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ReliefWeb - Updates

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    Source: World Food Programme
    Country: Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria

    Situation Update: Reduced food production in the Far North Region of Cameroon

    The current crisis is occurring in a context of generally reduced food production in the Far North region of Cameroon. In March, the Ministry of Agriculture reported a deficit of 41,000 mt of cereals in the region. It is estimated that these food shortages could affect some 200,000 people. Access to farmland is likely to be further challenged by the ongoing insecurity.

    Nutritional screenings of internally displaced people (IDPs) conducted by International Emergency and Development Aid (IEDA) in the Fotokol area indicate a prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) of up to 36 percent amongst young children.

    In the light of these alarming trends, WFP and partners plan to initiate a mass screening of IDPs in the conflict-affected areas.


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    Source: UN Population Fund
    Country: Nigeria

    Yola, May 18, 2015 - After the trauma of being forcefully captured from their homes, starved almost to death and violently abused by their abductors, victims of the Boko Haram insurgency begin the process of healing through psychosocial support provided by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in partnership with the Japanese Government.

    The Nigerian Military in the past weeks has rescued hundreds of women and children from the Sambisa Forest, in Borno State, a former stronghold of the insurgency group. A total of 275 victims were transferred to Malkohi camp, in Yola, Adamawa State.

    Now a free woman, Zainab Danfu tells her story. “I remember hearing gunshots and feeling afraid. I ran to save my life and that of my six children but I was not fast enough”. In the midst of the chaos she remembers the gun men saying “we are looking for your men, do not run” but she recounts running nonetheless and being captured by the insurgent group and led to Gwoza community, after which she was taken to Sambisa Forest along with other victims.

    Zainab was in her trimester at the time she was kidnapped “I lost my baby” she said as she wiped her tears with the back of her palm, “but I had to remain strong for the others”.

    Zainab Danfu is one of the groups of women receiving psychosocial support in the camp. When asked about her countenance towards her captors, she says she cannot forget what has been done to her but she hopes to overcome the anger and hurt she feels.

    “Many of the women undergoing counseling have suffered some excruciating loss” says Chris Sebum, a psychosocial specialist with UNFPA. The counseling we provide is a psychological first aid to promote their sense of safety, to restore their hope and begin the process of healing.

    A grim picture of this loss for example, is reflected in the story of Fatima Usane, a 27 year old mother of three who watched her husband killed and her three children taken away from her. Like Zainab she was pregnant but providentially, she had a safe delivery. However, the uncertainty and fear that her 3 missing children are dead has limited her joy and has had a negative setback on her physical and mental health.

    When victims go through trauma, they are often affected on 5 levels, Physical, Social, Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual. UNFPA together with the Japanese government is in the process of rehabilitating the women in a holistic and comprehensive manner, engaging them on levels of psychosocial support (PSS), except the spiritual level.

    Ms. Ratidzai Ndhlovu, the Representative to UNFPA in Nigeria said “We respond to their physical needs by the provision of dignity and reproductive Health kits and support medical costs of pregnant women; the social, emotional and intellectual needs are addressed by a combination of PSS activities such as, groups and individual counselling, psycho-education, psychiatric referral and the provision of culturally appropriate dresses to all the women and girls to replace the torn and shabby dresses they wore for months throughout their captivity.

    The Regional Director of UNFPA for West and Central Africa based in Dakar, Mr. Mabingue Ngom, went to Yola to show the solidarity of the entire organization with the rescued women. “UNFPA is committed to you, to your health and state of being. We will not stop, neither will we rest until your needs are met, your health is restored and your hope is strengthened. You are not alone”, he told them while in the camp.

    Source: Ololade Daniel, UNFPA Nigeria


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    Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
    Country: Niger


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    Source: Médecins Sans Frontières
    Country: Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria

    CHAD

    Clashes continue between the Nigerian military, other groups and members of Boko Haram (BH), causing population movement towards Chad. More than 18,000 Nigerian refugees are now in the Chad Lake area, according to UNHCR figures. BH’s trans-border activities also impact the Chadian side of the lake, with population displacement and economic changes that are creating further tensions among the different communities living in the region.

    The evacuation operation undertaken by the Government of Niger has caused further displacement into Chad. An estimated 6,000 persons have arrived to the village of Kaida Kindiria, a town on the Chadian border with Niger, which is inaccessible for security reasons. Over 2,000 persons crossed the lake to Hakoui Tchoulouma, a village located 95 km from Bagasola, where they were assisted.

    • MSF has been responding to the displacement caused by the conflict with BH in the Lake Chad region since March 2015. In collaboration with local authorities, MSF has supplied around 6,000 people in Ngouboua, Bagasola, and nearby Forkouloum with hygiene and shelter kits. The kits included blankets and plastic sheeting, as well as mosquito nets to protect against malaria, which is endemic in the region. MSF currently also runs mobile clinics in Forkouloum, carrying out around 850 medical consultations per week mainly for respiratory infections and diarrhoea. Many of the patients are Chadian residents who have been displaced as a result of the violence.

    • Psychological support has been a key part of MSF’s response. Many refugees have suffered anxiety or symptoms of depression directly linked to the violence that they witnessed or experienced. The majority of patients who MSF sees come from the Baga area in Nigeria, and fled BH violence in January 2015. MSF psychologists provide mental health care through individual and group sessions in Dar as Salam refugee camp and in Bagasola and Ngouboua. MSF also provide psychological support and medical assistance to victims of sexual violence. To date, MSF has carried out 183 mental health consultations.

    CAMEROON:

    The security situation along the border with Nigeria remains volatile, with regular incursions from BH despite a strong presence of Cameroon Armed Forces.

    Kousseri: There are approximately 30,000 refugees and 40,000 IDPs scattered around Kousseri. The majority of people are being hosted by local communities, but some have been left without any assistance. Food security and malaria are the main health issues.

    • MSF is currently negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with the health authorities to support Kousseri Hospital through surgical activities and responding to malnutrition in the area.

    Maroua: According to UNHCR there are more than 34,000 people in the camps of Minawao and Gawar, at the border with Nigeria, where refugees continue to arrive on a daily basis. In terms of security, the situation is calm but BH remains active, particularly in the Kolofata area (about 40 km north of Mokolo).

    • MSF started to work in Maroua in February, conducting water and sanitation activities in both camps and providing medical care in the camp of Gawar, where an average of 170 medical consultations are carried out weekly. MSF is also supporting the local authorities in providing pediatric and intensive nutritional care to refugees, IDPs and local population in the Hospital of Mokolo. On 27 May, approximately 26 children were hospitalised in the intensive therapy malnutrition centre and 26 were receiving pediatric healthcare.

    NIGER:

    The conflict in northern Nigeria has forced thousands of civilians to seek refuge across the border, in different settlements in the Diffa region, southern Niger. In December 2014, the United Nations estimated that 150,000 Nigerian refugees and Nigerien returnees had arrived in the area since the beginning of the crisis in May 2013. At the end of April 2015, Nigerien authorities urged communities settled on the Lake Chad islands in Niger territories (including people from Niger, Nigeria, Chad and other nationalities) to leave the area following the deadly BH attack on Karamga Island on 25 April. Thousands of people (around 25,000-30,000 including refugees and IDPs) fled their villages for towns located near the lake, including Nguigmi and Bosso. At least 5,000 refugees from Nigeria were transported to Diffa and then transported back to Nigeria in Geidam (Yobe State).

    Diffa:

    • MSF started working in Diffa last December. We were the first to respond, together with the Ministry of Health and other medical organisations, to a cholera outbreak that lasted until January 2015. In parallel, we began offering free healthcare to both refugees and the local population. In February, several BH attacks caused population displacements towards the interior of Niger and MSF’s team was evacuated for five days. People began to return late February.
    • MSF is currently supporting the regional mother and child health centre including the maternity, the pediatric ward and the laboratory, in Diffa town. MSF also provides a constant supply of water and electricity to the centre. At a peripheral level, MSF is supporting three health centres in Geskerou, Ngaroua and Nguigmi, where more than 16,000 medical consultations have been performed so far in 2015, 65% of which were for children under 5 years old. The main morbidities are reproductive tract infections, diarrhea, conjunctivitis and malaria.

    • According to the local authorities, there are currently approximately 9,000 IDPs without any assistance around Bosso, 95 km northeast of Diffa. Refugees have been forced to set up their own makeshift shelters while authorities try to organise their response. Most groups are around Yebbi (5km north of Bosso), ‘Blatoungour’ (2km of Bosso), Tchoukounjani (20 km north-west of Bosso) and Toumour (22 km west of Bosso). Security is highly volatile, with frequent BK attacks. MSF established mobile clinics in Yebbi camp (in Bosso) and in Kimegana site (Nguigmi), where MSF teams are currently providing basic health services to this displaced and isolated population. MSF will start supporting IDPs in Tchoujani and Baroua in Bosso district, as soon as the security situation permits. There is also a plan to support two additional health centres in Toumour and Baroua.

    • Given the ongoing meningitis epidemic in the country, MSF is reinforcing epidemiological surveillance in collaboration with the local health authorities. MSF also plans to support existing health facilities during the malaria peak in the coming months.

    NIGERIA:

    The security situation in northeastern Nigeria remains unpredictable and volatile. Attacks have continued in Borno State, particularly in the Kaga, Mafa, and Marte Local Government Areas (LGAs). Nigerian military operations in the Sambisa Forest, an insurgent stronghold, have resulted in the capture of four camps. Despite the Nigerian army’s major gains, return trends are erratic. There are an estimated 1.5 million insurgency-related IDPs in Nigeria, the majority in northeastern states. They have been encouraged to return to their areas of origin, but many do not have homes to go back to. Moreover, the majority of those displaced are women and children who have expressed a fear of return and face elevated risks associated with sexual and gender-based violence, forced recruitment and trafficking.

    The newly-elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will be sworn in on 29 May.

    Maiduguri (Borno’s state capital): There are 13 different IDP camps around Maiduguri. Large number of people is still displaced by violence, lacking healthcare services, shelter, and water and sanitation systems. Some 1,600 out of an expected 4,000 refugees have returned to Nigeria so far. The Nigeria State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) of Borno State established a camp for these returnees in Gubio on 9 May.

    • A monitoring/surveillance system was introduced in two camps, Federal Training Centre (FTC) and Teachers Village (TV). Children aged between 6 months and 5 years were screened for malnutrition; 21 community workers have been trained.
    • MSF currently provides primary healthcare in four IDP camps near Maiduguri: National Youth Service Scheme Camp (6,611 IDPs), Arabic Teachers College (9,880 IDPs), Teachers Village (6,500 IDPs) and Gubio (4,500 IDPs), providing around 2,000 medical consultations every week. Main morbidities are respiratory infections, malaria, malnutrition, and diarrhea.
    • MSF set up a 72-bed hospitalisation unit at the Maimusari health centre in Jere district, a slum of Maiduguri town, to provide health services to 120,0000 people who have mostly been displaced by fighting. The facility includes 12-bed maternity and 60 beds for pediatrics, nutrition and intensive care.
    • MSF has built 192 latrines and 200 shelters in several camps, and we provide 3.218 million litres of water every week.

    LAKE CHAD REGION CONTEXT OVERVIEW

    Due to BH’s activities, the situation in Northern Nigeria remains critical, particularly in Borno State. The various military operations undertaken since 2009 by the Federal Nigerian Government have highlighted its general inability to protect civilians.

    On 14 April 2014, over 270 girls were kidnapped from the Chibok secondary school, causing an international outrage and generating significant media attention. Boko Haram officially affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on 7 March 2015. The Islamic State's West Africa Province (Iswap), as Boko Haram now calls itself, aims to expand its regional influence, and has triggered a regional military response from countries including Nigeria, Niger, Chad and the Cameroon Armed Forces.

    In March 2015, Boko Haram lost control of the Northern Nigerian towns of Bama and Gwoza, believed to be their headquarters. The Nigerian authorities said that they had taken back 11 of the 14 districts previously controlled by the Islamist group, who was believed to have retreated to the Mandara Mountains, along the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

    Chad and Niger are currently coping with the impact of the violence by hosting thousands of refugees and returnees, while also facing the threat of cross-border attacks. Niger, with its population of 18 million, ranks last on the Human Development Index, while Chad falls fourth from last. According to latest figures, 2.4 million people in Chad and 2.6 million in Niger are food insecure. The international community, however, is failing to share the burden. Both countries’ humanitarian appeals are severely underfunded, at just 17 per cent for Chad and 25 per cent for Niger.


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    Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
    Country: Chad, Niger, Nigeria

    Faits saillants

    • Les besoins humanitaires se sont accentués dans la région à la suite des déplacements des populations des îles du Lac Tchad vers la terre ferme.

    • L’eau , l’hygiène et l’assainissement, la santé et les biens non alimentaires restent les besoins prioritaires identifiés à Bosso.

    • Le Directeur des opérations d e l’OCHA, M. John Ging, a effectué une visite dans la région de Diffa le 1 er mai.


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    Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
    Country: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal


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    Source: UN Development Programme
    Country: Niger

    Le Programme des Nations Unies pour le développement (PNUD) a organisé du 27 au 28 mai 2015 à Niamey, en collaboration avec la Commission Nationale pour le Contrôle et la Collecte des Armes Illicites (CNCCAI), un atelier de présentation et de validation de la stratégie nationale de communication et de sensibilisation du projet CEDEAO – Union européenne sur les armes légères et de petit calibre (ALPC) au Niger.

    Ce projet, d’un montant global de 5,56 millions d’euros, s’inscrit dans le cadre du programme régional de paix, de sécurité et de stabilité de la CEDEAO, financé par l’Union européenne. Il couvre les quatre pays de l’Union du Fleuve Mano (la Côte d’Ivoire, la Sierra Leone, la Guinée Conakry et le Libéria) et deux pays pilotes du Sahel (le Niger et le Mali) où il s’ajoute aux initiatives en cours de la stratégie de l’Union européenne pour la sécurité et le développement au Sahel. La coordination du projet est assurée par le bureau du PNUD à Abuja, qui a par ailleurs investit des fonds propres à hauteur de 100.000 dollars pour étendre le projet au Nigéria dont les zones frontalières avec le Niger sont de plus en plus infestées par les armes illicites.

    Dans de nombreux pays sub-sahariens, la prolifération et la détention illicite d’armes légères et de petit calibre restent un défi majeur qui compromet la croissance et les efforts de développement. Aussi, le projet vise-t-il à renforcer les capacités des acteurs dans les pays concernés afin qu’ils soient mieux équipés pour contrôler la circulation illicite de ces armes, à sensibiliser les populations au danger et aux effets néfastes qu’elles induisent, et à encourager la remise volontaire des armes en échange de projets de développement à base communautaire. Au Niger, ce dernier volet qui porte essentiellement sur les zones frontalières, sera mis en œuvre dans les communes d’Abala, d’Inates, de Banibangou, de Gorouol, de Tillia et de Tchintabaraden.

    Dans son allocution de bienvenue, le Président de la CNCCAI, le Général Issoufa Mamadou Maiga, a remercié l’Union européenne, la CEDEAO et le PNUD d’avoir inclus le Niger parmi les pays pilotes qui bénéficient du projet. Il a par ailleurs souligné le ferme engagement de son institution à « déployer tous les efforts nécessaires pour arriver à des résultats probants ».

    Mme Martine Thérer, Représentant résident adjointe du PNUD, Directrice du programme, a rappelé que le PNUD appuie depuis longtemps les efforts du Gouvernement nigérien, et notamment de la CNCCAI, en matière de sécurité des personnes et des biens, y compris à travers le déminage humanitaire et la sensibilisation au danger des armes légères et de petit calibre. Elle a noté que les armes légères et de petit calibre n’occupent pas souvent le devant des grands débats, mais « tuent chaque jour, exacerbent les conflits et engendrent une culture de la violence et de l’impunité qui sape les efforts de développement ».

    Ouvrant officiellement les travaux de l’atelier, M. Ibrahim Yacouba, Ministre - Directeur de Cabinet Adjoint du Président de la République, a rappelé que, « conscient de la problématique des armes légères de petit calibre sur le développement du pays, le Niger a souscrit à différentes conventions régionales et internationales sur les armes aux fins de contribuer en tant que nation éprise de paix, à la promotion de la sécurité internationale ». Il a remercié tous les partenaires qui aident le Niger à collecter les armes illicites et exprimé le souhait que ces efforts permettent d’arriver à la « dépollution totale du territoire ».

    Les participants à l’atelier se sont ensuite penchés sur le projet de stratégie de communication de la CNCCAI en vue de l’enrichir et de doter le Niger d’un instrument efficace de sensibilisation sur les avantages d’un environnement sans armes.


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    Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, REACH Initiative
    Country: Niger


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    Source: UN News Service
    Country: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger

    29 mai 2015 – Le Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés (HCR) a déclaré vendredi que la reprise des combats entre les groupes armés dans les régions de Gao, Mopti et Tombouctou, au nord du Mali, a forcé environ 57.000 Maliens à fuir leur domicile au cours des quatre dernières semaines.

    « La situation sécuritaire volatile entrave l'accès des travailleurs humanitaires à toutes les zones touchées et l'insécurité croissante dans la région entrave fortement les capacités à fournir une protection et de l'assistance aux personnes nouvellement déplacées », a déclaré un porte-parole du HCR, William Spindler, lors d'une conférence de presse à Genève

    M. Spindler a expliqué que les nouveaux déplacés viennent s'ajouter aux plus de 43.000 personnes déplacées à travers tout le pays et qui ne sont toujours pas rentrées chez elles depuis l'éclatement du conflit en 2012 entre les forces gouvernementales et les groupes rebelles. Le nombre total de personnes déplacées internes au Mali, a-t-il estimé, s'élève désormais à un peu plus de 100.000 personnes, principalement dans la partie nord du pays.

    La détérioration de la situation sécuritaire est intervenue quelques jours après la signature d'un accord de paix, le 15 mai dernier, entre le gouvernement et plusieurs groupes armés dans la capitale Bamako. Les personnes les plus touchées par les déplacements de population vivent dans la région de Tombouctou, où plus de 53.000 déplacés ont été enregistrés, a indiqué le porte-parole du HCR.

    Le gouvernement du Mali a également signalé le déplacement forcé de quelque 2.350 personnes dans la région de Gao et un peu plus de 1.600 dans la région de Mopti.

    « Nos équipes dans le nord du Mali ont parlé à quelques-uns des nouveaux déplacés qui ont dit qu'ils avaient fui leurs villages à cause de la peur de la violence ou du recrutement forcé par les groupes armés », a déclaré M. Spindler.

    Ces évènements surviennent alors que les maliens réfugiés dans les pays voisins au Burkina Faso, en Mauritanie et au Niger avaient commencé à retourner dans leur pays. Le HCR a confirmé le retour de 16.500 d'entre eux, dont 1.121 depuis janvier 2015. Environ 137.500 réfugiés maliens se trouvent toujours dans les pays voisins, y compris 33.400 au Burkina Faso, 52.000 en Mauritanie, et quelques 50.000 au Niger.


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    Source: UN Security Council
    Country: Mali

    SC/11914-AFR/3147-PKO/493

    The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Raimonda Murmokaitė (Lithuania):

    The members of the Security Council deplored the shooting incident that took place in Bamako, Mali, on 25 May 2015, during which a Bangladeshi peacekeeper of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was killed and another injured. The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the explosion of a mine on a MINUSMA convoy, in which the Force Commander and Police Commissioner of MINUSMA were present, on 28 May 2015, in the region of Timbuktu, and which left three peacekeepers injured.

    The members of the Security Council expressed their deepest condolences to the family of the victim of these attacks, as well as to the Government and people of Bangladesh.

    The members of the Security Council called on the Government of Mali to swiftly investigate these attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice and stressed that those responsible for the attack should be held accountable. The members of the Security Council underlined that attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law.

    The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.

    The members of the Security Council reminded States that they must ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.

    The members of the Security Council reiterated their full support to MINUSMA and the French forces that support it. The members of the Security Council expressed their particular gratitude to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mali, Mongi Hamdi, and to MINUSMA to assist the Malian authorities and the Malian people in their efforts to bring lasting peace and stability to their country, as mandated by the Security Council in its resolution 2164 (2014), and paid tribute to the peacekeepers of MINUSMA who risk their life in this respect. The members of the Security Council recalled their call on all parties in Mali to cooperate fully with the deployment and activities of MINUSMA.


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali

    Gao, Mali | AFP | samedi 30/05/2015 - 07:22 GMT

    par Michel MOUTOT

    Les soldats français de la base de Gao, principale ville du nord du Mali, affrontent un ennemi invisible passé maître dans l'art de l'esquive et du harcèlement, explique à l'AFP leur chef, le colonel Luc Lainé.

    Plus de deux ans après l'opération "Serval", qui a mis en déroute les colonnes jihadistes qui avançaient vers le Sud et la capitale, Bamako, "les groupes armés terroristes dans notre secteur ne sont plus en mesure de mener des actions coordonnées", assure le colonel Lainé.

    "Ils ont subi, depuis Serval, une forte attrition. Ils n'ont plus la liberté d'action sur le terrain", mais "ils existent toujours", prévient-il.

    "Ils sont disséminés, ils nous observent, sont invisibles. Les actions qu'ils mènent sont décousues, pas ciblées, il n'y a pas de fil directeur", précise l'officier, qui commande en France le 21e régiment d'infanterie de marine (Rima), basé à Fréjus, dans le sud du pays.

    Peu après 04H00 vendredi, Journée internationale des Casques bleus, une roquette tirée d'un plateau surplombant Gao est tombée dans l'enceinte du camp (voisin de celui des Français) de la force de l'ONU, la Minusma, endommageant sans faire de victime un hangar du contingent néerlandais, selon les troupes françaises.

    "C'est ce qui est dur: nous luttons contre un ennemi invisible", poursuit le colonel Lainé. "Leur mode d'action est l'évitement et le harcèlement. Ce qui est difficile, c'est qu'on ne les voit jamais, mais on sait qu'ils nous observent".

    "Le risque, c'est de se relâcher car, ne les voyant pas, on peut croire qu'ils ne sont pas là. Donc on peut être moins vigilant, et donc devenir vulnérable", souligne-t-il.

    Il montre, scotchée au mur de son bureau, une photo de l'Algérien Mokhtar Belmokhtar, l'un des principaux chef jihadistes opérant au Sahel.

    "C'est pour ça que je l'ai mis en photo: pour me rappeler qu'il existe, et qu'il me veut du mal. Ils sont toujours là, mais de manière diffuse, furtive. Ils ne peuvent plus mener d'action de combat d'envergure, mais peuvent exploiter le moindre moment d'absence de vigilance".

    • 'Difficile de faire la distinction' -

    "Ils sont intelligents, se sont adaptés: ils cachent leur armement. S'ils se déplacent en 4x4, ce n'est plus jamais en convoi, mais un par un. Pour nous, faire la distinction entre le trafiquant, le terroriste, le gars du MNLA (Mouvement national de libération de l'Azawad, rébellion touareg), c'est délicat", reconnaît l'officier français.

    "Certains se vendent au plus offrant, c'est une façon de vivre pour certains ici. Tant qu'ils ne nous ont pas tiré dessus, nous avons du mal à savoir à qui nous avons à faire", dit-il.

    Installé avec ses quelque 700 hommes dans un camp de tentes et de bâtiments en dur proche de l'aéroport de Gao, le colonel Lainé commande le Groupe tactique désert (GTD) Ouest, l'une des deux composantes de l'opération "Barkhane", qui a succédé à "Serval" et s'étend à tout le Sahel, et dont le quartier général est à N'Djamena (Tchad).

    Si ses hommes partent régulièrement en patrouille dans toute la région, pour des missions de reconnaissance et pour montrer leur force, le colonel Lainé sait que l'ennemi invisible peut difficilement être surpris - à part lors d'opérations commando montées par les forces spéciales, comme celle qui a permis l'élimination, le 18 mai, de deux importants chefs jihadistes, Abdelkrim al-Targui et Ibrahim Ag Inawalen.

    "Nous savons bien qu'ils observent tout ce qu'on fait", assure l'officier. "Dès qu'on bouge, dès qu'on sort d'ici, ils sont prévenus. Pour nous, il est très difficile de faire la distinction entre le gars qui téléphone à son patron ou à sa femme et celui qui téléphone à son chef de groupe terroriste".

    "Après voir libéré le pays en 2013, notre but est maintenant qu'il ne puisse redevenir un territoire hospitalier pour eux", conclut-il. "Nous devons les empêcher de refaire ce qu'ils ont fait en 2013. Notre but est que l'armée malienne et la Minusma prennent à terme cette mission en charge".

    mm/sst/cs/sba/mba

    © 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria

    Maiduguri, Nigeria | AFP | Saturday 5/30/2015 - 07:31 GMT

    Nigeria's military on Saturday repelled a Boko Haram attack on the key northeast city of Maiduguri that saw rocket-propelled grenades fired into homes, witnesses and security sources said.

    The Islamists' assault on the Borno state capital came a day after President Muhammadu Buhari's inauguration, with the new leader vowing to re-enforce Maiduguri with a new command and control centre to better coordinate the counter-insurgency effort.

    Shortly after midnight (2300 GMT Friday), residents in the Dala suburb south of the city woke to the sound of RPGs being fired in succession, said resident Modu Karumi, in an account supported by several others.

    Witnesses said hundreds of Islamist gunmen were trying to advance on the city, which is now home to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by unrest in other parts of Borno state.

    An AFP reporter who lives in the area said he heard what sounded like armoured personnel carriers deploying to the southern edge of Maiduguri to face the rebel advance.

    Dala resident Alhaji Bukar said he saw at least one RPG fall into a private home, but details on casualties were not immediately clear.

    Locals reported other residential homes being hit.

    Three senior security sources in Maiduguri who were not authorised to speak publicly said the attack had been repelled.

    "All is under control. There is no cause for alarm," one of those sources told AFP.

    The sound of RPGs and gunfire has also eased, residents and an AFP reporter said.

    Experts doubt that Boko Haram currently has the capacity to seize Maiduguri, but a major attack inside the city would likely be disastrous for civilians.

    The Islamist rebels have been flushed out of several Borno state towns they controlled in an offensive launched in February by Nigeria with backing from neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

    But there are signs of the militants regrouping, particularly in the remote parts of eastern Borno near the Cameroon border.

    Buhari in his inaugural address on Friday vowed to intensify the fight against Boko Haram, notably by shifting operational command from the capital Abuja to Maiduguri.

    His predecessor Goodluck Jonathan's performance against the militants was heavily criticised, with the conflict killing more than 15,000 people since 2009 and forcing another 1.5 million from their homes.

    Buhari, a former army general, insists the uprising can be defeated and has placed the Boko Haram effort at the top of his administration's agenda.

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    © 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria

    Lagos, Nigeria | AFP | Saturday 5/30/2015 - 09:24 GMT

    by Phil HAZLEWOOD

    Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari has made an early pledge in the fight against Boko Haram, announcing a surprise restructuring in the command structure of the country's counter-insurgency operations.

    In his inaugural speech on Friday, the 72-year-old former military ruler said the counter-insurgency in the restive northeast would no longer be directed from the capital.

    "Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory cannot be achieved by basing the command and control centre in Abuja," he said after swearing the oath of office.

    "The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued."

    Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, is where the Islamist group was founded in 2002 and has been repeatedly targeted after the movement turned violent from 2009.

    The military on Saturday repelled a fresh attack on the city.

    Yan St-Pierre, head of the Modern Security Consulting Group, said Buhari's relocation plan was "very sound", allowing more streamlined communications between decision-makers, strategists and troops on the ground.

    "In short, this denotes a more hands-on approach to the fight against Boko Haram," the counter-terrorism consultant told AFP in an email exchange.

    • Oversight, coordination -

    Under former president Goodluck Jonathan Nigeria's military was seen as largely ineffective against Boko Haram until a fightback began this year with neighbours Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

    Despite massive annual defence spending, Nigerian troops claimed they lacked adequate weapons to take on the better-armed militants, as well as not having enough food or being paid on time.

    Buhari, a former army general, has vowed to overhaul the military, stamping out corruption and reviving a reputation that was rubbished during Jonathan's regime.

    New weapons and hardware have been procured since late last year, and with the help of private security contractors, many of them from South Africa, the military has gained the upper hand.

    Ryan Cummings, chief Africa analyst at the Red24 consultancy group, however, saw the switch from Abuja to Maiduguri as "more of a symbolic gesture".

    "I think Buhari is trying to debunk a common-held perception that Nigeria's northeast is considered to be of little consequence to the Nigerian state and, as such, the security of the region is not a priority to an Abuja-hosted regime," he said.

    "Buhari may also be consciously addressing the root causes, and not only the symptoms of the insurgency, by extending governance to spaces where it has been limited and/or absent."

    Directing operations closer to the field could help improve coordination in the coalition, which although together on paper, has effectively operated independently, said St-Pierre.

    "It also sends a very strong message to everyone involved. Buhari is taking the fight against BH very seriously and will take the necessary measures to ensure success."

    Buhari made no specific mention of Chad, Niger and Cameroon in his speech, other than to thank them "for committing their armed forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria".

    Whether he will continue the partnership is unclear, although N'Djamena recently extended its troops' mandate to operate in the counter-insurgency.

    The new head of state did not mention the African Union multi-national force or wider international initiatives taken in light of Boko Haram's allegiance to the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

    Analysts see regional co-operation as key to defeating the militants, who have been pushed out from captured territory and towns and are thought to be taking refuge in border areas.

    • Human rights -

    Nigeria's military has long been accused of excesses in its pursuit of Boko Haram, including arbitrary detention, torture and extra-judicial executions of civilians.

    At least 15,000 people have been killed during the insurgency and more than 1.5 million made homeless, sparking what the Red Cross says is "one of the most serious humanitarian crises in Africa".

    Buhari pledged to "overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations" during military operations and bring offenders to book.

    "The promises of improving operational and legal mechanisms and taking disciplinary measures are all to be welcomed," said Amnesty International's Netsanet Belay.

    "But the new government needs to go beyond this and ensure proper accountability for crimes committed in the context of the conflict.

    "The new administration is indeed presented with a unique opportunity to break the cycle of impunity in Nigeria," he added.

    phz/bs

    © 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Nigeria

    Maiduguri, Nigeria | AFP | Saturday 5/30/2015 - 20:17 GMT

    by Bukar Husain

    A suicide bombing killed 26 people inside a mosque in northeast Nigeria's city of Maiduguri on Saturday, hours after Boko Haram launched a separate attack, on the first full day of President Muhammadu Buhari's term.

    Buhari, who took the oath of office on Friday, vowed in his inaugural address to crush the Islamist insurgents whom he described as "mindless" and "godless".

    The mosque bombing in the Borno state capital was carried out by an assailant who pretended to be a worshipper joining afternoon prayers, police and witnesses said.

    Earlier, the military repelled an overnight attack launched by insurgents who fired rocket-propelled grenades into homes in a bombardment that lasted several hours.

    Buhari in his inaugural speech announced plans to reinforce Maiduguri with a new command and control centre to better coordinate the counter-insurgency effort, a move analysts said signalled his commitment to intensifying the fight.

    It was not clear if the fresh violence in the strategically crucial city was timed to come the day after the inauguration.

    But the new president will likely be tested repeatedly in the coming months by a militant group that has proved resilient over its six-year uprising.

    • Suicide attack -

    The bomber blew himself inside the Alhaji Haruna mosque next to Maiduguri's Monday Market just after afternoon prayers began at roughly 3:30 pm (1430 GMT), Borno police chief Aderemi Opadokun and witnesses said.

    "The roof was blown off and fire destroyed the mats and a few Korans," market trader Nura Khalid told AFP.

    Opadokun said 26 were killed and 28 others injured, describing the assailant as a suicide bomber with an improvised explosive device strapped to his body.

    While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the Monday Market has over the past year been hit by several suicide bombings blamed on Boko Haram.

    • Midnight assault -

    Shortly after midnight (2300 GMT Friday), residents in the Dala suburb south of Maiduguri woke to the sound of RPGs being fired in succession as Boko Haram fighters tried to advance towards the city, witnesses said.

    "It was a nightmare," Dala resident Malam Yusuf told AFP. He said his own home was hit and his wife's foot was "blown off".

    "RPGs kept flying and falling on homes," he said.

    Maiduguri-based vigilante Babagana Bulunkutu said several houses were destroyed as Islamist gunmen fired indiscriminately in Dala and two neighbouring suburbs.

    An AFP reporter who lives in the area said he heard what sounded like armoured personnel carriers deploying to the southern edge of the city to face the rebel advance.

    Three senior security sources in Maiduguri who were not authorised to speak publicly said the attack had been repelled.

    "All is under control. There is no cause for alarm," one of those sources told AFP.

    A death toll for the overnight attack was not immediately available, but residents reported corpses being taken from homes.

    • New administration -

    The Islamist rebels have been flushed out of several Borno state towns they controlled in an offensive launched in February by Nigeria with backing from neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

    But there are signs of the militants regrouping, particularly in the remote parts of eastern Borno near the Cameroon border.

    Buhari in his inaugural speech noted the successes of the four-nation offensive but said Boko Haram would not be defeated until operational command was shifted from the capital Abuja to Maiduguri.

    "This denotes a more hands-on approach to the fight against Boko Haram," said Yan St-Pierre, head of the Modern Security Consulting Group, describing the move as "very sound."

    Buhari's predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, was heavily criticised for his performance against the militants, with the conflict killing more than 15,000 people since 2009 and forcing another 1.5 million from their homes.

    Buhari indicated the uprising could have been contained in the early stages but flourished due largely to "official bungling, negligence (and) complacency."

    Victims of the conflict, especially in the northeast, voted overwhelmingly for Buhari in March polls, in part because the ex-army general is seen as a strong commander-in-chief.

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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali

    Bamako, Mali | AFP | samedi 30/05/2015 - 20:34 GMT

    Un élu local a été assassiné par des hommes armés à Tombouctou (nord du Mali), une région où des milliers de personnes fuient l'insécurité, a-t-on appris samedi de source sécuritaire, confirmée par un habitant et le Programme alimentaire mondial.

    "Mohamedou el Maouloud Ag Mohamedoun, élu communal de la région de Tombouctou, a été assassiné vendredi par des hommes armés sur un site de déplacés", a affirmé à l’AFP une source sécuritaire malienne contactée par l'AFP depuis Bamako par téléphone.

    L'information a été confirmée par un membre de la famille de la victime, qui a précisé que M. Ag Mohamedoun a été tué à Halima, une localité située à environ 100 km de Tombouctou.

    "Les assassins sont venus en voiture. Ils ont tiré sur mon oncle. Tout le monde a fui. Nous vivons vraiment dans l’insécurité la plus totale. Les populations se déplacent, se sauvent à cause de l’insécurité", a affirmé la même source.

    Le Programme alimentaire mondial (PAM) a indiqué cette semaine, dans un communiqué, qu'"environ 31.000 personnes ont été obligées de fuir au cours des deux dernières semaines, la plupart dans la région de Tombouctou, suite à une escalade d’attaques par des groupes armés". Plus de 500 autres personnes ont traversé la frontière vers le Niger, la Mauritanie et le Burkina Faso voisins, a-t-il ajouté.

    L'organisation affirme fournir actuellement "une assistance alimentaire à quelque 29.000 personnes déplacées suite à la recrudescence de (la) violence dans le nord du Mali" dans la région de Tombouctou, sans donner d'autres précision.

    L'organisation humanitaire OCHA avait estimé début mail à environ 15.000 le nombre de personnes déplacées dans la région de Tombouctou, à cause de l'insécurité.

    Le nord du Mali est tombé en mars-avril 2012 sous la coupe de groupes jihadistes liés à Al-Qaïda après la déroute de l'armée face à la rébellion, d'abord alliée à ces groupes qui l'ont ensuite évincée.

    Bien que les jihadistes aient été dispersés et en grande partie chassés de cette région par l'opération Serval, lancée en janvier 2013 à l'initiative de la France - relayée depuis août 2014 par Barkhane, dont le rayon d'action couvre l'ensemble du Sahel - des zones entières échappent encore au contrôle des autorités.

    sd/mrb/mct

    © 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse


    0 0

    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali

    Alger, Algérie | AFP | dimanche 31/05/2015 - 13:42 GMT |

    Le représentant des principaux groupes de la rébellion touareg au Mali s'est dit convaincu dimanche que les consultations en cours à Alger autour de l’accord de paix signé le 15 mai seraient couronnées de succès, a rapporté l'agence de presse APS.

    L'accord de paix vise à instaurer une paix durable dans le nord du Mali, qui a connu une série de révoltes touareg depuis les premières années d'indépendance du pays, en 1960. Il a été signé par le gouvernement et la médiation internationale, mais pas par tous les groupes de la rébellion.

    Une nouvelle série de consultations a débuté cette semaine à Alger pour essayer de parachever le processus de signature de l'Accord dans les plus brefs délais, selon la médiation internationale pour les pourparlers inter-maliens.

    "Nous restons convaincus que les efforts et les discussions en cours en Algérie seront couronnés de succès", a déclaré Bilal Ag Cherif, représentant et chef de la délégation de la Coordination des mouvements de l'Azawad (CMA).

    M. Ag Cherif a ajouté que ces "efforts permettront à toutes les parties de parachever leur accord qui constitue la base de la stabilité, de la paix, de la justice et du développement au Mali".

    "Nous sommes en Algérie, où ont été entamées les négociations qui ont permis de conclure l'accord de paix signé le 15 mai à Bamako, pour parachever ce processus", a précisé le représentant du CMA, qui s'exprimait à l'issue d'une rencontre avec le chef de la diplomatie algérienne, Ramtane Lamamra.

    abh/ao/cbo/feb


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    Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies
    Country: Chad

    This report covers the period 01/January/2014 to 31/December/2014

    Overview Chad is a landlocked country located in Central Africa and is facing since several years many humanitarian, social, health, and economic challenges. These challenges are due in particular to the effects of climate change, natural disasters and ethnical conflicts. Political instability in neighbouring countries of Chad has led to an influx of returnees and refugees fleeing the fighting in their respective countries. Health epidemics such as Cholera, meningitis and polio are recurrent and annual flooding experienced in the country has resulted in human and material losses. Over 1,000,000 in the north east of the country are food insecure and hundreds of thousands of under age children are severely malnourished.

    The Red Cross of Chad is as an auxiliary to the government in the humanitarian field and has nationwide presence which makes it the sole national organization able to respond promptly and provide humanitarian aid throughout the country. In 2014, the Red Cross of Chad (RCC) with the support of Movement and nonMovement partners responded to population movement as well as the management of Sudanese refugee camps through the provision of basic needs as well as initiated a community resilience project.

    Chad is a large but sparsely populated land-locked country, with a population of 12,448,000 (according to the last census carried out in 2009), bordered by Sudan, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroun and the Central African Republic (CAR). Roughly 60 percent of the national territory is desert, 25 percent falls in the semi-arid Sahel belt, while the remaining 15 percent approaches sub-tropical conditions but is subject to flooding.

    The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2013 Human Development Index places Chad 184 out of the 187 countries. The Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is USD 1,258 per person. Life expectancy at birth is 49.9 years while the 2013 maternal mortality rate per 1,000 births is 150 deaths.

    Chad relies on oil revenues (20 percent GDP), foreign assistance and foreign capital for most public and private sector investment projects. Oil exports started in 2004 and the peak production capacity of known oil fields has already been reached. Cotton and cattle provide the bulk of Chad’s non-oil export earnings.

    Officially, at least 80 percent of Chad’s population relies on subsistence farming and raising livestock for its livelihood. Although difficult to quantify, remittances are also important source of income. Inflows of remittances to Chad’s impoverished Sahel regions from Libya have dried up since the conflict there in 2011, and this continues to affect an already fragile livelihood base. Eight of nine regions of Chad’s Sahel belt present Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rates above emergency thresholds. This not only points out to a difficult food security situation but also to the complex nature of malnutrition in Chad, where land access and access to basic health care, clean water, hygiene and appropriate infant feeding practices are a major challenge.

    The country’s health and nutrition policy is based on the National Health Programme (NHP) which aims to make the health system more efficient, reinforce preventive measures and better meet the needs of the most vulnerable groups. In addition, the health ministry has adopted a road map to reducing maternal and infant mortality by 2015. These government initiatives are faced with challenges of staff shortages and currently stand at 1 physician for 29 420 patients, lack of modern equipment and drug shortages. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recent reports indicate that overall rate of acute malnutrition in Chad ranges between 15.2 to 24.9 percent against the 15 percent WHO threshold for critical malnutrition crises. The country`s education policy under the SNRP-II (Stratégie Nationale de Réduction de la Pauvreté II) is focused on raising the educational level of the entire population. The target for gross primary school enrolment has been substantially exceeded with net primary enrolment rates at 67 percent for girls and 77 percent for boys. Secondary school enrolment has also increased over the years and is estimated at about 13 percent annually.

    The strengthening of relations between Chad and Sudan in early 2010 has led to a remarkable improvement in security in the eastern part of the country. The deployment of a joint Chadian-Sudanese border monitoring force has largely prevented cross-border incursions by rebel groups and armed banditry activities from either side. However, the majority of the 264,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad are reluctant to return home due to the continuing instability in Darfur. The political situation in Central African Republic (CAR) is volatile and some 64,000 CAR refugees are in the southern part of the country with no prospect of returning home in the near future. The continued ethnical tensions in Darfur, have led again to an influx of refugees and returnees.

    Over the last 5 years, the Red Cross of Chad with the support of Movement, non-Movement partners and the Chad government has grown into a well-recognized national organization with the ability to reach and offer assistance to vulnerable communities throughout the country. With a presence of a strong network of volunteers in all the 23 regions, the National Society has gained confidence of the government.


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    Source: Famine Early Warning System Network
    Country: Nigeria

    Continuing conflict limits participation in main season activities

    KEY MESSAGES

    • As conflict in the northeast continues, participation in land preparation activities in anticipation of the rainy season is very limited compared to normal. Population displacements to urban areas also continue. Additionally, market functioning remains significantly disrupted in the Lake Chad region.

    • Between July and September, areas of southern Yobe, central and northern Borno, northern Adamawa, as well as the IDP settlement area of greater Maiduguri are expected to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity.
      Households in these areas who have been worst affected by conflict face reduced market access and limited participation in their livelihoods.

    • Boko Haram conflict will also contribute to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security outcomes throughout the rest of Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa between May and September. Household food availability and access will become further reduced during this last six months of the consumption year for poor households directly and indirectly impacted by conflict.


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali

    Nouakchott, Mauritanie | AFP | lundi 01/06/2015 - 00:44 GMT

    Al-Qaïda au Maghreb islamique (Aqmi) a revendiqué deux attaques contre la force de l'ONU au Mali, la Minusma, cette semaine dans le nord du pays, rapporte dimanche l'agence privée mauritanienne Al-Akhbar.

    Aqmi a revendiqué "une attaque aux roquettes contre une base de la Minusma le 25 mai" dans le nord du Mali, sans autre précision, dans un appel téléphonique à l'agence d'un porte-parole d'Aqmi, Abderrahmane Al-Azawadi.

    Elle a également revendiqué l'attentat à l'explosif ayant visé le 28 mai un convoi dans lequel se trouvaient les chefs des militaires et des policiers de la Minusma, affirmant qu'il avait fait trois tués parmi les Casques bleus, et non trois blessés comme l'a annoncé la force de l'ONU.

    La Minusma avait fait état de "trois Casques bleus originaires du Burkina Faso" blessés lors de cette attaque et indiqué que le "convoi de la Minusma" avait "heurté une mine sur l'axe Teherdge-Tombouctou (nord-ouest), sans mentionner la présence des chefs des effectifs militaires et de la police.

    Le général danois Michael Lollesgaard, commandant de la force militaire, et le chef djiboutien de la police de la Minusma, Awale Abdounasir, se trouvaient à bord de ce convoi, avaient indiqué à l'AFP des sources au sein de la Minusma.

    "Il est clair que c'est le convoi des deux premiers chefs des forces militaire et policière qui était visé, puisque quelques heures avant d'emprunter ce tronçon, les vérifications sécuritaires ont été faites", avait indiqué à l'AFP une source de sécurité de la Minusma à Tombouctou, jugeant "très probable" que les mines aient été posées peu après.

    Le Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU a condamné cette attaque dans un communiqué le 29 mai, confirmant la présence dans le convoi des chefs de la force militaire et de la police.

    Cette attaque intervenait à la veille de la Journée internationale des Casques bleus, alors que la Minusma - déployée dans le sillage de l'opération Serval, lancée en janvier 2013 à l'initiative de la France contre les jihadistes - est "la plus coûteuse en vies humaines" depuis la Somalie dans les années 1990, selon l'ONU.

    Dans un discours vendredi à Bamako, le numéro deux de la Minusma, le représentant spécial adjoint du secrétaire général de l'ONU Arnauld Akodjénou a salué le "lourd tribut que nos Casques bleus" ont payé en moins de deux ans: "35 sont morts suite à 78 attaques hostiles, 249 ont été blessés, dont 155 grièvement."

    "Au regard du vaste territoire à couvrir, la Minusma ne peut être partout. Elle n'en a ni les ressources, ni les moyens", avait-il souligné.

    Depuis son déploiement en juillet 2013, "le nombre de Casques bleus morts au nom de la paix au Mali s'élève à 35, soit 1,06% de l'ensemble des soldats de la paix tombés au cours des 71 missions de l'Histoire", avait rappelé la Minusma la veille.

    Le nord du Mali était tombé en mars-avril 2012 sous la coupe de groupes jihadistes liés à Al-Qaïda après la déroute de l'armée face à la rébellion, d'abord alliée à ces groupes qui l'ont ensuite évincée.

    Bien que les jihadistes aient été dispersés et en grande partie chassés de cette région par "Serval", relayé depuis août 2014 par "Barkhane", dont le rayon d'action s'étend à l'ensemble sahélo-saharien, des zones entières échappent encore au contrôle des autorités.

    hos/mrb/sst/myl

    © 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali

    Nouakchott, Mauritania | AFP | Monday 6/01/2015 - 02:12 GMT

    Al-Qaeda's North Africa arm has claimed responsibility for two attacks against the United Nation's MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali this week, the Mauritanian Al-Akhbar news agency reported Sunday.

    Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said it was behind a "rocket attack on a MINUSMA base" in northern Mali on Monday and a landmine explosion Thursday targeting a UN convoy in the restive north, according to Al-Akhbar, citing AQIM spokesman Abderrahmane Al-Azawadi.

    The Al-Akhbar agency regularly carries jihadist statements.

    On Thursday, MINUSMA announced that three Burkina Faso peacekeepers were wounded when their convoy triggered at least one mine in the Timbuktu region.

    The AQIM spokesman however said the mine blast had caused "three deaths", Al-Akhbar reported.

    MINUSMA commander Major General Michael Lollesgaard from Denmark and the mission's police chief Abdounasir Awale were part of the convoy, MINUSMA sources told AFP.

    A MINUSMA security source based in Timbuktu said it was "very likely" that the mines had been laid just before the convoy arrived, specifically targeting the two commanders, as security checks had been carried out along the route a few hours earlier.

    Separately, MINUSMA on Tuesday said a Bangladeshi peacekeeper had been shot dead and another wounded in "an incident" in the area of Bamako airport.

    The circumstances of that shooting, however, are still being investigated and it has not been attributed by the UN to militants.

    With 35 peacekeepers killed in combat since MINUSMA's inception in 2013, the UN has described northern Mali as the deadliest place on earth for its personnel.

    The country's northern desert has been plagued by violence from jihadist groups that seized control of the region from Tuareg rebels before being routed by a French-led international intervention in 2013.

    Despite peaceful elections after the French operation, the country remains deeply divided and the north has seen an upsurge in attacks recently by pro-government militias and the Tuareg-led rebellion known as the CMA.

    The government and several armed groups signed a peace accord on May 15 in a ceremony in Bamako attended by numerous heads of state, but missing the crucial backing of the CMA.

    The Algerian-led international mediation team in the peace process has announced it is hosting a series of consultations in Algiers this week aimed at securing the CMA's signature.

    The head of the CMA has said, however, that he was convinced that the consultations would bear fruit.

    Thousands of pro-government demonstrators took to the streets in Bamako on Tuesday in support of the peace agreement.

    Around 31,000 people have been forced to flee their homes -- 500 into neighbouring countries -- over the past two weeks, mostly from the Timbuktu region, the UN's World Food Programme has said.

    hos/mrb/psr/st

    © 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse


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