— Mark Twain, proving there is nothing new under the sun. (via politicalprof)
Africa’s jihadists, on their way
Boko Haram thrives on the weakness of governments in the region of Lake Chad
SQUINT a little and the region skirting Lake Chad in central Africa resembles Mosul and Tikrit in northern Iraq: dried-out canals, scrubby plains, ragtag bands of Islamists with guns beneath an unrelenting sun. Thanks to satellite television, the long-suffering residents around the lake, which abutted Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria until it began to dry up and shrink over the past few decades (see map), have a rough understanding of what has happened recently in Iraq. They can imagine only too well being overrun by insurgents. Many see parallels between the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the savage group that has captured a string of Iraqi towns, and Boko Haram, the equally murderous Nigerian outfit that is striving to expand its base beyond its original area south-west of Lake Chad. The question everyone in the region is asking is whether the Nigerian bunch of beheaders can replicate the audacious territorial conquest of their Arab-led counterparts.
Strolling along what used to be the shoreline before it receded, Habib Yaba, a Chadian politician from Massakory, north-east of N’Djamena, the capital, points to a white pick-up truck of unknown provenance driving across the flat lake-bed from the west. The border there is unmarked. “Look how easy it is for anyone to roam around,” he says, and goes on to describe local Islamists as increasingly numerous, well-armed and ambitious. “They rely on religious as well as ethnic links that cross the lake. And they tap into the frustrations of our people.”
Gloomy youths standing in the shade of a nearby petrol station sound ambivalent towards Boko Haram. Most would rather have jobs than become religious marauders, but given the chance they may be tempted to join a group that is evidently successful. “Not many other winners here,” says one. Their parents, sitting in cement buildings littered across a treeless expanse, say they worry that their children will be receptive to recruitment drives by Boko Haram. They also report an increase in night-time traffic, which they blame on insurgent movements.
Regional governments are fully aware of the threat and have tried to counter it. Chad is sending ever more troops to the border. Checkpoints and military vehicles are visible on the roads outside N’Djamena, which is close to the lake. A sweating colonel wearing full battledress in the midday sun swears loudly while inspecting traffic near Bongor, a town close to the border with Cameroon, 200km (125 miles) south of N’Djamena.
Oil-rich Chad has one of the fiercest armies on the continent. It has deployed peacekeepers in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR). Earlier this year its air force took delivery of three MIG-29 jets from Ukraine, an unusually sophisticated weapon by the standards of the region. Chad also has a batch of Russian-supplied combat helicopters.
But neighbouring countries are quite a bit feebler. Nigeria’s armed forces are plagued with corruption; its rates of desertion are high. Niger is poor even by regional standards and militarily unable to cope. The weakest link in the region, however, is Cameroon.
Nigeria closed its border with it in February and has called its government negligent. Unlike Chad and Niger, it does not allow troops from neighbouring countries the right of hot pursuit across its border. That may be partly because Cameroon and Nigeria lack an agreed frontier due to a long-running territorial dispute; the UN’s attempt to mark the 2,100km boundary, which cuts across mountains and deserts, may be the biggest project of its kind in the world. In May Cameroon at last deployed a thousand troops to the border region. Within weeks they had killed 40 fighters apparently allied to Boko Haram in Kousseri, on the border with Chad. More firefights have since taken place.
In May regional heads of state met in France in an attempt to boost military and intelligence co-operation. They are backed by other Western powers. Yet old animosities, linguistic differences between Anglo- and Francophone troops, and rampant theft and incompetence mean this will have a limited effect. A glum Western diplomat says, “If the Iraqi army, aided by America and Iran, cannot stop marauding Islamists, then…”
The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based lobby, warned in April about Boko Haram activity in “weak countries poorly equipped to combat a radical Islamist armed group tapping into real governance, corruption, impunity and underdevelopment grievances shared by most people in the region.”
In May Boko Haram fighters attacked a camp of Chinese workers near Waza, in northern Cameroon, taking ten of them hostage. This was the group’s biggest operation across the border so far. Its fighters methodically cut off the electricity supply to the camp, then besieged it for five hours before overwhelming its armed guards. Sure enough, the Cameroonian cavalry failed to turn up.
FULL COMMENTARY (The Economist)
Photo: International Organization for Migration/flickr
— Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (via wordsnquotes)
Day 19: Palestinian death toll passes 1,000 | July 26, 2014
Thousands of Gaza residents who fled the violence streamed back to devastated border areas during Saturday’s 12-hour humanitarian truce to find large-scale destruction: fighting pulverized scores of homes, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets. In northern Beit Hanoun, even the hospital was badly damaged by shelling. Across Gaza, more than 130 bodies were pulled from the rubble on Saturday, officials said. In southern Gaza, 20 members of an extended family were killed before the start of the lull when a tank shell hit a building where they had sought refuge. (Sources: 1, 2, 3)
Pictures from Beit Hanoun & Shejaiyah during a pause in the bombing by Israeli forces:
1. A general view of destruction in the Shejaia neighbourhood. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)
2. Palestinians carry belongings they find at their destroyed houses in Beit Hanoun. (Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)
3. A Palestinian man looks staggered after seeing his home destroyed, while visiting the area during a 12-hour cease-fire in Shejaiyah neighbourhood. (Khalil Hamra/AP)
4. Palestinians inspect the damage of their destroyed houses in Shejaiyah neighbourhood. (Khalil Hamra/AP)
5. Palestinians recover the body of a man killed when his home was hit the previous night by Israeli fire in the northern district of Beit Hanoun. (Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)
6. A mare and her foal walk along the debris of destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanoun. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)
7. Palestinians survey the damage in Beit Hanoun. (Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)
8. Children wait for their parents, who collect belongings from their destroyed houses in Beit Hanoun. (Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)
9. A general view of destroyed buildings after Israeli attacks in a part of the Shuja’iyya neighbourhood. (Oliver Weiken/EPA)
10. Palestinian women react amid the destruction in the northern district of Beit Hanoun. (Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)
This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.
- Armed men raided the offices of Sudanese daily paper Al-Tayar on Saturday, confiscated and destroyed equipment, and beat the editor.
- At Foreign Affairs: ”Why the Central African Republic has many peacekeepers, but no peace.”
- Two explosions in Nigeria Wednesday, one targeting an opposition leader and another a prominent Muslim cleric, left at least 42 dead.
- Clashes between militias in Libya left 47 dead last week.
- 21 Egyptian soldiers were killed in an attack on a border checkpoint over the weekend.
- Amazing and terrible photos from the last couple of weeks in Gaza by Time's Alessio Romenzi.
- 15 were killed yesterday when Israeli shelling struck a UN-run school in Gaza. The current death toll in Gaza has passed 800.
- According to UN calculations, one child is killed every hour in Gaza.
- The Israeli Broadcasting Authority has banned a radio ad from human rights group B’Tselem listing out the names of some of the dead Palestinian children from the past 17 days of conflict.
- Clashes erupted in the West Bank as protests mounted against Israel’s shelling of a UN school in Gaza. Two Palestinian protesters were killed. A “day of rage” is planned for this, the last Friday of Ramadan.
- A BBC interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
- The UN Human Rights Council has voted to launch an independent investigation into human rights violations in Israeli operations in Gaza. 29 voted in favor and 17 abstained. The sole “no” vote belonged to the United States.
- The Lebanese parliament failed for the ninth time to elect a new president.
- According to the Syrian opposition, last Thursday and Friday 700 Syrians were killed in conflict — the deadliest two days of fighting in the war.
- The UN sent trucks of food and other supplies across the Turkish border and into rebel-held Syrian territory, in defiance of the Syrian government.
- Iraqi parliament elected Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum the new president.
- The veracity of the claim that ISIS called on Iraqi women to undergo genital mutilation is called into question.
- Four journalists have been detained in Tehran, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and his wife, The National reporter Yeganeh Salehi.
- Many obstacles block prosecution of those responsible for MH17.
- Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has resigned following the collapse of the governing coalition.
- A Ukrainian journalist working as a freelancer for CNN was abducted Tuesday by pro-Russian separatists.
- A dispatch from the front lines with Ukrainian rebels.
- RFE/RL interviews an Armenian who says he was recruited in Moscow to fight for the separatist movement in Ukraine.
- A mass grave unearthed in Slovyansk, Ukraine, contains 20 bodies believed to have been killed by pro-Russian separatists.
- Ongoing questions about US intelligence prior to the downing of MH17.
- C.J. Chivers on the continued dangers of Soviet surplus arms in Ukraine.
- Jon Lee Anderson on proxy war in Ukraine.
- Six players for the football club Shakhtar Donetsk refused to return to the conflict-torn region of Ukraine after playing a friendly against France. One, Fred, has since returned.
- The European Court of Human Rights found that Poland broke the human rights convention in assisting the CIA in the detention and torture of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Poland is the first to be held accountable for participation in CIA extraordinary rendition programs.
- Two Russian activists sentenced to four and a half years in a prison colony.
- Two Finnish aid workers were shot dead in Herat, Afghanistan.
- Matthew Rosenberg on the squabble-ridden audit of the Afghan election.
- The Afghan police officer charged with killing AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus has been convicted and sentenced to death.
- 15 members of the Hazara community were killed by Taliban gunmen as they travelled through the Afghan province of Ghor.
- Civilians caught in the crossfire in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state.
- The National Journal on the broad parameters for putting someone on the terror watchlist.
- A clip from the upcoming documentary The Kill Team by Dan Krauss, about the killing of civilians by a group of US soldiers in Afghanistan.
Photo: Gaza. A Palestinian man holds a young girl injured during the Israeli shelling of a UN school yesterday. Alessio Romenzi/TIME.
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"On July 16, while I was in eastern Gaza City taking photos of the many buildings recently destroyed by Israeli forces, a man approached me and asked if I wanted to enter his home to take photos of the inside.
I accepted his offer and as he showed me around, I learned his name is Khamis Mraish and that his brother, Dr. Riad Mraish, ran a clinic from the home. As Khamis took me through each corner of the house, he described in detail the damage in every room. Most of the family’s belongings, including Dr. Mraish’s medical equipment, were now ruined, scattered in pieces and covered with debris.
It was horribly sad to witness his pain — and how he so badly wanted to share his story with the world. And the more people I speak with, the more I realize there is this same feeling everywhere. The people in Gaza want, and need, the world to see what they are going through.”
Despite its exciting origins at the hands of terrified and superstitious French cave dwellers, and despite the fact that most artists are completely wackadoo, art history is pretty boring, not to mention long. We at Dark Rye can’t do much about the length, but we’d like to help take care of the boredom. Join us on this enlightening journey through the many ages of art, minus a couple of the duller ones like Mannerism and Neoclassicism. When you’re done, maybe you’ll swap out your old college Starry Night poster for something a little less clichéd…
Andrew Jackson was a BAMF. Someone tried to assasinate him once with two pistols, both misfired , and Jackson proceeded to beat the crap out of him with his cane.
That last reply is perfection.
1. Palestinian children take shelter at a UN school after evacuating their home near the border in Gaza City. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
2. Palestinians stand amongst the rubble of Tayseer Al-Batsh’s family house which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)
3. Palestinians travel to a shelter at a UN school after evacuating their homes near the border in Gaza City. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)
4. Palestinian children stand next to graves ahead of the funeral of 18 members of al-Batsh family who were killed the previous night in Israeli strikes that hit their house as they were targeting Hamas police chief Tayseer al-Batsh. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)
5. A Palestinian boy draws on a chalk board at a UN school after evacuating his home near the border in Gaza City. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
6. A blood-stained mattress rests on top of the rubble of a house following an Israeli air strike, that killed 18 people of the same family in Gaza City. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)
7. Palestinian families travel to a UN school to seek shelter after evacuating their homes near the border in Gaza City. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
8. The son (L) of one of the Palestinian members of Tayseer Al-Batsh’s family, who were killed in an Israeli air strike, mourns during their funeral in Gaza City. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)
9. A Palestinian woman gestures as she stands behind a missile which was fired by Israeli aircraft at a shack belonging to Bedouins in Rafah. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)
10. Palestinian children sleep on the floor at a UN school after evacuating their home near the border in Gaza City. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)