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Heidi Vogt: Boko Haram’s Abduction of Girls Still Grips Nigeria

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Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014. Many have been forced into sexual slavery or trained to fight, says Amnesty International

YOLA, Nigeria— Heidi Vogt reports: In the year since Boko Haram militants kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls from their dormitories in northeastern Nigeria, the missing girls have come to symbolize an insurgency that doesn’t need a large footprint to terrorize a population.

Protests continue in the capital Abuja to urge the government to do more to free the more-than-200 girls. Each time a town has been retaken, local newspapers and radio stations ask the government if the girls were found there.

“This is about Chibok but it is also about what’s happening in northeast. It is about Boko Haram. It’s something that people can organize around.”

— Liz Donnelly, a London-based Nigeria analyst with the Chatham House policy institute

After the recapture of the key town of Gwoza in late March, the headline of the Nigerian website Pulse headlined its story: “No sign of Chibok girls as soldiers recover Gwoza from terrorists.”

In the past two months, Boko Haram has lost much of the territory it had seized. But what may be a more persistent threat remains—that of a hit-and-run organization that instills terror through mass abductions.

[Also see – Photos: Drawings by Child Victims of Boko Haram Attacks]

Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014, Amnesty International said in a new report. Many have been forced into sexual slavery or trained to fight, the rights group said.

But the girls seized in the town of Chibok and publicized in the #bringbackourgirls Twitter campaignhave been the ones that caught the world’s attention and galvanized Nigerians.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

“This is about Chibok but it is also about what’s happening in northeast. It is about Boko Haram. It’s something that people can organize around,” said Liz Donnelly, a London-based Nigeria analyst with the Chatham House policy institute.

There have been rumors in recent weeks both that the girls have been killed and that they were spotted in Gwoza, but neither has been substantiated.

And there may be more kidnappings to come. Read the rest of this entry »

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Suspected Boko Haram Gunmen Kill 68 in Nigerian Village

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Kano, Nigeria (CNN) Aminu Abubaka reports: Suspected Boko Haram gunmen shot dead and slit the throats of 68 people — including children — in an attack on a village in Nigeria‘s Borno state, according to survivors and vigilante sources.

The attackers then burned down the entire village of Njaba, the sources said.

“They shot dead anyone that tried to flee but spared children younger than 13 years old.”

Dozens of gunmen invaded the remote northeastern village before dawn Tuesday, singling out boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 19 and killing them alongside their parents, witnesses said.

Njaba village lies about 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

“They hurled petrol bombs into homes and opened fire on anyone trying to flee. They particularly targeted teenagers and elderly people.”

Karimu Lawani, who escaped to Maiduguri after hiding with eight other people behind the barn of a neighbor, said the attackers came into the village at around 5 a.m.

“They shot dead anyone that tried to flee but spared children younger than 13 years old,” Lawani said.

He and other survivors counted the victims of the massacre before leaving the village some hours later.

His account was supported by Faltama Bisika, 62, who lost four grandchildren in the attack.

“They hurled petrol bombs into homes and opened fire on anyone trying to flee. They particularly targeted teenagers and elderly people,” Bisika said. Read the rest of this entry »


Satellite Images Reveal Scale of Destruction in Boko Haram Massacre in Nigeria

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Drew Hinshaw in Accra, Ghana and Gbenga Akingbule reporting from Abuja, NigeriaBoko Haram killed hundreds of people and burned down almost an entire town this month, Amnesty International said Thursday, citing satellite photos to offer the clearest indication to date of the damage the Nigerian insurgency wrought.

Not from a satellite photo

Not from a satellite photo

More than 3,700 buildings, including homes, schools, and clinics, were torched by Boko Haram in and around the remote town of Baga during an assault that began on Jan. 3, the human rights group said. Satellite photos showed the entire town of Doron-Baga, which is next to Baga, had been effectively burned down.

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Amnesty said the pictures corroborate the stories of refugees who have spoken of many hundreds killed in the remote area, which is dangerous and inaccessible for journalists and aid workers. Residents who fled have described walking through a countryside littered with bodies. Read the rest of this entry »


Deaths in Nigeria Child Suicide Bombings

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Two suspected child suicide bombers blow themselves up killing six, in the latest assault involving young girls

At least six people have been killed after two suspected child suicide bombers blew themselves up in a market in northeast Nigeria, witnesses say.

“I saw their dead bodies. They are two young girls of about 10 years of age…you only see the plaited hair and part of the upper torso.”

— A trader at the market, Sani Abdu Potiskum

Sunday’s assault was the second attack involving young girls strapped with explosives.

The blasts struck around mid-afternoon at an open market selling mobile handsets in the town of Potiskum in Yobe state, one of three northeastern states after Adamawa and Brorno that have been hit by the armed group Boko Haram.

A trader at the market, Sani Abdu Potiskum, said the bombers were about 10 years old.

“I saw their dead bodies. They are two young girls of about 10 years of age … you only see the plaited hair and part of the upper torso,” the trader said.

The town was hit by a suicide bomber in November when at least 48 people, mainly students, were killed during a school assembly.

On Saturday, a bomb exploded at a police station in Potiskum.

Sunday’s explosions came a day after a bomb strapped to a girl aged around 10 years old exploded in a busy market place in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, killing at least 16 people and injuring more than 20, security sources said.

Boko Haram, which opposes Western influence and education, has been fighting since 2009 to establish an Islamic state in the northeast of the country. The the army’s inability to crush the movement has created problems for President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election in February.

Last year more than 10,000 people died in the violence, according to an estimate by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Army losses

The military lost ground in worst-hit Borno state last weekend after fighters took over the town of Baga and nearby army base, killing over 100 people and forcing thousands to flee. The defence headquarters said on Saturday that the army was regrouping to retake the area. Read the rest of this entry »


The X-51A Waverider: Pentagon’s Hypersonic Long-Range Rapid Attack Weapon

The X-51A Waverider, carried under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber, prepares to launch the fourth and final flight over the Pacific Ocean. The X-51A, an experimental, unmanned aircraft, went hypersonic during a test off the Southern California coast, traveling at more than 3,000 mph, the Air Force said Friday. (U.S. Air Force) Photo by: Bobbi Zapka

The X-51A Waverider, carried under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber, prepares to launch the fourth and final flight over the Pacific Ocean. The X-51A, an experimental, unmanned aircraft, went hypersonic during a test off the Southern California coast, traveling at more than 3,000 mph. (U.S. Air Force) Photo: Bobbi Zapka

Bill Gertz reports:  An experimental scramjet-powered, ultrahigh speed strike vehicle is emerging as the Pentagon’s main choice for a new long-range, rapid attack weapon, a seniorPentagon official says.

Alan R. Shaffer, principal deputy assistant defense secretary for research and engineering, told a defense industry conference that prototypes and recent tests proved concepts for hypersonic arms, and several systems are part of a high-priority effort by Pentagon weapons developers, despite the era of sharply-diminished defense spending.

Hypersonic vehicles can deliver nuclear or conventional payloads in precision strikes against increasingly hard-to-penetrate air defenses of countries like China,Russia and Iran, he said.

“We, the U.S., do not want to be the second country to understand how to have controlled scramjet hypersonics,” Mr. Shaffer told the Precision Strike Association’s annual review on Tuesday.

Photo by: Chad Bellay

Photo by: Chad Bellay

The comments come 2 1/2 months after China’s surprise Jan. 9 test of a new hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed the Wu-14. That ultrahigh speed maneuvering vehicle test represents a major challenge for current U.S. missile defenses, which are designed to counter non-maneuvering ballistic missile threats. Read the rest of this entry »


A Small President on the World Stage

Chad Crowe

Chad Crowe

Peggy Noonan writes: The world misses the old America, the one before the crash—the crashes—of the past dozen years.

That is the takeaway from conversations the past week in New York, where world leaders gathered for the annual U.N. General Assembly session. Our friends, and we have many, speak almost poignantly of the dynamism, excellence, exuberance and leadership of the nation they had, for so many years, judged themselves against, been inspired by, attempted to emulate, resented.

As for those who are not America’s friends, some seem still confused, even concussed, by the new power shift. What is their exact place in it? Will it last? Will America come roaring back? Can she? Does she have the political will, the human capital, the old capability?

It is a world in a new kind of flux, one that doesn’t know what to make of America anymore. In part because of our president.

“We want American leadership,” said a member of a diplomatic delegation of a major U.S. ally. He said it softly, as if confiding he missed an old friend. Read the rest of this entry »