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Sep 17, 2015

Military Confirms Coup in Burkina Faso

Military officials took to the airwaves to announce they control the country. Various officials have been detained, including the president.

Military officials in Burkina Faso confirmed Thursday that they had taken control of the country. The announcment comes after AP reported that armed forces personnel assigned to protect the president had arrested the transitional head of state and prime minister.

"The patriotic forces, grouped together in the National Council for Democracy, have decided today to put an end to the deviant transitional regime," a military official said on RTB state television.

Burkina Faso’s military said it had stripped interim President Michel Kafando from his powers and dissolved the government.

The head of the Presidential Guard, Gen. Gilbert Diendere, has assumed power in Burkina Faso, according to local reports.

Military officials went on state television to announce that the country's borders are closed and that a curfew has been put in place.

The move comes after the elite Republican Guard seized Kafando, Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, and two ministers on Wednesday.

The military coup comes just weeks before national elections were to take place Oct. 11. According to Al Jazeera, the people of Burkina Faso were hoping the elections would strengthen the country’s democracy.

The Guard has been involved in the country’s politics since former President Blaise Compaore was toppled after a popular uprising in October last year. 

Reuters reported that hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital Ouagadougou late on Wednesday to protest against the coup. The protest was received with military action, including warning shots, to disperse the crowds.

According to a military official, the interim government “distanced itself from the objectives of refounding our democracy" for blocking Compaore supporters from running in the elections next month.

A journalist identified as Fanny Noaro, who is based in the capital Ouagadougou, told Al Jazeera gunfire could be heard on the streets of the city.

“There is a lot of military on the street [...] there is also no information about the transitional president and prime minister and there is no information if they are dead or alive," she said.

Source : Telesur

Sep 13, 2015

Amid Violence and Corruption, Egypt Government Unexpectedly Resigns

Egypt's cabinet submitted its resignation less than a week after the agriculture minister was arrested over corruption charges.

Egypt's cabinet unexpectedly resigned Saturday less than a week after the agriculture minister was arrested over corruption.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi asked Oil Minister Sherif Ismail to form a new government within one week, the presidency’s office said Saturday following the resignation of Ibrahim Mehleb’s  government.

The reason behind the resignation was not immediately clear, however, officials told Reuters news agency that for a while el-Sissi has not been happy with the performance of some of the ministers.

The country is battling an insurgency by an Islamic State group affiliate in the country's eastern region of Sinai while trying to fix its economy that has been crippled by years of turmoil and political uncertainty following the ouster of Egypt's long-serving, U.S.-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Ismail is seen likely to be appointed the country's next prime minister and is considered to be one of the best performing ministers.

The country will hold its long overdue parliamentary elections next month, the final step in a process the government has said would deliver democracy.

The former government faced a backlash over several controversial laws which were ratified by the president. One law said that journalists could face prison terms for reporting death toll figures other than government-sanctioned ones.

Such laws triggered peaceful protests despite the ban on demonstrations following the election of el-Sissi as president. He won more than 90 percent of the vote and was the only candidate.

When he served as an army chief, el-Sissi staged a coup against the first democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi, who is now facing a death sentence over charges.

Human rights groups accuse el-Sissi of abusing his power, silencing opposition and clamping down on media.

Source : Telesur

Aug 16, 2015

Former Burundi Army Chief Colonel Jean Bikomagu Killed

The United Nations has warned Burundi is creeping towards chaos. Former Burundian army head Colonel Jean Bikomagu was assassinated Saturday, as the African nation remained on edge after months of political turmoil.

Unidentified attackers killed Bikomagu during a drive by shooting, family members told AFP.

The killing came a day after the United Nations warned Burundi was at risk of descending into chaos.

“Burundi has been slipping closer to the edge with every high-profile attack and killing, and we call on leaders on all sides to take concrete steps to renounce the use of violence and to resolve differences peacefully,” warned Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights according to U.N. News.

“Where violations and abuses have occurred, there need to be prompt investigations with a view to bringing the perpetrators to account and justice for victims,” she said.

Back in May, the country saw a failed coup attempt against President Pierre Nkurunziza which ended with the arrest of most of those involved.

The unrest have seen hundreds killed, including a senior opposition figure, many critical media outlet shut down and a major crackdown on protests by the police and military troops.

More than 150,000 people have fled the country since the beginning of the unrest back in April out of fear of a civil war comeback. The last ethnically-fueled civil war claimed the lives of more than 300,000 people.

Source : Telesur

Jul 28, 2015

Libyan Court Sentences Muammar Gaddafi's Son Saif Islam to Death

According to reports, a criminal court in the Libyan capital of Tripoli has sentenced Saif Islam, the son of the late and former president Muammar Gaddafi, to the death penalty.

A criminal court in the Libyan capital of Tripoli has sentenced Saif Islam, the son of the late and former president Muammar Gaddafi, to the death penalty, Al-Arabia reported Tuesday.
 Others receiving the death penalty after court hearings included the former prime minister and the head of the country’s intelligence services.

The former officials were found guilty of committing war crimes during the 2011 unrest, including inciting the murder of peaceful demonstrators.
Saif Islam Gaddafi was sentenced in absentia, as he is held in the Libyan city of Zintan by local forces who refuse to comply with Tripoli's government.

Libya has been in a civil war since the 2011 overthrow and murder of Muammar Gaddafi. Currently there are two rival governments in the country, the internationally-recognized Libyan government in Tobruk and another in Tripoli.

On Monday, Tobruk's Justice Minister Mabrouk Ghraira called on the international community to not recognize the sentences, stating that the Tripoli trial was illegal.
Source : SputnikNews

Jun 28, 2015

Africa : Burundi's Parliament Head Pie Ntavyohanyuma Becomes Second Top Official to Flee Burundi

Ahead of parliamentary and local elections set Monday, the head of parliament’s has asked for asylum in Belgium.

Burundi’s head of parliament has fled the country and denounced
President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to stand for reelection, calling is
“illegal.”   

“I was forced to quit the country due to the unrest caused by the
president’s insistence to seek a third term bid which is illegal, which
is unconstitutional,” Pie Ntavyohanyuma, Burundi’s National Assembly
Speaker, told France 24 in an interview Sunday.   

"I would like to say to him (President Nkurunziza) that the mandate he
wants to have is illegal. I would like to say to him that forcing
through the election is senseless," Ntavyohanyuma added, speaking from
Brussels.

Opponents say President Nkurunziza bid for another term is
unconstitutional and violates a peace accord that brought an end to 13
years of civil war in 2005. The president has cited a court ruling
saying he is allowed to run.

The opposition announced a boycott of the elections, saying the vote
would not be fair. Over 127,000 people have fled the country since
election related violence, including an attempted coup, began to grip
the country in April.

Several top government officials, including the deputy vice-president
Gervais Rufyikiri as well as members of the election commission and
constitutional court have also fled Burundi.

"I personally advised President Nkurunziza to drop his plan for a third
term, but his answer was to threaten me, to humiliate me," Ntavyohanyuma
 said.   

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also said that voting should be
postponed because he was "deeply concerned over the prevailing political
 and security environment."   

More than 70 people have been killed in the violence that followed after
 Nkurunziza announced he would run for president again in May.

Source : Telesur

Jun 23, 2015

Guinea opposition seeks alliance with former coup leader

The head of Guinea's main opposition party is seeking an alliance with the former leader of a 2008 military coup in an effort to defeat President Alpha Conde at elections in October, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

Cellou Dalein Diallo, the leader of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), met Captain Moussa Dadis Camara on Friday in the capital of Burkina Faso, where he has been in exile since early 2010.

Camara, who has strong support in Guinea's southeastern Forest region, announced in early May he would contest the Oct. 11 presidential vote at the head of his Patriotic Front for Democracy and Development (FPDD).

Camara ruled Africa's largest bauxite exporter for almost a year until he was wounded in a December 2009 assassination attempt. His reputation was tarnished by a massacre of opposition demonstrators by soldiers in September that year, in which at least 157 people were killed.

UFDG spokesman Alpha Boubacar Bah said the talks with Camara were part of efforts to unify opposition forces to ensure fair elections and to unseat Conde.

"We decided to meet the president of the Patriotic Front for Democracy and Development because we need all the opposition forces to bring about a change of power in 2015," Bah said.

In a joint communique, released on Monday, Diallo and Camara spoke of a "convergence of viewpoints" between them. The two men had been considered enemies after Diallo was badly beaten in the September 2009 stadium massacre.

Conde, elected in 2010 in the first democratic handover of power since independence from France in 1958, has faced criticism from rights groups for the slow pace of the investigation into the killings.

Politics in Guinea is divided along ethnic lines. Diallo comes from the Peulh tribe, Guinea's largest, whose control over the economy has stirred resentment. Conde is Malinke, the second-largest ethnic group, while Camara's influence in the Forest region makes him an important potential kingmaker.

Guinea's Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) on Monday handed a boost to negotiations between the opposition and the government by scrapping a plan to delay local elections until 2016.

The opposition has organized protests - in which at least four people have been killed - to demand that local elections be held ahead of the presidential vote, saying that otherwise local officials named by Conde's government would steal the elections.

Source : Reuters

Jun 22, 2015

Europe Union Launches Military Solution to Mediterranean Migrant Crisis

The 28 countries in the bloc decided to send ships and aircraft to the region in order to conduct the first intelligence operations within a week.

Foreign Ministries of the European Union formally approved Monday the
first phase of a military operation that it states is aimed at stopping
human traffickers from bringing migrants across the Mediterranean to
Europe, officials said.   

After meeting in Luxemburg the top diplomats decided to send ships and
aircraft to the region in order to conduct the first intelligence
operations within a week, the move was called a “quick response to the
crisis” by the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

"I am impressed by the unanimity and speed with which we have put this
together," Mogherini said.   

But the move has been criticised by human rights organizations, with
Asylum Aid calling for safe legal routes to be the priority.

In the U.S., Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations labelled
the move “immoral and stupid” on Twitter.

Opposition also came from Russia, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
questioning the legitimacy of the decision.  “The issue of the
legitimacy of the announced and discussed actions is still on the
agenda. We still need to understand how these actions could conform to
the principles and norms of international law without the foundation of
international law and the according decisions by the [UN] Security
Council,” Sputnik reported

Thousands of migrants escaping war and poverty in Africa and the Middle
East have been attempting to enter Europe crossing the Mediterranean
sea. The UN estimates that around 100,000 migrants arrived in Italy,
Greece and Malta since the beginning of the year. At least more than
3,000 have died at sea so far.

The military response by the EU was agreed last April when almost 1,000
migrants died when their makeshift boat sank. In the so-called Phase 1,
at least 15 ships, aircraft and drones will be used to monitor the
activity of traffickers carrying migrants from Libya to Italy.

Nongovernmental organizations report that in some regions, trafficking
of migrants to Europe has become more lucrative than drug trafficking.

Source : Telesur

Jun 10, 2015

Egyptian Police Arrest United States Embassy Worker On Terror Charges

According to reports in the Egyptian press, an Egyptian national working in the US Embassy in Cairo was arrested on suspicion of participation in terrorism-related activities.

An Egyptian national working in the security service of the US Embassy in Cairo was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of participation in an Islamic terror group, according to reports from Egypt on Tuesday.
 The suspect, named in the press as 42-year-old Ahmed Ali, is accused of participation in 13 terror attacks, and with being a commander of the militant Helwan Brigades group.

The Helwan Brigades, a militant Islamic group named after a district in the south of Cairo, has been accused by Egyptian authorities of carrying out terrorist attacks, and of being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

"We understand an Embassy employee, who is an Egyptian citizen, has been arrested by Egyptian security. We are in touch with Egyptian authorities regarding the charges and the next steps in the legal process," a US Embassy spokesman told the Egyptian press.
 The Egyptian media has linked the arrest of Ahmed Ali with a series of arrests in recent weeks of individuals by the Egyptian authorities on charges of belonging to militant organizations, some of whom have since been reported missing.

According to reports, another US Embassy employee, 44-year-old Ahmed Amin Suleyman, was arrested by the authorities on May 26, and was reported missing on June 1.
Source : SputnikNews

Jun 9, 2015

Islamic State (ISIS) closes in on Libya’s Oil Crescent

Members of the Islamic State (IS) have their sights set on gaining full control of an area known as Libya’s oil crescent, according to residents in the Libyan town which has become IS’s latest conquest.

At a meeting with leaders from Harawa, IS militants said they were not interested in the town itself but needed it under their control as part of a planned takeover of the country’s central oil facilities, a senior resident of the town told Middle East Eye. Wary of the strong resistance Harawa had put up against its expansion in the region, IS negotiated an agreement with the tribal elders before entering the town and raising the flag above public buildings on Friday.

“In the negotiations IS said that before Ramadan they would enter the oil crescent,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Although locals had previously warned Libya’s rival governing institutions that the militant group was targeting the area for its oil, this was the first time IS had spoken of their plans, he said.

IS already has full control over the desert town of Nufaliya, just 50 kilometres from Libya’s largest oil export terminal of Es-Sidra, and controls much of Muammar Qaddafi’s former hometown of Sirte. Now having taken Harawa – strategically positioned between Sirte and Sidra in the centre of Libya’s coastal highway – it has secured a route to the oil crescent.

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The desert region to the south of the oil ports has also been strategically cleared in a series of attacks by IS militants on security personnel and oil fields, where employees have been killed and kidnapped, and vehicles and equipment seized.

Such assaults, over a six-month period, forced workers in nearby oil facilities to flee and has left the area vulnerable, according to one former oil worker, Mohamed.

“I expect they will try and take Sidra and Ras Lanuf and the oil fields on the west side of the oil crescent,” he predicted. “There are few people left to protect the oil fields apart from local security from isolated towns.”

The oil ports of Sidra and Ras Lanuf are not under the control of either of Libya’s feuding governments. For almost two years they have been controlled by self-appointed federalist leader Ibrahim Jadhran. Then heading the country’s oil protection forces, he gained control of facilities by leading workers in an industrial action that kept four ports closed and cost Libya millions of dollars in lost oil revenue.

These strikes – initially about pay and conditions – became part of a larger federalist movement demanding greater autonomy and a larger portion of the country’s oil wealth for eastern Libya.

Despite attempts by successive Libyan premiers to dislodge him, Jadhran has maintained a powerful presence in the region, including full control over the Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil ports and influence over a third export terminal further east at Zueitina.

When the Tripoli government launched an ultimately unsuccessful bid to take the Sidra facility, Jadhran joined forces with the Libyan Army, operating under the internationally-recognised parliament in the east, to repel the assault. After Tripoli forces withdrew in March, so too did the Libyan Army. Nothing further has been heard of this partnership – one of the many shifting allegiances in the Libyan civil war, where the proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” continues to resonate.

“Jadhran is a mystery even to us. We have not yet understood what he really is, apart from an oil thief,” said Misrata Military Council head Ibrahim Beitemal. “We have attempted to open dialogue with him but he does not like to collaborate because he doesn’t agree with the east or the west.”

He also claimed one of Jadhran’s brothers had joined IS in Libya, something that local people say is common knowledge in the area.

Whether Jadhran has any direct involvement with the militant group remains unclear, although Beitemal claimed that intelligence suggested he had tried to broker a deal with IS. “We have been told that Jadhran proposed some reinforcements to ISIS but on the condition that he kept control of the oil ports and fields, but this was rejected,” he said.

IS continues to destabilise the region targeting forces under the Tripoli government, at checkpoints along the coastal road and on the outskirts of Misrata. In the early hours of Sunday morning, three soldiers were shot dead at a checkpoint on the road between Misrata and Sirte.

Since taking over Harawa, IS has established five regular checkpoints on the coastal highway in a public display of the extent of its control.

Harawa is thought to be the first Libyan town that IS had been forced to negotiate with before raising its flag above public buildings. Local resident Haithem said that despite its willingness to fight IS, the town had received no military support and, after the fall of Sirte had been left with no choice but to negotiate a truce.

Heavily-armed militants entered the town after negotiations were completed, handing back three prisoners from Harawa that were seized during previous clashes, as a “goodwill gesture” intended to encourage the tribal elders to hand over local fighters who killed IS members in two rounds of clashes. Preaching at the town’s main mosque, IS instructed people not to raise the Libyan flag of independence and said that members of the police and army should resign and sign recantations.

Any security and protection would now be provided by the militants themselves, Haithem said.

War planes, reportedly from the Tripoli government, circled above the town after IS fighters entered Harawa but were repelled by anti-aircraft fire from the ground.

Although the black flag now flies above the local council building, Haithem described the situation as an “uneasy truce” explaining that neither side fully trusted the other.

Source : MiddleEastEye

Jun 1, 2015

At Least 2,600 Killed in Egypt Since Morsi Overthrow, Prisons Overfilled

According to media reports, at least 2,600 people have been killed in Egypt since the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

At least 2,600 people have been killed in Egypt since the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and prisons in the country are overfilled, the Guardian reports citing the head of a state-sanctioned rights body.
 The killed include 700 policemen and 550 civilians killed between June 30, 2013 and December 31, 2014, according to head of the National Council for Human Rights Mohammed Fayeq.

Prisons in Egypt are filled to 160 percent capacity, while holding cells are overfilled by four times, Fayeq was cited as saying by the Guardian on Sunday.

Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is currently serving a 20-year prison term for inciting the killing of protesters during mass riots outside the Federal Palace in Cairo in December, 2012.

On May 16, 2015, a criminal court in Cairo sentenced Morsi to death for leaking state secrets and orchestrating a prison break during a 2011 uprising against Egypt's previous leader, Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi was deposed by a military coup following days of massive protests against his rule and that of his Muslim Brotherhood party in 2013.

Former army chief and current President Abdul Fattah Sisi has since outlawed the Brotherhood calling it a terrorist group and arrested scores of Morsi supporters, including those behind the 2011 uprising against Mubarak.

Source : SputnikNews

May 20, 2015

Coal's giant compagny Peabody Energy exploited Ebola crisis for corporate gain, say health experts

Public health experts outraged after world’s largest privately-held coal company, Peabody Energy, promotes its product in the fight against Ebola in Africa as part of a PR campaign to rebrand the fossil fuel as a solution to global poverty.

Public health experts involved in the response to the Ebola crisis have condemned what they described as a ludicrous, insulting and opportunistic attempt to exploit the disease for corporate gain by the world’s largest privately-held coal company.

As part of a PR offensive to rebrand coal as a “21st-century fuel” that can help solve global poverty, it has emerged that at the height of Ebola’s impact in Africa, Peabody Energy promoted its product as an answer to Africa’s devastating public health crisis.
Greg Boyce, the chief executive of Peabody, a US-based multinational with mining interests around the world, included a slide on Ebola and energy in a presentation to a coal industry conference in September last year. The slide suggested that more energy would have spurred the distribution of a hypothetical Ebola vaccine – citing as supporting evidence a University of Pennsylvania infectious disease expert.

The World Health Organisation believes nearly 27,000 people contracted Ebola in an outbreak of the virus in West Africa last year, and more than 11,000 died – although the international agency believes that is probably an underestimate.
Public health experts who were involved in fighting the spread of Ebola were outraged at Peabody’s suggestion that expanding energy access with coal generation could have hindered the spread of Ebola and helped with the distribution of a vaccine – especially as there is no approved vaccine against the disease.

Meanwhile, the medical expert cited by Peabody to support its claims told the Guardian he had never heard of the company – and that it had got his name wrong.

“There is no apparent merit or evidence to support such a thesis,” said Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University’s National Centre for Disaster Preparedness, and an adviser to the White House on the US response to Ebola.

“Peabody has very specific and explicit corporate goals. I think this is a pretty far fetched leap from a global crisis to try to justify the existence of a company that is interested in producing and selling coal.”
Peabody Energy's CEO Gregory Boyce speaks to delegates at the 21st World Energy Congress in Montreal, September 14, 2010.
Peabody Energy’s CEO Greg Boyce.
Redlener added: “I think it’s an opportunistic attempt and somewhat desperate to relate corporate self-interest to a massive public health crisis.”

Skip Burkle, a senior fellow of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at the university’s school of public health, said Peabody’s claims were “absolutely ludicrous”. “We are talking about public health infrastructure,” he said. “Energy is just one piece of it. There are so many other factors that have to come together.”

He went on: “The coal industry is going down but there are other answers to this and it is not to dump it in Africa. It is just an insult to the population.”

Peabody denied it was using the Ebola crisis for its own gain. “Mr Boyce was simply noting that a lack of electricity dramatically impaired the ability to fight Ebola in key nations that have little energy access and where hospitals rely on generators for power,” Vic Svec, the company’s senior vice-president for global investor and corporate relations told the Guardian.

The doctor whose comments were used to justify Peabody’s claims was relatively sanguine. “I know nothing about the coal industry,” Harvey Rubin, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania said.

He did say he intended to contact the company to correct his name – which was wrong on the power point.

Boyce had claimed in the power point that electricity shortages had hampered the fight against Ebola.

“Lack of electricity impairs ability to fight crises like Ebola,” the headline to Boyce’s powerpoint said.

It went on to quote Rubin – misidentified as Harry not Harvey – on the importance to public vaccination efforts of a reliable electricity supply.

“Let’s say someone does develop an Ebola vaccine. Distributing a vaccine would require continuous chain refrigeration,” Rubin said.

But he told the Guardian he was “agnostic” on the issue of power sources. He said there were already sufficient supplies of electricity in Africa for effective distribution of vaccines by using existing cell phone towers. “We can piggyback on those towers,” he said.

The Ebola claims surfaced amid growing pressure on Peabody Energy from the downturn in coal and a global anti-apartheid style fossil fuel divestment campaign.

Over the last two years, over 200 institutions and major investors have committed to selling off their stocks of oil, coal and gas, on the grounds that much of the world’s reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change. Some institutions – such as Stanford University – have committed only to dumping coal, while hanging on to oil and gas holdings.

The Guardian supports the fossil fuel divestment movement, and through its Keep it in the Ground campaign has called on two of the world’s biggest charities, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest from fossil fuels. The Gates Foundations’s Asset Trust has a $1.6m holding in Peabody according to the most recently available information. The Wellcome Trust does not have a direct investment in the company.

Peabody views the fossil fuel divestment campaign as “misguided and symbolic”. But in the past it has suggested that divestment could have an impact on the business. “The impact of such efforts [fossil fuel divestment campaigns] may adversely affect the demand for and price of securities issued by us, and impact our access to the capital and financial markets,” wrote Peabody in its 2014 annual filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Svec though, denied that the campaign represented a threat to the company’s bottom line. “Fossil fuels comprise more than 80% of all energy use globally, and these fuels will continue to be with us for centuries.”

But the fossil fuel divestment movement has intensified Peabody’s campaign to rebrand coal. It is the dirtiest of fossil fuels which contributes heavily to climate change and causes large numbers of deaths because of pollution produced when burning it.

But in a power point presentation, prepared for the managers of the world’s richest sovereign wealth fund, the Norwegian government pension fund in June last year, Peabody executives argued that coal was positioned to be the fastest-growing fuel of the 21st century.

At the time, the fund had 64m NOK (£5.5m) in Peabody, down from 1.2bn NOK in 2010.

In the meeting, Peabody argued that “21st-century coal” was positioned to be the main driver of digital expansion, and of urbanisation of developing countries. It also said access to coal was the cure for global poverty.

The effort did not work. As of 31 December, the Norwegian government pension fund had dumped all shares of Peabody and other US coal companies, according to Urgewald, a German NGO which monitors the fossil fuel divestment campaign.

“So they were obviously not convinced by Peabody’s presentation,” said Heffa Schuecking, a campaigner for Urgewald.
  • This article was amended on 20 May. It originally stated that the Wellcome Trust does “not appear to have” a direct investment in Peabody. It has been amended to make clear that Wellcome does not have a direct investment.
Source: TheGuardian

May 19, 2015

Burundi police fire teargas at protesters as 110,000 flee country

Rights groups say at least 20 people have been killed in three weeks of clashes between security forces and protesters opposed to president’s bid for third term. 

Burundi police fired teargas and beat protesters demanding President Pierre Nkurunziza end his bid for a third term, in a resurgence of unrest that has stoked fears of ethnic conflict in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

At least eight of the flag-waving and chanting demonstrators were dragged off by police on Tuesday, according to a photographer. Some in the crowd responded by pelting officers with stones and rocks.

Separately, shots were fired at the offices of the EU’s representative in Bujumbura, prompting the mission to demand the government step up its security. The EU gave no more details.
Rights groups say at least 20 people have died in three weeks of clashes between security forces and protesters who claim Nkurunziza’s ambitions violate the constitution and a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2005 fuelled by ethnic tensions.

Laying the same charges against the president, a group of renegade generals tried and failed to overthrow him last week. The government said late on Monday it would treat any future demonstrators as accomplices in the failed putsch.

But crowds gathered again in the suburb of Nyakabiga on Tuesday, shouting: “We will not stop until he gives up the third term.”

The longer unrest continues the more chance that a conflict, which until now has been largely a struggle for power, reopens old wounds in a region with a history of mass ethnic killing.

As regional leaders scrambled to contain the impasse and a potential humanitarian crisis, South Africa said next month’s election should be postponed indefinitely until political stability had returned.

More than 110,000 people have fled to neighbouring Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania, where cholera has been found among thousands of refugees sleeping rough on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, waiting evacuation by boat.

The failed coup has heightened fears the crisis in the landlocked state of 10 million people could split the army, the central pillar of unity after the civil war, which had largely pitted majority Hutus against minority Tutsis.

Until recently, Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader with mixed parentage, had also been seen as a bridge between the main groups.

Rwanda, which shares a similar ethnic mix, suffered a genocide in 1994 in which 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were killed.

The protesters in Bujumbura stressed they were against both Nkurunziza and the attempted coup, and denied any links with the plotters.

“No to the coup, and no to the third term. We will continue until he says no to the third term,” one of the demonstrators, who gave his name as Jean-Paul, said. He did not wish to give his last name for fear of reprisals.

The government said on Tuesday it had no desire for extra-judicial vengeance: “The people implicated in the disgraceful attempt to overthrow legitimate institutions will be arrested and prosecuted by justice, and only by justice.”

Nkurunziza says his participation in elections would not violate the constitution as his first term did not count, because he was appointed by parliament, not chosen by a popular vote.

Source : TheGuardian

May 15, 2015

Burundi Generals Coup Leaders Arrested

Three army generals who attempted a coup against the Burundi President were arrested on Friday, according to government officials.

Three army generals who attempted a coup against the Burundi President
Pierre Nkurunziza were arrested on Friday. However, presidential
spokesman Gervais Abayeho told the BBC World Service that General
Godefroid Niyombare, the leader of the coup announced on Tuesday, was
still on the run and has not been arrested yet.

Hours earlier, Niyombare told the AFP news agency that he and his
followers were going to surrender, adding: "I hope they won't kill us".

Defense Minister Gen Cyrille Ndayirukiye was one of the three generals
arrested on Friday, according to Abayeho. "If they are found to be among
 the coup leaders they will have to face justice," he said, adding that
it was only a small section of the army who had rebelled and denying a
division in the army.

Ndayirukiye announced on Thursday that the coup had failed.

Army Chief of Staff General Prime Niyongabo, who is an ally of the
president, said Friday: "They had driven into the station [RTNB public
television and radio station] using a military tank and we burnt it. We
killed 12, 35 were injured, 40 surrendered, we arrested nine and four of
 our soldiers were injured."

"They had driven into the station [RTNB public television and radio
station] using a military tank and we burnt it. We killed 12, 35 were
injured, 40 surrendered, we arrested nine and four of our soldiers were
injured."

The president, who was on an official visit to Tanzania when the general
 announced the coup, said that he was back in the country. He is
expected to make a national address.

On Thursday, five soldiers were killed in the country's capital
Bujumbura in clashes between loyalists to the president and troops
siding with the coup.

Niyombare coup attempt came after weeks of unrest in the country against
 the president’s bid for a third term in office, which protesters claim
was unconstitutional.

Source : Telesur

May 14, 2015

Burundi : Heavy fighting erupts between rival troops

Fighting reported around building of state broadcaster as claims over success of coup are made and president’s plane is prevented from landing. Fierce fighting between rival Burundian troops has erupted in the capital, Bujumbura, deepening fears that Wednesday’s coup attempt could trigger a bloody and protracted power struggle.

Forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose whereabouts are unknown, were resisting an assault on the state television and radio complex, military sources and witnesses told Agence France-Presse (AFP). Independent broadcasters were hit by rocket and grenade attacks.



Burundi has been a tinderbox since Gen Godefroid Niyombare, a former intelligence chief fired three months ago, announced that Nkurunziza had been ousted after weeks of deadly civil unrest sparked by the president’s attempt to stand for a third term. The president was in Tanzania for a meeting with regional leaders at the time of Niyombare’s speech, and there are reports that he has not returned to Burundi.

Thick plumes of smoke obscured sections of Bujumbura’s skyline on Thursday as buildings burned. Gunfire increased in frequency throughout the morning and residents claimed that police forces guarding the ruling party’s headquarters were firing on anyone who came near.

“There are policemen guarding the CNDD-FDD headquarters, they’re firing from the headquarters and if you cross the road nearby they’re shooting at you,” said Ngugusony Buyenzi, who was among a crowd of people gathered a couple of miles from the party HQ. When a police truck came down the road the crowd scattered. “We want to continue with our lives, we want peace, we don’t want to live with this insecurity,” he said.



Two of Buyenzi’s friends were shot the night before, he believes by Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party. “They’re waiting for night, the police will return to shoot us tonight,” he said.

Thousands of people took to the streets on Wednesday to celebrate Niyombare’s announcement but the security services appear to have divided into pro- and anti-Nkurunziza factions. In the early hours of Thursday, the armed forces chief, Gen Prime Niyongabo, said on state radio: “The coup attempt failed, loyal forces are still controlling all strategic points. The national defence force calls on the mutineers to give themselves up.”



A spokesman for the attempted coup, Burundi’s police commissioner, Venon Ndabaneze, dismissed the claim and said Niyombare’s supporters were in control of many key sites, including Bujumbura’s international airport. “We control virtually the entire city. The soldiers who are being deployed are on our side,” he told AFP.


A anti-Nkurunziza's protester gestures in front of a burning barricade in Bujumbura.
A journalist inside the state TV and radio building said it came under attack after the loyalist broadcast and that heavy weapons including cannon and rockets were being used.

Media organisations were also caught up in the violence. The African Public Radio station, which was shut down during the weeks of protests and reopened after the coup attempt, was hit by a rocket and was ablaze, witnesses said.

A grenade attack seriously damaged the building of Renaissance TV, where Niyombare made his coup statement, according to the station’s director, Innocent Muhozi. One of his offices was also burned overnight, he told the Associated Press.

The whereabouts of the 51-year-old president remain unclear. He attempted to fly back from a summit in Tanzania, where regional leaders were discussing the situation in Burundi, but the airport had been closed to stop him from landing. His plane reportedly returned to Tanzania.

The main streets of the city were almost entirely free of cars on Thursday, while small crowds of onlookers gathered on the roadside diving behind walls and buildings when gunfire rang out.

Others continued on their way to work, hoping they would be safer in hotels and restaurants than on the streets.

Jermoe Njibariko, a security officer at a nearby hotel, was on his way to work when police unleashed gunfire about 25 metres away from him. He hid behind the wall of a nearby church to avoid being hit. “They don’t care who you are, they don’t care where you’re going, they’re just shooting,” he said.


People walk in a street in Bujumbura.
The violence leaves Burundi facing its biggest crisis since the end of a 12-year ethnically charged civil war in 2006. Hundreds of thousands of people died in the conflict and the subsequent peace accord ensured that the future army would be split 50-50 between minority Tutsis and majority Hutus.

The attempted coup has caused alarm internationally. East African leaders attending the summit in Tanzania said in a joint communique: “The region will not accept nor stand by if violence does not stop or escalates in Burundi.”

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the chair of the African Union commission, said: “The chairperson condemns in the strongest terms today’s coup attempt in Bujumbura, calls for the return to constitutional order and urges all stakeholders to exercise utmost restraint.”



The US urged Burundians to “lay down arms, end the violence and show restraint”, while the EU warned it was “essential the situation does not spin out of control”.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, made an urgent appeal for calm, while the security council said it would hold an emergency meeting on the situation on Thursday.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader from the Hutu majority and a born-again Christian, believes he ascended to the presidency in 2005 with divine backing.
Opposition and rights groups say it is unconstitutional for him to run for more than two terms. The president, however, argues his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people. This was supported by the constitutional court, although one of the judges fled the country, claiming its members received death threats.

More than 22 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election in elections scheduled for 26 June. More than 50,000 Burundians have fled the violence to Rwanda and other neighbouring countries in recent weeks, with the UN preparing for thousands more refugees.

Dr Robert Besseling, principal Africa analyst at the London-based risk consultancy IHS, said: “While it is too early to confirm that the coup attempt has been successful, factional fighting between rival ethnic groups in the military and police is likely to erupt and increase the probability of a civil war. The highest risk of ethnic fighting over the next few days will be in Bujumbura, overpopulated rural areas and internally displaced people’s camps along the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzanian borders.

“The Imbonerakure, a youth militia affiliated to the CNDD-FDD, is likely to be deployed against ethnic Tutsi and to stage targeted political assassinations of Tutsi leaders and attacks on Tutsi groups. Retaliatory attacks by ethnic Tutsi are likely against government buildings and CNDD-FDD assets and supporters. Expatriates or foreign assets are less likely targets.”

Source : TheGuardian


Burundi : Heavy fighting erupts between rival Burundi troops


 
Fighting reported around building of state broadcaster as claims over success of coup are made and president’s plane is prevented from landing in country.

Fierce fighting between rival Burundian troops has erupted in the capital, Bujumbura, deepening fears that Wednesday’s coup attempt could trigger a bloody and protracted power struggle.

Forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza, who is outside the country and has been blocked from returning, were resisting an assault on the state television and radio complex, military sources and witnesses told Agence France-Presse (AFP). Independent broadcasters were hit by rocket and grenade attacks.

Burundi had been a tinderbox since Gen Godefroid Niyombare, a former intelligence chief fired three months ago, announced that Nkurunziza had been ousted after weeks of deadly civil unrest sparked by the president’s attempt to stand for a third term.

Thick plumes of smoke obscured sections of Bujumbura’s skyline on Thursday as buildings burned. Gunfire increased in frequency throughout the morning. Witnesses report that police forces are guarding the ruling party’s headquarters and firing on anyone who comes near.

Thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate but the security services appear to have divided into pro- and anti-Nkurunziza factions. In the early hours of Thursday, the armed forces chief, Gen Prime Niyongabo, said on state radio: “The coup attempt failed, loyal forces are still controlling all strategic points. The national defence force calls on the mutineers to give themselves up.”

Then a spokesman for the anti-Nkurunziza camp, Burundi’s police commissioner, Venon Ndabaneze, dismissed the claim and said the president’s supporters were in control of many key sites, including Bujumbura’s international airport. “This message does not surprise us because the general has long been allied to the forces of evil and lies,” he told AFP.
A anti-Nkurunziza's protester gestures in front of a burning barricade in Bujumbura.
A journalist inside the state TV and radio building said it came under attack after the loyalist broadcast and that heavy weapons including cannon and rockets were being used.
 
Private media were also caught up in the violence. The African Public Radio station, which was shut down during the weeks of protests and reopened after the coup attempt, was hit by a rocket and was ablaze, witnesses said.

A grenade attack seriously damaged the building of Renaissance TV, where Niyombare made his coup statement, according to the station’s director, Innocent Muhozi. One of his offices was also burned overnight, he told the Associated Press.

Augustin Ndikuriyo, an entrepreneur based in Bujumbura, said: “Last night we heard some guns shooting all night until morning. It was a mix of heavy guns and small weapons. Now we don’t know what’s happening because no one can go outside. People are staying in their homes.”

He added: “I believe the situation will be calm in coming hours: I think those ones who kicked him away have plenty of reasons. I think they will be supported by the majority of the army.”

The whereabouts of the 51-year-old president remain unclear. He attempted to fly back from a summit in Tanzania, where regional leaders were discussing the situation in Burundi, but the airport had been closed to stop him from landing. His plane reportedly returned to Tanzania.
People walk in a street in Bujumbura.
The violence leaves Burundi facing its biggest crisis since the end of a 12-year ethnically charged civil war in 2006. Hundreds of thousands died in the conflict and subsequent peace accord ensured that the future army would be split 50-50 between minority Tutsis and majority Hutus.

The attempted coup has caused international alarm. East African leaders attending the summit in Tanzania said in a joint communique: “The region will not accept nor stand by if violence does not stop or escalates in Burundi.”

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the chair of the African Union commission, said: “The chairperson condemns in the strongest terms today’s coup attempt in Bujumbura, calls for the return to constitutional order and urges all stakeholders to exercise utmost restraint.”

The US urged Burundians to “lay down arms, end the violence and show restraint”, while the EU warned it was “essential the situation does not spin out of control”.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, also made an urgent appeal for calm, while the security council said it would hold an emergency meeting on the situation on Thursday.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader from the Hutu majority and a born-again Christian, believes he ascended to the presidency in 2005 with divine backing.

Opposition and rights groups say it is unconstitutional for him to run for more than two terms. The president, however, argues his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people. This was supported by the constitutional court, although one of the judges fled the country, claiming its members received death threats.

More than 22 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election in elections scheduled for 26 June.

More than 50,000 Burundians have fled the violence to Rwanda and other neighbouring countries in recent weeks, with the UN preparing for thousands more refugees.

Dr Robert Besseling, principal Africa analyst at the London-based risk consultancy IHS, said: “While it is too early to confirm that the coup attempt has been successful, factional fighting between rival ethnic groups in the military and police is likely to erupt and increase the probability of a civil war.

The highest risk of ethnic fighting over the next few days will be in Bujumbura, overpopulated rural areas and internally displaced people’s camps along the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzanian borders.

“The Imbonerakure, a youth militia affiliated to the CNDD-FDD, is likely to be deployed against ethnic Tutsi and to stage targeted political assassinations of Tutsi leaders and attacks on Tutsi groups. Retaliatory attacks by ethnic Tutsi are likely against government buildings and CNDD-FDD assets and supporters. Expatriates or foreign assets are less likely targets.”

Source: TheGuardian


May 13, 2015

Africa Looks on as Burundi Faces 'Coup'

The EAC regional bloc has labeled Burundi's political crisis a “coup,” amid fears from aid groups of an imminent humanitarian disaster.

Burundi's neighbors are anxiously watching a political dispute unfold,
amid conflicting reports Wednesday of a military coup in the nation in
southeast Africa.

South Africa's government said that it is monitoring the situation, but
was unable to confirm whether a coup has taken place.

“It's too early to say,” a foreign ministry spokesperson stated.

However, the five-nation East African Community (EAC) has since issued a
 statement condemning what they described as a “coup” in Burundi.

“As East Africa, we want all parties in Burundi to respect democratic
elections as a means to get into power,” said Tanzanian President Jakaya
 Kikwete, who hosted an EAC regional summit in Dar es Salaam. “Democracy
 should get back in Burundi.”

The strongly worded statement was in response to reports earlier in the
day that a Burundian military official declared the overthrow of
President Pierre Nkurunziza.

“Regarding President Nkurunziza's arrogance and defiance of the
international community ... President Nkurunziza is dismissed, his
government is dismissed too,” Major General Godefroid Niyombare told
reporters from a military barracks in the capital Bujumbura, according
to Reuters.

Despite being fired from his position as intelligence head by the
president in February, Niyombare remains one of Burundi's most
influential public figures. He was reportedly surrounded by other top
military brass, and a statement was broadcast over radio.

Figures from Burundi's political opposition have said they aren't part
of the apparent coup.

“I am discovering it now on the radio, just like you,” opposition
presidential hopeful Agathon Rwasa told IBTimes.

“Now, we will have to see what happens next,” Rwasa said.

Shortly later, there were reports soldiers took up key positions around
the capital. According to Al-Jazeera, there was a heavy military
presence outside state media offices.

“The road outside has been sealed off and journalists have been told to
go inside,” Al-Jazeera's Burundi correspondent stated.

Elsewhere in the capital, crowds have rallied. Reuters has reported
hundreds of people taking to the streets to celebrate news of
Nkurunziza's ousting. However, a journalist in Bujumbura, Melanie Gouby,
 has tweeted that police have clashed with protesters.

“Grenades thrown, protesters have Molotov cocktails, water canon tank
keeps falling back and protesters gaining ground,” Gouby stated.

On social media, photographs surfaced of burning barricades, and a
massive police presence on the streets.

The president has denied any coup is taking place, though he is
currently in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to attend the regional meeting.
Nkurunziza has since announced he is returning to Burundi to handle the
political crisis. His office has described Niyombare's declaration as a
“joke,” and urged Burundians to dismiss rumors of a coup circulating on
social media.

“The situation is under control,” a presidential spokesperson tweeted.

“There is no coup in #Burundi,” they said.

The latest unrest in Burundi comes after weeks of political uncertainty.
 According to the United Nations, 50,000 Burundians have fled the
country since Nkurunziza announced in April plans to run for a third
term in office. The move sparked a wave of protests against his
administration, and some of the worst violence the country has seen
since the civil war ended in 2005. Activists say around 20 people have
been killed in recent weeks in clashes between protesters and security
forces.

The unrest began when opposition parties accused the president of
violating the constitution, which imposes a two term limit on the
president. Nkurunziza says he should be eligible for another term,
arguing his first term was by parliamentary appointment in the wake of a
 2005 peace deal – not by popular vote. Burundi's constitutional court
has ruled in favor of Nkurunziza, though one former judge has since
accused the president of intimidation.

“If we did not give the third term a green light, we were going to be in
 trouble,” the court's vice president Sylvere Nimpagaritse said earlier
this month, after fleeing to Rwanda.

The African Union has responded by calling for the postponement of the
upcoming presidential election. Human rights groups have warned that
unless the political dispute can be quickly resolved, Burundi could face
 a humanitarian disaster. Spurred by fears of a conflict reminiscent of
the civil war, according to the UNHCR a "worst case scenario" could
leave 300,000 Burundians displaced.

Source : Telesur

Migrant crisis: EU plan to strike Libya networks could include ground forces

European plans for a military campaign to smash the migrant smuggling networks operating out of Libya include options for ground forces on Libyan territory.

The 19-page strategy paper for the mission, obtained by the Guardian, focuses on an air and naval campaign in the Mediterranean and in Libyan territorial waters, subject to United Nations blessing. But it adds that ground operations in Libya may also be needed to destroy the smugglers’ vessels and assets, such as fuel dumps.

“A presence ashore might be envisaged if agreement was reached with relevant authorities,” says the paper which is expected to be endorsed by European Union foreign ministers on Monday before the mission is ordered by heads of government at an EU summit in June.
“The operation would require a broad range of air, maritime and land capabilities. These could include: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; boarding teams; patrol units (air and maritime); amphibious assets; destruction air, land and sea, including special forces units.”

The document speaks of possible operations to destroy smugglers’ assets “ashore”. This could include “action along the coast, in harbour or at anchor of smugglers assets and vessels before their use”.

Senior diplomats and officials in Brussels, speaking privately about the military planning, have consistently stressed that there would be no prospect of “boots on the ground” in Libya. But it is clear from the detailed planning document that they might be needed and are not being ruled out.

EU leaders ordered Federica Mogherini, the union’s foreign and security policy coordinator, to come up with proposals for military action to attack the networks three weeks ago. This week Mogherini was in New York lobbying the UN security council for support and for an authorising resolution on the use of force. The resolution is being drafted by the British in New York. Mogherini went to China last week and believes Beijing will not veto the plans in the security council. Russia is the biggest problem. It says it is willing to “cooperate” but may object to some of the more robust language.

The campaign’s aim is defined as “to disrupt the business model of the smugglers, achieved by undertaking systematic efforts to identify, seize/capture, and destroy vessels and assets before they are used by smugglers … The operation will need to be phased in and will be heavily dependent on intelligence.

“The Mission is therefore defined to be ‘to provide surveillance, intelligence gathering and sharing, and assessment of smuggling activity towards and through the Southern Central Mediterranean Area, and to stop, board, search and dispose of, possibly through their destruction, trafficking vessels and assets before use and thereby contribute to EU efforts to disrupt the business model of trafficking networks.”


The planning document admits that the campaign could result in innocent people being killed: “Boarding operations against smugglers in the presence of migrants has a high risk of collateral damage including the loss of life.”

The military campaign planning has been ordered because of the influx of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean from Libya, with the death toll this year alone already nudging an estimated 2,000.

The paper cites information from the Italian police authorities saying that 200,000 migrants are preparing to board shoddy vessels to risk the crossing from Libya to Italy’s southern shores.

Up to 10 EU countries have volunteered to take part in the campaign, said senior officials, including Italy, which would command it, Britain, France, and Spain.
 
Source : Theguardian


May 3, 2015

Egypt and Saudi Arabia Discuss Invading Yemen

Egyptian President Adbel-Fattah al-Sisi in a short visit to the Saudi capital city of Riyadh has discussed a joint ground attack on Yemen, a source said.

Sisi and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz in a meeting in the Saudi capital on Saturday discussed the military ground incursion into Yemen, the Arabic-language Al-Watan newspaper quoted a Yemeni source as saying on Sunday.

The source said the two came up with the decision to launch a military invasion of Yemen in a bid to take control of the Arab country’s sensitive and strategic regions.

Reports said on Sunday that a limited number of Saudi-led ground troops have crossed the border with Yemen, while several other units have been helliborne to Aden to help Al-Qaeda terrorists and forces loyal to fugitive president Mansour Hadi.

Both AFP and RT confirmed the report, with RT saying that the number of the troops in Aden stands at 40-50. RT quoted a report in Yemen’s local Al-Ghad daily that is linked to Southern separatists, who demand the restoration of the Southern state that merged with North Yemen 15 years ago.

But, the Saudi news website Al-Arabiya denied the report, quoting Ahmed al-Asiri, the spokesman of the Saudi military operations, as saying that the coalition “has not started any major ground operation in the Yemeni port of Aden”.

The Arabic-language Al-Mayadeen TV also quoted an informed military source as saying that no Saudi ground attack or deployment has taken place.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen for 39 days now to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 3,163 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by Ansarullah revolutionaries of the Houthi movement.

Despite Riyadh’s claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi warplanes are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

On April 21, Saudi Arabia declared end to Yemen airstrikes after five weeks of bombings, but airstrikes are still underway.


Source : GlobalResearch



Apr 26, 2015

Large-scale Egyptian army massed for operation to capture eastern Libya from ISIS

The Middle East is on the brink of its fourth war (after Syria, Iraq and Yemen). debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that Egypt is massing large-scale ground and air forces in the Western Desert along the Libyan border, in preparation for a military campaign to capture eastern Libya – Cyrenaica - from the Islamist State of Syria and Iraq – ISIS - occupation.

The substantial naval and marine forces assembling at Egypt’s Mediterranean ports indicate the possible launching of the offensive by dropping Egyptian marines on the Libyan coast around Derna (pop: 100,000), which ISIS has made its provincial capital. They may be accompanied by simultaneous landings of paratroops from the air.

For President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi, ISIS’s presence in eastern Libya (as well as Sinai) poses an unacceptable peril to his country. He has been warned in a number of intelligence reports that the Islamic State’s terrorists have already penetrated some Egyptian towns and even infiltrated certain army units.

To counter the Egyptian plan of campaign, ISIS is rushing reinforcements to eastern Libya from Syria and Iraq. From Syria, they are traveling by air or sea through the Mediterranean; from Iraq, through the Sinai Peninsula, whence oil and drug rings smuggle them across the Suez Canal and Egypt.

debkafile’s sources reveal that Egypt’s projected invasion of Libya was high on the agenda of American CIA Director John Brennan’s unannounced visit to Cairo on April 19 for a meeting with the president.

In reply to his visitor’s demand for precise information on Egypt’s Libyan campaign. President El-Sisi offered an assurance that he had no intention of keeping the Egyptian army in Libya. He would pull the troops out after defeating and disarming the jihadis and hand power to the Libyan government, which has established its seat in the eastern town of Tobruk near the Egyptian border and home to Libyan military bases and oil terminals.

The Tobruk government was set up by Libyan members of parliament who fled the capital Tripoli when it was overrun by a group of extremist Islamist militias, known as the Libyan Dawn, which included elements associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – AQIM.

The head of the this government is Abdullah al-Thinni, who is recognized by the United States and most Western governments as the legitimate prime minister of Libya.

President El-Sisi was not surprised to hear from the CIA director that the Obama administration objects to a direct Egyptian invasion of Libya, but would not oppose Cairo acting through local Libyan militias. Brennan put forward the name of Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a Libyan-American, who set up a militia in the eastern Libyan town of Benghazi to fight the Islamists, aided by Libyan army units based in the region.

On March 2, Prime Minister al-Thinni and the Tobruk parliament appointed Gen. Hifter commander-in-chief of the Libyan army, promoting him to the rank of lieutenant general. He was entrusted with two missions: To liberate Libya from the clutches of the Islamic militias and to rebuild the national army.

debkafile’s military sources disclose that, for the past six months, the Egyptian president has given Hifter his support and even supplied him with weapons. But he does not see him as a sufficiently powerful and emblematic figure to unify the Libyan nation.

Brennan leaned hard on the Egyptian president to follow Washington’s line, but El-Sisi refused.

Their differences on the Libyan campaign were reflected by omission in the joint communiqué they issued after their conversation: After discussing “regional issues, terrorism and ways of enhancing bilateral relations, the two sides agreed to continue consultation and coordination on issues of mutual interest.”

Interestingly, Egypt is ready to throw ground, sea and air forces into its offensive in Libya, while at the same time abstaining from deploying air or ground power in the Yemeni conflict, although it is a member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels.

Egypt is already fighting the Islamic State’s branch in Sinai. It is now gearing up to tackle the Islamist peril on its western border.

Source : Debka


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