Nige­rian troops in fierce bat­tle against Boko Haram in north east

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

FIERCE clashes have been re­ported and claims of ca­su­al­ties as Nige­ria’s mil­i­tary backed up by a multi­na­tional force bat­tled Boko Haram fight­ers for con­trol of a town in the coun­try’s north­east.

The fight­ing on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day around the town of Malam Fa­tori in Borno state, near the bor­der with Niger and Chad, was the lat­est in the area which has changed hands many times in Boko Haram’s sev­enyear armed cam­paign that has killed more than 20,000 peo­ple and dis­placed more than two mil­lion in Nige­ria.

Nige­rian army spokesman Sani Kukasheka Us­man said gov­ern­ment and troops from the Multi-Na­tional Joint Task Force (MNJTF) cap­tured Malam Fa­tori on Tues­day and killed sev­eral Boko Haram mem­bers.

But, Boko Haram fight­ers re­grouped and coun­ter­at­tacked, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press news agency. On Wed­nes­day, Reuters news agency quoted Us­man, the Nige­rian army’s spokesman, as say­ing the “op­er­a­tion is con­tin­u­ing”.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, re­port­ing from the cap­i­tal Abuja, said gov­ern­ment troops had ousted the armed group’s fight­ers from ar­eas around Mal­lam Fa­tori on Tues­day, but then re­treated when Boko Haram re­grouped with re­in­force­ments and mounted new at­tacks.

“Al­though there is so much pro­pa­ganda on both sides, the army came clean this time around say­ing that it has lost its po­si­tion be­fore and it has with­drawn tac­ti­cally to van­tage po­si­tions to try to take back the town,” Idris said. “Mean­while, fight­ing is on­go­ing in that par­tic­u­lar area,” he added.

Boko Haram also claimed to have killed 40 troops in­volved in the op­er­a­tion, our correspondent said.

Amaq, a site af­fil­i­ated to the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), said that its fight­ers had at­tacked an army con­voy in the Malam Fa­tori area on Mon­day killing 40 troops, ac­cord­ing to the SITE In­tel­li­gence Group, which mon­i­tors the group’s an­nounce­ments. Boko Haram pledged loy­alty to ISIL last year. The armed group con­trolled a swath of land in north­east Nige­ria around the size of Bel­gium in the early part of last year, but has been pushed out of most of that ter­ri­tory by the Nige­rian army, aided by MNJTF troops from neigh­bour­ing Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Boko Haram have nev­er­the­less con­tin­ued to carry out sui­cide bomb­ings in the north­east and in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

The UN Chil­dren’s Fund es­ti­mated in a re­cent re­port on Boko Haram vi­o­lence that 475 000 chil­dren CAN­BERRA — Ac­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors yes­ter­day cast doubt on the pos­si­bil­ity that black­ened de­bris found on Mada­gas­car is ev­i­dence of a cat­a­strophic fire aboard that went miss­ing Malaysian air­liner more than two years ago.

Wreck­age hunter Blaine Gib­son hand-de­liv­ered five pieces of de­bris last week to of­fi­cials at the Aus­tralian Trans­port Safety Bu­reau who are search­ing for Malaysia Air­lines Flight 370.

The bu­reau said in a state­ment on Thurs­day that in­ves­ti­ga­tors had yet to de­ter­mine whether the pieces were from the Boe­ing 777 that is thought to have plunged into the In­dian Ocean with 239 peo­ple on board south­west of Aus­tralia on March 8, 2014.

But a pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion found that two fiber­glasshon­ey­comb pieces were not burnt, but had been dis­col­ored by a re­ac­tion in resin that had not been caused by ex­po­sure to fire or heat, the state­ment said.

There were three small ar­eas of heat dam­age on one of the pieces which cre­ated a burnt odour. How­ever, that odour —

across the Lake Chad re­gion — which bor­ders Nige­ria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger — will suf­fer from acute mal­nu­tri­tion this year.

An es­ti­mated 38 chil­dren have been used to carry out sui­cide at­tacks in the Lake Chad basin so far this year, bring­ing to 86 the to­tal num­ber of chil­dren used in sui­cide at­tacks since 2014, the re­port said.

Mean­while, Nige­ria would wel­come United Na­tions rep­re­sen­ta­tives as in­ter­me­di­aries in any talks with Boko Haram on the re­lease of about 200 sug­gested the heat dam­age was re­cent, it said.

“I was con­sid­ered that burn­ing odours would gen­er­ally dis­si­pate after an ex­tended pe­riod of en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­po­sure, in­clud­ing salt wa­ter im­mer­sion, as ex­pected for items orig­i­nat­ing from” the miss­ing plane, the state­ment said.

Gib­son has col­lected 14 pieces of de­bris po­ten­tially from the miss­ing plane, in­clud­ing a tri­an­gu­lar panel sten­cilled “no step” that he found in Mozam­bique in Fe­bru­ary. Of­fi­cials say that panel was al­most cer­tainly a hor­i­zon­tal sta­biliser from a Flight 370 wing.

Gib­son had said the dark­ened sur­faces of the lat­est de­bris could be ev­i­dence that a fire ended the flight far from its sched­uled route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Bei­jing. But he con­ceded he had no idea when the ap­par­ent heat dam­aged had oc­curred.

A sonar search of 120 000sq/km of seabed which is cal­cu­lated to be the most likely crash site in the south­ern In­dian Ocean is al­most com­plete with­out any trace of the plane be­ing found. — AFP school­girls kid­napped from the north­east­ern vil­lage of Chi­bok in 2014, Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari said yes­ter­day.

Nige­ria would “wel­come in­ter­me­di­aries such as UN out­fits, to step in”, Buhari told United Na­tions Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon at a meet­ing on side­lines of the an­nual UN Gen­eral Assem­bly, in New York, a state­ment is­sued by the pres­i­dent’s of­fice said. — Al Jazeera.

MH370 In­ves­ti­ga­tors cast doubt on cat­a­strophic fire ev­i­dence

ABIDJAN — As the deadly out­break of Ebola has sub­sided, peo­ple in sev­eral west African coun­tries are flock­ing to eat bush­meat again after restrictions were lifted on the con­sump­tion of wild an­i­mals like hedge­hogs and cane rats. But some health ex­perts call it a risky move.

Cote d’Ivoire, which neigh­bours two of the three coun­tries where Ebola killed more than 11 300 peo­ple since De­cem­ber 2013, lifted its ban on wild an­i­mal meat this month.

The meat of squir­rel, deer, fruit bats and rats has long been a key source of pro­tein for many in the re­gion, but it is also a po­ten­tial source of the Ebola virus.

Though bush­meat hasn’t of­fi­cially been linked to West Africa’s re­cent Ebola out­break, the dead­li­est in his­tory, in­fec­tions in Africa have been as­so­ci­ated with hunt­ing, butcher­ing and pro­cess­ing meat from in­fected an­i­mals, ac­cord­ing to the US Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol. The Ebola virus is then spread through di­rect con­tact with the bod­ily flu­ids of vic­tims or corpses.

“From a pub­lic health stand­point, this de­ci­sion is un­for­tu­nate at best,” said Ben Neu­man, a vi­rol­o­gist at Texas A&M Univer­si­tyTexarkana. “The only source of Ebola in the world is in­fected an­i­mals, and there’s good ev­i­dence that some of these an­i­mals, like bats, can be in­fected for a long time.”

How­ever, not all bush­meat is equal, he said. Bats pass on the virus and travel far. Some types of ro­dents can get the virus. Pri­mate meat is likely not as much of a dan­ger, given that they suc­cumb to Ebola more quickly than peo­ple.

“There’s a good case for ban­ning the sale of bats as bush­meat. The other sources are a lesser risk,” Neu­man said. “I don’t want to see it all le­gal, but we don’t want to see peo­ple go hun­gry, ei­ther.”

Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana all warned against, or banned, the sale of bush­meat in 2014 as the out­break emerged. They be­gan rolling back those restrictions after the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion said in March that Ebola was no longer an in­ter­na­tional health emer­gency.

Many in the coun­tries are happy that they can now en­joy the meat they have al­ways re­lied on. Some be­lieve it is tastier than im­ported meats or chicken, and it’s often cheaper.

“We weren’t happy that the gov­ern­ment banned us from eat­ing bush­meat these past two years. But we did what we were told be­cause of Ebola,” said Lu­cien Douhan while shop­ping for bush­meat in the Yopougon sub­urb of Abidjan.

In the teem­ing open-air mar­kets, ven­dors han­dled the stiff­ened meat in recog­nis­able an­i­mal form. Bat wings com­peted for space on worn wooden ta­bles with other meat, some tails and claws still at­tached. Flies buzzed. A ma­chete hacked. Those who sell the meat say they have been through hard times. “We couldn’t af­ford for our kids to go to school. It was hard for us. We had to sell frogs so the kids could eat, and we sold snails too,” said Brigitte Gahie. “But to­day, thanks be to God, the meat is back and the peo­ple are com­ing back.” — AFP

A stu­dent who es­caped when Boko Haram rebels stormed a school and ab­ducted school­girls, iden­ti­fies her school­mates from a video re­leased by the Is­lamist rebel group at the Gov­ern­ment House in Maiduguri, Borno State. File photo

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