Ahmad al-Mahdi al-Faqi AKA Abu Tourab, a former member of militant group Ansar Dine, was turned over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague by authorities in Niger Sept. 26, accused of war crimes allegedly committed in Timbuktu, Mali, including destruction of religious and historical monuments. He is charged in the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque in the historic city in 2012, when an alliance of jihadist militias including Ansar Dine was in control of northern Mali. The entire city of Timbuktu, known as the "City of 333 Saints," is a UNESCO-listed world heritage site. El-Boukhari Ben Essayouti, head of the Timbuktu Cultural Mission, said that al-Mahdi was but one militant who took part in the destruction, and called for his accomplices to be similarly brought to justice. (AFP, BBC News, AP, ICC press release, Sept. 26)
With ISIS in control of a chunk of Libya and Tunisia militarizing after a deadly terrorist attack, an article appears in the United Arab Emirates' The National warning of a "narco-jihadist" threat in North Africa. The commentary by Abdelkader Cheref, a professor at the State University of New York, warns that "huge quantities of Moroccan hashish transit through the Sahara where so-called narco-jihadists, who control a triangle of no-man's land between northern Mali and Niger, eastern Mauritania, southern Algeria and Libya, smuggle the shipments to Europe. There are mounting concerns regarding the links between Moroccan drug barons and narco-jihadists linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa."
Presumed Boko Haram militants killed more than 20 people in a double suicide attack in northern Cameroon on July 22—executed by two teenage girls, both under the age of 15. The attacks targeted a market and an adjoining neighborhood in Maroua, capital of the Far Northern Region. (See map) That same day, 42 lost their lives in a series of blasts at two bus stations in Gombe, northeast Nigeria. A new five-nation force—from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin—is due for deployment to fight Boko Haram by month's end. Boko Harams has been calling itself Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) since affiliating with the ISIS franchise earlier this year. (The Guardian, July 23; Long War Journal, July 22)
An advance unit of hundreds of Chadian troops, backed up by a column of tanks, arrived at Cameroon's northern border town of Kousseri Jan. 17, greeted with cheers by local residents terrorized by Boko Haram. The intervention force, approved by Chad's parliament, is to number in the thousands. Days earlier, most of the residents of nearby Kolofata were forced to flee after an attack by Boko Haram. Cameroon troops killed 143 insurgents in a gun battle that lasted more than four hours, the army said. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau this month threatened Cameroon's President Paul Biya in an online video. Biya sent some 1,000 troops to the border to fight Boko Haram after the wife of deputy premier Amadou Ali was captured in July by suspected militants. A French-led initiative calls for Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad to contribute 700 troops each to a multinational force against Boko Haram. (Press TV, Jan. 18; AFP, Jan. 17; BBC News, Bloomberg, Jan. 16)
At least eight have been were killed and scores injured in Niger in two consecutive days of angry protests over the Charlie Hebdo affair. The French cultural center was attacked and several churches burned. Protests began outside the grand mosque of capital Niamey Jan. 16, and quickly spread to other parts of the country. Police in Algiers fired on protesters with rubber bullets after rioting broke out at an anti-Charlie march Jan. 17. In Pakistan a local photographer was hit by gunfire and seriously wounded in protests outside the French consulate in Karachi. Angry protests are also reported from Afghanistan. A demonstration in Chora district, Uruzgan province, followed Friday prayers at a local mosque where a cleric asked worshippers to rally in support of the Charlie attackers, who he praised as "true mujahedeen." (EuroNews, AFP, BBC News, News24, Jan. 16)
Over the past five days, Boko Haram has seized five towns in Nigeria's northeast, killing hundreds and leaving thousands of residents fleeing for safety as it continues its quest to establish a "caliphate" in the country. The towns captured include Bara in Yobe state, Banki and Bamain Borno state, and Madagali and Gulakwere in Adamawa state. Boko Haram forces were driven from Bama, in Borno state, after intense aerial bombardment by Nigeria's air force Sept. 7. Tension is mounting in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, amid fears that the insurgents are mounting an offensive on the city. Further territorial gains by Boko Haram could worsen a dire humanitarian situation. Thousands of refugees have sought sanctuary in Maiduguri, and the UN estimates that 9,000 fleeing violence have arrived in Cameroon in the past ten days, with another 2,000 crossing into Niger, which has already taken in 50,000 refugees since May 2013. (The Punch, ThisDayLive, Nigeria; Leadership, Nigeria, via AllAfrica, Sept. 7; The Economist, Sept. 6)
Authorities in Mali said July 31 that a once-powerful jihadist leader has been arrested by French military forces in the northern desert town of Gao. Yoro Ould Daha was a commander of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which controlled Gao for nearly a year before the French intervention of 2013. Ould Daha was the MUJAO commander who announced the death of French hostage Gilberto Rodriguez-Leal, who was captured in November 2012 while traveling in Mauritania and Mali. He also took responsibility for the abduction of five humanitarian workers who were later released. (AP, July 31)
Saadi Qaddafi, son of former Libyan leader Col. Moammar Qaddafi, was extradited from Niger back to Libya on March 6 to stand trial for crimes allegedly committed during his father's rule. Saadi is the most recent fugitive whom the Libyan government has extradited from Niger. In February Abdallah Mansur, a former top intelligence official and fifteen other former Libyan officials were sent back to Libya after Niger accused them of plotting to overthrow the current Libyan government. In 2011 Interpol issued a "red notice," requiring member countries to arrest him. Niger had previously declined to extradite Saadi due to concerns that he would be executed upon return.