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12 mars 2015 4 12 /03 /mars /2015 17:55
photo EMA

photo EMA


12 March 2015 defenceWeb (Reuters)


France is increasing its West African counter-insurgency force to support regional forces fighting Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday.


France has headquartered its more than 3,000-strong Sahel counter-insurgency force, Barkhane, in the Chadian capital N'Djamena, some 50 km (30 miles) from the Nigerian border.


Until now those troops have largely been tasked with tracking al Qaeda-linked militants spanning across the Sahara from Mauritania in the west and southern Libya in the east.


"We will slightly increase the numbers on Barkhane," Le Drian told reporters without giving specific details.


He said the troops would provide support to forces fighting around Lake Chad, where Boko Haram has in recent months increasingly threatened regional countries.


Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin have mobilised forces this year to help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram after it seized territory and staged cross-border attacks.


"We do not intend to take part in the fighting," Le Drian said.


Paris has, however, already sent about 40 military advisers to Niger's southern border with Nigeria to help coordinate military action by the regional powers fighting Boko Haram and has been operating reconnaissance missions near the Nigerian border and sharing intelligence.


It is expected to reduce its 2,000 strong contingent in Central African Republic to deploy more to Barkhane, defence and military sources have said.


France, which has the U.N. Security Council presidency in March, is also pushing for a resolution by early April that would back a 10,000-strong African force to fight Boko Haram, providing it crucial financing to carry out operations

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9 octobre 2014 4 09 /10 /octobre /2014 07:45
Troops prepare for Sierra Leone Ebola duty

A doctor briefs his team during a training exercise [Picture: Graham Harrison, Crown copyright]


7 October 2014    Ministry of Defence, Department for International Development and The Rt Hon Mark Francois MP


Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois has praised military personnel going through medical training to help tackle Ebola in west Africa.


More than 100 members of the British Army’s 22 Field Hospital are preparing to provide a 12-bed treatment unit for healthcare workers in Sierra Leone.

Today, Mr Francois witnessed mission training at the Army Medical Services establishment in Strensall, which is designed to develop and assess the clinical and organisational procedures required.

Personnel carried out parts of the exercise in personal protective equipment in a hangar converted into a mock-up field hospital, treating simulated casualties to replicate the situation they expect to find when they deploy.

A medical technician tests blood samples
A medical technician tests blood samples during a training exercise [Picture: Graham Harrison, Crown copyright]

Mr Francois said:

The Ebola virus represents a global threat to public health and we will not stand idly by. The UK has been at the forefront of responding to the epidemic and our medics will continue the great work already carried out by the military engineers, planners, DFID and FCO representatives and NGOs.

This operation will involve a unique set of challenges, but I believe that our military medics, who we are extremely proud of, have the ability to provide support to the World Health Organisation in helping to bring the outbreak under control.

Military personnel will deploy to Sierra Leone next week where they will join military engineers and planners who have been in country for almost a month, overseeing the construction of the medical facilities.

A doctor briefs his team
A doctor briefs his team before ward rounds during a training exercise [Picture: Graham Harrison, Crown copyright]

Commander 2 Medical Brigade, Brigadier Kevin Beaton, said:

We have created a detailed mock-up of the environment we will be operating in once deployed, enabling our personnel to get used to the procedures they will have to undergo and their personal protective equipment, working in challenging conditions.

We believe this is a mission worth doing, and a risk worth taking to protect our people as we tackle Ebola.

The 12-bed facility is just one strand of the UK’s commitment to tackling Ebola. Using British expertise and local building contractors, the UK has pledged to establish the physical infrastructure for a total of 700 beds.

A team of over 40 military personnel, including logisticians, planners and engineers, are currently on the ground in Sierra Leone to oversee the construction of the UK’s facility near Freetown and develop sites for new facilities.

The UK will build at least 4 new Ebola treatment facilities near urban centres including Port Loko, Freetown, Makeni and Bo.

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11 septembre 2014 4 11 /09 /septembre /2014 16:45
Royal Air Force Tornados deployed to West Africa


08 September 2014 by defenceWeb


The Royal Air Force (RAF) has deployed three Tornado GR.4 combat aircraft to Chad to help search for missing Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in April.


The aircraft, from II Army Cooperation Squadron, departed Norfolk in late August, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The Tornados are operating from N’Djamena International Airport in Chad, where they are hosted by the French military detachment there, reports Air Forces Daily.


The Royal Air Force announced in late August it would deploy Tornados to fly reconnaissance missions over northeast Nigeria to track Boko Haram movement in an effort to find the girls. A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The UK continues to work with the US, France, Nigeria, its neighbours and international partners to provide advice and assistance to the Nigerian government. Together with our allies, we have provided continuous surveillance support to the Nigerian authorities, including satellite imagery and we are still in discussion with partners on the deployment of further surveillance capability."


It is believed that the Tornados will use Rafael Litening III targeting pods or Goodrich Raptor photographic reconnaissance pods to gather intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data.


The RAF on May 18 sent a Sentinel R1 surveillance aircraft to Accra, Ghana, to assist with the search. The Sentinel R1 aircraft is a modified Bombardier Global Express business jet fitted with a synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indicator (GMTI). The RAF has five Sentinels in service.


Other nations have also contributed assets to help find the schoolgirls with the United States in May sending MC-12W Liberty and unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft to search for the girls. The unmanned aerial vehicle and Air Force personnel were deployed to neighbouring Chad.


More than 200 of the schoolgirls kidnapped from a boarding school in Chibok on April 14 are still missing despite Nigerian and international efforts to find them. Around 50 of the girls escaped from their abductors.

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10 mars 2014 1 10 /03 /mars /2014 19:45
IMB warns of West Africa piracy threat



10 March 2014 defenceWeb


The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is asking ships to be extra vigilant when transiting West Africa as piracy in the region becomes a growing concern.


The Bureau’s live piracy map shows that since the beginning of the year, one vessel, MT Kerala, has been hijacked and six have been boarded in West African waters. There was also one attempted attack.


The hijacking of the Liberian-flag product tanker in January by Nigerian pirates has sparked fears that gangs are venturing further south.


In that incident, pirates hijacked the MT Kerala off the coast of Luanda in Angolan waters.


The vessel was released by the pirates eight days later after the cargo was illegally transferred in a ship-to-ship operation along the West African coast.


While the incident shows the willingness of pirate gangs to venture further to commit their crimes, it also raises concern due to the violence associated with hijackings. One crew member was injured while the vessel was being held by pirates.


The IMB warns in its latest annual piracy report of the dangers to ships transiting West African waters particularly around Nigeria, Benin and Togo and urges continued vigilance as the threat remains real, highlighted by the MT Kerala hijacking.


It further points to the fact that because pirates have never attacked so far south, it is likely vessels in the area are not aware of the danger.


Last year the number of Nigerian piracy attacks grew and it currently stands at its highest level since 2008. Nigerian pirates accounted for 31 of the 51 attacks reported in the region in 2013 and West Africa as a whole made up 19% of attacks worldwide last year.


The common tactics employed by gangs operating in the area is to hijack a vessel for its cargo, normally gas or oil. However in the process, crew members are also injured and in some instances kidnapped, and vessels fired upon.


According to a recent report by the United Nations titled Maritime Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, a lot of the piracy affecting West Africa is a product of the criminal activity associated with the region’s oil sector.


“A large share of the recent piracy attacks targeted vessels carrying petroleum products. These vessels are attacked because there is a booming black market for fuel in West Africa. Without this ready market there would be little point in attacking these vessels,” the report said.


The attacks are damaging Nigeria’s lucrative oil industry as analysts point out the hijackings of tankers for oil cargoes could increase the risk of doing business in the country.


One Nigerian Navy official recently said the country was losing $1.5 billion a month to maritime crime, which includes piracy, smuggling and bunkering fraud.


Two attacks have taken place within a week in the Gulf of Guinea resulting in the kidnapping of six crewmembers, Dryad Maritime has reported. On March 4, MV Prince Joseph 1 was attacked offshore Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria, closely followed by an attack on the offshore tug, MV Asha Deep a day later off Bayelsa state; a particular hotspot for recent incidents.


These most recent attacks make this the largest surge over a three month period since Dryad’s records began with eight vessels attacked and 20 crew members kidnapped, the company said, estimating that 12 crew members remain in captivity.


Ian Millen, Dryad Maritime’s Director of Intelligence said: “The two incidents this week point to the operation of at least two separate criminal gangs, using the cover of estuaries and the riverine system of the Niger Delta to take their victims into captivity. If recent patterns are followed, it is likely that the latest attacks will have targeted senior crew, such as the Master and Chief Engineer, as these are the most likely to attract higher value ransom payments, often due to the fact that a large number will be non-Nigerian. This is based on previous intelligence which has seen such crew being singled out, especially ships’ Captains and Chief engineers.”


Pirates have also struck beyond the shores of Nigeria in the last three months with kidnaps of crew members from vessels in the seas off Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. In addition to this, Dryad assesses that a number of other unsuccessful attacks have probably been aimed at kidnap. In one probable attempt last year, a vessel was targeted some 160 nautical miles out to sea.

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5 décembre 2013 4 05 /12 /décembre /2013 08:45
West African piracy to double next year?



12/04/2013  Defence IQ Press


What to do about the troubling rise in piracy off the West African coast in the Gulf of Guinea? While East Africa’s piracy problem – most notably in Somalia – has been addressed after years of conflict and unrest, the seas off the coast of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and neighbouring countries are presenting a new challenge for counter-piracy operators.


With piracy off the West African coast set to double next year, James Fisher, chief executive of Paramount Naval Systems, said, “Criminal organisations now see coastal assets in west Africa as soft targets. The result is that the waters of the Gulf of Guinea are now the most dangerous in Africa for merchant shipping.”


According to Defenceweb, Fisher warned that piracy could set back Africa’s economic development for decades unless tackled now.


“West African nations are rapidly developing oil and gas infrastructure to capitalise on existing assets and exploit new offshore discoveries. These assets can serve as the driver of long-term economic development in these countries, boosting industry, creating thousands of jobs and bringing billions of dollars of foreign investment.


“Unless tackled quickly and effectively piracy could do serious damage to West Africa’s oil and gas industry, slowing development for years to come.


“The solution is not to seek international help to solve these African problems, but to build African solutions to them. The development of a strong African shipbuilding industry means it is possible for African nations to find African solutions to the threat of piracy,” he said.


If piracy off the Nigerian coast is not to hasten the expansion of well connected, armed, motivated and radical criminal groups in Africa the problem must be addressed at the root and not with the pirates at sea. The only way this can come about is if international governments and organisations commit to information sharing within a framework of greater regional cooperation to identify and weed out the “kingpins” behind the piracy problem.

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9 octobre 2013 3 09 /10 /octobre /2013 16:45
SAS Spioenkop departs Simons Town for West Africa

SAS Spioenkop departs Simons Town for West Africa

09 October 2013 by Dean Wingrin - defenceWeb


The South African Navy frigate SAS Spioenkop departed Simon’s Town Wednesday morning on a patrol along the west coast of Africa, destined for Dakar in Senegal.


During her six-week voyage, the South African warship will be visiting Walvis Bay (Namibia), Luanda (Angola), Tema (Ghana) and Lagos (Nigeria) prior to arriving in Dakar where she will support the South African contingent participating at the Sea Power for Africa Symposium.


The patrol, known as INTEROP WEST, is a military diplomacy mission, showing the flag in each of the ports. En route, the ship will exercise with various African Navies and allow naval officers of different countries to sail on board.


According to Capt Chris Manig, Commander of the Frigate Squadron, the actual exercises will be decided by the ship and the host country whilst the ship is alongside.


“We won't have any specific requirements that we want to exercise with our neighbours, it's more about what they would like to do with us on areas that they want to brush up on,” Manig explained.


“We'll look at the visiting country's capacity in terms of their navy and any specific outcomes they want to concentrate on and then we'll discuss a program around that,” he continued.


The exercises will possibly concentrate on maritime interdiction and anti-piracy type operations, including anti-piracy boarding training.


Commanded by Captain MA Boucher, the Spioenkop has a crew of 180, together with a dozen Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) members and four specialists from the South African Military Health Services (SAMS). The South African Air Force contingent with a Super Lynx maritime helicopter had to pull out at the last minute due to serviceability issues with the helicopter.


Whilst a blow to the Navy, Manig put on a brave face. Spioenkop is due to replace SAS Isandlwana on Operation Copper, the anti-piracy mission in the Mozambique Channel, in January next year.


“We will definitely be taking a helicopter (then), so we will catch up on what we couldn't achieve on this particular trip, Manig said, “So it is of no real concern to us.”


The west coast of Africa, particularly the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger Delta, is a high piracy threat area. The Navy says that the pirates in the area are getting more and more brazen in terms of who they board and who they take hostage. As the navies in the area have their own practices in place to counter the piracy threat, the Spioenkop will not be going out and actively looking for any pirates.


However, Manig explained that they may be called upon to assist whilst they are in the area as they have the capability of assisting with the MRS boarding teams and boats onboard. Thus, the MRS is capable of intercepting and boarding any suspicious vessels as part of the anti-piracy objectives or hijacking at sea.


Once alongside in Senegal, the ship will participate in the 4th Sea Power for Africa Symposium from 4 to 8 November 2013. Attended by Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Refiloe Mudimu, the Symposium is attended by Chiefs of the navies or their representatives from most of the African coastal and inland navies, together with observers from international navies. It aims at identifying, prioritising and resolving various maritime issues facing Africa.


Spioenkop will also act as a display platform for the South African Defence Industry, where Denel will be showcasing various defence industry products and hardware.


Having spent 10 days in Senegal, Spioenkop will depart on 11 November and passage direct to Simon’s Town, arriving on 22 November.


Spioenkop recently participated in Ex Shared Accord, the joint South African/ US Armed Forces exercise that was held in the Eastern Cape in July this year.


INTEROP WEST and INTEROP EAST are generally held alternatively each year, with the aim of building and maintaining co-operation with navies along the coast of Africa.

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25 juillet 2013 4 25 /07 /juillet /2013 16:45
Special Report: How U.S. drug sting targeted West African military chiefs

24 July 2013 defenceWeb (Reuters)


It was late afternoon as the speedboat cut across the waters off West Africa for its rendezvous with guns and drugs.


Behind lay the steamy shore of Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries on the planet. Ahead lay the Al Saheli, a luxurious 115-foot white motor yacht with tinted black windows.


Riding in the speedboat was Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto - a Guinea-Bissau former naval chief and war hero and, according to U.S. investigators, a kingpin of West Africa's drug trade. Na Tchuto was allegedly hoping to seal a deal involving millions of dollars and tons of cocaine. He was also in for a surprise.


"Once onboard (the Al Saheli), we were offered champagne," said Vasco Antonio Na Sia, the captain of the speedboat, speaking on Guinea-Bissau state television when he later returned home. As the new arrivals awaited the refreshments, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stormed out of the Al Saheli's hold.


"Instead of champagne, we got 50 heavily armed men running at us shouting ‘Police, Police!'," said Na Sia. The DEA team arrested Na Tchuto and two of his aides, but later let go Na Sia and another man, his uncle Luis Sanha.


"They told me, ‘You and Luis will be freed because your names are not on our list.' That is how I was saved," Na Sia said. He and Sanha could not be contacted for further comment.


The sting on April 2 was part of a U.S. operation to lure two prominent figures from Guinea-Bissau into international waters so they could be seized and taken to the United States for trial on allegations of drug smuggling. Court documents and Reuters interviews show the elaborate nature of the operation, which was part of a larger effort by the DEA to counter drug cartels seeking to use weak African states as transit points for smuggling.


"The DEA's focus in Africa is to disrupt or dismantle the most significant drug, chemical, money laundering, and narco-terrorism organizations on the continent," Thomas Harrigan, the DEA's deputy administrator, told a Senate hearing in 2012.


The operation off Guinea-Bissau was the first time the DEA had targeted such high-ranking officials in an African state. Na Tchuto is now facing trial in New York on charges of conspiring to traffic cocaine, including to the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice says his capture has helped to break a transnational drugs ring. Na Tchuto denies the charges.


His two arrested aides were also taken to New York and face charges of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States. They deny the charges.


Angry officials in Guinea-Bissau say Na Tchuto is the victim of entrapment and was illegally seized in Bissau's sovereign waters. Government spokesman Fernando Vaz called the sting a "kidnapping" and said if there is evidence of military officials involved in drugs smuggling, they should be tried domestically.


The DEA says Na Tchuto and his two aides were captured in international waters; it declined to provide further details while the court case is pending. It remains firm in its view that certain elements in Guinea-Bissau pose a danger that needs to be countered.


"Guinea-Bissau is a narco-state," said DEA spokesman Lawrence R. Payne in an email to Reuters. "These drug trafficking organizations are a threat to the security, stability and good governance in West Africa and pose a direct threat not only to the security of West Africans, but also of U.S. citizens."


The United States is keen to have stable partners in a region rich in commodities but struggling to fend off organized crime, maritime piracy and militant Islamism. But the DEA failed to capture its biggest target, General Antonio Indjai, whom it accuses of conspiracy to smuggle drugs and supporting FARC, a Colombian rebel group.


Indjai grabbed power in Guinea-Bissau in a 2012 coup and remains its top military official, enjoying extensive influence, though the country also has a president. Lieutenant-Colonel Daha Bana Na Walna, spokesman for Guinea-Bissau's Armed Forces Chief of Staff, called the DEA operation "regrettable" and said the alleged offences had been invented by the DEA.


He complained that Guinea-Bissau lacked equipment to tackle powerful drug cartels and was being unfairly victimized as a "narco state," especially when compared with the scale of drug-trafficking in other West African countries.


"We are fighting with the means that we have ... we don't have helicopters, vessels or vehicles," he said.




The former Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau is home to just 1.6 million people and covers a modest 10,800 square miles; but with its array of islands and unpoliced mangrove creeks, it is a smuggler's paradise.


For years the country has been an important transit point in the lucrative drug trade from South America to Europe. United Nations experts estimate some 50 metric tons (55.116 tons) of cocaine, mostly from Colombia and Venezuela, pass through West Africa every year.


A Gulfstream jet left sitting on the tarmac at Bissau's Osvaldo Vieira International Airport is testament to the problem. It landed in July 2008 with what the U.N. believes was a bulk shipment of cocaine. When local police tried to investigate, they were blocked for several days by the army. Once the police did gain access, they found the plane empty - but sniffer dogs confirmed traces of cocaine, according to a former Guinea-Bissau government source and international law enforcement officials.


Two military interventions in the governance of Guinea-Bissau since 2010 - the second a coup in April 2012 - have deepened Western fears that the country is in the grip of suspected drugs barons like Na Tchuto, whom the U.S. added to its list of drug kingpins in 2010.


The decision to target Na Tchuto and Indjai in elaborate stings was taken by the U.S. Department of Justice. Regional diplomats, who better understand the fragile political situation in Guinea-Bissau, had little input, according to some U.S. officials. Some diplomats feared the stings could trigger another coup or spark conflict between rival factions in the country's armed forces.


One source with knowledge of the operation said a handful of DEA agents set up a field office in the U.S. embassy in Dakar, the capital of neighboring Senegal, where they worked huddled away from local embassy staff.


"There was no coordination in policy. The DEA had an opportunity and they took it ... No one thought this through," said a U.S. official, who asked not to be named, referring to the risk of the operation causing unrest among Guinea-Bissau's military.


The DEA's noose began to tighten around Na Tchuto in August last year when the bespectacled ex-navy admiral agreed to a meeting in Senegal with a man the DEA says Na Tchuto thought was a cocaine broker. In fact, he was an undercover DEA operative.


At the meeting Na Tchuto allegedly said he felt it was time for a big narcotics shipment. "Na Tchuto noted that the Guinea-Bissau government was weak in light of the recent coup d'etat and that it was therefore a good time for the proposed cocaine transaction," prosecutors say.


In subsequent meetings Na Tchuto's aides discussed the practicalities of the deal, which would involve taking delivery of a shipment of cocaine at sea, bringing it to shore and trucking it to an underground bunker for storage, according to prosecutors.


Na Tchuto allegedly told the DEA source he wanted $1 million for each metric ton of cocaine brought into the country. He offered to use a company he owned as a front to ship the drugs back out when needed, according to prosecutors.


Sabrina Shroff, a lawyer acting for Na Tchuto, declined to comment on the specifics of his case, but said he had pleaded not guilty. She added that the DEA's tactics amounted to entrapment, that Na Tchuto was in poor health and that she was struggling to find interpreters who spoke Guinea-Bissau's Balanta language.


The DEA declined to comment on how it had conducted the case; however, sting operations are a common tactic used by the agency, though they are rarely targeted at such senior foreign officials.




In parallel with the Na Tchuto operation, the DEA also set up meetings with Indjai, say prosecutors. In 2010 Indjai had ousted his boss and briefly detained the prime minister, and had seized greater control in the 2012 coup.


To snare the military leader, undercover DEA officers posed as members of the Colombian rebel group FARC, or Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, according to prosecutors. FARC is designated a terrorist organization by Washington and runs large cocaine trafficking operations.


The officers contacted Indjai through local and Colombian traffickers operating in Guinea-Bissau and concocted a plan to import Colombian cocaine for transshipment to other countries, including the United States. In return, they asked Indjai to arrange a shipment of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, for FARC fighters to use against American helicopters in Colombia.


During meetings with undercover DEA operatives in July 2012, Indjai agreed that FARC cocaine would be shipped to Guinea-Bissau for later distribution to the United States, according to prosecutors. One of his associates said the general would expect to retain 13 percent of the drugs as a "fee" for government officials, prosecutors say.


Indjai also said he would help supply weapons to FARC and would brief Guinea-Bissau's transitional president, Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, on the plan, according to prosecutors.


Nhamadjo is acting as interim head of state until elections can be held. His government has vehemently denied any involvement in drug trafficking and has vowed to defend its citizens against the U.S. charges.


Indjai is charged with drug trafficking and providing support for terrorists targeting the United States. His spokesman, Na Walna, said the DEA had used "infiltrators" who had proposed the drugs-for-arms exchanges. "If you invent a crime, then there can be no crime," he said.


Prosecutors allege that during recorded meetings over several months to November 2012, Indjai and his associates agreed to import some 4 metric tons of cocaine, of which 500 kg (1,102 lbs) would go to the United States. A trafficker who operates in Guinea-Bissau listed equipment needed for the work, including trucks with hidden compartments to smuggle the cocaine to the front company's warehouse, prosecutors allege.


As the stings headed towards their climax, the United States shut down its diplomatic office in Bissau, anticipating staff there would be at risk of a backlash if local officials were seized.




The Al Salehi motor yacht was a key part of the DEA's plan - but earned itself a reputation as a lemon among U.S. operatives. The DEA had seized the yacht in an earlier operation and grappled with mechanical problems on the way to Guinea-Bissau, according to a U.S. official.


Those setbacks had delayed the sting by a month. As the ship waited off the coast for the crucial moment, another delay disrupted plans.


Na Tchuto was suspicious, or cautious, or both. He initially sent Na Sia, the speedboat captain, and his aides to the Al Saheli on their own. The DEA feared their scheme was unraveling. An irate undercover agent who called himself Alex berated the visitors and demanded to deal with Na Tchuto in person, according to Na Sia.


After several hours Na Tchuto was finally lured offshore and seized. But the delay may have cost the DEA its bigger prize. The agency had intended to arrest Na Tchuto first, then attempt to lure out Indjai, a bulky man who enjoys sitting in the shade of the cashew trees at the Amura military base in the capital, by speedboat from another port. The plan failed.


It is not clear why Indjai did not go, but one Western diplomat suggested the lateness of the hour may have been a factor. "By the time they got Na Tchuto it was nearly dark, and they had no chance of getting Indjai offshore," said the source. Whether Indjai had agreed to a meeting on the Al Salehi is unclear; but it headed off without him.


Exactly where Na Tchuto was seized is disputed. The speedboat captain Na Sia said on local state TV that he had initially met the Al Saheli not far from the island of Caravela and that when he returned later with Na Tchuto, the Al Saheli was in "Guinea-Bissau's territorial waters."


The Guinea-Bissau government has supported this view. The DEA says the Al Saheli was in international waters. Either way, the vessel set sail for Cape Verde, where Na Tchuto was put on a plane and flown to New York.




The semi-successful sting had an immediate political impact, according to locals in Bissau, the country's capital.


In the days following Na Tchuto's capture, rival military camps deployed heavily armed soldiers to the streets, setting up roadblocks and searching vehicles heading out of the capital. With President Nhamadjo in Germany for medical treatment for complications from diabetes, fears rose of another coup, or a violent power struggle within the army.


Guinea-Bissau officials hit back at the United States. "The seizure of Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto and the accusations against General Antonio Indjai, have hurt Guinea-Bissau ... creating fear in the hearts of our population of another conflict," said Vaz, the government spokesman.


Some Western diplomats and Bissau-watchers are worried about how Indjai will react to the failed plot to seize him.


"If Mr. Antonio Indjai is guilty of the allegations made against him, I would hope that we find ways to ease him out of the military in a manner that does not paint him and his supporters into a corner," said U.N. Special Representative to Guinea-Bissau, Jose Ramos-Horta. "A cornered animal would have no choice but to fight."


Payne, the DEA spokesman, and other U.S. officials said that the United States was generally keen to help local law enforcement agencies strengthen their own capacities to combat organized crime. But direct U.S. intervention reflects the suspicion of international law enforcement officials in the region that little action was taken by local agencies, at least partly because of high-level complicity.


"That was an operation that needed to be done just by us," said one U.S. official, referring to the capture of Na Tchuto. "There is a sense in some circles that we've got commandos lurking offshore ready to pounce. I don't think this will become a regular occurrence in Guinea-Bissau. But if they think it is, no harm done there."

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25 juin 2013 2 25 /06 /juin /2013 12:45
Corymbe - cooperation franco-americaine au large de Lagos-1 feb 2012 photo Marine Nationale

Corymbe - cooperation franco-americaine au large de Lagos-1 feb 2012 photo Marine Nationale

24 June 2013 BBC Africa


West African leaders have called for the deployment of an international naval force to curb the growing threat of piracy off the Gulf of Guinea.


Piracy in the region needed to be tackled with "firmness", Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara said, at a meeting of regional leaders.


There are now more pirate attacks off West Africa than off Somalia, maritime groups said last week.


Patrols by foreign warships have reduced attacks by Somali pirates.


'Economies threatened'


About 960 sailors were attacked in West Africa in 2012, compared to 851 off the Somali coast, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) and other seafarers' groups said last week.


This was the first time that more pirate attacks had been reported off the Gulf of Guinea.


The highest risk area for pirate activity in West Africa is off the coast of Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, correspondents say.


Speaking at a meeting of West and Central African leaders in Cameroon's capital Yaounde, Mr Ouattara said: "I urge the international community to show the same firmness in the Gulf of Guinea as displayed in the Gulf of Aden, where the presence of international naval forces has helped to drastically reduce acts of piracy."


Cameroon's President Paul Biya said it was vital to respond to the threat, to protect shipping routes and the economic interests of the region.


West African pirates mostly steal fuel cargo and the crews' possessions, often resorting to extreme violence, correspondents say.


Five of the 206 hostages seized last year off West Africa had been killed, said the report by the IMB and other seafarers' groups.


In contrast, Somali pirates usually seize a ship and its crew and hold them until a ransom is paid.


There had been a 78% drop in piracy off Somalia last year compared with 2011, the report said.


This was due to better practices by ship's captains and crews and the increasing use of armed guards aboard vessels in the region.


But it added that at least 78 hostages are still being held captive by Somali pirates.


Some of them have been held for more than two years.


Naval forces from around the world - including the European Union, China and the US - have been patrolling Somalia's coast.

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20 juin 2013 4 20 /06 /juin /2013 12:45
West Africa piracy surge endangering commodities shipping

19 June 2013 defenceWeb (Reuters)


Pirate attacks off West Africa's mineral-rich Gulf of Guinea have almost doubled from last year and threaten to increase the costs and jeopardise the shipping of commodities from the region.


The Gulf of Guinea, which includes Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast, is a major source of oil and cocoa and increasingly metals for world markets, although international navies are not actively engaged in counter-piracy missions in the region.


Unlike waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa, where ships can transit past at high speed with armed guards on board, many vessels have to anchor off West African coastal nations, with little protection, making them a soft target for criminals, Reuters reports.


A study published on Tuesday showed piracy in the Gulf of Guinea cost the world economy between $740 million and $950 million last year and that figure is expected to grow in 2013.


Kaija Hurlburt of advocacy group Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), which co-authored the report, said the type of vessels attacked had become more diverse. "The impact on the commercial trade sector is a problem," she said.


A separate study by OBP earlier this year estimated the cost of Somali piracy fell 12.5 percent in 2012 to $5.7 billion-$6.1 billion, helped by vigorous navy action, the deployment of private armed security guards and defensive measures on ships.


In contrast, the World Bank in April estimated Somali piracy may still cost the world economy about $18 billion a year.


Data from watchdog the International Maritime Bureau, another of the latest study's authors, showed attacks in the Gulf of Guinea for the year to date reached 67 incidents, versus 34 in the same period last year. These included five attacks off Togo, versus five in the same period last year.


Apart from the fear of increasingly violent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, the study said seafarers were concerned that authorities in the region could not be relied upon.


"We had a 'port inspection' and they took eight tins of paint, two coils of rope, and several bottles of whiskey," one seafarer said in the report. "If the 'authorities' do this, who do we rely on for help?"




Last week the Joint War Committee, which groups syndicate members from the Lloyd's Market Association (LMA) as well as representatives from London's insurance company market, added Togo to its list of high risk areas for merchant shipping, which already includes Nigeria and Benin.


"We were recognising the trend of increased risk to the assets the market insures," LMA senior executive Neil Roberts told Reuters. "All the reports indicate the situation will continue for a while. We need to be alive to that as insurers."


The study, which was also put together by industry alliance the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme, estimated the total insurance cost for the Gulf of Guinea last year was between $423 million to $437 million.


"We expect, especially with the expansion of the high risk zone by the Joint War Committee, that is going to lead to a higher cost of insurance," said OBP's Hurlburt.


"We have already seen a greater number of kidnappings for ransoms," she said. "There might be a higher cost for private security as we move forward."


Analysts say while Somali gangs have focused on capturing vessels to extract ransom money, criminality in West Africa, including oil theft, poses more complex problems.

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3 juin 2013 1 03 /06 /juin /2013 07:45
Des drones US au Sahel source LdDef

Des drones US au Sahel source LdDef

June 3rd, 2013 By Jody Ray Bennett  / International Relations and Security Network - defencetalk.com


In January 2013, US military officials finalized a Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement with the government of Niger to increase military involvement throughout the country. While the move clearly reflected developments in neighboring Mali, it had long been an operational goal of the Pentagon to establish a drone base in the region. Before the Northern Mali conflict escalated last year, the Pentagon had been flying drones in the Horn of Africa to survey Somali piracy and other armed non-state actors like Al-Shabaab. But despite complaints by West African governments and regional business interests, few resources were being devoted to the perceived threat from the nomadic Tuareg minority that was allegedly transporting weapons and other illicit goods across the Sahel.


While the connection between what some have dubbed Mali’s “Tuareg Problem” and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb remains unproven, the possibility that these groups might be working together (or perhaps the simple fact that they existed) was enough for the Pentagon to establish its first drone base in West Africa. After the Benghazi attack, in which it is believed that a lack of air support to Libya resulted in the deaths of four American diplomatic officials and multiple other injuries, some form of established US military presence in a neighboring country was perhaps inevitable. Indeed, the former commander of AFRICOM, which oversees military operations on the African continent, said about Benghazi in a New York Times interview, “Instead of responding in a day, [the new base in Niger] could respond within some number of hours.”


A logical choice


According to initial reports, the drone base sits behind a barbed-wire wall in Niamey, Niger’s capital. The US Air Force has begun flying Predator drones from the base through scorching heat and daily sandstorms. Though unarmed, these Predator drones can cover the country to conduct surveillance and other reconnaissance missions. These missions primarily look for security threats such as Al-Qaeda fighters, “guerillas from other groups hiding in the country’s mountains and hills”, and other Islamist non-state actors that threaten border security or neighboring African states.


While contractors and military officials from Chad, France, and the United States conduct unarmed drone missions from Niger to gather intelligence on the insurgency in Mali, US officials have told media outlets that they have not yet ruled out arming drones from this base for targeted killings. Indeed, US forces had long been in Mali before a permanent presence was considered, primarily to oversee the base and undertake intelligence assessments.


According to a report in The Guardian, “The White House announced in February [2013] that Obama had deployed about 100 military personnel to Niger on an ‘intelligence collection’ mission, but it did not make any explicit reference to drones.” Since the establishment of the hangars and airstrip, the presence of drone flights is hardly a secret. The Guardian further reported that the President of Niger, Issoufou Mahamadou, told the publication that “his government invited Washington to send surveillance drones because he was worried that the country might not be able to defend its borders from Islamist fighters based in Mali, Libya or Nigeria.” While US drone operations are a part of a constellation of bases across North Africa and the Middle East, the new Nigerien base now joins continental missions that occur from Djibouti, Ethiopia, and until most recently, the Seychelles.


“Niger is, of course, a natural choice, not only because of its central geographic position, but because its democratically-elected government has weathered the regional upheaval quite well and has proven a reliable ally in efforts to contain and defeat violent extremism,” said Dr. J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council and specialist on African security issues.


But uncertainties remain


“Of course,” Pham continued, “while the deployment of surveillance drones to Niger makes sense, regional security (and the strategic interests of the United States and its allies) would be better served over the long term if the deployment were accompanied by a more comprehensive engagement of the country, including greater support for its continued political, economic, and social development.”


Relations between the United States and Niger have been positive since the West African country became independent in 1962. Nevertheless, in a recent interview, Niger’s president is quoted as saying “The U.S. should do more in the area of training, equipment, land and air, and intelligence capability”, while fearlessly launching complaints about the “feeble” attempts of West African governments and militaries alike to quell insurgencies and other security threats.


While Niger may have been seen as a natural choice to establish a US military presence, officials were not sure how well a drone base would be received in a majority Muslim country. According to the Guardian article:


“US and Nigerien officials had worried that the drones might spur a popular backlash in Niger, where about 90 % of the population is Muslim. Extra security barriers were raised outside the US and French embassies as a precaution. So far, however, reaction has been muted, and many people seem to favour anything that the US and French militaries can do to prevent a spillover of violence from Mali.”


And this is precisely why the US established an operational role in the country. With an established base, the United States gains a foothold in the country at minimal cost; a new, physical military presence in the region that it can cite upon criticism of the Benghazi attack; an intelligence stake in the ongoing conflict in Mali; additional information from operations occurring in remote areas of the region; and, in addition to all of this, the ability to wield soft power abroad during a time when American taxpayers are growing increasingly frustrated with military strain in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The entire operation, however, is being carried out by AFRICOM, a military command for an entire continent with a budget of $300 million and roughly 2,000 employees. Those figures should be compared to the US Central Command that manages Afghanistan and the Middle East with a budget of approximately $800 million and 5,000 employees. A year ago, AFRICOM operations in Niger involved spending money on t-shirts, campaign signs, and other efforts to persuade citizens to vote. Now AFRICOM maintains it can “carry out both combat operations and its original ‘soft power’ missions, taking cues from envoys in the region like Bisa Williams, the United States ambassador in Niamey.”


Nevertheless, much of the Nigerien population is skeptical of outsiders, especially foreign powers that can be reminiscent of Niger’s colonial past. If drones here are weaponized, there could easily be much more blowback compared to a country like Yemen or Pakistan where armed drones regularly conduct aerial strikes.


“It is important to emphasize that the current deployment is only for unarmed intelligence-gathering aerial vehicles. It is unlikely that there will be attacks by armed drones in this area for the simple reason that there is a very limited number of such aircraft and the paucity of high-value terrorists in the Sahel – to say nothing about a lack of intelligence about such potential targets in the region – to justify yanking the aircraft from other fronts. And, even if a strike or two were carried out, such attacks are not a sustainable strategy. They simply would buy time for a political process that alone can hope to resolve the deep-seated issues in this region,” Dr. J. Peter Pham explained.


While one can question the role that these developments play in the larger US grand strategy, they have opened up West Africa to the first ongoing American military presence under the management of AFRICOM. At least for now, however, the establishment of a drone base by the United States is primarily for the use of unarmed aerial reconnaissance vehicles, and is not especially surprising in light of the growing influence of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and its allies in northern Mali, within an area larger than metropolitan France.

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29 janvier 2013 2 29 /01 /janvier /2013 14:15



29 January 2013 12:57 GMT bbc.co.uk


The UK is to deploy about 350 military personnel to Mali and West Africa to support French forces, No 10 has said.


This includes as many as 40 military advisers who will train soldiers in Mali and 200 British soldiers to be sent to neighbouring African countries, also to assist with training.


Downing Street dismissed suggestions the move constituted "mission creep".


An international donors' conference in Ethiopia aims to finance the budget for the campaign, set at $950m (£605m).


Downing Street has repeatedly insisted there is no question of British units getting involved in fighting - but Labour has called for further clarity on what part the UK might take in the French-led mission.


Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has been updating MPs on the latest deployments in Mali in the House of Commons.


'What we can'


The UK is already sending a C17 transport plane for three months and an RAF Sentinel surveillance aircraft.


Number 10 said it would also allow the US to operate air refuelling flights out of Britain.


And it offered a roll-on, roll-off Merchant Navy ferry to help transport equipment to the French force in Mali. It would dock at a port in a West African state to enable the kit to be moved across land to Mali.


The UK has also offered to set up a combined joint logistics HQ in Mali, however so far the French have declined this offer.


A Number 10 spokesman said the UK government was doing what it could to support the French military intervention, "contributing to both Malian training and training forces that are involved in providing a regionally-led approach".


French-led troops are consolidating their position in the historic Malian city of Timbuktu after seizing it from Islamist extremists.


In Brussels later, defence officials are set to discuss details of the planned European Union-led training mission to build up the Malian army.


The BBC's Norman Smith says the British team of 40 military advisers is expected to be sent to Mali "fairly urgently".


Number 10 is also considering who will provide "force protection" for the military advisers.


At present, it is envisaged the force protection will not be provided by British soldiers. It is possible existing French forces in Mali could be used.


Separately, deputy national security director Hugh Powell is to discuss the potential UK contribution at an international donors conference for Mali hosted by the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.


Prime Minister David Cameron has assured French President Francois Hollande that Britain is "keen" to help Paris with its military mission.


The RAF has already provided two C17 transport planes and a Sentinel surveillance aircraft to assist France's operation.


Meanwhile, the UK's national security adviser, Sir Kim Darroch, was in Paris on Monday to discuss what further help the UK could provide to France's operation to drive Islamist militants from its former colony.


Mr Cameron has said the UK is ready to offer logistical, intelligence and surveillance help to France.


The French and Malian military said troops encountered little resistance when they entered the historic city of Timbuktu. They seized Gao, northern Mali's biggest city, on Saturday.


Islamist militants took the north of the country last year, but have been losing ground since French forces launched an operation earlier this month.


'Politically important'


Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said it was important the UK supported the mission in Mali, but it is "not for us to put combat troops on the ground".


"We have to be very clear about how long we intend to be there [and] what it is we're seeking to achieve, so that the public, who are wary and weary after Iraq and Afghanistan, don't say 'Oh not again'," he said.


Mr Murphy also said British forces must be properly protected.


Military analyst Col Mike Dewar said the initial UK support was short term but its latest offer of help constituted a "much more long term plan".


It could take "years" for the British troops to make a difference to the "ill-trained" Malian army, he said.


Prof Michael Clarke, a director of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, said the British involvement was a "politically important" gesture to illustrate Anglo-French military co-operation.


He said he could not discern a clear strategy at the moment in Mali, but he added: "That is understandable. In Libya we went in for humanitarian reasons and then a strategy evolved. That is what the French did, they went in initially for humanitarian reasons.


"I suspect the strategy [in Mali] will be to guarantee the cities are safe so that Islamists are kicked out and then let time do its work."


The former head of the Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, backed the government's position but warned that nations involved may face a "protracted guerrilla warfare".


"It doesn't really surprise me that the British government feels it needs to be seen to be helping," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.


"We cannot let states fail because we know from recent history that failed states just lead to really difficult circumstances, instability."

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