AQIM has claimed responsibility for the Mauritania gendarme kidnap, and is demanding the release of two prisoners in exchange.
There are about 20 prisoners held in Mauritania on charges related to AQIM membership at the moment, but the message did not specify any names. The other condition of returning Ely Ould Mokhtar is that he must not return to his work with the police force. News item: [Fr] http://snup.us/oaE
This is all very well, but Ely supports a large extended family on his earnings. To further complicate this potential exchange, the majority of the eligible prisoners have recently expressed an interest in negotiating their freedom under a rehabilitation program. There are however at least two more recently arrested who were previously released under the amnesty package but then experienced a “relapse”.
Mauritanian Activists Support Kidnapped Gendarme
The “We are all Ely Ould Moctar” initiative demands the release of the officer, who was taken in a daring raid on his police post near Adel Bagrou last month. AQIM’s “Al Vourghan” brigade, led by Algerian national Yahya Abou El Houmam, was reportedly responsible for the attack.
“The gendarme is the first man to be kidnapped on Mauritanian soil,” explained Aziz Ould Souvi, the initiative co-ordinator and manager of essaha.info. “This seems to be a new development in the war launched by terrorist groups against our country.”
The campaign, which kicked off January 1st, could include a protest march to the border city of Adel Bagrou and other rallies to express support, according to organisers. Activists are also using Facebook and other social media sites to show solidarity. More than 500 national figures signed on to the initiative in just the first 48 hours, organisers said.
“We are also demanding the terrorist organisation not to harm the gendarme,” Ould Savi told Magharebia. “As far as the humanitarian aspect is concerned, he deserves care, as in addition to being a security man who was doing his duty in protecting his country, he’s a father of a daughter and the only supporter of a large family. We hope to celebrate together his return to his family.”
Meanwhile, the gendarme’s mother, Fatimetou Mint Bake, told Magharebia while crying sharply that Ely was her only son. “I hope he will return to us safely. I feel very sad about his detention. His sisters are very worried because of his kidnapping,” she said.
For their part, the Mauritanian authorities have kept silent about the kidnapping of Ely Ould Moctar, with no statement issued and no press conference organised on his status.
Meanwhile, in a letter published by ANI, Salafist activist Ahmed Ould Heinna Ould Mawloud cited Sharia law in urging AQIM leaders to release the Mauritanian gendarme.
“I call upon you to safeguard his safety, to accept our intercession to get him back sound, safe and unharmed to his family,” Ould Heinna said. “I hope that these words will be well accepted by you, and that you’ll honour your brothers by accepting this intercession without any conditions and as soon as possible.”
Ould Heinna is the brother-in-law of Khadim Ould Semane, leader of the AQIM branch in Mauritania. He was arrested several times in 2005 and 2006 before he renounced violence and the use of weapons against Mauritania and its army. According to analyst and journalist Mohamed Mahmoud Ebou Lmaaly, who conducted interviews with Ould Heinna, he is “one of the Salafists who oppose violence”.
Ould Heinna’s message “is a clear indication that al-Qaeda is losing a lot of the people who were sympathising with it or at least were understanding its ideology that calls for violence”, according to journalist Mohamed Ould Ebidy Cheriv.”A call like Ould Heinna’s may make the terrorist groups think about releasing the detained gendarme as it’s a call supported by religious citations,” said terror analyst Hamadi Ould Dah. “At least, it will put them in an embarrassing situation in case the gendarme’s safety is endangered.”
“When a Salafist like that produces sharia argumentation for not harming a kidnapped Mauritanian gendarme, it means that al-Qaeda leaders resort to wrong interpretations of sharia argumentation to serve their interests in getting money for releasing civilians,” he said.
“This is the worst use of religion; when some people use it for harming other people and getting money,” Ould Ebidy Cheriv added.
- France Examines Alleged AQIM Threat on Hostages (abcnews.go.com)
- Review – Difficult fate awaits female hostages of al-Qaeda (arcanaintellego.wordpress.com)
- Terror fears rock #Mauritania town (lissnup.wordpress.com)
- Mauritania army raid killed al-Qaida group leader (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- AQIM’s Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaks out (thewasat.wordpress.com)
Russian Ship Stopped Carrying Arms Bound For Syria
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A Russian ship that made an unscheduled stop in Cyprus while carrying tons of arms to Syria was technically violating an EU embargo on such shipments, say Cypriot officials.
The vessel, however, was allowed to continue its journey Wednesday after changing its destination.
The cargo ship, owned by St. Petersburg-based Westberg Ltd., left the Russian port on Dec. 9 for Turkey and Syria, which is 65 miles (105 kilometers) east of Cyprus, the officials said.
Russia and Turkey are not members of the European Union, so such a route would not have violated the embargo the bloc imposed to protest Syria’s crackdown on the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule.
But the Chariot, a St. Vincent and Grenadines-flagged ship, dropped anchor off the southern Cypriot port of Limassol on Tuesday because of high seas, drawing the attention of Cypriot officials.
Customs officials boarded the ship to examine its cargo, but couldn’t open and inspect four containers in the hold because of “the confined space” they were stored in, the Cypriot Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Nevertheless, the officials determined they were holding a “dangerous cargo.”
Cyprus Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias told private Sigma TV that the cargo was of a type that “essentially necessitated its seizure.”
State radio in Cyprus went further, saying the vessel was carrying “tens of tons of munitions.”
The ship was also carrying an electricity generator, the foreign ministry said.
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted a Westberg spokesman as saying that the Chariot was ferrying cargo owned by Russia’s state arms trader Rosoboronexport. The spokesman said the cargo was listed as “dangerous” in the ship’s manifest, but no further details about it were available.
Cypriot authorities consulted with the ship’s Russian owners who promised to change the ship’s route, and the vessel was allowed to refuel and leave Cyprus on Wednesday, the statement said.
“From the moment that we were informed that the cargo aboard the ship won’t go to Syria, then we had no reason not to allow (the ship’s) immediate release,” Kazamias said. “All actions were taken allowing us to properly get rid of this ship with the dangerous cargo.”
The statement didn’t say where the vessel is now headed. But an official with knowledge of the matter said the ship was allowed to leave after saying its final destination will be nearby Turkey.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity, given the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue.
However, Turkish officials couldn’t confirm that the Chariot was heading to Turkey, and the vessel could still make a dash for the Syrian ports of Latakia or Tartus which Russian warships use as a resupply stop.
Turkey had previously cultivated close ties with Syria, but is now one of the Assad regime’s most vociferous critics. Turkey has imposed trade sanctions on Syria and is allowing its opposition groups to meet on its territory. Some 7,000 Syrians have taken refuge in Turkey.
Turkish authorities intercepted an arms shipment from Iran to Syria in August and seized the cargo of a Syria-bound Iranian plane in March, because it breached U.N. sanctions.
Turkish media said the aircraft was carrying light weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket launchers and mortars.
Last summer, Cyprus suffered a disaster when it confiscated munitions aboard another cargo ship heading to the Middle East.
In February 2009, officials seized 85 gunpowder-laden containers from a Cypriot-flagged ship that was suspected of transporting them from Iran to Palestinian militants in Gaza through Syria.
Those containers, left piled in an open field at a naval base, blew up in July, killing 13 people and wrecking the island’s main power station in the island’s worst peacetime military accident.
AP writers Suzan Fraser and Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this story.
Dialogue to help end violence in Syria – Russia”s Deputy FM
Russia believes that the beginning of the all-Syrian dialogue will help to stop violence and prevent interference into the country’s affairs from outside, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said meeting Syria’s Ambassador in Moscow Riyad Haddad in Moscow Wednesday.
The parties highly appreciated the Arab League’s efforts on stabilization of the situation in Syria.
Haddad informed Bogdanov about the government’s plans to carry out democratic reforms.
He stressed that the Syrian government is committed to the dialogue with the opposition.
- Today In Syria: Russia’s Role (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Russia circulates Syria resolution (laaska.wordpress.com)
- UN Security Council to resume talks on Syria (laaska.wordpress.com)
- Doubt hangs over Arab monitoring mission in Syria – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Observer mission in Syria begins to unravel, pushing forward UN option (csmonitor.com)
- Done deal: Russia supplies cruise missiles to Syria – RT (rt.com)
- Russia supplied ship killer missiles to Syria (thehindu.com)
- Russian warships in Syrian waters (thehindu.com)
- Cyprus frees Syria-bound ship (nation.com.pk)
An official of the college tries to prevent the Al Jazeera cameraman from filming protests at the ISERI higher ediucation institute earlier today, 12 January, 2012. This is supposed to be the coolest time of year, but things are heating up in Mauritania. Protests over the suspected closure of the Institute of Islamic Studies in the capital, Nouakchott, have been ongoing since student registrations were suspended towards the end of 2011. There has been increasing intensity of protest action and in the violence perpetrated against protesters by the police, who have stormed the building several times, using tear gas grenades and shells, even inside the corridors of the school building. Four students are still under arrest since last weekend. The reasons for suspending student registration and now the rumored closure are unclear, but in an Islamic country with a reputation for excellence in Islamic Studies this issue is seen as an attack on the very heart of Mauritanian culture.
This photograph from protests on 10th January 2012 shows the markings on the 12-gauge tear gas cartridges – “Spartan France” and “Nobel Sport”What makes this situation even more puzzling is that just 3 months ago, the Mauritanian government announced a month-long training programme for imams at the Institute of Islamic Studies as part of a push to encourage “moderate beliefs”.
Events at ISERI are just one of a series of protests and other issues affecting civil and political society that are rapidly reaching boiling point in what promises to be a challenging year for Mauritania.
- Sit-in by 200 #Mauritania students after 5 classmates arrested
- UPDATE – #Mauritania activist blogger Mohamed Abdou released
- 6 #Mauritanian college students arrested today after police…
- Mauritanians rally for civic change
- محتجون يطالبون الرئيس الموريتاني بزيادة الرواتب | Mauritania Wage Protest
- Mauritanian Imams and Government Control
Nigeria’s two largest oil workers’ unions have threatened to shut down all production as part of the four-day national strike. Pengassan, the biggest oil union, said it was ready to join the mass action in Africa’s biggest crude producer, which exports more than 2m barrels a day.
The indefinite nationwide strike which paralyzed the country’s banks, transport and transit, began Monday after the Nigerian government cancelled a fuel subsidy program on January 1, which caused a more than doubling of the petrol price from 65 naira ($0.40).
Nigeria is an OPEC member and 80% of its budget comes from oil exports.
Though workers are unlikely to be able to stop output completely , since many processes are automated, the move will have a severe impact on an economy driven by oil revenue.
“Now that the federal government has decided to be callous-minded, we hereby direct all production platforms to be on red alert in preparation for total production shutdown,” Babatunde Ogun, Pengassan’s president, said.
On Thursday the second-biggest oil union, Nupeng, which represents mostly blue collar workers, said its members had pulled out of the oilfields. “We have withdrawn our members because we support the strike and we’re an affiliate of the Nigeria Labour Congress [which called the stay-away],” Elijah Okougboh, Nupeng general secretary told Bloomberg.
Demonstrations had been expected, but the level of rage has surprised the government. Tens of thousands of people have joined nationwide protests that have grown each day and tapped into wider disaffection over decades of poor governance and corruption.
The strike has forced the closure of schools, shops, businesses and banks. Road transport has been curtailed and air travel has been badly hit.
Until Wednesday, neither side appeared willing to give any ground, with the government insisting that the $8bn annual subsidy was unaffordable.
But the Pengassan statement may change that. The union said it had not made a final decision to stop output but that it was no longer sending oil production reports to the government – “one of the very first steps to shut down process”.
The biggest recipients of Nigeria’s oil are the US, India, Brazil and the Netherlands.
The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan urged union leaders to enter into talks.
“The government is worried about the threat to shut down oil production because … if they go ahead to carry out their threat that action will worsen our economic problem, which the government is trying to solve,” Labaran Maku, minister of information, told Reuters news agency.
While the removal of the subsidy makes economic sense, shifting the entire burden to the population without first improving services or infrastructure, or tackling corruption, has united the poor and middle classes in anger.
A protest in Ojota, Lagos, drew more than 10,000 people on Wednesday. Demonstrators carried placards with slogans such as “Stop corruption, not the subsidy”.
“This is not just about 65-naira petrol,” said Kehinde Osibote, 47, an electrical engineer. “It’s about the state of roads and power, and the fact that there’s no cushion for the poor. We are not backing down – we must suffer to get results.”
Elsewhere in the commercial capital, youths carrying sticks and bricks blocked some of the main roads, preventing cars passing. There were reports of motorists being robbed. In Kaduna state, the local government imposed a 24-hour curfew to stop the protests.