More than 20 million people are at risk of starving to death. Will the world step up?

In an editorial, the Washington Post says: More than 20 million people in four countries are at risk of starvation in the coming months, in what the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. But the global response to the emergency has been lacking, both from governments and from private citizens. As of Monday, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was reporting that only 43 percent of the $6.27 billion needed to head off famine this year in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria had been raised. A poll by the International Rescue Committee showed that 85 percent of Americans are largely uninformed about the food shortages. The IRC calls it “likely the least reported but most important major issue of our time.”

Accounts by the United Nations, the U.S. government and private aid groups more than back up that claim. More than half the populations of Somalia and South Sudan are in need of emergency food assistance, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Civil wars in those countries have combined with meager spring rains to drastically reduce food supplies. In Nigeria, some 5 million people are at risk in the northeastern provinces where the terrorist group Boko Haram is active.

The most harrowing reports come from Yemen, where the United Nations says a staggering 20 million people need humanitarian aid. In addition to millions who lack food, more than 330,000 people have been afflcited by a cholera epidemic since late April, with one person dying nearly every hour on average. Donors have supplied less than 40 percent of the aid Yemen needs to prevent starvation, and officials have recently been forced to divert some of that assistance to fight cholera. In all four countries, children are disproportionately affected: Aid groups say 1.4 million severely malnourished children could die in the next few months if more help is not forthcoming. [Continue reading…]

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No one is paying attention to the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II

Jackson Diehl writes: The never-ending circus that is Donald Trump’s presidency has sucked attention from all kinds of issues that desperately need it, from health-care reform to the creeping expansion of U.S. engagement in Syria. Still, it’s shocking that so little heed is being paid to what the United Nations says is the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945: the danger that about 20 million people in four countries will suffer famine in the coming months, and that hundreds of thousands of children will starve to death.

Not heard of this? That’s the problem. According to U.N. and private relief officials, efforts to supply enough food to stem the simultaneous crises in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria are falling tragically short so far, in part because of inadequate funding from governments and private donors. Of the $4.9 billion sought in February by the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for immediate needs in those countries, just 39 percent had been donated as of last week.

That resource gap could be attributed to donor fatigue, or to the sheer size of the need. But, in part, it’s a simple lack of awareness. “We can’t seem to get anyone’s attention to what’s going on,” says Carolyn Miles, the president and chief executive of Save the Children. [Continue reading…]

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The return of famine as a weapon of war

Alex de Waal writes: In its primary use, the verb ‘to starve’ is transitive: it’s something people do to one another, like torture or murder. Mass starvation as a consequence of the weather has very nearly disappeared: today’s famines are all caused by political decisions, yet journalists still use the phrase ‘man-made famine’ as if such events were unusual.

Over the last half-century, famines have become rarer and less lethal. Last year I came close to thinking that they might have come to an end. But this year, it’s possible that four or five famines will occur simultaneously. ‘We stand at a critical point in history,’ the head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the former Tory MP Stephen O’Brien, told the Security Council in March, in one of his last statements before stepping down: ‘Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.’ It’s a ‘critical’ point, I’d argue, not because it is the worst crisis in our lifetime, but because a long decline – lasting seven decades – in mass death from starvation has come to an end; in fact it has been reversed.

O’Brien had no illusions about the causes of the four famines, actual or imminent, that he singled out in north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. In each case, the main culprits are wars that result in the destruction of farms, livestock herds and markets, and ‘explicit’ decisions by the military to block humanitarian aid. In Nigeria, villages in the path of the war between Boko Haram and the army have been stripped of assets, income and food. As the army slowly reduces the areas under Boko Haram control, they are finding small towns where thousands starved to death last year. The counter-insurgency grinds on, and the specialists who compile the data fed into the blandly named ‘integrated food security phase classification’ (IPC) system, worry that in this year’s ‘hungry season’, approximately June to October, communities in the war zones will again move up the IPC scale: from level four (‘humanitarian emergency’) to five (‘famine’). Last year in Nigeria, the UN and relief agencies could say that they didn’t appreciate the full extent of the crisis. This year we have been given due warning.

In South Sudan, the government and the rebel armies have fought much less against each other than against the civilian population. In the summer of 2016, evidence from aid agencies showed nutrition and death rates in the region that met the UN criteria for determining that a food crisis has reached famine levels. Fearing that declaring famine would antagonise the South Sudanese government, already paranoid and cracking down on international aid agencies (aid workers were being robbed, raped and murdered), the UN prevaricated. By February, even veterans of South Sudan’s horrendous famines of the 1980s were saying that this was as bad as anything in their experience, perhaps worse. The UN duly declared a famine.

Yemen, however, is the biggest impending disaster. Don’t be fooled by pictures showing hungry people in arid landscapes: the weather had nothing to do with the famine. More than seven million people in Yemen are hungry; far more are likely to die of starvation and disease than in battles and air raids. The military intervention led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has strangled the country’s economy. [Continue reading…]

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Drought and war heighten threat of not just one famine, but four

The New York Times reports: First the trees dried up and cracked apart.

Then the goats keeled over.

Then the water in the village well began to disappear, turning cloudy, then red, then slime-green, but the villagers kept drinking it. That was all they had.

Now on a hot, flat, stony plateau outside Baidoa, thousands of people pack into destitute camps, many clutching their stomachs, some defecating in the open, others already dead from a cholera epidemic.

“Even if you can get food, there is no water,” said one mother, Sangabo Moalin, who held her head with a left hand as thin as a leaf and spoke of her body “burning.”

Another famine is about to tighten its grip on Somalia. And it’s not the only crisis that aid agencies are scrambling to address. For the first time since anyone can remember, there is a very real possibility of four famines — in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen — breaking out at once, endangering more than 20 million lives.

International aid officials say they are facing one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II. And they are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

One powerful lesson from the last famine in Somalia, just six years ago, was that famines were not simply about food. They are about something even more elemental: water.

Once again, a lack of clean water and proper hygiene is setting off an outbreak of killer diseases in displaced persons camps. So the race is on to dig more latrines, get swimming-pool quantities of clean water into the camps, and pass out more soap, more water-treatment tablets and more plastic buckets — decidedly low-tech supplies that could save many lives.

“We underestimated the role of water and its contribution to mortality in the last famine,” said Ann Thomas, a water, sanitation and hygiene specialist for Unicef. “It gets overshadowed by the food.”

The famines are coming as a drought sweeps across Africa and several different wars seal off extremely needy areas. United Nations officials say they need a huge infusion of cash to respond. So far, they are not just millions of dollars short, but billions.

At the same time, President Trump is urging Congress to cut foreign aid and assistance to the United Nations, which aid officials fear could multiply the deaths. The United States traditionally provides more disaster relief than anyone else.

“The international humanitarian system is at its breaking point,” said Dominic MacSorley, chief executive of Concern Worldwide, a large private aid group.

Aid officials say all the needed food and water exist on this planet in abundance — even within these hard-hit countries. But armed conflict that is often created by personal rivalries between a few men turns life upside down for millions, destroying markets and making the price of necessities go berserk. [Continue reading…]

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Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls two years ago. What happened to them?

The Washington Post reports: Two years ago Thursday, just before midnight on a sweltering night in a town in northeastern Nigeria, men carrying AK-47s stormed into the Chibok Government Secondary School.

What happened next would bring global attention to the Islamist group Boko Haram, which had been haunting Nigeria for years. It would unite activists around the world, including first lady Michelle Obama, around the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. It would prompt the United States to dispatch surveillance drones and military trainers to West Africa.

The militants kidnapped 276 schoolgirls. Several dozen of them were able to escape. But two years later, even as the Nigerian, Cameroonian and Chadian militaries have pushed Boko Haram out of many of its former strongholds, 219 of the girls remain missing.

On Wednesday, CNN released an apparent proof of life video of fifteen of the girls, reportedly filmed last December. They wore flowing headscarves and stated their names. “We are all well,” one of them said.

It was a rare window into their condition, but it raised as many questions it answered. The video alluded to a possible negotiation with the Nigerian government, but those details remain unclear. And many Nigerians wondered why it took so long for even the parents of the girls to see a video confirming they were still alive. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. strikes in Somalia kill 150 Shabab fighters

The New York Times reports: The fighters had just completed “training for a large-scale attack” against American and African Union forces, said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

Pentagon officials would not say how they knew that the Shabab fighters killed on Saturday were training for an attack on United States and African Union forces, but the militant group is believed to be under heavy American surveillance.

The Shabab fighters were standing in formation at a facility the Pentagon called Camp Raso, 120 miles north of Mogadishu, when the American warplanes struck on Saturday, officials said, acting on information gleaned from intelligence sources in the area and from American spy planes. One intelligence agency assessed that the toll might have been higher had the strike happened earlier in the ceremony. Apparently, some fighters were filtering away from the event when the bombing began.

The strike was another escalation in what has become the latest battleground in the Obama administration’s war against terror: Africa. The United States and its allies are focused on combating the spread of the Islamic State in Libya, and American officials estimate that with an influx of men from Iraq, Syria and Tunisia, the Islamic State’s forces in Libya have swelled to as many as 6,500 fighters, allowing the group to capture a 150-mile stretch of coastline over the past year.

The arrival of the Islamic State in Libya has sparked fears that the group’s reach could spread to other North African countries, and the United States is increasingly trying to prevent that. American forces are now helping to combat Al Qaeda in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso; Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad; and the Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, in what has become a multifront war against militant Islam in Africa. [Continue reading…]

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Why Boko Haram is the world’s deadliest terror group

By Vincent Hiribarren, King’s College London

On Christmas Eve 2015 the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, was publicly confident that his country had “technically won the war” against the Islamist group Boko Haram. Less than two months into 2016, and the group is still wreaking havoc across northern Nigeria and beyond.

Since the beginning of the year, the group has killed more than 100 people and continued to drive many more from their homes as they flee for their safety. Its most recent atrocity was the February 10 suicide attack on a refugee camp near Maiduguri that killed 58 people.

From any reasonable angle, the situation hardly looks resolved. According to UN assistant secretary general and regional humanitarian co-ordinator for the Sahel, Toby Lanzer, Boko Haram has become the deadliest terrorist group in the world. As of the beginning of 2016, 2.8m people living in the Lake Chad region have been displaced, including more than a million children; a million children are out of school, and hundreds of thousands are at risk of starving to death.

[Read more…]

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Boko Haram burns children alive in northeast Nigeria

The Associated Press reports: A survivor hidden in a tree says he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children among people burned to death in the latest attack by Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremists.

Scores of charred corpses and bodies with bullet wounds littered the streets from Saturday night’s attack on Dalori village just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and the biggest city in the northeast, according to survivors and soldiers.

The shooting and burning continued for four hours, survivor Alamin Bakura said, weeping on a telephone call to The Associated Press. He said several of his family members were killed or wounded. [Continue reading…]

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ISIS owns headlines, but Nigeria’s Boko Haram kills more than ever

NBC News reports: One terror group killed nearly 11,000 people in 2015 — and it wasn’t ISIS.

While the Sunni militants in Syria and Iraq dominated the headlines in 2015, Boko Haram was killing more people than ever — potentially eclipsing the tally of its partner in terror.

Nigeria’s new government pledged to oust Boko Haram and has boasted of successfully retaking territory from the extremists, but experts warn this might merely have forced the group to change tactics and possibly prompted a higher civilian casualty toll. [Continue reading…]

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The global surge in terrorism

The Atlantic reports: The grisly attacks in France and Lebanon last week have fixed attention on the violence perpetrated by ISIS. But a study published this week indicates that the world’s deadliest terrorist organization actually operates thousands of miles south of Paris and Beirut, in Nigeria.

The 2015 Global Terrorism Index, published by the Institute for Economics & Peace, found that Boko Haram, the Nigerian jihadist group, was responsible for 6,644 deaths in 2014, compared with 6,073 at the hands of ISIS. Boko Haram, which was founded in 2002 as an Islamist movement against Western education and morphed into an armed insurgency in 2009, has rapidly expanded its scope and ambitions over the past two years, achieving international notoriety in the spring of 2014 by kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls. Much like ISIS, the organization controls territory in Nigeria (although it has lost some of it over the past year) and has declared a caliphate in that territory. The group is also international; although based in northeastern Nigeria, it has launched attacks in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. In the latest incident, Boko Haram is the suspected author of an attack in the Nigerian city of Yola that has left more than 30 people dead. [Continue reading…]

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Boko Haram steps up attacks in northeast Nigeria, killing scores

The New York Times: Less than a week after Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general, took over as Nigeria’s president and vowed to crush Boko Haram, the group has intensified its attacks in the country’s northeast, killing scores in a series of assaults and suicide bombings.

Twenty to 50 people were killed in the latest attack on Tuesday. A man disguised as a salesman blew himself up in a slaughterhouse in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State and the biggest city in the region, officials said.

Early on Tuesday morning, residents at the city’s southern edge also awoke to the sound of exploding rocket-propelled grenades and automatic gunfire from the militants, and a similar attack took place late Saturday night near the airport, killing at least eight people.

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With help from ISIS, a more deadly Boko Haram makes a comeback

The Daily Beast reports: The Nigerian terror group Boko Haram, after some much heralded reversals on the battlefield, has made a dangerous comeback, unleashing female suicide bombers, carrying out a series of deadly attacks, and seizing a highly strategic town.

Having fled the larger part of their stronghold in Sambisa forest, the sect’s soldiers regrouped in Marte, a town 112 kilometers north of Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s embattled northeastern Borno state. Although government officials say Marte was seized last Friday, local sources have confirmed that the militants began to occupy the town at the end of April.

“They [Boko Haram] have been in Marte for a long time strategizing,” said a local community member. “They came in large numbers last month, but more members recently joined following the offensive in Sambisa forest by the military.”

This is the fourth time Boko Haram has seized control of Marte, a key battleground for their six-year insurgency. The town is among several retaken in recent weeks by Nigeria’s military. Sources said on Saturday that the insurgents have hoisted their flags on the recaptured territory, and have been coordinating attacks from there.

All this comes amid reports that Boko Haram may be receiving training from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, widely known as ISIS, which operates in Iraq and Syria. A group called the Mosul Youth Resistance Movement, apparently formed to fight ISIS in and around the major Iraqi city it conquered almost a year ago, killed five Boko Haram members there, according to the Iraqi Kurdish website BasNews. Saed Mamuzini, spokesperson for the Kurdish Democratic Party, is quoted saying, “The Nigerian Boko Haram militants were in Mosul to take part in a military training course conducted by Islamic State.” [Continue reading…]

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Boko Haram militants raped hundreds of female captives in Nigeria

The New York Times reports: Hundreds of women and girls captured by Boko Haram have been raped, many repeatedly, in what officials and relief workers describe as a deliberate strategy to dominate rural residents and possibly even create a new generation of Islamist militants in Nigeria.

In interviews, the women described being locked in houses by the dozen, at the beck and call of fighters who forced them to have sex, sometimes with the specific goal of impregnating them.

“They married me,” said Hamsatu, 25, a young woman in a black-and-purple head scarf, looking down at the ground. She said she was four months pregnant, that the father was a Boko Haram member and that she had been forced to have sex with other militants who took control of her town.

“They chose the ones they wanted to marry,” added Hamsatu, whose full name was not used to protect her identity. “If anybody shouts, they said they would shoot them.” [Continue reading…]

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ISIS targets Africa in new issue of recruitment magazine

Newsweek reports: ISIS have released a new issue of its recruitment magazine which is focused solely on expanding its presence across Africa, as the terror group’s propaganda strategy continues to develop.

The release, titled Shariah Alone Will Rule Africa, speaks of the ‘Libyan Arena’, Tunisia, Algeria, the Sinai Peninsula and West Africa. The cover of the magazine shows a large picture of Tunisia’s Great Mosque of Kairouan, seen as one of the holiest sites in Islam after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

The magazine, which includes another interview from British hostage and photojournalist John Cantlie, sees spokesman for ISIS, Muhammad al-Adnani, congratulate Nigerian radical Islamist group Boko Haram for “joining the caravan” of jihad, saying that they would “now guard yet another frontier of the Khilafah [caliphate]”. [Continue reading…]

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The virtual significance of Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS

By Terje Ostebo, University of Florida

The Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram’s recent pledge of allegiance to ISIS has generated a wave of speculation about its significance.

ISIS’s response was to release an audio tape purporting to welcome the pledge. In the rest of the world one dominant view is that ISIS and the jihadi front is spreading and becoming more organized, which, in turn, has spurred the US government to consider expanding its military actions to include ISIS affiliates.

There are, however, good reasons not to read too much into the Boko Haram pledge. It is probable that it will have little or no real practical significance, beyond the initial public relations bump.

Boko Haram under pressure

The pledge of allegiance (Arabic: bayat) by Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau on March 7 was made in an audio-message, in which the organization expresses its support for ISIS.

The announcement was hardly surprising; Boko Haram had been for some time praising ISIS’s actions. Also, the pledge comes at the time when Boko Haram is under much pressure. The recent coordinated offensive by the Chadian, Cameroonian and Nigerian armies has taken its toll on the organization. The pledge could possibly be seen as an act of desperation.

It is, however, doubtful if the pledge will turn any tide, and it is unlikely that the announced cooperation between Boko Haram and ISIS would mean much – in practical terms – to either party.

The Somali organization al-Shabaab made a similar pledge to al-Qaida in 2012 without having any practical implications.

It is unlikely that ISIS will provide Boko Haram with fighters and arms. Boko Haram has, in fact, been critical of “Arab” involvement in its activities in Nigeria. Foreign fighters are not flocking to Nigeria as they are to ISIS-held areas. Nor is it likely that Boko Haram will provide soldiers to ISIS. It might mean infusion of funds from ISIS, but also that is uncertain.

Boko Haram and ISIS are rooted in different localities

Keep in mind that both organizations – even if they claim to represent something global – reflect their respective localities.

Boko Haram has its specific history and ethnic particularity and is geographically confined to northeast Nigeria. It has been haunted by internal divisions, and there are many questions as to how strong and coherent the current leadership is. Thus it is doubtful that the recent pledge will mean that Boko Haram would submit to the will of ISIS, take orders from Bagdadi, and view itself as a branch of ISIS.

This situation relates to the larger issue of constant fragmentation among militant Islamic groups.

The rise of ISIS has created tensions within the jihadi camp, with al-Qaida going against ISIS, and rifts developing between ISIS and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi – the main jihadi ideologist associated with ISIS’s forerunner, al-Qaida in Iraq.

Boko Haram is itself a coalition of various factions, and it is unclear how strong this alliance actually is. While affiliating itself with ISIS, Boko Haram has at the same time not distanced itself from al-Qaida.

Everyone wants to be a caliph

A pattern of disintegration seems to be at play: exclusive ideologies coupled with violent struggles are empowering to individuals.

When groups under the leadership of strong personalities experience success they create momentum and leadership. Everyone, basically, wants to be a caliph or spiritual leader.

Just as al-Shabaab’s pledge to al-Qaida and its push beyond the confines of Somalia produced conflicts within that organization, Boko Haram’s pledge to ISIS may possibly spur further internal tensions.

The US and other Western powers should, therefore, be careful not to interpret the pledge as yet another sign of a more solidified front. While there obviously is an urgent need to reduce the human suffering caused by these organizations, there is a similar need to maintain a realistic view of the situation, to avoid exaggerating the threat scenarios, and to apply strategies that reduce the risk of political collateral damage.

It is also important to note the format of the pledge – an audio-message posted online. This is in clear contrast to how such pledges traditionally were done, when individuals or groups declared their allegiance in real time and space.

Boko Haram’s pledge obviously has an important symbolic meaning, but there is a noncommittal flavor to it. It says what it says, but that’s not necessarily binding for either party.

In a world with constant flows of messaging, including the posting of online fatwas (legal rulings) and jihadi propaganda videos, let’s not forget the ephemeral nature of such messages. Yesterday’s postings are forgotten and substituted by today’s postings.

Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS can therefore for practical reasons remain what it is: virtual.

The Conversation

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Boko Haram declaration of an ISIS alliance may be a cry for help

Simon Tisdall writes: The pledge of allegiance offered to Islamic State (Isis) by the Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram, over the weekend, is a superficially impressive propaganda coup for the Syria-based Islamist extremist organisation, which has been collecting affiliates around the Muslim world like some people collect stamps.

But the new alliance, unilaterally proclaimed at the weekend by Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, is unlikely to amount to much in terms of immediate collaboration on joint operations. It may, in fact, be more of a cry for help, given a recent string of defeats sustained by Boko Haram. Since January’s gruesome and well-publicised massacre in Baga, on the border with Chad, when it butchered hundreds of civilians, Boko Haram has faced a concerted push-back from Nigeria’s military and a nascent multinational force combining troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin.

In the latest military moves, Niger and Chad said Sunday they had launched a “ground and air” offensive into Boko Haram-held territory in northeastern Nigeria. The attack followed the African Union’s decision on Friday to approve a regional force of 10,000 troops headquartered in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, tasked with “eradicating the presence” of Boko Haram.

This evolving regional security alliance has political backing from the US, France, and Britain. But the western powers remain loth to get involved directly themselves. US bilateral relations have been complicated by concern over human rights abuses by Nigerian security forces. As Boko Haram has been forced on to the defensive, several key towns in Shekau’s self-styled caliphate have been recaptured by the army, including Baga, Gambaru, and the garrison town of Monguno. Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, claimed last week that he knew the whereabouts of the Boko Haram leader and called on him to surrender or be killed. [Continue reading…]

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Boko Haram declares allegiance to ISIS

The Observer reports: Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram has sworn allegiance to Islamic State, which rules a self-declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, according to a video posted online. The pledge came in an Arabic audio message with English subtitles alleged to have come from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau and posted Saturday on Twitter, according to the SITE Intelligence monitoring service.

“We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims … and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah,” said the message.

The video script identified the caliph as Ibrahim ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim al-Awad al-Qurashi, who is better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State and self-proclaimed caliph of the Muslim world. Baghdadi has already accepted pledges of allegiance from other jihadist groups in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north Africa.

Boko Haram has been waging a six-year military campaign to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times adds: An oath of allegiance from Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based militant group, to the Islamic State on Saturday reinforces Western fears that the terrorist group is growing beyond its base in Iraq and Syria. These worries have prompted American and allied commandos to rush to train African counterterrorism troops to fight extremists on the continent.

The expanding effort here on the edge of the Sahara to fight militancies like Boko Haram comes as the group has kidnapped schoolgirls, slaughtered thousands of people, and now has expanded its attacks from Nigeria into Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

“When your neighbor’s house is burning, you have to put it out, because if not, yours is next,” said Lt. Col. Brahim Mahanat, a Chadian Army officer who spoke during the Pentagon’s annual military exercise with 1,200 African troops, United States Army Special Forces and other Western commandos, which ends on Monday.

More than any exercise in the past decade, this year’s training — three weeks of marksmanship, mock ambushes and patrols in harsh desert terrain — is bumping up against real-world operations. The Chadian capital, Ndjamena, is just 30 miles from militant-held territory in Nigeria, and Boko Haram has vowed revenge since Chad began cross-border attacks against the militants. Police officers and army troops have stepped up patrols in the capital in response to increased risks, including suicide bombings.

Boko Haram has, in the meantime, pushed more than 200,000 Nigerian refugees across the border into neighboring countries. And on Saturday, three explosions rocked the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, killing dozens of people in the worst attack there since suspected Islamist militants tried to seize it in January. [Continue reading…]

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