Nigeria: Suicide bombers kill dozens in blasts at Mubi mosque

Police say dozens of people were killed in an attack on a mosque in northern Nigeria. Many are blaming the extremist group Boko Haram, though police have not formally publicly speculated as to the motive for the attack.

Nigerian army in Mubi

Dozens of people died on Tuesday when two suicide bombers detonated their explosives at a mosque and a market in Mubi, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) by road from Yola in northeast Nigeria.

Abdullahi Yerima, police commissioner in Adamawa state, said a suicide bomber had struck at the mosque shortly after 1 p.m. (1200 UTC) and a second attacker detonated a device about 200 meters (660 feet) away as worshippers fled. Bomb squads and security personnel have cordoned off the scene.

Nigeria

Striking health workers returned to the hospital to attend to the victims. “We have evacuated dozens of dead and injured people to the hospital,” Habu Saleh, who was volunteering in the aftermath of the explosion, told the news agency AFP. “And the rescue operation is still ongoing.”

Read more: Fighting Boko Haram with bows and arrows

Boko Haram, which briefly held control of Mubi in 2014 as part of its nine-year insurgency, has repeatedly targeted the town with deadly attacks. The fighting has left more than 30,000 people and forced about 2 million to flee their homes nationwide. On Thursday, the group carried out an attack in Maiduguri, the capital of the neighboring Borno state, that killed four people.

On November 21, a suicide bomber killed at least 50 people in a mosque during early morning prayers in the Unguwar Shuwa area of Mubi. In 2014, about 40 football supporters died in a bomb attack after a match in the Kabang area of the town. At least 40 people died in a 2012 attack on student housing in Mubi widely blamed on Boko Haram.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

Nigeria: Kidnapped schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram

Boko Haram has released 101 of the 110 schoolgirls that the Islamist militant group abducted in Nigeria last month. The return of the girls came with a sinister warning for the girls’ parents.

Watch video04:04

Boko Haram frees dozens of schoolgirls

The Nigerian government on Wednesday said 101 of the 110 girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamist militants in mid-February were returned to their hometown of Dapchi in northeastern Nigeria on Wednesday.

“No ransoms were paid,” said Information Minister Lai Mohammed, adding the girls were released “through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country, and it was unconditional.”

The girls were being treated by counselors at a local hospital and would receive psychological treatment before they returned to their schools, according to Mohammed.

Read more: Nigeria fails to protect schools from Boko Haram’s attacks

Returned ‘out of pity’

The family of one of the kidnapped schoolgirls told DW correspondent Adrian Kriesch in Lagos that their daughter, Aisha, had been returned.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Great news! Just talked to Alhaji Kadau and his daughter Aisha: after one month in captivity she is back with her family! Most abducted by one month ago are free again! So happy for the families after all they had to go through.

Another father told DW: “They were just brought inside the town and released. The insurgents told them just go to your homes.”

Boko Haram freed the girls “out of pity,” one of the fighters told residents after a convoy of trucks dropped them off in the town.

He also told residents: “Don’t ever put your daughters in school again.”

In the local Hausa language, Boko Haram translates as “Western education is forbidden.”

Read more: Are Nigerian authorities withholding information on missing Dapchi schoolgirls?

Watch video03:30

Nigerian family grieves over abducted schoolgirl

Security forces warned 

Nigeria’s military dismissed an Amnesty International report that claimed security forces were warned several times ahead of the mass abduction last month as “outright falsehood.”

Read more: Is Islamic extremism on the rise in Africa?

Amnesty had on Tuesday cited sources including security officials and witnesses who said military and police received at least five calls in the hours before the attack.

Watch video12:00

Terrorists target schoolgirls in Nigeria

Echoes of 2014

The latest kidnappings caused a fresh wave of anger in Nigeria, with many people reminded of Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014.

Read more: What makes young African Muslims join jihadi groups?

The February 19 case is the biggest mass abduction since the Chibok kidnappings.

On 22 February, Nigerian media reported that up to 76 of the girls had been rescued, two days after they were kidnapped.

amp, law/rt (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

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Bahrain arrests 116 on charges of terrorism, Iran collusion

Bahraini security forces have arrested 116 people on charges of terrorism, accusing them of being part of a network established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The suspects allegedly plotted attacks on state officials.

A riot policeman in Bahrain, 2013 (picture alliance/AP Photo/H. Jamali)A riot policeman in Bahrain

Bahrain authorities have busted a network “formed and supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard,” the official BNA agency reported on Saturday.

The Bahraini interior ministry said 116 people were arrested, with security forces seizing weapons and explosives in raids across the Gulf state.

The crackdown thwarted multiple terror plots, according to the report.

“The network was planning to target Bahraini officials, members of the security authorities and vital oil installations, with the objective of disturbing public security and harming the national economy,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

Read more: Bahrain top activist jailed for 5 years over tweets

During the raids, police seized 42 kilograms (93 pounds) of high explosives, 757 kilograms of explosive-making materials, grenades, magnetic bombs, as well projectiles and vehicles.  The authorities also discovered weapons, including pistols and several Kalashnikov rifles.

Officials claim that 48 of the 116 suspected militants received training in facilities ran by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and its allies.

A country divided

Bahrain Manama Unruhen (picture-alliance/landov)Bahrain faced mass protests in 2011

Bahrain is ruled by Sunnis despite having a Shiite-majority population. The country holds a key strategic position Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf and serves as the host for the US 5th fleet.

The Manama government has repeatedly accused Iran of trying to destabilize it, with Tehran denying the charges.

Read more: Bahrain shuts down newspaper amid opposition crackdown

Oil-rich Bahrain is still struggling with the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring. During the unrest, the country’s Shiite population rallied against the Sunni-dominated government. In response, authorities launched a massive crackdown and called Saudi military to quash protests.

In recent years, Bahrain has faced bombings and small-scale attacks by Shiite militias. The country also launched a wave of arrests on against dissidents as well as suspected militants, with 47 people detained on terrorism charges in January.

dj/rc (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

Explosion rocks Burkina Faso army headquarters in Ouagadougou, heavy gunfire reported

Armed gunmen have attacked Burkina Faso’s army headquarters in Ouagadougou, with violence also reported near the French embassy. A French envoy to the region described the incident as a “terrorist attack.”

Watch video01:18

Deadly attacks hit Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou

Militants killed at least eight people in a coordinated attack on Burkina Faso’s military headquarters and the French embassy in Ouagadougou, authorities said Friday.

Speaking on state television, government spokesman Remi Dandjinou said the death toll was likely to climb, as many soldiers were seriously wounded. At least eight attackers were killed and two were captured, a military source said.

Authorities did not immediately release details on possible civilian casualties, but officials told a DW correspondent at least 28 people had been killed. The army’s medical chief, Colonel Amado Kafando, told DW that around 75 people were being treated for injuries.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but France’s foreign ministry said it was likely carried out by “terrorist groups.”

What we know so far 

  • Armed assailants launched attacks on several sites in downtown Ouagadougou on Friday.
  • An explosion and heavy gunfire were heard at the army HQ, with a group of gunmen attempting to storm the building’s entrance.
  • Several gunmen also attacked the French embassy.
  • Gunfire was also reported at the offices of the prime minister.
  • The militants killed at least eight people and wounded dozens more.
  • Police say they believe Islamic extremists were behind the attack.
  • Eight attackers were killed with others possibly on the run.

Car bomb at the army headquarters 

Security Minister Clement Sawadogo said the explosion at the army headquarters was caused by a car bomb. Witnesses said they saw masked gunmen attack the compound at around 10 a.m. local time (1000 UTC) as a thick column of black smoke rose from the building.

A short distance away, the French embassy also came under attack as a van attempted to break through the property’s fence. Witnesses cited by the French AFP news agency said five armed men jumped out of a vehicle and started firing at passers-by.

Talking to the French TV channel LCI, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there were “no French casualties, as far as we’re aware,” with other French officials saying the situation at the embassy was “under control.”

Karte Burkina Faso Englisch

DW on the ground

DW’s correspondent Richard Tiene reported that businesses and schools were closed in downtown Ouagadougou.

“Security forces have surrounded the headquarters, Camp Guillaume, which is located in the center of the city,” he said. “There is no sound of gunshots anymore, but there is a big cloud of smoke coming from the headquarters.”

Other witnesses reported helicopters flying above the area housing key government and diplomatic buildings. Officials erected barricades to keep the civilians out of the targeted sections of the city.

French foreign ministry issues statement

French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke to President Roch Kabore by phone, condemned the violence and said France remained committed to supporting the fight against terrorism in the region.

France’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on its website advising its citizens to stay “in a safe place” and “suspend all travel in the city until further notice.”

Separately, French envoy Xavier Lapdecab advised “absolute caution” to his compatriots.

Attaque en cours à Ouagadougou. Consignes de prudence absolue à tous les compatriotes de rester dans un endroit sûr.

French Ambassador to the Sahel region, Jean-Marc Chataigner, described the incident as a “terrorist attack” on Twitter.

The office of the Paris public prosecutor said it had opened a formal investigation into “attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise,” a step usually taken after attacks targeting French citizens.

The impoverished West African nation of Burkina Faso is a former French colony. It is one of several states in the region battling jihadist groups.

In August last year, at least 18 people were killed when extremists opened fire at a Turkish restaurant popular with foreigners living in Ouagadougou.

dj/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

COURTESY: DW

Suicide bomber kills cadets in Afghanistan

Fifteen cadets have died in the second deadly suicide bomb attack in the capital, Kabul, within 24 hours. An attack on a mosque on Friday evening claimed at least 56 lives and injured some 55 more.

Firefighters and soldiers near the scene of Saturday's attack (Getty Images/AFP/W. Kohsar)

A suicide car bomber killed 15 Afghan army cadets as they left their military base in Kabul on Saturday, in the second deadly attack in the capital within 24 hours.

“This afternoon, when a minibus carrying army cadets was coming out of the military academy, a suicide bomber on foot targeted them, martyring 15 and wounding four,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri.

It was not immediately clear who carried out Saturday’s attack, but a resurgent Taliban has been attacking military posts and installations with devastating effect, while Islamic State (IS) militants have stepped up attacks against Shiite mosques.

Watch video00:38

Suicide bomber attacks Shiite mosque in Kabul

IS claimed responsibility for Friday evening’s suicide bomb attack inside a Shiite mosque, which left 56 deadand another 55 injured.

Over the past five days there have been seven major attacks that have left more than 200 dead.

The barrage of deadly assaults underscores the deteriorating security situation across the country.

NATO’s Resolute Support mission tweeted that the latest strike was an “attack on the future” of Afghanistan and its security forces.

“This attack in #Kabul shows the insurgents are desperate and cannot win” against Afghanistan’s security and defense forces, it said.

This attack in  shows the insurgents are desperate and cannot win against  on the battlefield (2/2)

Attacks on the rise

But among the recent attacks, one of the deadliest — claimed by the Taliban — killed about 50 Afghan soldiers during an assault on a military base in the southern province of Kandahar on Thursday.

The militants blasted their way into the military base using two Humvees packed with explosives. It was one of three such attacks this week, according to officials.

The base, in the Chashmo area of Maiwand district, was razed to the ground, according to the Defense Ministry.

Afghan security forces secure the site of a Shiite mosque after a suicide bomb attack.More than 50 people were killed in Friday’s attack on the Imam-e-Zaman mosque in Kabul

On the same day, Taliban militants surrounded a police headquarters in the province of Ghazni, attacking it for the second time in a week.

Afghan security forces have endured soaring casualties as they struggle to hold back the insurgents. Their casualty rate has accelerated since NATO withdrew its combat forces from the country at the end of 2014.

The number of casualties jumped 35 percent in 2016, with some 6,800 soldiers and police officers killed, according to SIGAR, a US watchdog.

Insurgent attacks against security forces have become more sophisticated over the past year. SIGAR described Afghan casualty rates in the early part of the year as “shockingly high.”

People inspect the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack inside a Shiite mosque in Kabul.Friday’s mosque attack underscores the fragile security situation in Afghanistan

An attack on a military base in Mazar-i-Sharif in April was devastating, killing 144 people. Similarly, an attack on a military hospital in Kabul in March killed as many as 100.

People are growing increasingly angry at the government’s inability to protect them, particularly in Kabul, where nearly 20 percent of the country’s civilian deaths in the first half of the year occurred.

“If our government officials cannot protect us, they have to resign and let other competent officials take charge,” said an eyewitness to the mosque bombing Friday night.

bik/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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ISIS moral police ‘whipped, beat & jailed’ defiant Al-Mayadeen residents, survivors tell RT

Islamic State terrorists’ efforts to whip, beat and torture people into submission for the tiniest violations of their perverted laws failed, locals in recently-liberated Al-Mayadeen in Syria told RT, recalling their disturbing experiences.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists captured the city of Al-Mayadeen, located just 45km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, in July 2013. Raising their black standard, the Salafi jihadist group went on to impose a fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam, violations of which were punished under Sharia law.

READ MORE: ISIS releases moms’ guidebook to raising ‘jihadi babies’

While many civilians left the city prior to the jihadists’ arrival, those who stayed were forced into following IS law and social conduct. A veil of prosecution and torture descended on Al-Mayadeen for over four years, until the Tiger Forces commanded by Syrian Army Brigadier General Suheil Salman al-Hassan pierced through IS defenses last Saturday, liberating the city from the Islamists’ yoke.

Many locals that an RT Arabic crew spoke with recalled that the militants went on to seize people’s properties before instituting a religious police force that was responsible for implementing their social morals in people’s daily lives.

“ISIS took away homes that belonged to my brothers. They confiscated them…to live there,” one Al-Mayadeen native said.

“They had such an agency as the moral police called ‘Hisbah,’”the man said, explaining that it patrolled the city and punished the locals for violating Sharia law. The Islamic doctrine of Hisbah, which translates as “accountability,” empowers the leadership to intervene in the daily conduct of people to forcefully “enjoin good and forbid wrong.”

Force was used widely by the IS Hisbah units, who detained people for the slightest of infractions such as smoking cigarettes or shaving their face.

“Nobody wanted to cooperate with ISIS. I spent six days in prison for smoking one cigarette,” one of the survivors told RT, explaining that people were detained even if they smelled of tobacco.

Showing stubble on his face, the man also told RT that people were held in prison for days for any attempts to shave their facial hair. Explaining that IS demanded all beards to “grow naturally,” the man says he was arrested several times because his facial hair failed to meet their standards.

“They arrested me, then whipped me, tormented me and gave me spoiled food,” another man recalled, explaining that he was imprisoned twice because of his beard, and once because he wore pants instead of traditional jalabiya – an ankle-length, long-sleeved Arab garment.

READ MORE: Pancakes for jihadists: ISIS shares new online cooking tips

The stories documented by RT are just a tiny glimpse into the brutality of Islamic State’s justice system. Over the years, thousands of people have suffered for any alleged infractions that were met with punishments including flogging, beheading and burning.

Locals are relieved just to be alive, having suffered IS rule. It ended in a massive retreat of the jihadist forces, despite replenishments with ammo and fighters from Iraq. Even a week after the Syrian Army first entered the city, it continues to discover huge stockpiles of weapons.

“We searched the whole area, which served as the main military ISIS depot,” a Syrian Army soldier told RT. “The neighborhood has underground tunnels and was full of weapons.”

A number of abandoned warehouses full of weapons, left behind by IS fighters as they fled to the east side of the Euphrates River, were filmed by the RT crew embedded with the Syrian forces.

The Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Air Force, meanwhile continues to advance on the remaining pockets of terrorist resistance between Al-Mayadeen and Deir ez-Zor city.

Courtesy: RT

‘Islamic State’ (IS) fighters evacuate as battle for Raqqa nears end

A US-backed alliance of militias said “Islamic State” (IS) fighters have evacuated the city of Raqqa under an agreement to release captive civilians. US-backed forces have almost completely captured Raqqa.

Syrian SDF soldiers in Raqqa (Reuters/R. Said)

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, on Sunday launched their final assault against the remaining “Islamic State” (IS) fighters in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa .

More than 3,000 civilians fled the city as part of the evacuation agreement, said SDF spokesman Talal Silo.

On Saturday, the SDF had agreed to a proposal that allowed Syrian IS jihadists to leave the city in exchange for the release of civilians held by the militants. However, IS’ foreign fighters were excluded from the evacuation deal.

Read more: ‘Islamic State’ facing imminent collapse in Syria’s Raqqa

“Last night, the final batch of fighters (who agreed to leave) left the city,” said SDF spokesman Mostafa Bali, adding that no foreign fighters had left the city. The SDF later said in a statement that around 275 local fighters and their families had left as part of the deal.

“The final battle will continue until the entire city is cleansed of terrorists, who have refused to surrender,” the SDF said.

However, Omar Alloush, an official in the Raqqa Civilian Council, disputed the SDF’s claim and said a batch of foreign jihadists had also departed with the convoy of local militants.

Map showing where main cities in Syria are located

‘Our aim is liberation’

The US had earlier protested a safe exit for the extremist group. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday the US would accept the surrender of IS militants who would be interrogated for intelligence purposes.

The tribal leaders said they appealed to the coalition and the SDF to allow IS fighters to leave the city to stem further violence.

“Because our aim is liberation, not killing, we appealed to the SDF to arrange for the local fighters and secure their exit to outside of the city with our guarantees,” the tribal chiefs said in a statement.

IS had seized Raqqa as part of a broad offensive in Syria and Iraq in early 2014, and the city has since served as the jihadists’ primary Syrian stronghold.

But IS has lost much of its territory after US and Russian-backed forces began separate offensives against the militant group. In July, US-backed Iraqi forces retook Mosul, the jihadists’ de facto capital in Iraq.

Watch video06:36

Syria: The Battle for Raqqa

‘Liberation within days’

Raqqa has practically fallen to the US-led coalition, but it is unclear how many militants are still in the city. There have been reports of continued fighting between SDF fighters and IS jihadists in some parts of the city.

Read more: Raqqa: US-backed forces declare end in sight for ‘Islamic State’ (IS)

A spokesman for the US-led coalition, Colonel Ryan Dillon, said Saturday that around a hundred IS militants had already surrendered and been “removed” from the city since Friday.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think ‘Islamic State’ will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said.

 Civil Council/local Arab tribal elders work to minimize civilian casualties as SDF & @CJTFOIR prepare for major defeat in Raqqa

But the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG told Reuters that coalition forces could clear the city of IS forces within days.

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (IS) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said.

More defeats for IS

Separately, the Syrian government and allied Shiite militia retook the town of Mayadeen from IS after intense fighting and Russian airstrikes, the Syrian military said Saturday.

Read more: Syria: Civilians trapped in Raqqa as ‘Islamic State’ makes last stand

Located along the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border, Mayadeen had been a strategic IS stronghold as the group lost territory in Syria and Iraq.

Pro-Syrian regime forces have been trying to secure the Iraqi border and push IS out of a small pocket in the provincial capital, Deir al-Zor.

ls,shs/jm (AP, Reuters)

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