East, West Africa top global piracy: report

Piracy on the world's seas reached a five-year low last year, with 297 ships attacked in 2012, compared with 439 in 2011, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said in its annual global piracy report. Worldwide figures were brought down by international efforts against Somali piracy, the repor found, though East and West Africa remained the worst hit areas, with 150 attacks in 2012. Globally, 174 ships were boarded by pirates last year, while 28 were hijacked and 28 were fired upon. IMB's Piracy Reporting Centre also recorded 67 attempted attacks. The number of people taken hostage onboard fell to 585 from 802 in 2011, while a further 26 were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria. Six crewmembers were killed and 32 were injured or assaulted.

Mali poised for multi-sided war

Amid sketchy and conflicting reports of how much territory the jihadists have gained in their southern thrust and to what extent last week's French air-strikes have halted it, BBC News tells us Jan. 16 that French ground forces are now engaged in the battle for the town of Diabaly, just 220 miles north of Mali's capital, Bamako. A convoy of 50 armored vehicles left Bamako overnight for Diabaly, seemingly a joint force of French and Malian troops. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: "Today, the ground forces are being deployed. Until now, we had made sure there were a few ground forces in Bamako to keep our people safe... Now French ground forces are heading up north."

ICC: Boko Haram in crimes against humanity

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has accused a group of Islamist radicals of committing crimes against humanity in Nigeria. According to the OTP's "2012 Report on Preliminary Examination Activities" (PDF), there is a reasonable basis to conclude that Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that endeavors to create an Islamic state, has violated several provisions under Article 7 of the Rome Statute since launching a widespread attack in July 2009 that has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 Christian and Muslim civilians throughout Nigeria.

Sectarian violence rocks Nigeria —and Tanzania

Gunmen attacked a mosque in a village in Dogo Dawa village in Nigeria's northern Kaduna state Oct. 14, killing 22 worshippers as they were leaving after prayers. Authorities called it an attack by a criminal band against followers of a vigilante group rather than sectarian violence. But that same day saw multiple attacks in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, including an armed assault on a church that killed a married couple and their child in the city Gwange area. In a separate incident, the traditional chief in Gwange, Mala Kaka, was gunned down in his home. Kaka was close to Umar Garbai el-Kanemi, a local cleric who was the intended target of a suicide blast in July. The suicide attack, attributed to Boko Haram, killed five but left Kanemi unharmed. (AFP, Oct. 15; Reuters, Oct. 14)

Nigerians sue Shell in Netherlands over oil spills

Four Nigerian residents and an advocacy group told a Dutch court on Oct. 11 that Shell should be held liable for damage from oil pollution in the Niger Delta. The suit, which was filed by the four villagers and Friends of the Earth Netherlands in 2008, is the first time a Dutch company has been sued for the alleged misconduct of its foreign subsidiary. Shell has maintained throughout the trial that the case should be heard in Nigeria and that the Dutch court does not have jurisdiction. Friends of the Earth Netherlands says that the case could set an international precedent encouraging victims of pollution by Western corporations to sue in the Netherlands and other nations in the EU, noting that there are hundreds of thousands of pollution victims in Nigeria alone. Shell argues that the pollution damage was caused by thieves who sabotaged the oil lines and that its local subsidiary fulfilled its duty in cleaning up the spills. A verdict in this case is expected by early 2013.

Niger Delta insurgency back on?

Gunmen attacked two ships off the coast of Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta Aug. 4, killing two naval troops protecting the vessels and seizing four foreign workers before fleeing.  Six naval troops were aboard the vessel, which belongs to the Sea Truck oil services company. The Nigerian navy has dispatched boats and a helicopter to the area. Sporadic attacks on oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta have continued despite a 2009 amnesty for militant groups. (AP, Radio Netherlands, Aug. 4)

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