BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet decided Wednesday to deploy an additional 550 troops to missions against jihadi fighters in Mali and Iraq.
They will be deployed in Mali, to relieve French forces in their fight against jihadis, and in northern Iraq, to train Kurdish troops also battling IS.
Aaaaaand whose diplomatic plates???
A spokesperson for the U.N. mission in Mali says gunmen showed up to a hotel with diplomatic license plates and AK-47s, taking 170 people hostage.
People run to flee from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. The company that runs the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital says assailants have takenhostages in a brazen assault involving grenades. (AP Photo/Harouna Traore)
Gunmen attacked a luxury hotel in Bamako, Mali on Friday, taking 170 guests and hotel staff hostage, according the company that runs the hotel.
Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore told the Associated Press that 10 gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu hotel Friday morning shouting “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” in Arabic — then fired on the guards and began taking hostages.
CNN is reporting that three people — two Malian citizens and a French citizen — have been killed in the standoff.
– Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program (Reuters, Feb 16, 2015):
The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.
That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.
Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said. (reut.rs/1L5knm0)
– Ebola vaccine trials under way in Mali (The Guardian, Oct 10, 2014):
Health workers in Mali have been given an experimental vaccine against Ebola designed to boost the immunity of those on the frontline of the battle against the disease, which has so far claimed more than 3,800 lives in west Africa.
Mali has no Ebola cases but it borders Guinea, where the outbreak began. The trials are taking place to determine whether the potential vaccine is safe and that it does at least have some sort of protective effect.
– Deadly Ebola virus spreads beyond Guinea borders, suspected in Mali (RT, April 4, 2014):
Mali authorities have reported of three suspected cases of fatal Ebola virus. Liberia is now also believed to have witnessed the outbreak, which has killed at least 84people in Guinea and alarmed the world.
“Three suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever have been detected in the country. Samples have been taken and sent abroad for analysis,” said Ousmane Kone, Health Minister of Mali, West Africa, according to AFP.
The samples of the virus were sent to scientists to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now Mali authorities are waiting for the results, which will be made public as soon as they are known.
– Facing Triple-Dip Recession, France Set To Deploy US-Made Drones In West Africa (ZeroHedge, Dec 19, 2013):
Take one serving of pre-triple dip recessionary France, add a dash of US-made drones, drop a pinch of Al Qaeda scapegoating and the now generic false flags, and let it all simmer in the latest global conflict in which the uninvited west has decided it is its moral role to intervene, and what you get is the latest hilarious development out of military superpower France, which is now preparing to unleash US drones in West Africa. The comedic possibilities one ends up with are countless.
– A Plea for Caution From Russia (New York Times, Sep 11, 2013):
By VLADIMIR V. PUTIN
What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria
MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.
Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
– THE TERROR DIASPORA: US spreads blowback nightmare (Asia Times, June 20, 2013):
The Gulf of Guinea. He said it without a hint of irony or embarrassment. This was one of US Africa Command’s big success stories. The Gulf … of Guinea.
Never mind that most Americans couldn’t find it on a map and haven’t heard of the nations on its shores like Gabon, Benin, and Togo. Never mind that just five days before I talked with AFRICOM’s chief spokesman, the Economist had asked if the Gulf of Guinea was on the verge of becoming “another Somalia”, because piracy there had jumped 41% from 2011 to 2012 and was on track to be even worse in 2013.
The Gulf of Guinea was one of the primary areas in Africa where “stability,” the command spokesman assured me, had “improved significantly,” and the US military had played a major role in bringing it about. But what did that say about so many other areas of the continent that, since AFRICOM was set up, had been wracked by coups, insurgencies, violence, and volatility?
– Islamist bombers kill 20 in Niger attacks (AFP, May 23, 2013):
NIAMEY (AFP) – Islamist militants staged twin suicide car bombings on an army base and a French-run uranium mine in Niger on Thursday, killing at least 20 people in retaliation for the country’s military involvement in neighbouring Mali.
Niger’s Defence Minister Mahamadou Karidjo said the last Islamist was neutralised at the army base and denied early reports that a suicide attacker had held young army recruits hostage.
The attacks come just four months after Al-Qaeda linked militants seized a desert gas plant in neighbouring Algeria in a siege that left 38 hostages dead, also in retaliation against the intervention in Mali.
– UK troops arrive in Mali to back up French war (PressTV, March 28, 2013):
British troops have begun arriving in Mali as part of the UK government’s commitment to help France’s war on the West African country, it has been announced.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that some 21 soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment arrived in the Malian capital of Bamako on Tuesday.
They will also be joined by further 19 troops drawn from 45 Commando Royal Marines and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery.
– Is Nigeria, And Its Light Sweet Crude, About To Be Drawn Into The Mali “Liberation” Campaign? (ZeroHedge, Feb 19, 2013):
Precisely a month ago, when we last looked at the ongoing French campaign in Mali, whose diplomatic justification before the people of the “democratic” world was the eradication of “insurgents”, and various other “Al Qaeda rebels”, we asked readers, rhetorically, to look at a map of Mali and tell us what they see.
“Nothing. Mali is one of the most irrelevant countries in West Africa from a resource standpoint, and what happens inside of it is certainly irrelevant from a greater geopolitical standpoint. What is more important is what this map doesn’t show, specifically the name of the country located a few hundred miles to the south: Nigeria.
Now Nigeria is important: very important. Or rather, Nigerian light sweet, one of the highest quality crudes in the world, is. And thanks to the “bungled” French peacemaking attempt, the US now has a critical foothold in what is the most strategically placed stretch of desert in Western Africa, a place where US “military trainers” will now be deployed at will. Be on the lookout for curious escalations in violence around the capital Abuja, and key port city Lagos, in the coming months once the current Mali fracas is long forgotten.”
It appears that Nigeria will be drawn into the fray far sooner than even we expected following today’s news that Islamist militants from neighboring Nigeria abducted a French family of seven, including four children, in northern Cameroon on Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande said. Next up: Al Qaeda is mysteriously discovered to be aiding and abetting “evil” insurgent Malians out of Nigeria, and the French campaign, with the generous and stealthy support of the US, shifts slowly but surely southward to its ultimate destination: liberating all that Nigerian light sweet oil.
– EU approves 500-strong military mission in Mali (PressTV, Feb 18, 2013):
The European Union (EU) has formally given the go-ahead to the launch of a 500-strong military mission in Mali to support France in its war on the West African country.
During a Monday session, European Union foreign ministers formally approved the final phase in setting up the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) to purportedly train the Malian army.
An American Senator says the United States is likely to play a more active military role in Mali, where a French-led war is raging, after the West African country holds elections.
“There is the hope that there will be additional support from the United States in these and other areas, but… American law prohibits direct assistance to the Malian military following the coup,” Senator Christopher Coons, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, told journalists in the Malian capital, Bamako, on Monday.
– French troops protecting Niger mine: Fight for security in Africa or..? (RT, Feb 4, 2013):
French troops have been called to protect one of Niger’s biggest uranium mines as security fears spike. Analyst John Laughland tells RT, that France taking the military lead in Mali and coming to Niger might be a sign of a continent-size interest.
Niger’s President Issoufou asked his counterpart Hollande for military help after the recent hostage crisis at an Algerian gas plant and over the growing threat of militant attacks since France launched its Operation Serval in neighboring Mali.
– US Trained Mali Rebels, Commander Visited US (Veterans Today, Jan 29, 2013):
This week, General Ham admitted US complicity in training the rebel groups in Mali. He also suggested changes which would improve America’s policy making skills and institute prohibitions on wild military adventurism. He didn’t call it that but this is what he meant.
There are several African Studies centers in the US. One at Michigan State University, where I was an active participant for some years, and the other at Howard University.
In other news:
– Mali conflict: Canada increases humanitarian aid to Mali by $13 million (Toronto Star, Jan 29, 2013)
– Soldiers trained by Canadian special forces hunted, tortured in Mali after failed coup (National Post, Jan 27, 2013):
Paratroopers trained by special forces based in Canada were behind a failed counter-coup in Mali last year to bring back a democratically elected government, but many have since been hunted down and killed by the country’s military.
Soldiers of the soldiers from the parachute regiment, 33eme RPC, were captured and later disappeared. They are believed to have been tortured and murdered by those behind Mali’s coup. Others fled to neighbouring countries.
– What Canada is doing in Mali (CBC News, Jan 28, 2013)
– Canadian special forces on ground in Mali, sources say (CBC News, Jan 28, 2013):
Harper tells MPs Parliament will be consulted on ‘any further steps’
Canadian special forces are on the ground inside the troubled West African country of Mali to protect Canadian assets there, CBC News has learned.
The special forces are not there to train Malian troops — and they are not involved in any combat role, as the government has repeatedly stressed and Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeated again Monday in the House of Commons.
The Department of National Defence would not confirm or deny the special forces are in Mali due to issues of security of personnel.
But a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs told CBC News, “Steps have been taken to ensure our mission and Canadian personnel are protected.”
– U.S. may give $32M to train African troops in Mali (USA Today/AP, Jan 26, 2013):
SEVARE, Mali (AP) — The Obama administration is seeking an additional $32 million to train African troops to fight Islamic extremists in Mali.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday the request had been made to Congress.
The United States is not providing any direct aid to the Malian government because the democratically elected president was overthrown in a coup last year.
– US starts airlifting French troops to Mali (RT, Jan 22, 2013):
The United States has begun airlifting French soldiers and equipment to Mali with its C-17 transport planes, in an attempt to push back Islamist militants that have taken over the northern half of the country.
The airlifting will continue for several days as the US aids the French government in its initiative to fight Islamists. The Malian authorities, fearing a terrorist takeover, has long requested help from neighboring countries to regain control of the north.
“The missions will operate over the next several days,” Tom Saunders, a spokesman for US military’s Africa Command, told the Associated Press.
– France imposes media blackout on Mali war (PressTV, Jan 22, 2013):
France has reportedly imposed a media blackout on its invasion of Mali amid a growing war that rages on in the West African nation.
On January 11, France launched the war under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters in Mali. However, as Paris has stepped up its ground offensive and aerial strikes in Mali few images of the conflict have come out of the African country.
French networks TF1 and France Televisions have also sent several teams to Bamako, but a media blackout on images of the clashes has confined all journalists to the city.
This comes as French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said the number of French troops on the ground in the West African country could top the initially-planned number of 2,500.
“Two thousand five hundred is what was initially announced, maybe that will be exceeded,” Le Drian said in a Saturday television interview.
Also on Sunday, Le Drian announced that Paris’ goal in the African country “is the total reconquest of Mali,” adding, “We will not leave any pockets” of resistance.
Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was preparing for around 700,000 people to flee the violence in Mali.
The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark have already said they would support the French war against Mali.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also pledged to support the French war by sending 5,800 soldiers to Mali.
Some analysts believe that Malian abandoned natural resources, including gold and uranium reserves, could be one of the reasons behind French war on the country.
– Is Mali the next Afghanistan? (McClatchy, Jan 18, 2013):
WASHINGTON — The war rages about cities with names such as Goa and Timbuktu, in a sparsely populated, mostly flat, dusty and landlocked country in northwest Africa.
The combatants include a nomadic Berber people known as Tuareg, the French Foreign Legion and a coalition of al Qaida affiliates who identify themselves with the Maghreb, the desert region of Northwestern Africa.
It sounds as if it could be the plot for a new Indiana Jones adventure. But those who study international terrorism say it would be a mistake for Americans to think of this conflict as anything but deadly serious. The war in Mali is the new front in the war on international terrorism.
– Mali Islamists tougher than France anticipated: envoys (Reuters, Jan 18, 2013)
French troops’ initial clashes with Islamist militants in Mali have shown that the desert fighters are better trained and equipped than France had anticipated before last week’s military intervention, French and other U.N. diplomats said.
The realization that the fighting could be bloodier than anticipated in the weeks — or months — ahead might make Western countries even more reluctant to get involved alongside France. French officials, however, hope it will rally their allies behind them, diplomats say.
“The cost of failure in Mali would be high for everyone, not just the people of Mali,” an African diplomat said on Thursday. Like the other diplomats, he spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military and diplomatic issues.
– Malgeria Crisis Update (ZeroHedge, Jan 17, 2013):
The situation in MalgeriaTM continues to remain uncertain but the following updates should provide some color as to where they stand currently (and a primer on the initial French intervention). Critically, Stratfor warns that the escalation in Algeria will possibly lead to further militants crossing the Mali border, further endangering Westerners and energy infrastructure (which is important as Algeria is one of the largest exports of light, sweet crude oil in the world and a significant natural gas exporter to Europe).
Stratfor 3-minute Primer:
1) In general there is chaos as FranceTV put it “it is very confusing, with no official confirmation of any of the actions being reported on”
2) Up to 35 (of the 44) Hostages have apparently been killed in the Algerian rescue (retake) operation, with hostages freed (one Irishman);
2a) All 8 of the hostage-takers have apparently been killed
Who is Mokhtar Belmokhtar?
3) A US Drone is now on site to take a look for the first time;
– France steps up Mali operation, Africans try to catch up (Reuters, Jan 15, 2013):
France hit Islamist rebels in Mali with fresh air strikes and deployed armored cars on Tuesday, stepping up its intervention in the West African state as regional allies struggled to accelerate their plans to send in troops.
Paris has poured hundreds of soldiers into Mali and carried out air raids since Friday in the northern half of the country, which was seized last year by an Islamist alliance combining al Qaeda’s north African wing AQIM with Mali’s home-grown MUJWA and Ansar Dine rebel groups.
– French Military Embarrassments Continue As Insurgents Grab More Territory In Mali (ZeroHedge, Jan 14, 2013):
As reported over the weekend, late on Friday French forces launched a military campaign, consisting primarily of airforce incursions, designed to crush the “Islamic extremists” in the country in order to protect “European interests” (it is unclear what these may be). Parallel with this came the first humiliation for French military forces as a French helicopter pilot was killed nearly at the same time as the offensive was launched. But even more embarrassing was the bungled attempt to rescue a hostage in Somalia, in which the hostage is said to have died (by France at least, not his captors), while at least one French commando is also reported to have been left behind. Moments ago, AP reported on the latest French military developments in Mali, which confirm that when it comes to the words “French military” and “success” will hardly ever be seen side by side.