Central African Republic (CAR) – Suspected Christian fighters killed two Moroccan peacekeepers from the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic on the 25 Jul 17 the mission said, in the second deadly attack on Moroccan forces during this reporting period. The peacekeepers were ambushed by suspected Anti-balaka fighters in the town of Banagassou, 700 kilometres east of the capital Bangui, as they stocked up on water to deliver to the population, the mission said in a statement. Thousands have died in an ethnic and religious conflict that broke out when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking a backlash from Christian Anti-balaka armed groups. The 25 Jul raid, which injured a third soldier, followed similar attacks by suspected Anti-balaka fighters in the diamond-mining town in recent days, including one on the 22 Jul 17 that killed a Moroccan peacekeeper and left three others wounded. On the 21 Jul 17 a patrol of peacekeepers was shot at and one of the attackers killed, a MINUSCA peacekeeping mission spokesman said again blaming pro-Christian fighters. Six peacekeepers were killed in Bangassou in May 17. The violence has prompted several humanitarian organisations to suspend their activities in Bangassou, where fighting killed at least 115 people. It also points to the inability of the 13,000-strong UN force to contain violence in a country where government control barely extends outside the capital. "I am shocked by these new losses of human life, and I firmly condemn this flagrant violation of the right to life and of international law," mission chief Parfait Onanga-Anyanga said in the statement.
Egypt/Hasam Group/Da’esh – Egyptian police have killed three top ISIS militants in two separate operations, including two caught trying to move to a new hideout on Cairo’s outskirts, the government said on the 18 Jul 17. The interior ministry said the two militants killed in New Cairo were senior members of the Hasam group, an extremist movement the government accuses of links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The third man, a militant who was gunned down in the restive North Sinai province, was a leader of a militia affiliated with the ISIS group, the ministry said in a separate statement.In the first operation, authorities had acted after learning that some of Hasam’s leaders were about to move “equipment and weapons” to a new hideout in New Cairo, outside the capital’s ring road, the ministry said. Security forces set up checkpoints on roads to the area and as forces approached a suspect car, “its passengers opened fire” on police and were killed in retaliatory fire. The two were identified as students aged 24 and 21 who were “among the most prominent leaders in the Hasam terrorist group,” the ministry said. In the vehicle, police found seven automatic weapons, two other firearms, a large amount of ammunition, masks and radio equipment. The ministry did not say when the shootout took place, but said the group had been planning to move locations on the 18 Jul 17. The militants who died were said to have been behind attacks including a shootout in early May in which three policemen were killed and five wounded near the Cairo ring road. The pair had carried out attacks on the orders of “their leaders who have fled abroad,” the ministry said. The government says Hasam is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The militia has previously claimed responsibility for deadly attacks against security forces as well as assassination attempts targeting a pro-government Muslim cleric and Egypt’s deputy prosecutor general. The group said on Twitter the 17 Jun 17 it has killed 27 people from “military occupation militias”, a reference to Egypt’s security forces, since its launch a year ago. In North Sinai on the 18 May 17 security forces killed Ahmed Hassan Ahmed al-Nshou, a senior member of ISIS’s Egyptian affiliate, in a gunfight, the ministry said in a separate statement. Police raided a house in the provincial capital El-Arish and came under fire before shooting back and killing Nshou. Security forces are trying to track down another militant who fled the scene, the ministry said.
The Hasm Movement
The Arms of Egypt Movement (Arabic: Ḥaraka Sā‘ad Maṣr), abbreviated as Hasm Movement, is an active Islamist militant group operating in Egypt. On 5 Aug 16, The Hasm Movement claimed responsibility for an assassination attempt on the former Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa. On the 29 Sep 16, The Hasm Movement attempted to kill Zakaria Abdel Aziz, a senior assistant to Egypt's top prosecutor, as he was returning home from his office in eastern Cairo. The bomb failed to kill or hurt Zakaria Abdel Aziz and his entourage, though one passerby was injured and taken to hospital. On the 4 Nov 16, The Hasm Movement claimed responsibility for an assassination attempt on local judge Ahmed Aboul Fotouh in Nasr City. Aboul Fotouh was one of three judges who sentenced former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to twenty years in prison in 2015. The Hasm Movement claimed responsibility for an attack on a checkpoint on a main road near the Giza pyramid complex on the outskirts of Cairo, on 9 December 2016, which killed six police officers.
Egypt – Egyptian forces have killed 30 extremists during several days of security operations in the Sinai Peninsula involving the army, air force and police, the military said on the 22 Jul 17. The Egyptian authorities are battling an insurgency by ISIS in North Sinai that has killed hundreds of members of the security forces. The military did not specify to which group the 30 extremists belonged but described them as “extremely dangerous”. Five others were arrested as Egyptian forces imposed a “tight siege” on the North Sinai provincial capital El-Arish and the cities of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, a military statement said. Egypt has struggled to quash attacks led by ISIS, whose local branch is based in North Sinai, after the army ousted Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Ivory Coast – Gunfire erupted near several police installations across Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan late on the 19 Jul 17 witnesses and a police source said, in what appeared to be a renewed bout of insecurity following months of military mutinies. Shooting broke out at around 2130 hrs local (2130 hrs GMT) in the Cocody neighbourhood near the national police and gendarmes academies and lasted for around an hour, according to one Reuters witness. A second Reuters reporter later heard sustained gunfire near the base of the police anti-riot brigade in the Yopougon neighbourhood in northern Abidjan. A local resident also said shooting broke near a police station in another part of Yopougon. “On the radio in the station they were talking about an attack a bit all over the place, including the police academy as well as Angre and Attoban (neighbourhoods),” a police officer told Reuters, asking not to be named. The unrest erupted just hours after President Alassane Ouattara dismissed his defence minister and replaced him with the minister of the interior. The move was seen as an attempt to put a stop to successive waves of armed uprisings launched by members of the security forces demanding bonus payments.
Libya/Da’esh – A group of 20 suspected fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group have been executed by the forces of General Khalifa Haftar in Libya, according to a video posted online. Mahmoud al-Werfalli, the senior leader of Haftar's forces, is seen reading the charges and carrying out an execution himself in a new video posted online on the 23 Jul 17. It is believed the executions were carried out on the 17 Jul 17. On the 18 Jul 17 the United Nations called for Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls the eastern part of Libya, to investigate summary executions of prisoners. In May, Haftar rejected a resignation letter submitted by Werfalli calling him "one of the sincere fighters who has given a lot in the battlefields for years." Reports of the executions come as the leaders of Libya's rival factions were planning to meet in Paris on the 25 Jul 17 to discuss a deal to end the political crisis. The talks between the head of the UN-backed government Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and Haftar are aimed at stabilising the oil-producing country. Foreign governments are pushing the UN-backed political agreement that installed Serraj's National Unity government, but Haftar, whose forces have gained ground in the east of the country, has refused to accept the government's legitimacy. The two rivals held talks in Abu Dhabi in May 17 the first in more than a year and a half. General Haftar's forces have gained control in much of Libya's east, with backing from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Nigeria/Boko Haram – At least eight people have been killed after female suicide bombers attacked two camps hosting internally displaced people (IDP) in north-eastern Nigeria's Maiduguri, a civilian self-defence group said. It was the first major attack on a displaced persons camp in the city which is the birthplace of the Boko Haram. The attack started late on the night of the 23 Jul 17 and left another 15 people wounded, the Civilian-JTF group spokesman Bello Danbatta said. Boko Haram often targets the city with suicide bombers and has been using female ones increasingly. Late in 2016 Nigeria's government declared the group "crushed" but dozens of such attacks have taken place in 2017. The latest bombings occurred a few days after Nigeria's army chief of staff issued a 40-day deadline for troops to flush out Boko Haram's leader and finish off the group. Danbatta said one bomber sneaked into the Dalori camp and detonated, and two other attackers exploded on or near the camp's perimeter fence. Another bomber detonated early on the 24 Jul 17. Thousands of people continue to shelter in camps after being forced from their homes by Boko Haram. Attacks carried out by the group over the last eight years have killed more than 20,000 people, kidnapped thousands of others, spilled into neighbouring countries and created one of the world's largest humanitarian crises. Nigeria is moving closer to famine, with more than five million people expected to face "crisis, emergency and famine conditions" by the end of August as the lean season continues, the Norwegian Refugee Council said in a statement on the 24 May 17.
Nigeria/Boko Haram – Nigeria's military has rescued all members of an oil survey team kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram militants, it said in a statement on the 26 Jul 17 after they were taken in the country's conflict-ridden northeast. Earlier on the 26 Jul 17 the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said suspected members of the Islamist insurgency had kidnapped 10 members of a university research team the firm had contracted to prospect for oil in Nigeria's northeast. The corpses of nine soldiers and a civilian were also recovered during the rescue, the military said. The NNPC did not immediately respond to calls for comment. The state oil company has been surveying for more than a year for what it says could be vast oil reserves in the Lake Chad Basin, a region wracked for eight years by an Islamist insurgency. Nigeria relies on oil for two-thirds of its revenue. The NNPC is trying to reduce its reliance on crude from the southern Niger Delta where militant attacks cut production by more than a third in 2016, deepening the recession in Africa's biggest economy. NNPC spokesman Ndu Ughamadu said earlier that contractors working as consultants had been kidnapped near Jibi village in Borno state on the afternoon of the 25 Jul 17. The village is in Magumeri local government area, about 50 km (30 miles) from the state capital, Maiduguri.
Follow-on Report 28 Jul 17: More than 50 people were killed in a Boko Haram ambush on an oil exploration team in northeast Nigeria earlier this week, multiple sources on the 27 Jul 17 warning the death toll could rise. The attack on the 25 Jul 17 but reported on the 26 Jul 17 in the Magumeri area of Borno state on a convoy of specialists from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was the group's deadliest in months. It underscored the persistent threat posed by Boko Haram fighters, despite government claims they are a spent force, and also the risks associated with the hunt for crude in the volatile Lake Chad basin. Details of the ambush, which was initially thought to be a kidnapping attempt, have been slow to emerge and an exact death toll difficult to establish as the military strictly controls access to rural Borno. Telecommunications and other infrastructure have been severely damaged or destroyed in the conflict. The army said on the 26 Jul 17 that 10 people were killed in the attack. But one source involved in dealing with the aftermath said on the 27 Jul 17: "The death toll keeps mounting. Now we have more than 50... and more bodies are coming in." "It's clear that the attack wasn't for abduction. They (Boko Haram) attacked just to kill." An aid agency worker in Magumeri, which is 50 kilometres northwest of Maiduguri, said 47 bodies were recovered from the bush as of the evening of the 26 Jul 17. "Eleven of them were badly burned in the attack. They were burned alive in their vehicle, which was stuck in a trench," he added. "We buried them here because they couldn't be taken to Maiduguri. "This evening (27 Jul 17), six more bodies were recovered, including one soldier, and many more could be recovered because search and rescue teams are all over the place." A medical source at the Nigerian Army 7th Division headquarters at Maimalari barracks in Maiduguri said: "So far we have 18 dead soldiers. Ten were brought yesterday and eight more today." At the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), a medical worker said: "We have 19 bodies at the moment of civilians. "Fifteen of them were vigilantes (civilian militia), and four were staff from the university. They have been taken for burial." The head of the academic staff union at the University of Maiduguri, Dani Mamman, confirmed they had received four bodies and said two of them were academics. "We got the impression our staff on the team were rescued because that was what the military spokesman said yesterday," he added. "But we were shocked when we were given four dead bodies. This means it wasn't a rescue. We still have other staff that are yet to be accounted for." Hospital and army officials told the local Punch newspaper that the corpses of 18 soldiers and 30 others had been brought to a facility in Maiduguri following the incident. The bodies brought to the hospital included 18 soldiers, 15 members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), a group of fighters to help expel Boko Haram, five local university staff and four NNPC drivers, Punch reported. In a statement, Nigeria's junior oil minister and the former head of the NNPC Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu described the attack as "unfortunate" but did not give a death toll. OPEC-member Nigeria is looking to find new oil reserves away from the southern Niger Delta, which has been blighted by attacks from rebels wanting a fairer share of revenue for local people. With production hit by the attacks, there has been a shift in focus to explore inland basins, including around Lake Chad in the northeast, where Nigeria meets Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Both Chad and Niger are exploiting reserves on their side of the freshwater lake. Activities on the Nigerian side had to stop in November 2014 because of Boko Haram violence, but the military gave permission to resume exploration in November last year, according to Kachikwu. Work is centred on a triangle of hotly contested land stretching from Gubio in the west of Borno to Marte in the east, and Kukawa, in the far northeast corner near the shores of the lake. There has been no serious suggestion that Boko Haram is motivated by a desire to control oil in northeast Nigeria. But fighters, squeezed out of captured territory by the military counterinsurgency, may have been eager to make a show of force against the soldiers and civilian militia guarding the NNPC team. In recent months, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group affiliate has been forced to rely on guerrilla tactics, particularly suicide bomb attacks, against the security forces and civilian militia. Women and young girls, in particular, have been used against civilian "soft" targets such as mosques, as well as the university in Maiduguri.
Somalia/al-Shabaab (LWJ 22 Jul 17) – The US State Department said that al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa has prospered over the past year “due largely to lapses in offensive counterterrorism operations during 2016.” Additionally, State noted that Somali security forces “remained incapable of securing and retaking towns from al-Shabaab independently,” and while not explicitly stated, hinted that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is failing. State documented the dire situation in Somalia in its newly released Country Reports on Terrorism 2016. State’s analysis Somalia mirrors that of FDD’s Long War Journal, which has warned that Shabaab has maintained its safe havens and retaken ground in the south, forced poorly resourced African Union forces to cede territory after spectacular complex assaults, and continues to plot against the US and the West. “In 2016, terrorists used under-governed areas in northern, central, and southern Somalia as safe havens from where they conducted, planned, and facilitated operations with little resistance, State noted in its opening paragraph. “Despite having made significant progress toward formally federating its member states in the latter part of 2016, Somalia continued to struggle with the provision of security, justice, and governance capacity at all levels needed to limit terrorists’ freedom of movement, access to resources, and capacity to operate.” Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia and East Africa, retained its safe haven in the Jubba River Valley, controls “several villages and towns throughout Jubaland region, including Janaale, Jilib, and Kunyo Barow,” and “exploited the porous border regions further south between Kenya and Somalia to launch cross-border attacks.” State’s assessment that counterterrorism operations were insufficient to battle Shabaab explains the March 30 directive by the US Department of Defence that it would intensify operations in Somalia. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, US military to actively target Shabaab in Somalia.] The State report said that the Somali military “as a whole, remained incapable of securing and retaking towns from al-Shabaab independently.” The country has “chronically low capacity and human capital” and remains “heavily dependent on regional and international partners.” Most disturbingly, State noted that African Union forces have suffered major setbacks and ceded ground to al Qaeda’s affiliate. Shabaab now threatens “previously liberated towns in Bakool, Hiiraan, and other regions” in Central Somalia after “Ethiopian forces largely withdrew.” Additionally, the report notes that Kenya forces have been unable to stop Shabaab fighters from raiding across the border. Ethiopian forces weren’t the only African Union contingent to withdrawal from areas it previously held. Kenyan forces abandoned several bases in the south after Shabaab launched major assaults and overran the facilities. Shabaab has successfully overrun Somali and African Union bases in the past and inflicted a large number of casualties on troops based there. In Jan 16, Shabaab fighters assaulted a base in Al Ade in the south and killed at least 100 Kenyan soldiers. In Jun 15, Shabaab killed an estimated 60 Ethiopian soldiers in the south. Also, that same month, Shabaab fighters killed more than 50 Burundi soldiers in Leego. The US government has elevated the threat that Shabaab poses after the group used a sophisticated laptop bomb in an attempt to down a Somali airliner in 2016. This attack was cited by the US government as one of the reasons that electronics have been banned in the cabins of airplanes departing from 10 airports in the Middle East. [See What’s really behind Trump’s laptop ban.]
Somalia – A car bomb explosion in the Somali capital Mogadishu on the 30 Jul 17 killed six and wounded 20 others and the death toll was likely to rise, a police officer said. The bomb went off on the busy Maka al Mukaram road, police said, while a witness said the blast was followed by big clouds of smoke visible in sky. "So far we know six civilians died and 20 others were injured. They were mostly pedestrians while others were shopping," the police officer said. "Death toll may rise. Most of the injured ones are very serious," Major Mohamed Hussein, a police officer said. Earlier, a reporter at the scene of the blast had counted four bodies lying on the ground. Photographs taken by reporters showed three destroyed cars on the road, with two still burning. It was not clear who was responsible for the blast.
Uganda/al-Shabaab – Uganda's military said on the 31 Jul 17 it had lost 12 soldiers in an attack claimed by Shabaab militants in southern Somalia. The Al-Qaeda linked insurgents ambushed Ugandan troops that are part of an African Union force as they patrolled a supply route in the hotly-contested Lower Shebelle region, the military said in a statement. "From the battlefield, it is now confirmed that UPDF lost 12 gallant soldiers with seven sustaining injuries," the statement from the Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces said. Witnesses said the attack occurred in the village of Golweyn, some 120 kilometres (74 miles) from the capital Mogadishu. The AU mission AMISOM said an improvised explosive device (IED) was used in an ambush of a convoy composed of its troops and Somali forces. "A lot of damage was inflicted on the enemy while our troops took fatalities whose number is yet to be ascertained," the mission said on Twitter. A Shabaab spokesman on the 30 Jul 17 told a radio station linked to the group that the insurgents had killed 39 soldiers, a claim that could not be independently verified. The AU has a 22,000-strong force in the country dedicated to fighting Shabaab and supporting the internationally backed government.