Nigerian troops in fierce battle against Boko Haram in north east
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propaganda on both sides, the army came clean this time around saying that it has lost its position before and it has withdrawn tactically to vantage positions to try to take back the town,” Idris said.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