Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) has carried out a series of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in violation of international laws, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Aug. 18. Based on interview research conducted between November 2013 and June 2014, terrorism suspects were badly mistreated, killed, beaten, abducted and detained without access to families or lawyers. HRW called on Kenya to thoroughly investigate the allegations and urged the US to suspend donor support to the ATPU. The ATPU has previously come under criticism by other human rights groups. Last year the Kenyan human rights group Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative jointly issued a report, calling on the US and the UK to suspend financial support to the ATPU. The report followed the completion of a new ATPU headquarters in Nairobi in May, which was partially funded by international anti-terror agencies. The facility increased technological capabilities and physical space for the ATPU, whose mission is to coordinate and carry out anti-terrorism operations within Kenya in support of the global war on terror. The unit's primary focus of late is Kenya's second-largest city, Mombasa, as the port city has become a major recruitment target for the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab, based in Somalia.
Amnesty International has released gruesome video footage, along with images and testimonies the group provide fresh evidence of war crimes, including extrajudicial executions, being carried out in northeastern Nigeria as the fight by the military against Boko Haram and other armed groups intensifies. The footage, obtained from numerous sources during a recent trip to Borno state, includes horrific images of detainees having their throats slit one-by-one and dumped in mass graves by men who appear to be members of the Nigerian military and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a state-sponsored militia. Several of the armed captors are wearing uniforms emblazoned with the words “Borno State Operation Flush." Said Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty: "What does it say when members of the military carry out such unspeakable acts and capture the images on film? These are not the images we expect from a government which sees itself as having a leadership role in Africa."
Nigerian radical Islamist group Boko Haram's is increasingly troubling the remote Far North Region of Cameroon, which has seen several attacks in recent months, with foreigners also abducted for ransom. This month, heavily armed men suspected to be Boko Haram fighters attacked Bonderi village, five kilometers from the border with Nigeria, and stole a military vehicle, four motorbikes and weapons from the gendarmerie base there, government officials told IRIN news agency. Another group of suspected Boko Haram gunmen also raided a gendarmerie border post in Zina town on July 8, three days prior to the Bonderi attack, and stole guns and ammunition. In June, two teenage sons of a Muslim cleric were kidnapped in Limani border town. The attacks, the latest of which claimed the life of a police officer and wounded another on July 18, have occurred despite the deployment in June of 1,000 additional soldiers to the Far North.
An Ethiopian court on July 18 charged nine journalists with terrorism and inciting violence under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law (PDF). The journalists, including six bloggers, were arrested in April and have been prevented from accessing their families or legal counsel since their arrests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), since the implementation of the anti-terrorism law in 2009, Ethiopian authorities have used it as a tool to limit journalism critical of the government. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly called upon the Ethiopian government to repeal the law, alleging that the government stifles the establishment of new media publications.
Militant group al-Shabab has lived up to its promise to step up attacks in Somalia, mainly against government installations and personnel, during the holy month of Ramadan, which began on June 29. Over 30 people have been killed in Mogadishu alone. On July 8, the presidential compound was attacked during the iftar evening meal. Assailants entered the gate using a car bomb, and then engaged in a two-hour gun battle with palace guards, killing 14 soldiers. On July 5, at least four people, including two children, were killed when a suicide car bomb was detonated outside of the parliament building. Just two days earlier, a long-time member of parliament, Mohamed Mohamud, was killed with his bodyguard when armed assailants opened fire on his car. In response, the Somali government fired the police commissioner and head of the intelligence agency. Since then however, attacks have continued daily. Local media reported that the Ministry of Defense was attacked July 14.
Dozens of Muslim families in Mpeketoni, a coastal Kenyan town where more than 60 people have been killed in separate attacks this week, have fled following threats and assaults from the Christian majority. "Mpeketoni is not safe for us," Ali Lali Uweso, the headmaster of primary school, told Anadolu Agency by phone. "As we speak, we are travelling in a convoy of several vehicles from Mpeketoni with Swahili and other Muslim families heading to Mokowe Jetty to take a boat to the islands." The Swahili people are an ethnic group whose name is derived from the Arabic word meaning coastal. Local residents confirmed that a Swahili Muslim man in his 50s was beaten unconscious by youth armed with crude weapons who claimed to be avenging the victims of the recent attacks. At least nine were killed and a number of others wounded in the June 16 attacks in the usually quiet town near the Somali border. The previous evening, at least 53 were killed in armed attacks on a three hotels and a police station in the town. The attacks were reportedly claimed by the Somali rebel group al-Shabaab. (World Bulletin, Al Jazeera, June 18)
Gunmen killed at least eight people and burned down a church in attacks on two villages in Nigeria's central Plateau state, authorities reported June 11. Security officials said they are investigating who is behind the attacks in Nigeria's Middle Belt, where the largely Muslim north and Christian south meet. (Reuters, June 11) Two days earlier, more than 30 Fulani women were abducted by gunmen in three clustered settlements near the Borno state town of Chibok, where more than 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped in April. Local sources said that gunmen stormed the settlements of Bakin Kogi, Garkin Fulani and Rugar Hardo and carried off the women in vehicles. Local Fulani men have launched a mobilization to rescue the abducted women. (The Guardian, Nigeria, June 9)
The United States has deployed 80 troops to Chad to assist in efforts to find the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls, who are believed to have been absconded across the border. "The force, made up largely of Air Force personnel, will conduct surveillance flights and operate drone aircraft but will not participate in ground searches," the Washington Post informs us. While the deployment was announced by President Obama in a "War Powers Notification" letter sent to House and Senate leadership, the troops are actually there to maintain the drones—not to actually tramp through the forests in search for the missing girls. The drones are ostensibly unarmed and only for surveillance purposes. (Mashable, May 21)