Author Archives: Europe correspondent

Mauritius oil spill ESA dramatic images

European Space Agency (ESA) has released images of MV Wakashio oil spill view from space, depicting the huge area of devastation of the Mauritius waters, and coastline.

Reportedly large cracks have appeared in the hull of MV Wakashio cargo vessel, leaking oil in Mauritius, prompting the Prime minister to warn it may “break in two”.

The wrecked ship, which is believed to have been carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil, ran aground on a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on 25 July.

Despite bad weather, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said 500 tonnes had been safely pumped out on August 10.

However he warned the islanders should be preparing for the “worst-case scenario” with further release of the rest of the fuel into the ocean.

Mauritius is home to world-renowned coral reefs, and related tourism is a crucial part of its economy.

France reinforces protection in Sahel

France will step up security measures to protect the countriy’s nationals in Africa’s Sahel region, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, August 11, two days after six French aid workers and there two local guides were shot dead in Niger, while touring in natural park Kouré.

“We will do everything we can to support the families of the victims and to respond to the attack that cost the lives of six of our compatriots and two Nigeriens. These six young people, who were members of the NGO ‘ACTED’, showed extraordinary commitment to the local population,” Macron wrote on his Tweeted microblog.

“I have decided to step up security measures for our citizens in the region. We will continue in our action to eradicate the terrorist groups, with the increased support of our partners.”

The unidentified gunmen on motobyces have attacked a group of French aid workers in Niger, killing six French citizens, their local guide from natural park and driver, officials say.
The gunmen arrived on motorcycles and opened fire, the governor of Tillabéri region, Tidjani Ibrahim, said to Agence France Press.

They were in the Kouré region, which famous among tourists for rear herds of giraffe in West Africa.

The French presidency confirmed the deaths of the French citizens, after the post mortem expertice of their bodies undertaken in military base in Niger.

The French nationals worked for an international aid group, and went on Sunday for a tour to the giraffe park Kouré were they were attacked and killed, their vehicle burt.

ACTED, a French humanitarian NGO, confirmed its staff members were killed in this random attack in Niger, in the aread considered to be not dangerous for toursim.

President Emmanuel Macron spoke on the phone with his Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou on Sunday, a statement said, ensureing cooperation of both countris in defeating terrorsim in Sahel.

In photos which were not released for the ethical reasons, the victims’ bodies were found lying on a road by the side of their vechile. There were no survives. All victims were young people from 26 to 35 years old, idealists, devoted to the cause of development of Niger.

This random attack in Kouré parc caused considerable damage to local community living from tourism to giraffe parc, which has been considered as one of safe areas, just one hour drive from the captial. The group was killed in the morning hours between around 11 AM.

Niger: counter-terrorist operation in Kouré

French President Emmanuel Macron will convene a defense council on Tuesday, August 11 following Sunday’s attack in Niger that left eight people dead, including six French nationals, the Elysee said.

In a statement released overnight Sunday to Monday, the French presidency said Emmanuel Macron had spoken with his Nigerien counterpart, Mahamadou Issoufou.

The two leaders “wish to recall that all means are and will be implemented to elucidate the circumstances of this murderous attack in the coming hours”, writes L’Elysée.

A defense council will be held on Tuesday morning “under the authority of the President of the Republic and on the basis of information which will be transmitted this Monday by the Nigerien and French authorities”, she added in the press release.

The national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office (Pnat) announced on August 10 that it had opened an investigation for “assassinations in connection with a terrorist enterprise” and “terrorist criminal association” after the attack which left eight dead, including six French.

Reportedly there were four men and four women in the vehicle, who left for national reserve tour.

They were between 25 and 35 years old and died in the attack on the Kouré reserve on Sunday. Most of them highly educated, these four women and two men, who worked for the NGO Acted, all dreamed of a better and united world.

https://twitter.com/hmpafrica/status/1292946217719275520?s=21

Nigerian and French military, engaged in Barkahne mission in Sahel has started a counter-terrorist operation immediately in the afthermath of the attack in narutal park Kouré . A patrol of 2 Mirage 2000D was engaged in the area to search for the perpetrators. This “at the request of the Nigerien Armed Forces” states a statement from the military staff. This aerial patrol was then relayed by a drone.

A team of criminal identification technicians from Gao (Mali) was also pre-positioned on the Niamey BAP – planned air base – before being deployed to the area on Monday August 10 morning as part of ‘a mission of assistance to local police forces.

Image above: illustraiton

Niger attack defined «terrorism»

Six aid workers and their two guides were killed by armed men in a deadly attack in Niger, during excursion to natural park. French charity ACTED confirmed their deaths in random attack on the vehicle on Sunday, August 9.

The French government called it a terrorist attack, though no group has yet claimed responsibility.

Unidentified gunmen attacked the group in the Kouré region, around 50 kilometers from the capital Niamey.

The victims, who are both French and Niger nationals from ACTED and IMPACT aid organizations, were “senselessly and cowardly murdered”, according to ACTED, which did not give additional details about the incident.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Niger President M. Mahamadou Issoufou about the incident the French call “the murderous attack that cowardly targeted a group of humanitarian workers”, according to a statement from the French Presidency on Monday.

The Elysee statement said President Macron has also sent condolences and the nation’s support to the families of victims, it has also underlined that both the French and Niger presidents are working to clarify the circumstances of the attack.

“Their determination to pursue the fight against terrorists in Sahel remains intact,” the statement said.

French troops and the army in Sahel are fighting to suppress a jihadist insurgency, which has seen army outposts in both countries attacked by militants.

ACTED said aid workers helping with the vulnerable affected by the conflict should not be the target of attacks. The killed Frenchmen where not trourists, but humanitarian aid workers. The slain aid workers spent their Sunday in a natural resort famous for wildlife, and mainly admired for its population of giraffe. The parc is situated near the capital, and has not been considered as dangerous so far.

“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” the charity said in the statement.

Lions need protecton amid pandemic crisis

African countries need to strengthen protection of lions without delay amid threats to their survival linked to aggravating situation related to pandemic criis, reflecting in rise absence of tourims, and rising of poaching, conservationists said on ahead of World Lions Dayobserved on August 10.

Edith Kabesiime, wildlife campaign manager at World Animal Protection, said that African lions were facing human and nature induced threats hence the need to prioritize their protection.

“We have witnessed the population of lions in Africa declined in the last decades as human beings occupy their habitat,” Kabesiime said at a virtual briefing in Nairobi.

The conservationist said that World Lions Day offers an opportunity to raise awareness on the emerging threats of poisoning big cats by livestock keepers and poaching to satisfy the overseas traditional healers demands.

“There is a need to raise awareness on the plight of lions even as we celebrate them as Africa’s iconic species,” said Kabesiime.

Statistics from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) displays the dramatic decline of Africa’s lion population from 200,000 in the last century to the current 20,000.

Kabesiime said that currently, lions exist in 26 African countries adding that the continent has lost about 90% of the carnivore from its original habitat amid rapid urbanization.

She said that the African lion has been categorized by IUCN as a vulnerable species amid international trade in its claws and jaws to meet a rising demand for traditional natural healers and jewelry.

“The other challenge facing lion conservation is illegal bushmeat and poisoning by farmers as a deterrent measure against attack on livestock,” said Kabesiime.

The shrinking of prey base for African lions linked to massive hunting by local communities, has increased their risk of death through starvation, Kabesiime has underlined.

The industrialised captive breeding of lions that has intensified in some parts of Africa also represents a threat to their survival, causing degeneration.

The scientists urged African governments to support innovative lions’ conservation programs that focus on expanding their prey base while minimizing conflict with humans.

Kabesiime said that a complex of measures as a ban on international trade in lion’s products coupled with enforcement of laws to deter poaching will help reverse their declining numbers in Africa.

Burkina Faso: gunmen attacked cattle market

A group of gunmen killed about 20 people in an attack on a cattle market in eastern Burkina Faso on August 7, the government said in a statement.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack in the village of Fada N’Gourma, around which the army is conducting a search operation.

An eye witness who was at the scene at the time of the attack told to local press: “About ten men came on motorcycles with weapons. I was buying poultry as usual. They passed us and headed for the sheep and oxen buyers. Everything was going well when suddenly we heard the crackling of guns. Everyone fled to hide. And soon after, the guns were silent and in their places the screams pierced the sky. Without trying to confirm or know anything, we all fled to get into the stock market place. When we returned, there were bodies and many injured. Seized with fear and panic, I quickly returned to Fada.”

Armed jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have killed hundreds of people in attacks over the last year in Sahelian country, forced more than half a million to flee, and eroded government control in most areas outside the capital.

The similar massacre took place in May, when a gumen opened fire killing 25 people in an attack on another cattle market in the eastern village of Kompienga.

Image: illustration, Burkina Faso village.

Botswana dimond trade plunges

Botswana’s rough diamond exports plunged 68% in the second quarter of the year, data published by the central bank showed on August 7, as the COVID-19 pandemic affected demand, and trade.

In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Botswana closed its borders in March following the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations, preventing the international buyers from travelling to centres such as Mumbai, Antwerp and China who traditionally arrive to Gaborone ten times a year to buy diamonds.

Exports of diamonds from Debswana, a joint venture between Botswana and diamond mining giant De Beers, a unit of Anglo American, stood at $293 million in the second quarter of 2020, from $916 million in the preceding period.

Mauritius ecological disaster

The island nation of Mauritius has declared a “state of environmental emergency” after a Japanese tanker offshore began leaking tons of oil into the ocean.
MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on 25 July and its crew was evacuated. The inhabitants of the ilsland were left alone to solve the environmental crisis.

Since the date of the shipwreck the large bulk carrier has beenleaking tons of crude oil into the surrounding waters.
France has pledged support and the ship’s owner Nagashiki Shipping ensured it was working to combat the spill.

Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared the state of emergency late on Friday, August 7.
He underlined that the nation did not have “the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships”, and appealed to Preisent Macron for help. In his Tweet response French President vowed to deliver aid to the islanders from the Island of Reunion.

The French island of Reunion lies near Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Mauritius is home to world-famous coral reefs, and tourism is a crucial part of the nation’s economy.

Being registered in Panama, the MV Wakashio is owned by a Japanese company Nagashiki Shipping.

The island nation, which relies on its waters for fishing and tourism has deployed around 400 sea booms, physical barriers made of metal or plastic, to slow the spread of the oil.

The Japanese owners of a cargo ship leaking oil off the coast of Mauritius apologized and promised to do everything possible to contain the spill.

Mauritius is admired by tourists for its natural environment, beaches and water sports.

Al Shabaab attack in Mogadishu

A huge blast rocked a military base in Mogadishu, Somalia capital, killing at least eight people and injuring 14, emergency workers said, and the militant group al Shabaab has already claimed responsiblity.

Soldiers opened fire after the explosion which sent clouds of smoke into the sky, said a resident of from the area.

“We ran indoors in fear,” a witness told to Reuters agency correspondent. “Soon I could see a military pickup speeding and carrying many soldiers covered with blood. I do not know if they were all dead or injured.”

Army officer Major Abdullahi Mohamud said it was an attack. “It must be a suicide car bomb, I am now transporting casualties,” he said.

Claiming responsibility for the incident, the military operations spokesman of the al Shabaab group, Abdiasis Abu Musab, said: “We conducted a successful martyrdom operation on a major apostate military base in Mogadishu.”

“The enemy suffered many casualties and wounded, military vehicles destroyed.”

Somalia has been plagued by violence since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew leader Siad Barre and then started military operations against each other.

Since 2008, al Shabaab militants has been fighting to overthrow the internationally-recognised central government and establish its rule based strictly on Islamic Sharia law.

COVID19: Morocco removed from EU travel list

The European Union removed Morocco from its safe travel list of countries from which the bloc allows non-essential voyage, after a review by EU ambassadors on August 7, Friday.

Morocco recorded a record high of 6,385 new cases of contamination in the past week, according to a statistics by the Johns Hopkins University. The official soruces in Morocco have reported a total of 29,644 cases and 449 deaths.

The list is recommended as guideline for the EU’s 27 members, proposing to EU members not to open their borders to all the countries which are not included into safe travel list.

It is based on criteria including the monitoring of number of new COVID-19 cases recorded in a country over the fortnight, whether its case load per 100,000 people is in line with the EU average, and testing capacities.

The decision reduces the list to 10 countries, and it takes effect from August 8, after the EU also excluded Algeria last week.

The safe countries deemed to have the coronavirus pandemic largely under control are Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay.

China has been approved, although travel would reumed on reciprocity basis only.

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