Category Archives: West Africa

Nigeria – Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau Reported Killed Again — This Time by Cameroon’s Army

Vice News

By Hannah Strange

September 22, 2014 | 2:55 pm

Nigerian security forces are investigating reports that Abubakar Shekau, the notorious leader of the Boko Haram extremist group waging an Islamist insurgency in the country’s north, has been killed in fighting.

It is by far from the first report of Shekau’s death — previous claims of his demise have been put down with sneering proof-of-life videos in which the Islamist commander mocks the inability of his foes to defeat him. But the release of a photo by Cameroon’s armed forces purporting to show Shekau’s body has attracted particular interest.

The image shows a man lying on the ground, apparently with a wound to his head. The bearded individual bears a close resemblance to Shekau as seen in the many video appearances in which he threatens the Nigerian government and boasts of the strength of the Islamist group which has brought mayhem and bloodshed to a large swathe of the north.

The Cameroonian military posted the picture to social media with no explanation as to the circumstances of the alleged killing. The country’s armed forces have been increasingly engaging with Boko Haram along its border as the group makes gains in the state of Borno, north-eastern Nigeria.

Nigerian security forces have been struggling to contain the onslaught from Boko Haram, which has rampaged through towns in the country’s north and is increasingly striking at the capital, Abuja, in its bid to carve out an Islamic caliphate — the establishment of which was declared last month in the town of Gwoza. More than 2,000 people were killed in attacks by the group in the first half of 2014, according to Human Rights Watch. Boko Haram has also kidnapped civilians including children for use in the insurgency; the fate of more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from the town of Chibok in April, whom the group later threatened to marry off to fighters, is still unknown.

A source familiar with the Nigerian investigation told Bloomberg that it was thought Shekau may have been killed in fighting near Konduga in Borno state. Nigeria’s army said last week that it had killed over 60 Boko Haram fighters and captured a senior leader during a battle at Konduga, which lies around 20 miles from the state capital, Maiduguri. The military said the captured commander, who wasn’t identified, was being treated at a military hospital in the area.

Adding to the confusion surrounding the report, some local media suggested the man killed by the Cameroonian military might have been a body double used by Shekau, citing anonymous security sources.

There has been no word as yet from Boko Haram on the claim. But its veracity was questioned by experts, who noted the frequency of such reports.

“Is this his fourth or fifth death? He dies more often than an iPhone battery,” Ryan Cummings, a security analyst, said, according to The Times.

Follow Hannah Strange on Twitter: @hannahkstrange

Vice

Nigeria – T.B.Joshua hostel collapse death toll reaches 115

BBC

TB Joshua church collapse: Lagos death toll rises

Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos on Saturday, 13 September.The building was being extended to accommodate more visitors

The number of deaths in Nigeria’s church hostel collapse has risen to 115, including 84 South Africans, a South African minister has said.

The worshippers were attending a gathering by Nigerian TV evangelist TB Joshua when a building collapsed in Lagos 10 days ago.

Meanwhile, 25 survivors have returned to South Africa, where they will receive further medical care.

Mr Joshua, one of Nigeria’s best-known evangelists, is popular across Africa.

At least seven of the dead are Nigerian, rescue workers there have said.

The nationalities of the other victims is not clear, except for an official with Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whose death was announced last week.

The latest figures were provided by South Africa’s minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe.

They have not been confirmed by Nigerian officials.

Sixteen of the wounded were in critical condition, with some having had limbs amputated and one developed gangrene in the toes, he said.

A 19-member medical team including specialised doctors, nurses and military paramedics who had been sent to Nigeria took care of the injured on board a military aircraft.

‘Martyrs of faith’

Mr Joshua on Sunday announced plans to travel to South Africa to visit the families of the deceased.

“I will be travelling to South Africa to meet people from South Africa and other nations who find South Africa easier to visit, in memory of martyrs of faith,” he told his congregation.

In his sermon, he referred to reports surrounding the incident as “persecution” and “propaganda”.

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TB Joshua

TB Joshua attending to a follower
  • Founded Synagogue, Church of All Nations in the 1990s
  • Runs Christian television station Emmanuel TV
  • The ministry professes to heal all manner of illnesses
  • Controversially this includes HIV/Aids
  • Known as the “Prophet” by his followers
  • Tours Africa, the US, the UK and South America

Profile: Nigerian preacher TB Joshua

In pictures: TB Joshua’s ministry in 2005

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Rescue workers have said the building may have collapsed as a result of the construction of additional storeys without reinforcing the foundations.

Mr Joshua has blamed the incident on a small plane which had been circling over the building before it came crashing down on Friday 12 September, and suggested it was an attempt on his life.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan visited the church on Saturday and promised to investigate the cause of the tragedy.

He said he would hold talks with stakeholders in the construction industry on how to prevent a repeat of the tragedy, adding that he had expressed his sympathies to Mr Joshua and his church, as well as South African President Jacob Zuma and the families of the deceased.

Mr Joshua is known by his followers across the world as “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”.

He claims to work miracles, including raising people from the dead and healing the sick.

BBC

Nigeria – has Shekau been killed or was it an impostor?

Daily Trust/allAfrica

Daily Trust (Abuja)

22 September 2014

Photo: Cameroon Army/Facebook

A photo of Shekau from the Cameroonian army’s Facebook page. The image is no longer available on the page.

Troops might have killed a man they said had been masquerading as Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau during a fierce fighting in Konduga, Borno State last week.

A statement from PRNigeria, an independent public relations agency that does consultancy work for the security agencies, said there was strong resemblance between the man killed and the one making video appearances in the name of Shekau.

“During a desperate attempt to capture Konduga in their delusion to eventually marching on and capturing Maiduguri, the man who had been mimicking late Abubakar Shekau in recent videos might have been finally killed,” the statement said.

It quoted senior military and intelligence sources as saying the man was killed on September 17, 2014.

PRNigeria said cited as possible evidence that man killed was Shekau impostor to include “his facial marks, beards and teeth apart from the recovery by the Nigerian troops of some of the Armoured vehicles and Hilux jeeps that had featured in previous videos of the prime suspect.”

It added that intelligence sources said the suspected demise of the Boko Haram leader is responsible for the scattering of the sect members in different locations in neighbouring countries, especially in Cameroon.

But they cautioned that “the process of confirming that the dead body we have is the same as that character who has been posing as Shekau is ongoing. He is definitely a prominent terrorist commander. I don’t want to say anything about this yet please.”  allAfrica

Nigeria – Joshua’s followers stop fighting rescuers

Mail and Guardian

TB Joshua’s church has turned from attacking potential rescuers to helping them. So has Nigeria’s government but it’s a case of too little too late.

Nigerian authorities and church members have made a U-turn on co-operating with South Africans at the collapsed guesthouse tragedy. (Reuters)

Nigerian authorities and church members have made a U-turn on co-operating with South Africans at the collapsed guesthouse tragedy, following a diplomatic skirmish, which saw an entire week fritter away while vital efforts to save lives were blocked.

“It’s completely different, I can’t believe it’s the same people,” Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman told the Mail & Guardian on Sunday. “Now it is all smiles, it’s just strange. We can go to whatever hospital we like, go to the church, the mortuaries.”

A diplomatic source from South Africa confirmed that the Nigerian authorities have proven to be far more co-operative since Friday, a week after the devastating collapse that has seen the largest number of South Africans killed outside of the country since even the downing of the Helderberg airliner in 1987 which killed 71 South Africans.

“The officials, police and experts we have sent say they are being allowed to work,” said the source. “They are working with their counterparts there and they have not reported any difficulties in the work they are trying to do.”

At least 84 South Africans died and scores more injured when a six-story hostel collapse in Lagos last Friday. The building was part of famed televangelist and self-proclaimed prophet TB Joshua Synagogue Church of All Nations.

Scarce skills
A team of experts were in Lagos by Friday, according to Minister Jeff Radebe, head of the inter-ministerial task team created to deal with the situation, including Brigadier Helena Ras, who Radebe emphasised was “an international expert on body identification” who consulted internationally.

The stress on scarce skills in the field followed the shock decision by Nigerian authorities to turn down help from South Africa earlier in the week, including one of the continent’s best search and rescue teams.

Another diplomat told the M&G on Thursday that “Nigeria is obsessed with its competitive attitude towards South Africa”.

“The Nigerians have flatly refused our search and rescue missions, the same way they initially refused international assistance during the search for the missing girls,” said the senior South African government official involved in the mission to bring the bodies of citizens home.

“They feel that this could send a politically worrying message that they don’t have capacity,” said the official.

Search and Rescue South Africa was placed on standby by the department of international relations, Sunday Times reported, but by Sunday last week it was too late.

Ian Scher from Search and Rescue South Africa said: “We didn’t go. It’s crucial to get in there within the first 24 hours … it’s easy to deduce that they didn’t want our help … It’s common knowledge that our team is the only one in sub-Saharan Africa with the resources to carry out this rescue.”

Gift of the givers, a South African-based Islamic relief organisation, were initially blocked in their efforts to access mortuaries and hospitals in Lagos to find South African hurt and deceased South Africans.

‘Some of us were even attacked
In addition, the crucial 24 hours after the collapse, when survivors could have been found in the rubble, was missed as information about the collapse was at a black-out with Nigerian authorities failing to communicate with their South African counterparts in time, and church staff and goers proving downright hostile.

Ibrahim Farinloye, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency, told the Sunday Times that rescue workers managed to save three people who were trapped near their gathering point on Friday, but church officials prevented rescuers from accessing the church.

“Some of us were even attacked [by church members]. We wanted to ask the military to deploy to force access for us, but there were many foreigners at the church and we did not want to create an international incident,” said Farinloye.

Church members were also hostile to journalists and smashed at least one television camera.

A number of South Africans trying to help described how they were chased away from mortuaries when trying to identify those who had died.

But according to Sooliman attitudes began to change from Thursday, a week after the collapse.

“We were chased away from the Avon healthcare facility on Wednesday. On Thursday staff at Subol Hospital was friendlier. On Thursday evening we went back to Avon and the attitude had changed. On Friday our embassy came to the church site and introduced us to the church people. There was still a bit of reluctance but by Saturday everything had changed.”

Sooliman was not certain what had led to the belated change of heart.

Mending of diplomatic relations
“The first 48 hours of any disaster there are always problems,” he noted, having experienced multiple aid operations to disaster zones. “When you get there people look at you not understanding what you’re trying to do. People have their own anxieties and fears and we don’t know what that is.”

The mending of the diplomatic relations between the two economic giants on the continent would have also played a role. Dr Oladiran Bello of the South African Institute of International Affairs told the M&G earlier this week that the relationship between the two countries has ebbed and flowed in the past 20 years, and would recover this time too. “There is a tendency for irritants to build up in this relationship, but the fundamentals and economic complements are such that they have to work together.”

Sooliman said the difference from when his Nigerian team had first arrived on Wednesday was remarkable, particularly the attitude of the church staff.

“They’re walking hand in hand, sitting together, working together and praying together like nothing happened,” he said. While all five of the Gift of the Givers local team were Muslims, this had caused zero tensions with church staff, Sooliman said. “The church guys are so happy that there are people wanting to help.”

But it is a case of too little too late.

While South African teams were now allowed unfettered access to the relevant sites, the first diplomatic source said it was purely to identify and recover the dead at this stage.

“We’re talking about the recovery of the bodies and identifications. There is no point rescuing, the Nigerians called it off on Friday. It was exactly seven days after the collapse. There is nothing to rescue.”

Evacuate the injured South Africans
The South African government on Sunday sent an aircraft to Lagos to evacuate the injured South Africans, the Sunday Independent reported.

It is believed that the building was in the process of having additional stories added without first securing the foundations, although Joshua has blamed it on a mysterious attack, citing the appearance of an aircraft above the building shortly before the collapse.

It is the fourth building disaster to befall the church, according to notes on its websites, City Press previously reported. “The roof of the first church was blown off by a storm, the second church was washed away by a flood while the third church also collapsed due to severe weather conditions,” the church said. Building collapses happen repeatedly Nigeria because of the use of substandard material and flouted construction regulations.

Spokesperson for the inter-ministerial task team Phumla Williams was not available for comment.


Sierra Leone begins three day ebola lockdown

BBC

Sierra Leone begins three-day Ebola lockdown.

The BBC’s Umaru Fofana says frenetic shopping had been taking place ahead of the lockdown

A three-day curfew or lockdown to try to stop the spread of the Ebola virus has come into effect in Sierra Leone.

The aim of the move is to keep people confined to their homes while health workers isolate new cases and prevent Ebola from spreading further.

Critics say the lockdown will destroy trust between doctors and the public.

Sierra Leona is one of the countries worst hit by West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 2,600 people.

The UN Security Council on Thursday declared the outbreak a “threat to international peace and security”.

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on states to provide more resources to combat it.

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The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Sierra Leone

Even the heavy downpour that deluged Freetown since dawn on Thursday did not stop thousands of people from rushing to supermarkets and vegetable markets to stock up on food ahead of the lockdown declared by the president.

The government hopes this drastic action will prove to be the magic bullet in the battle to stop the spread of Ebola, which has hit 13 of the country’s 14 districts, killing more than 500 people.

A supermarket attendant in the west of Freetown told me she that she has had to restock her shelves five times in two days – a mark of the brisk buying that’s going on by those who can afford it.

“I’m here to get some food and beverages for my family that will last us the whole weekend,” Christian Thomas told the BBC. “I’ve also bought dozens of litres of fuel for my generator should the lights go out as is so often the case,” he said.

In the poor eastern suburb of Calaba Town survival is on the minds of many. Customers and traders alike wondered how they would manage to pull it off.

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The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has been strongly critical of the lockdown, arguing that ultimately it will help spread the disease.

MSF, whose staff are helping to tackle the outbreak, said in a statement this month that quarantines and lockdowns “end up driving people underground and jeopardising the trust between people and health providers”.

“This leads to the concealment of potential cases and ends up spreading the disease further.”

Freetown Sierra Leone (18 September 2014)There are reports of stockpiling in Freetown ahead of the lockdown
A World Health Organisation worker, (centre) trains nurses to use Ebola protective gear in Freetown, Sierra Leone (18 September 2014)Volunteers will go door-to-door to test people for the virus and take infected people to treatment centres
A drama film poster made about the Ebola virus hangs on the walls of downtown Freetown, Sierra Leone (18 September 2014)Posters warning about the dangers of Ebola can be seen all over Freetown
A charity worker educates children on how to prevent and identify the Ebola virus in their communities at Freetown, Sierra LeoneSierra Leona is one of the countries worst hit by West Africa’s Ebola outbreak

But the authorities insist that the measure “will minimise the spread of the virus”, and that thousands of officials would be deployed to make sure residents stayed indoors.

Volunteers will go door-to-door to test people for the virus and take infected people to treatment centres.

Health ministry spokesman Sidie Yahya Tunis told the BBC this month he did not expect the public to object.

“You follow or else you’ll be breaking the law. If you disobey then you are disobeying the president,” he said.

The disease infects humans through close contact with infected animals, including chimpanzees, fruit bats and forest antelope.

It then spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

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Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Ebola virus
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host
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West Africa Ebola casualties

Up to 14 September

2,630

Ebola deaths – probable, confirmed and suspected

  • 1,459 Liberia
  • 601 Guinea
  • 562 Sierra Leone
  • 8 Nigeria

UN deploys ebola mission in West Africa as death toll reaches 2,630

Reuters

U.N. to deploy Ebola mission as death toll reaches 2,630

NEW YORK/PARIS Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:53am BST

Health workers remove the body of Prince Nyentee, a 29-year-old man whom local residents said died of Ebola virus in Monrovia September 11, 2014. REUTERS/James Giahyue

Health workers remove the body of Prince Nyentee, a 29-year-old man whom local residents said died of Ebola virus in Monrovia September 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/James Giahyue

NEW YORK/PARIS (Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council on Thursday declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a “threat to international peace and security” as the death toll hit 2,630 and France became the latest Western nation to step up its support.

French President Francois Hollande announced the deployment of a military hospital to the remote Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, where the outbreak was first detected in March.

Since then the virus has infected at least 5,357 people, according to World Health Organization (WHO), mostly in Guinea, neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. It has also spread to Senegal and Nigeria.

With fragile West African healthcare systems overrun by the outbreak, Hollande said France’s response would not be limited to contributing to 150 million euros (118 million pounds) in aid promised by European Union nations.

“We must save lives,” Hollande told a news conference. “I have asked the defence minister to coordinate this action and to include military doctors and the civil protection agency plus air support.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he will create a special mission to combat the disease and deployed staff in the worst-affected states.

“The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency,” Ban said. He added that he will appoint a special envoy to head the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, which will push a “rapid and massive mobilization” of people, material and financial resources.

“This international mission … will have five priorities: stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks,” Ban told an emergency session of the Security Council.

SPEED IS OF ESSENCE

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said a surge of support could help turn things around for the roughly 22 million people in the hardest-hit countries, whose lives and societies have been shattered by the disease.

“In the hardest hit countries, an exponentially rising caseload threatens to push governments to the brink of state failure,” Chan said during the session of the 15-member council.

The Security Council also adopted a resolution that also calls on states “to lift general travel and border restrictions, imposed as a result of the Ebola outbreak and that contribute to the further isolation of the affected countries and undermine their efforts to respond.”

Joanne Liu, international president for medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres called on member states and others to follow the lead of countries that have committed to join the fight against Ebola.

“We need concrete action on the ground now. Speed is of the essence,” Liu said.

“Although dangerously late, the pledges such as those of the U.S. and UK are ambitious, but they must be implemented now. We do not have months or even weeks to wait. Thousands of lives are at stake,” she said, adding that other countries must commit to deploying assets and staff as soon as possible.

U.S. President Barack Obama, calling the disease a threat to global security, promised this week the deployment of 3,000 U.S. troops to help contain the epidemic. Britain also announced on Wednesday it would provide a further 700 treatment beds in Sierra Leone, its former colony.

One of the most deadly diseases, there is no known cure for the hemorrhagic fever, though development of several treatments and vaccines is being fast-tracked.

ATTACK ON JOURNALISTS, OFFICIALS

The WHO warned on Thursday there were no signs yet of the outbreak slowing, particularly in the three countries hardest hit. It said a surge in Liberia was being driven by an increase in the number of cases in the capital, Monrovia, where 1,210 bed spaces were urgently needed – five times the current capacity.

A U.S. C-17 military aircraft landed in Monrovia international airport on Thursday with a team of engineers to assess the capacity of the runway to handle large planes.

The U.S. plan will include the construction in Liberia – the country hit hardest by the outbreak – of 17 Ebola treatment centres with 100 beds each, plus training thousands of healthcare workers.

French forces will be based in an area where authorities are battling fears and stigma about the highly contagious disease.

Highlighting these difficulties, eight bodies, including those of three journalists, were found after an attack on a team trying to educate locals on the risks of the Ebola virus in a remote area of southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said.

“The eight bodies were found in the village latrine. Three of them had their throats slit,” Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters by telephone in Conakry on Thursday.

In a rare piece of good news, the latest data showed no new deaths in Sierra Leone in the one day since the previous update.

The government in Sierra Leone has locked down the country, limiting movements for three days from midnight on Thursday. It said extreme measures are needed to contain the outbreak.

“Avoid touching each other, avoid eating bush meat, avoid visiting the sick, avoid attending funerals, report illnesses and deaths to the nearest health facility,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said in an address to the nation ahead of the start of the lockdown.

“We know some of the things we are asking you to do are difficult. But life is better than these difficulties,” he said.

However, many people fear the decision will bring more hardship to a nation that is already one of the poorest on earth and critics also question whether it will even be effective.

 

Guinea – bodies found after ebola team go missing

Guardian

Team spreading awareness of deadly virus set upon by angry residents in remote village

Liberian nurses in protection suits escort a suspected Ebola patient in Monrovia

Liberian nurses in protection suits escort a suspected Ebola patient in Monrovia. More than 700 cases, almost a quarter of the total so far, emerged in the past week. Photograph: Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA

The prime minister of Guinea said that seven bodies had been found after a team of health workers went missing during a push to raise awareness of the outbreak of Ebola which started in the country nine months ago.

Witnesses said the team were set upon by angry residents in the remote village of Womey, where many remain in denial about the disease, or suspicious of foreign health workers. Several failed to return following the visit on Tuesday. Officials earlier said some – including three journalists and the director and two senior doctors of the main local hospital – were being held captive. Atempts to reach them stalled when angry residents destroyed bridges leading to the village.

“The meeting started off well; the traditional chiefs welcomed the delegation with 10 kola nuts as a traditional greeting,” said a resident who was present at the meeting and gave only his first name, Yves. “It was afterwards that some youths came out and started stoning them. They dragged some of them away, and damaged their vehicles.”

In an announcement made on state television late on Thursday, Mohamed Saïd Fofana said authorities had located the bodies a day after the group was abducted. Among the dead were three Guinean radio journalists who had been covering the education efforts.

A government spokesman, Damantang Albert Camara. told Reuters: “The bodies were found in the village latrine. Three of them had their throats slit.” Some others from the delegation are still believed to be missing.

The Ebola outbreak across five west African countries has spiralled into the world’s biggest ever epidemic, with more than 700 cases – out of 5,300 overall – emerging in the past week alone, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday.

The WHO said there was a desperate shortage of health workers and supplies in an epidemic likely to last many more months. Health workers across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where most of the cases are, have been periodically attacked by citizens in a region experiencing the deadly virus for the first time.

The district of Nzérékoré, where the team disappeared, exploded in clashes after health workers tried to spray the local market last month. About 50 people were arrested and two dozen police officers who were sent to quell the riots were injured.

In Sierra Leone, almost 30,000 volunteers will go house-to-house to raise awareness of the disease during a three-day “lockdown”, when residents have been asked to remain at home. Thousands of soldiers are to enforce the curfew, due to start at midnight on Thursday.

A sluggish international response to the crisis has picked up in recent days. The US will send 3,000 troops to Liberia to help provide desperately-needed boots on the ground in the country hardest hit by the outbreak.

France’s president, François Hollande, said the former colonial power would set up a military hospital to help tackle the disease in Guinea. Guardian