Hammer Slams Eritrea Incursion
The United States on Tuesday condemned Eritrea's involvement in the war in neighboring Ethiopia, saying the continued presence of their troops served to "inflame an already tragic situation".
"We've been tracking Eritrean troop movements across the border. They're extremely concerning and we condemn it," Washington's special envoy to the region, Mike Hammer, told reporters on Tuesday.
"The presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia only serves to complicate matters, and inflame an already tragic situation."
On Tuesday, authorities in Tigray accused Eritrean forces of launching a "full scale offensive" across northern Ethiopia, where heavy combat has been reported on multiple fronts in recent weeks.
AFP was not able to independently verify the claims. Access to northern Ethiopia is severely restricted and Tigray has been under a communications blackout for more than a year.
Eritrean soldiers have crossed the border to back Ethiopian troops since fighting reignited in August between government forces and rebels from the Tigray region, ending a five-month truce between the warring sides.
The latest fighting comes as diplomatic efforts intensify to try and peacefully resolve the nearly two-year war in Africa's second-most populous country.
Tigrayan authorities announced this month they were ready to participate in talks mediated by the African Union, removing an obstacle to negotiations with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government in Addis Ababa.
But fighting between government forces and their allies and rebels led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has only escalated.
Hammer, who just returned from a 11-day trip to Ethiopia, said the United States took both sides "at their word when they say they are committed to trying to find a peaceful resolution".
"But again, having foreign actors become involved only serves to exacerbate the crisis," he said.
Eritrean troops supported Ethiopian forces in the early stages of the war which erupted in November 2020 when Abiy sent soldiers into Tigray to unseat the TPLF, accusing the group of attacking federal army camps.
On Tuesday, TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said Eritrea had deployed "its entire army as well as reservists" in a fresh push across northern Ethiopia alongside national and regional troops.
His statement followed a general call for mobilization by Eritrean authorities issued last week.
The war has claimed untold lives and spurred a humanitarian crisis, and all sides to the conflict have been accused of grave abuses against civilians.
UN investigators said Monday they believed Ethiopia's government was behind ongoing crimes against humanity in Tigray, and warned the resumption of the conflict there increased the risk of "further atrocity crimes".
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DRC Clashes Continue Before Truce
M23 rebels were still fighting and advancing in east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday, civilian and military sources said, barely hours before a ceasefire was to come into force.
Clashes were under way between the M23 and a Hutu militia in Bambo, 70 kilometer north of the provincial capital Goma, local sources told AFP by telephone.
"Heavy weapons fire can be heard, people are in a panic," a civil society representative said.
A security source confirmed the firing between the M23 and combatants from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu faction present in the DRC since the Tutsi genocide in 1994.
During the morning, fighting was also reported near Bwiza, close to the former stronghold of ex-Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, who operated there in the noughties.
DRC's President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta attended a mini-summit in the Angola on Wednesday, which concluded with a deal on the cessation of hostilities in eastern DRC from Friday evening.
M23 rebels were then to withdraw from "occupied zones".
But the rebels, a largely DRC Tutsi militia, said Thursday the ceasefire "doesn't really concern us", and called for "direct dialogue" with DRC's government.
The rebels have recently seized swaths of territory north of Goma, a city of one million which they briefly captured 10 years ago.
Kinshasa has refused to engage with the M23, which it calls a "terrorist movement", as long as it occupies territory in the DRC.
The M23 is among scores of armed groups that have turned eastern DRC into one of Africa's most violent regions.
Many are legacies of two wars before the turn of the century that sucked in countries from the region and left millions dead.
Mali Junta Slams Rights Report
Mali's junta has hit back at a new report accusing the army and Russian paramilitaries as well as rebels of "grave crimes" against civilians, saying it "totally rejects" the charges.
"These allegations are mostly tendentious, unconnected and deliberate, with the aim of tarnishing the image of the Malian defence and security force," the junta-controlled government said in a document published late Thursday.
"Facts are presented on the basis of... witness accounts backed by no real evidence and often made under the threat of terrorist groups."
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) published the report on Thursday listing an unprecedented increase this year in the number of attacks on civilians in central Mali.
"Community self-defense groups, jihadists insurgents... the Malian armed forces and their international partners in the Russian paramilitary group Wagner continue to commit grave crimes, fueling the cycle of violence," the report said.
"Attacks, summary executions, sexual violence: in central Mali the civilian population is in a living hell," it said.
The report also highlights "the impunity of those responsible" and "slowness of judicial proceedings."
The junta-issued document said the army operated "with strict respect for human rights and international humanitarian law" and any alleged violations were always followed by "diligent treatment" and investigations.
The use of Wagner's services was explained by stating the mercenaries' presence involves "Russian trainers and advisers" who have been in Bamako since 1960, according to the document, when "certain instructors" helped build the national army.
The Wagner Group has been widely condemned for actions in a number of African and other nations where crimes against humanity have been committed.
The government said it "totally rejects" the FIDH charges of persecution against the Peul community, which is often accused of supplying men for jihadist groups.
Bamako claimed the FIDH had ignored the "remarkable progress" the government has achieved against the jihadists, as well as efforts to stop impunity for crimes with changes underway in penal and military law, and a plan to set up a special court to handle gender crime.
The Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH), which is a member of FIDH and worked with it on a report in 2018, issued a statement saying it "dissociates itself" with the latest report because of "serious failings" involving "impartiality, objectivity and loyalty".
Mali has since 2012 seen thousands killed and hundreds of thousands flee their homes, in an insurgency that has spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.
Nigerian Cops Murdered, Executive Taken
Gunmen have killed three police escorts and abducted a local oil executive in southern Nigeria's petroleum-producing Niger delta, police said Friday, in the latest violence to hit the restive region.
"Three policemen escorting the oil executive were killed while the man was abducted and taken to an unknown destination," state police spokeswoman Grace Iringe-Koko told AFP.
Dressed in military uniform, the gunmen ambushed and opened fire on the convoy of two vehicles transporting the policemen and the senior oil executive on Thursday in the Rumuokoro area of Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State.
The attackers posing as a military patrol in a green minivan called for the convoy to stop before opening fire, she said.
Police said the kidnapped victim was a director of Port Harcourt-based oil and gas service and maintenance company IGPES Group.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Investigations are under way and police are searching for the attackers, Iringe-Koko said.
Police could not immediately disclose a motive for the attack and no group has claimed responsibility.
Kidnapping for ransom is a huge security problem in Nigeria, targeting both wealthy businesspeople as well as poor farmers who are often snatched in mass abductions in the north.
The Niger delta is home to Nigeria's multi-billion-dollar oil and gas resources, but residents of the region live in poverty due to decades of oil exploration, neglect and pollution.
A 2009 government-backed amnesty programme for the oil rebels has helped reduce attacks but sporadic incidents including large-scale oil theft persist in the region.
Nigeria, a member of OPEC and one of Africa's largest crude producers, is estimated to be losing as much as $2 billion to oil theft and pipeline sabotage in the region every year.
Mass Kidnapping Hits Nigeria
Nigerian gunmen kidnapped at least 60 people in a remote community in northwestern Zamfara state who were mostly women observing Prophet Muhammad's birthday, residents said on Thursday in the latest wave of abductions to hit the state.
Two residents said gunmen on motorbikes arrived in the Magami Tandu community of the Kaura Namoda local government area on Wednesday evening and shot sporadically.
They took mostly women who were observing Mawlid - a celebration of Prophet Muhammad's birthday, which is held between the end of September to the end of November in Nigeria's mainly northern Muslim states, the residents said
"On a daily basis there is killing or abduction, which is leaving us homeless. Please (tell) the government to act and bring justice to us," said Abdulkarim Haruna, whose wife was kidnapped.
The residents said 19 people were killed on Tuesday when gunmen attacked Ryuji community in Zamfara's Zurmi local government area, which is adjacent to Kaura Namoda.
Zamfara police spokesperson Mohammed Shehu could not be reached for comment.
Armed gangs are rife across the country's northwest where they rob or kidnap for ransom, and violence has been increasing as thinly stretched security forces often fail to stop attacks.
That has raised concern about whether residents in the region will be able to vote in the February presidential poll to choose a successor to President Muhammadu Buhari, who is constitutionally barred from running again.
New Somali - al-Shabab Clash
Militants from Somalia's al Shabaab attacked a military base in the central Galgaduud region on Friday, the group and a local government minister said, prompting violent clashes as the army and allied clans sought to repel them.
The early morning attack in the village of Qayib, which included suicide car bombs, comes as government forces have made a number of battlefield gains against al Shabab in the last three months, regaining territory with the help of clan militias.
"We had information that al Shabaab was attacking us, so last night we were all vigilant waiting for them. We hit their cars that had been loaded with bombs with rocket propelled grenades, foiling them before they entered the base," Ismail Abdulle, one of the clan fighters told Reuters from Qayib.
The information minister in Galgaduud, Ahmed Shire Falagle, said government forces had foiled the attack and was in control of Qayib.
However, Al Shabaab's military operations spokesman, Abdiasis Abu Musab, disputed that account. He said the fighters had taken Qayib, killed soldiers and stolen military vehicles. He also acknowledged al Shabaab's own forces had suffered casualties in the attack.
Both sides often give conflicting accounts of battles. Somalia's local information minister said he would provide an update on casualties later.
Somali state television, citing a ministry of information statement, also reported on Friday that 15 al Shabaab fighters had been killed in an air raid at Bulo Madino in the Lower Shabelle region.
The group has killed tens of thousands since 2006 in its fight to overthrow Somalia's Western-backed central government and implement its strict interpretation of Islamic law.
At least 120 people died in twin car bombs bombs at the education ministry in the capital Mogadishu on Oct. 29, the deadliest blasts in five years.