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Kidnapped missionaries, others still held in Mali

International | An Islamic extremist group has issued a proof-of-life video
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 7/04/17, 07:55 am

An al-Qaeda-linked group in Mali has released a proof-of-life video of six foreign hostages, one of them held since 2011. SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups, said the recently formed al-Qaeda affiliate, Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, released the video on Saturday, a day before French President Emmanuel Macron visited the country.

The undated video includes Stephen McGown from South Africa, Kenneth Elliott from Australia, Iulian Ghergut from Romania, Beatrice Stockly from Switzerland, Colombian nun Cecilia Narvaez Agorti, and Sophie Petronin from France.

“No genuine negotiations have begun to rescue your children,” a narrator said in the video.

Extremists kidnapped McGown from Timbuktu in northern Mali in 2011 along with Johan Gustafsson, who was released at the end of last month. In 2015, extremists abducted Elliott and his wife Jocelyn from bordering Burkina Faso, where they ran a medical mission clinic. They released Jocelyn in February 2016. Ghergut, a mineworker, said he was also kidnapped from Burkina Faso in April 2015. Stockly, a Swiss missionary in Mali, was kidnapped for the second time in January 2016, while Petronin was taken in December from the city of Gao. She ran a clinic for malnourished children in the region. In the latest incident, jihadists kidnapped Agorti, a Franciscan nun, in February when they attacked a church in Mali’s Karangasso village.

Macron on Sunday met with the leaders of five nations in the Sahel region to garner support for a new 5,000-member multinational force against extremism. Mali and its neighboring countries continue to face attacks from extremist groups. Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen emerged in March as a coalition between Ansar Dine, al-Qaeda-linked al-Mourabitoun, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The group claimed responsibility for an attack last month that targeted a resort popular among foreigners, killing at least five people.

Macron welcomed the sign of life from Petronin and denounced the group. “They are terrorists, thugs, and assassins,” Macron said, “and we will put all our energies into eradicating them.”

Ebrahim Deen, a researcher with the Afro Middle East Center in South Africa, said the extremist group released the video ahead of Macron’s visit as a publicity tactic to present a united front. Extremist groups in Mali have a history of negotiating and releasing hostages, Deen said, but the trend could change if a new multinational force starts to close in on them. 

Associated Press/Photo by Hassan Ammar, file Associated Press/Photo by Hassan Ammar, file Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir

U.S. could renew Sudan sanctions

The United States has expressed concern over Sudan’s human rights record weeks before reviewing the sanctions it imposed on the country.

The Obama administration in January gave Sudan 180 days to straighten out its human rights record before lifting the country’s economic sanctions. The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum said in a statement it would like to see Sudan make “stronger progress” toward reaching its goal. The embassy said Sudan continues to close political space and restrict religious and press freedoms. Seven U.S. organizations last week wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking that the sanctions remain unless Sudan repeals its apostasy law and ends the destruction of church buildings, among other actions.

In response to the approaching deadline, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Sunday extended a unilateral ceasefire between rebel groups until October. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Thein Zaw Associated Press/Photo by Thein Zaw A police officer guards an Islamic madrasa near Yangon, Burma.

Burma rejects UN investigators

The government of Burma, also called Myanmar, said it will order its embassies worldwide not to allow members of a United Nations fact-finding mission into the country to investigate claims of torture and abuse by security forces. “If they are going to send someone with regards to the fact-finding mission, then there’s no reason for us to let them come,” Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Zeya said.

The United Nations approved the mission in March, and the country’s government has since said it would not cooperate. Some 75,000 Rohingya Muslims fled the country’s Rakhine region after security officials staged a counterinsurgency operation. Witnesses and survivors detailed mass killings, rape, and destruction of property. —O.O.

Vietnamese blogger imprisoned

A Vietnamese court has sentenced a blogger to 10 years in prison for defaming the communist government. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as “Mother Mushroom,” has written several articles about human rights and police brutality. She also appeared in interviews with foreign media outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. United Nations human rights experts and other rights groups have criticized the sentence and said it does not meet international standards. The experts in a statement said they worried the government is increasingly targeting bloggers and peaceful protesters to prevent a larger outburst of dissent. —O.O.

Fire burns refugee camp in Lebanon

A fire that broke out at a camp for Syrian refugees in eastern Lebanon has killed at least one person and left two others in critical condition. The camp, located near the town of Qab Elias, housed about 100 families. Witnesses said the fire started from one tent and quickly spread across the camp’s close quarters. The United Nations refugee agency spokeswoman in Lebanon, Dana Sleiman, said authorities have yet to confirm whether a cooking stove started the fire. —O.O.

Boko Haram strikes in Niger

Boko Haram militants on Sunday night attacked Niger’s village of Ngalewa, some 30 miles north of the Nigerian border. Abba Gata Issa, the district’s mayor, told Reuters the fighters killed nine people and kidnapped about 40 women and children. —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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  • Dean from Ohio
    Posted: Mon, 07/10/2017 08:52 am

    Why call them Islamic extremists? You are apologizing for their actions, it seems. Why not call them Muslim jihadists? Isn't that what they call themselves? That puts the burden of proof for peace on Islam, where it belongs, and not on us. They are genuine jihadists. Islam must explain jihad, not just these perverts.