Tag Archives: Africa

Arms Trafficking on the Rise in Djibouti

Attention was brought this week to the growing issue of arms trafficking in the East African nation of Djibouti, which has seen a spike in recent years. Driving the problem is the instability and ongoing conflict in neighboring countries such as Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan. The negative attention comes as Djibouti is trying to establish itself as a developed and economic upstart nation.

Major reasons attributed to the growth of transnational criminal activities like these in Djibouti include widespread incidence of corruption and a lack of transparency in government. The nation’s secret police, for example, are known to allow the smuggling of humans across boarders for a payment of 100 Djiboutian francs (.60 USD). By allowing illicit activities such as human and arms trafficking to go unchecked, Djibouti could see the onset of instability and a negative impact on its national security.

Djibouti’s lack of internal conflicts, its surge of economic investments and its resulting economic growth, have all led to increased stability not present in its neighboring countries.  Driving these positive developments are its access to both the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, resulting in its labeling by some as the “most valuable real estate” in the world.

Another major component of Djibouti’s growth has been the military presence of several major world powers within its border such as the United States, France, China, and Japan. France was the first power to establish a military base there as the former colonial power in the region, although budget constraints will require them to close this in the near future. The United States has a strong military presence in Djibouti as the central location of its African-based operations known as AFRICOM. The only foreign bases of both China and Japan are in Djibouti, and India is looking to build a base there in the coming years. The main interest of these countries in Djibouti is the country’s strategic positioning near the Bab-el-Mandeb strait and the Horn of Africa.

There is, however, concern over tension between some of the previously mentioned countries that could create future instability within the small, East African nation. China has a long history of political and military conflict with Japan and India, and it is also currently locked in a trade war with the United States and is a rising challenge to global US hegemony. China has the largest presence in Djibouti, given its large development and business presence, and owns a significant amount of the nation’s debt. To this point, the United States sought reassurance earlier this year by the Djiboutian Foreign Ministry that Djibouti’s relationship to China would not overshadowed their agreement with the United States. Despite these assurances, concern over China’s heavy presence in Djibouti, and its ability to remain a neutral partner, continues to increase.

As Djibouti’s economy and international profile continue to grow, interest in the strategically located African nation will continue to increase from world powers and transnational criminals alike who look to profit from the country’s exponential rise.

Post Election Violence in Zimbabwe

Stability in the streets of Zimbabwe appeared uncertain on Friday, August 3rd, after the opposition party leader said that they would challenge the election results, going as far as to call them “fraudulent and illegal”. The recent election was the first in Zimbabwe since the fall of Robert Mugabe and was being watched by investors globally to see if the country had shed its tumultuous electoral past. The leader of the opposition party Nelson Chamisa said that his team is in the process of putting together a plan of action, but he did not give details on the next steps they would take.

The results of the election saw President Emmerson Mnangagwa win 50.8 percent of the vote while Nelson Chamisa took 44.3 percent. The disputed election results deepen an already fragile political climate in Zimbabwe.

On Wednesday violence increased in the city of Harare as the military entered with gun fire to disperse individuals protesting believed corruption in the electoral process. The police have arrested over 15 individuals partaking in these protests following the election results. The death toll has risen in recent days to six people, with at least 10 more injured.  President Mnangagwa has blamed the opposition party and its protesters for inciting the violence while the crackdown against these same protesters has been condemned by individuals all around the world.

Chamisa’s party headquarters was raided by police as a part of an investigation for allegedly inciting violence following the protests. President Mnangagwa has said that those found responsible for the violence would be brought to justice.

A credible election is needed in Zimbabwe to lift sanctions that have been placed on the economy. The United States has sanctions against President Mnangagwa due to his previous ties to Robert Mugabe. Credible elections could be  the first positive step forward in a post-Mugabe era of violence and corruption.

Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe Resigns After Impending Impeachment

After a 37-year rule, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe resigned on November 21st after an impending impeachment.

President Mugabe had refused to resign despite a military takeover, protests and the beginnings of impeachment. Mugabe’s rule has been criticized for intensified repression, election rigging, and is blamed as the cause of the country’s economic collapse.

Mugabe has repressed political opposition since becoming leader of the country, launching a suppression campaign known as the “Gukurahundi”, which targeted the opposition and reportedly killed over 20,000 civilians.

On November 15th, Zimbabwe’s military put Mugabe under house arrest and seized the headquarters of the state broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and blocked off access to government offices in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. The military said it was seeking to target criminals around Mugabe who were leading the party astray and denied that the army was carrying out a coup against Mugabe’s government.

The Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party replaced Mnangagwa as the new leader of the ruling party on November 19th. The party also told Mugabe that he had until midday Monday to resign or face impeachment.

On November 6th, President Mugabe fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa for supposedly showing traits of disloyalty. Mnangagwa was expected to replace the ailing Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s next president but his removal cleared the way for First Lady Grace Mugabe to succeed as the next president.

The army chief denounced the dismissal of VP Mnangagwa, who was viewed an ally of the army, and a day later on November 14th, military vehicles were seen on the outskirts of Harare.

ZANU-PF has been the ruling party in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. Mugabe has been the leader of the party first as Prime Minister with the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and then as President from 1988 after the merger with the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), retaining the name ZANU–PF.

During a televised address on November 19th, many believed that Mugabe was going to resign but instead he pledged to preside over the congress scheduled in December. With Mugabe’s refusal to resign he missed the deadline put in place by ZANU-PF and this led the party to begin the plans to launch the impeachment process in parliament.

Some ZANU-PF party leaders not only wanted to change its leadership but also wants to change the constitution to reduce the power of the president, a possible sign of a desire to move towards a more inclusive political system.

For years, the U.S. has taken a leading role in condemning Mugabe’s government and its increasing assault on human rights and the rule of law, and has called for establishing democratic practices. The U.S. implemented sanctions in 2001 that targeted selected individuals. These were financial sanctions against certain individuals and entities, travel sanctions against selected individuals, a ban on transfers of defense items and services, and a suspension of non-humanitarian government assistance.

After Mugabe’s resignation, the U.S. has called for leaders to move the country towards a transition that will create a political space for the country’s opposition and its people to determine the future of Zimbabwe. The U.S. has said that in order for sanctions to be lifted, Zimbabwe needs to respect legal due process and human rights, and give the opposition a genuine opportunity to form a government.

While it wasn’t widely publicized, China played a significant role in ousting Mugabe, unlike the U.S. Prior to the military takeover, countries including the U.S. and China were informed of the military plan. China reportedly provided its tacit approval and assured that China wouldn’t stop its assistance to Zimbabwe if Mugabe was deposed, under the condition that its strategic interests in the country would not compromised. The U.S. on the other hand, played no role in the plan.

China and Zimbabwe have had a close relationship under Mugabe’s rule, but in recent years, China was unhappy with Mugabe’s mismanagement of Zimbabwe’s economy which was harming Chinese investments. It is believed that China favors Mnangagwa. China is a key supplier of weaponry to Zimbabwe’s military and has two companies with major interests in the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe’s east. Mugabe revoked the Chinese licenses in 2016, in a move to nationalize Zimbabwe’s diamond mines, which further alienated the Chinese.

With China’s involvement in the resignation of Mugabe, it is likely that Zimbabwe will continue to look to China for political and economic assistance as it has since the 1990s, rather than the U.S.

It is questionable whether a Mnangagwa presidency would prove a change from the Mugabe era, given their similar history of violence. Mnangagwa served as state security chief during the Gukurahundi massacres that helped to consolidate Mugabe’s power, so it is uncertain if Mnangagwa would lead change in Zimbabwe on the human rights and democracy promotion front.

Celebration broke out in the streets of Harare after the resignation of Mugabe but it is unclear whether Mnangagwa will be accepted as the successor of Mugabe in the 2018 elections.

U.S. Airstrikes Against Al-Shabaab and the Islamic State in Somalia

From November 11th to November 12th the United States carried out three air strikes Somalia against al-Shabaab and Islamic State within 24 hours. In the airstrikes which were carried out in coordination with the Somali government, killing 81 suspected terrorists.

The first strike was carried out near Gaduud which is about 250 miles south west from Mogadishu on Saturday. The second strike occurred at 3am the next day in the lower Shabelle region about 40 miles from Mogadishu and the third strike occurred in the northern Puntland area at about 9 am, targeting the Islamic State.

The Islamic State emerged in Somalia over the past two years and many of the fighters have come from the al-Shabaab group. This is the second air strike specifically targeting the IS in Somalia this year, the first airstrike was carried out earlier in November against IS targeting a growing cell in northern Puntland.

There are roughly 200 IS members in Puntland, which coordinates with IS forces in Yemen. According to UN Documents at least one shipment of small arms was delivered to the IS fighters from Yemen.

The three airstrikes were prompted after several attacks in the past two months. The first was an al-Shabaab raid on the Somali Bala Gaduud military base in the southern port town of Kismayo that took place on September 2nd and left 20 Somali personnel dead. During this attack al-Shabaab seized significant numbers of weapons and equipment including mortars, machine guns, and AK-47s assault rifles.  The second was when al-Shabaab attacked a convoy of U.S. and Somali troops, however, it resulted in no personnel being killed or wounded.

The United States currently has about 500 troops in Somalia including special operations forces working as advisers to the Somali forces.

The United States has now carried out 26 targeted attacks in Somalia in 2017.

The Trump administration approved expanding military operations  against the terror group in Somalia in March of 2017. The U.S. military is permitted to aggressively target al-Shabaab in cooperation with the Somali government. Restrictions were removed on U.S. targeting and U.S. troops are permitted to assist Somali forces in offensive raids.

Previously under the Obama administration the military was not permitted to conduct airstrikes against the terror group unless the African Union or Somali government troops were specifically coming under attack.

With the increase of airstrikes on the Islamic State and al-Shabaab the U.S. counterterrorism initiative has stepped up to increase military aid to the Somalia government hopefully to stop the growth of the terror groups.

The Allied Democratic Forces Attacks Two UN Peacekeepers in the DRC

On October 8th two United Nations peacekeepers were killed while 12 others were injured in an attack on UN military base in Goma of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The attack was carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has been battling the ADF since 2014.

MONUSCO said it deployed attack helicopters in response to the raid. The UN helicopters fired on rebel positions inside Virunga National Park as Congolese troops fought to recover a stretch of road from the ADF.

UN troops also clashed with the ADF when the group attacked 10 civilian motorbike taxies, near the northeastern UN military base following the attack on the two peacekeepers.

Separately on October 7th, the ADF killed 22 others in an ambush in the Beni region of North Kivu Province, where state officials were coming from the border city of Nobili to spend the weekend.

Congolese authorities have blamed the ADF for many massacres of civilians between 2014 and 2016, killing more than 800 people.  More than 180,000 people have been displaced from and within the DRC.

The ADF were created in 1995, is primary located in the mountainous DRC-Uganda border area, and despite their name, the ADF are a jihadist rebel group. The Sudanese government during the 1990s were the initial funders of the ADF, it is not clear if they have stopped funding to the group.

There is also evidence from the Ugandan government that Al-Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda linked terror organization, has provided fighters and weapons to the ADF. Jamil Mukulu, leader of the ADF was arrested in 2015. Mukulu is said to have held ties to Osama Bin Laden when both were living in Khartoum, Sudan in the 1990s.

The ADF also reportedly draws inspiration and recruits from Tablighi Jamaat, a Deobandi  interpretation from the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, which was founded in India and is popular in South Asia.

Tablighi Jamaat was founded as a movement centered on proselytizing missions but has been viewed by some, including the U.S. government, as a “Terror Support Entity”, due to its role in recruiting and facilitating travel for known or suspected terrorists. However, the group claims it is not an international propagator of terrorism.

The ADF is considered a terrorist organization by the Ugandan government.

There are currently 18,316 total UN uniformed personnel operating in the DRC.

The eastern part of The DRC has continued to be plagued by recurrent waves of conflict since the 1994 Rwandan genocide when many Hutus fled into the DRC, to the 1997 second Congo war, which effected many African countries in the surrounding region up until 2003.

Congolese and foreign-backed groups, such as the ADF, have taking advantage of the power and security vacuums in the eastern parts of the country. As the situation continues to progress in the DRC, the UN has not acted swiftly to end the violence caused by the rebel group. While the ADF possess only an estimated 1,400 members, UN remains unable to end the conflict through military intervention in the regions in the northeast of the DRC and on the Ugandan border.

Iraqi and Syrian Armies Prepare for Offensives Against Two IS Cities

Major operations are underway to retake cities taken by the Islamic State (IS), one in Iraq and one in Syria. After losing the city of Palmyra to IS roughly a year ago, the Syrian Army, backed by Russian airstrikes, draws closer to the city. At the same time the Iraqi army is set to start its offensive against IS in Mosul.

Palmyra was the first city IS had taken directly from Syrian regime and allied forces, Reuters reported. While the city served as a major moral victory for the terrorist organization, it also serves as a strategic point along its area of control. The city provides IS with incredible strategic mobility, as Palmyra links the IS to its stronghold in Raqqa and parts of northern Iraq.

IS would also be losing a great deal of revenue they were making off of relics from the historic city. As IS destroys historic artifacts and relics, they increase the value of the few they sell. The black market artifact trade under Islamic State is allegedly worth around $1 billion. With airstrikes targeting IS oil fields, the group would be losing a potentially vital part of its revenue stream.

While the Syrian army is occupied with Palmyra, the Iraqi army will be beginning a multiple month operation to take back Mosul. The Iraqi army was able to recapture the city of Ramadi late last year, and continue to push IS back.

Before beginning its offensive to liberate Mosul, the Iraqi army, along with U.S. marines, are first going to push to take back oil fields near Makhmur. The Iraqi army may be trying to encircle to city while also gaining an opportunity to further damage IS’s financial operations.

While the Iraqi and U.S. led operation to claim territory outside of the city, U.S. airstrikes will target the city itself. The U.S. has led an airstrike campaign against Mosul in the past, but with the Iraqi army announcing its operation to take back the city, the number of airstrikes will likely increase.

On Sunday, March 20, 2016, it was reported a detachment of the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) was deployed to Iraq to protect Iraqi security forces retaking oil fields. The Marines, along with the U.S. advisors in Iraq, will be able to provide a great deal of support against IS, and hopefully can increase the chances of reclaiming Mosul.

While the recent advances by the Iraqi military and arrival of U.S. Marines will be beneficial to the fight against IS, reclaiming Mosul will still take months if not over a year to reclaim. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city, and it sits at roughly the same size as Philadelphia. Within Mosul lived 2 million people before IS occupied the city.

Mosul was also had the potential to be a massive area for recruitment as the population is primarily Sunni-Arab, the main demographic that IS pulls from. The sheer size of the city coupled with the potential amount of IS supporters within its boundaries will pose a massive roadblock to Iraqi and U.S. forces.

IS was able to capture Mosul in 2014, and Iraqi forces have come nowhere near reclaiming the city. Mosul lies in northern Iraq, and it serves as an important trade point as several major highways run right through the city. The city also sits along the Tigris river, which opens up the option for trade by water. In terms of resources, Mosul sits on top of pipelines that lead to Turkey that IS has used for revenue purposes.

The fight for Mosul will be further complicated by the forces who seek to liberate the city. Kurdish forces have pledged their support to retake the city and have been able to reclaim territory in the North, East, and West of the city. However, it is yet to be seen if they will be able to cooperate with any of the Shiite militias that support the Iraqi government, as neither side is especially fond of the other.

Even if Mosul is liberated, there is the question of what will happen to the predominantly Sunni population. The Sunnis have been enemies of both the Kurds and Shiites, and their liberation from IS may just turn into an occupation by Shiite or Kurdish forces.

A U.S. military spokesman stated that IS may have lost up to 40% of its territory in Iraq and roughly 20% in Syria. With Syrian forces focusing less heavily on opposition forces, they may be able to take even more territory back from IS in the near future.

The U.S. spokesman mentioned that IS massive territory loss was in part due to the group reaching its maximum expansion. IS forces may have been stretched too thin, that they were unable to provide adequate defense towards the areas which they have lost. As Iraqi and Syrian forces close in on IS, the tougher reclaiming territory will be. Iraqi forces can expect a long campaign to reclaim Mosul, and it may take even longer to reclaim Raqqa.

While IS has been losing ground in both countries, they have continued to launch attacks inside Baghdad and Damascus. In late February of this year IS killed 122 people in Damascus with several car bombs and suicide attacks. In Baghdad, IS has been active over the past several weeks, launching numerous attacks on civilians and Iraqi military personnel.

Even with IS losing territory in Iraq and Syria, they still have stronghold throughout the world. IS is growing presence within north and west Africa, and their Libyan branch looks to pose a credible threat to neighboring countries.

The loss of Palmyra would be a major strategic and financial blow to IS. However, the fight against IS in Mosul will take substantially longer. As IS continues to lose ground in Syria and Iraq they their fighters around their strongholds in the two countries making reclamation of these cities even more difficult. However, there is also the probability that fighters will move to other countries like Libya.

Boko Haram seeks to ‘remain and expand’ in West Africa

After pledging allegiance to the Islamic State this past March, the Nigerian jihadist group known as Boko Haram has increased the frequency of its attacks, which range from suicide bombings at markets to frontal assaults of Nigerian military bases.  In addition, it is expanding its operations to neighboring countries such as Niger, Chad, Benin, and Cameroon, after they established a coalition meant to defeat them.

In the latest attack, the jihadists overran a base in Yola, located in western Nigeria close to the Cameroonian border.  Reports state that soldiers fled and only a vigilante-type response from locals prevented the jihadists from taking the neighboring town, who nevertheless managed to drive off with a Russian T-72 tank. 107 soldiers are also presumed missing, which would represent a huge propaganda victory if they emerge as captured by Boko Haram.

Other operations carried out recently included village raids and abductions of teenage girls in Niger along with suicide bombings in northern Cameroon.  Both operations took place near the borders with Nigeria, which highlights the lack of an effective government military presence, as Boko Haram moves at will in and out of the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected this past March in part because of his pledge to defeat the jihadists by December, which of course is now untenable.  Along with the implacable insurgency, allegations of corruption by members of the previous administration that many perceive as score-settling have diminished his political capital among Nigerians, who are feeling the effects of the oil price crash.

While the Nigerian army reels from the recent losses, the US Treasury Department is freezing the assets of top Boko Haram commanders Muhammad Nur, who represented the jihadists in talks with the Nigerian government and is suspected of being involved in the 2011 UN compound bombing in Abuja, and Mustafa Chad, who is also suspected of directing their activities in the northern portion of Nigeria they control.

As Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiyyah (Boko Haram’s nomenclature under IS, ‘West Africa Province’) seeks to apply the Islamic State’s slogan ‘remaining and expanding’ across western Africa the need to contain and ultimately defeat them becomes more urgent, otherwise their destabilization of Nigeria and its neighbors, terrorizing of the population, and operating with impunity will only increase.

Sudan’s arms and mercenary exports fueling conflict throughout Africa

Supporting civil war factions and jihadist insurgents in Africa is par for the course for the Sudanese president, indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir.  Weapons manufactured in Sudan have been found in the Central African Republic, where the Seleka militia is engaged in a brutal power struggle with local vigilantes and factions loyal to deposed president François Bozize. In a bid to obtain influence with a neighbor that has been mired in civil warfare for decades, the Khartoum regime has applied the same strategy from its own civil war: arming human rights violators and engaging in ethnic cleansing.

Reports by independent observers have documented Sudanese weapons in the hands of the Seleka.  These are made by the state-owned Military Industry Corp., which according to this report uses Iranian and Chinese technical advisors to manufacture its armaments.  A similar report states that Iran and Sudan signed a mutual defense pact in 2007 and details Iranian exports of small arms, RPG’s, land mines, mortars, and UAV drones to Sudan.

The Seleka also receives manpower in the form of Sudanese mercenaries.  Human Rights Watch has also documented Chadian troops providing escort to Seleka fighters.  The mercenaries, having obtained experience in the Libyan revolution against Qaddafi, have now moved on to the C.A.R to bolster the Seleka forces.

The reasoning behind Khartoum’s arming and reinforcing the Seleka is clear: to have direct influence on a new regional ally in the event the Seleka manages to seize power again, or at least a seat at the table if a power sharing agreement is signed.  Beyond that, the larger strategic aim is to prevent the lawless C.A.R. becoming a sanctuary for Sudanese opposition groups.  Finally, Sudanese business enterprises, with Chinese and/or Iranian backing, are likely angling for a piece of the mineral reserves of the C.A.R.

Russia Launches Airstrikes, Explosions in China, 9/11 Lawsuit Against Saudi dismissed…

Russia conducts air strikes in Syria, boldly demands US jets withdraw

Hours after the Russian parliament approved the use of military force, Russian jets launched multiple airstrikes against targets in Homs, a vital link between Damascus and Aleppo to the north. The strikes came with just an hour warning to US forces, as a demarche delivered to the US embassy in Baghdad demanded that US fighter jets withdraw from Syrian airspace. Senior US officials note that the targeted area is free of IS elements, and that the US will continue its operations over Syria.

This development is the latest escalation by Vladimir Putin, who continues to push the envelope against the US.  While calling for a coalition against IS at the UN (which already exists but excludes Iranian allies Syria and Iran), Russia operates freely and confidently in Syria, oblivious to US pressure to bring Russia into line with the existing coalition.  Putin appears to believe that the Obama administration can be backed into a corner, and forced to acquiesce to Russian interests.

Mysterious explosions continue in China

Chinese state media is reporting that a series of parcel bombs have exploded in the southern city of Liuzhou, near the Vietnamese border.  While the authorities have ruled out a terrorist attack, the bombs were placed at shopping malls, hospitals, and government offices.  The death toll is at 7 with as many as 50 injured.

Chinese authorities are investigating the bombings as a criminal act for the moment.  While the explosions at the Tianjin port city warehouse last August were blamed on weak security procedures, today’s bombings occurred on the eve of China’s national day and were clearly coordinated.

Lawsuit against Saudi Arabia by 9-11 families dismissed

Citing sovereign immunity, federal judge George Daniels of the District Court of New York dismissed a lawsuit by a number of 9-11 victim’s families that sought compensation from the kingdom and accused members of the royal family of facilitating the attacks.  The judge’s reasoning was that the families did not present sufficient evidence of Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9-11 plot.

Even testimony from the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, was not enough to compel the judge to allow the lawsuit to proceed.  Moussaoui claimed that an unidentified Saudi prince provided financial support to him and other hijackers.  Lawyers for the families will appeal, citing the US government’s refusal to declassify the 28 pages in the 9-11 report, which plaintiffs believe implicates Saudi Arabia as the main reason for the lawsuit not to go forward.

Hunt for warlord Joseph Kony leads to uncomfortable partnerships

US Special Forces operating in remote areas of Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and the Central African Republic have been forced to partner with an Islamic militia known as the Seleka, (“Alliance”) as the U.S. hunts for notorious warlord Joseph Kony.  The Seleka, a collective of

President Obama is expected to re-authorize the approximately 100 operators to continue their efforts to capture Kony for at least another year.  Since being deployed in 2011, Special Forces have been unable to corner him, as he moves in an area the size of California and counts on corrupt government forces as well as the Seleka faction to elude capture.

Peshmerga launch major operation against IS in Kirkuk

Many Islamic State (IS) jihadists have been killed as Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched a major operation against the organization Wednesday morning. According to BasNews, Peshmerga forces have advanced on southern and western frontlines, aiming to disband IS and secure borders of Kirkuk. In the process, the Peshmerga have managed to drive the jihadists out of several villages, destroy vehicles and facilities, and disable roadside bombs and booby-traps.

Fighting amongst the two has recently slowed down since 2014, as both the central government in Baghdad as well as the US and its allies have pressured the Peshmerga to hold old off until the Iraqi government-led coalition was ready. The Peshmerga could barely keep up with the IS’s offensive last summer, however they have reconquered lost territory and are strengthening; fighting between IS and Peshmerga forces ensues throughout Iraqi Kurdistan.

Other stories we’re following:

US welcomes Russian intervention in Syria

Pentagon stops Syrian rebel training program

Saudi Arabia: military option to oust Assad on the table

Sixteen Turkish workers abducted by Shia militia in Baghdad released

Pentagon does not know what intel Iraq is sharing with Russia

Iranian boat loaded with weapons seized off the coast of Yemen

Afghan government bid to retake Kunduz from the Taliban fails

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi moves to Ramadi

French air strikes in Syria claim child victims

7 killed in suicide attack outside Baghdad

Army assault forces Burkina Faso coup strategists to abandon barracks in capital

2 killed in Central African Republic clash between gangs and militias

Russia sells 21 Bil $ worth of aircraft and satellite equipment to Iran

Pentagon: Russian build up in Syria will extend Assad’s stay in power, lengthen the conflict

Saudi Arabia and GCC rule out cooperation with Russia in Syria

Ukrainian President denounces Russia as having “license to kill” with UN veto

Pentagon official in charge of Russia and Ukraine resigns

Russian hacker sentenced to 4 ½ years in US prison

CIA cuts back staff in Beijing embassy after OPM hack

DNI Clapper: China will not stop hacking despite agreement with US

First Chinese-made aircraft carrier may launch by year’s end

2 Japanese citizens arrested and accused of spying in China

Nigerian Military Captures regional Boko Haram emir, rescues Women & Children

The Nigerian military freed 241 women and children and captured 43 suspected fighters, in raids associated with Operation Lafiya Dole, an effort to clear out the area of Banki, near the Cameroon border. The women and children are being examined to determine if they were all Boko Haram militants. It is assumed that at least some of those rescued are actually family members of Boko Haram militants.

During the raid, the Nigerian military was able to capture Bulama Modu. Modu was considered to be acting as the “Emir” or kingpin of the village of Bulakari. Troops also confiscated weapons, including some that had been buried by militants before abandoning their posts. Besides arms, ammunitions, bows, and arrows, the military also captured Modu’s horse.

Boko Haram has used Banki for cross border attacks in the past. This is the biggest hostage rescue since May, when the Nigerian army raided the Sambisa forest, freeing 700 captives. In the Sambisa operation, when Boko Haram became aware of the military approaching, they began to stone their captives, and killing others with land mines and armored cars. It is estimated that Boko Haram has captured 2,000 women and children since January 2014. Boko Haram’s goal remains to establish the Islamic State in the region.

In July, Cameroon expelled nearly 2,500 Nigerians who were living in country for safety. Most of the Nigerians had fled from Cameroon in order to take refuge from the atrocities of Boko Haram. The removal of the Nigerians took place in an attempt to prevent suicide attacks by Boko Haram jihadists who were operating in and among the refugee population. Authorities in Cameroon went as far as preventing women from wearing full face veils, worried that suicide bombers could use the bulky traditional Islamic garb to conceal weapons or explosives.

It is still unknown if any of those freed in the Banki Operation are the female students kidnapped from the village of Chibok in April 2014. Lt. Gen Tukur Burtai believes that the girls are located within the Banki area and says the Nigerian army remains committed to rescuing them. The Nigerian government has recently said that they are willing to negotiate with the terrorists for the release of the girls. It is feared that some of the girls may have been sold to other militant groups.

Boko Haram militants have repeatedly carried out deadly attacks on civilians and militia in Nigeria and other Western and Central African countries. The group is known for kidnapping civilians, especially women and children. They then indoctrinate their captives and force them to participate in terror attacks.

Nigeria stands as the leading force in fighting Boko Haram, with 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin. Boko Haram recently released an audio clip stating that the forces fighting against them have not been successful, but Nigeria has slammed this as propaganda.