and their sense of isolation and desperation, could be making them more vulnerable to promises of martyrdom through acceptance of dangerous and deadly missions," the report said. Children make up 1.3 million of the 2.3 million people displaced by the conflict.
Nigeria/Boko Haram – Nigerian security officials have thwarted plans by Boko Haram members to attack the embassies of the United States and Britain, authorities said on the 12 Apr 17. A Department of State Services statement said it broke up a ring that had “perfected plans to attack the UK and American embassies and other Western interests” in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. The statement said five suspects who had been based in Benue state and the Federal Capital Territory were arrested on March 25 and 26. Another 20-year-old Boko Haram member was arrested March 22 in Yobe state and “confessed his involvement in executing the sinister activities of the group.”
Somalia/Piracy – Pirates have seized a small boat and kidnapped its 11 Indian crew members off the coast of Somalia, an investigator said on the 3 Apr 17 the latest vessel targeted by the region's resurgent hijackers. The attack on the small ship happened on the 1 Apr 17 as the vessel passed through the narrow channel between Yemen's Socotra island and the Somali coast, said Graeme Gibbon Brooks, the CEO of the maritime firm Dryad Maritime. The pirates are taking the vessel to the Eyl area of northern Somalia, he said. The small dhow initially was heading from Dubai to Bosaso, Somalia, he said. United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which coordinates the management of all merchant ships and yachts in the Gulf of Aden area, said it had received information that a dhow en route to Bosasso from Dubai had been hijacked 'in the vicinity of Socotra (Island)'. A spokesman said UKMTO was unable to confirm the location of the vessel, which he identified as Al Kausar, or what had taken place, and that investigations were ongoing. 'We understand Somali pirates hijacked a commercial Indian ship and (it is heading) towards Somalia shores,' Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, a former director of the anti-piracy agency in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, said. Somali pirates hijacked of the Comoros-flagged oil tanker Aris 13 in Mar 17 the first commandeering of a vessel since 2012. They later released the vessel and its Sri Lankan crew after a fight with the Puntland marine force. Pirates in late March also seized a fishing trawler. In a separate incident that highlights increased pirate activity, UKMTO said on its website that early on the 3 Apr 17 six skiffs had approached a vessel it did not identify and that ladders and hooks were sighted. The vessel raised alarm, prompting armed guards to take position and the skiffs left, leaving the vessel unharmed, UKTMO said.
Somalia – At least seven people were killed and 10 wounded on the 5 Apr 17 when a car bomb exploded at a restaurant near the Somali ministry of internal security in Mogadishu, officials said. "There was a huge blast at a tea-shop near the security ministry, the initial information we are getting indicates it was a car bomb explosion," said Somali police official Mohammed Ibrahim. Abdifatah Omar Halane, spokesman for the Mogadishu administration, said "seven civilians were killed in the blast and more than 10 others wounded."
Somalia/al-Shabaab – A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Mogadishu army camp on the 10 Apr 17 killing at least three soldiers a day after the army chief escaped an attack on his convoy, military sources said. "The suicide bomber was stopped at the main entrance and he blew himself up. Three soldiers died and several others were wounded," said soldier Abdukadir Farah, who was inside the camp at the time of the attack. Farah said there had been a meeting of military officials underway at the camp. But it was not clear if army Chief Ahmed Mohamed Jimale was among them, he said. Military official Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Abdirahman said the attacker had been "disguised as a member of the military" to gain access to the training camp. The attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab extremist group, which said that "tens" of people had been killed. The training camp in the south of the capital is one of the largest in the country. On the 9 Apr 17 a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a convoy carrying Jimale, who was named to the post last week by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo. The Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the military chief had "narrowly escaped" the blast. A senior army official separately said the attack left at least 10 people dead. Farmajo, who took office in Feb 17 also named new police and intelligence chiefs in a speech Thursday in which he declared a fresh war against Al-Shabaab militants.
South Sudan – The World Food Programme said on the 14 Apr 17 it was "horrified" to learn that three of its South Sudanese workers were killed in violence that claimed at least 16 lives in the latter part of the reporting period. The three men, contracted as porters, appear to have been killed while trying to get to a WFP warehouse amid fighting between rebel and government troops near the western city of Wau. Two were hacked to death with machetes and one was shot dead, the UN agency said. South Sudan, which split from Sudan in 2011, has been mired in a crisis since a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar escalated into a military conflict in 2013. Prior to the killings of the WFP staff, the United Nations said at least 79 of its aid workers have been killed since Dec 13. Attacks on aid workers and obstruction of their work have contributed to a man-made famine affecting 100,000 people and threatening another one million in the country. Last month, three Kenyans and three South Sudanese aid workers were hauled from their vehicle and shot dead in an ambush - the deadliest single attack on aid workers since the war began.
South Sudan – At least 14 people have been killed in South Sudan after new fighting erupted between government forces and the main rebel group. Lam Paul Gabriel Lam, the SPLM-IO rebel group's spokesman, said on the 15 Apr 17 during the last two days the army has bombed rebel-held areas around Raga - a north-western town near the border with Sudan and Central African Republic. "Yesterday our forces decided to go and raid Raga," he said. Around 14 people were counted killed but many are injured. We had one soldier killed with some injuries." Santo Domic Chol, the government's military spokesman, said he was in Raga and would provide information later on. The United Nations, which has a large peacekeeping force in the East African nation, confirmed the latest outbreak of violence. "Fresh fighting has broken out between government and opposition forces in a number of locations including Raga in the west of South Sudan, Waat in Jonglei to the east, and in the area of Wunkur and Tonga in the northern Upper Nile region," the UN said in a statement. The surge in fighting in eastern South Sudan has forced 60 aid workers to flee, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said on the 15 Apr 17 hurting efforts to help desperate civilians in the famine-hit nation. "Separately, 60 humanitarian workers have had to relocate from multiple locations in Jonglei yesterday and today - including Waat and Walgak - due to intensified conflict in the area." The outbreak of violence in the eastern Jonglei region came after fierce clashes in southern Pajok and western Wau in the past two weeks. The UN peacekeeping mission UNMISS, which has been blocked from accessing some conflict zones, said 13,500 people had fled to their base near Wau this week. More than 3,000 others were seeking refuge at a Catholic Church compound.
Tanzania – Officials say eight Tanzanian police officers have been ambushed and killed while returning from patrol outside the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam. The attack happened on the night of the 13 Apr 17 in an area called Jaribu. Ernest Mangu, police chief, said on Friday that the identities of the assailants are unknown. The assailants first fired at the driver of the patrol vehicle before killing seven other officers and seizing their weapons. An investigation has been launched into the killings, he said, adding that the motive was not immediately apparent. Mwigulu Nchemba, home affairs minister, says he has increased the number of police to hunt down assailants who have killed dozens of police and civilians in recent months.