Militant group claims Mali attack that killed two French troops

In this file photo taken on March 10, 2016, French soldiers involved in the regional anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane patrol, in this March 10, 2016 file photo, in Timbamogoye. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2018
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Militant group claims Mali attack that killed two French troops

NOUAKCHOTT: A Malian militant group with links to Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two French soldiers in the West African country on Wednesday.
The soldiers were killed after their armored vehicle was hit by an explosive device near Mali’s border with Niger and Burkina Faso, an area that has become increasingly dangerous for international forces seeking to quell insurgencies in the remote Sahel region.
In October, militants killed four US troops just over the border in Niger, sparking a debate about America’s combat role in the vast and unpoliced scrubland just south of the Sahara.
JNIM, which has been responsible for other attacks in Mali and has been linked to the kidnapping of at least six Western hostages in recent years, claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack late on Friday on two Mauritanian websites, through which the group has previously communicated.
Militants took over northern Mali in 2012 before French forces pushed them back in 2013. But since then the threat has crept back, and attacks have occurred further and further south, into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso, and as far afield as Ivory Coast.
In a bid to counter the insurgents, international donors on Friday pledged half-a-billion dollars toward the G-5 Sahel, an international force made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.


Police smash rings that smuggled Moroccan minors into Spain

Updated 23 June 2018
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Police smash rings that smuggled Moroccan minors into Spain

  • One gang allegedly charged about €2,000 to smuggle a minor by boat from Morocco, a price that would rise to up to €8,000 if weather conditions were bad.
  • The group charged €5,000 to bring minors across on a jet ski and €2,500 hidden inside trucks on ferries. It is suspected of having smuggled over 100 migrants into Spain from Morocco.

MADRID: Police have broken up two gangs suspected of smuggling minors from Morocco into Spain on jet skis, boats or hidden inside trucks, charging thousands of euros for the crossing, Spanish police and Europol said Friday.
One gang allegedly charged about €2,000 ($2,300) to smuggle a minor by boat from Morocco, a price that would rise to up to €8,000 if weather conditions were bad, Spanish police said in a statement.
The group charged €5,000 to bring minors across on a jet ski and €2,500 hidden inside trucks on ferries. It is suspected of having smuggled over 100 migrants into Spain from Morocco.
Spanish police said they had broken up the group with the arrest of 22 people across the country, including three employees of a youth detention center in the northern region of Asturias suspected of helping the minors get documents to be able to live in Spain legally.
The authorities said they began their investigation after detecting a significant rise in the arrival of unaccompanied minors from Morocco at this youth detention center, who were all mainly from the same area near the Sahara desert.
During a second phase police broke up another gang linked to the first group which smuggled minors from Morocco to Spain by boat, but which also kidnapped minors who were brought in by rival groups and held them for ransom in forests or safe houses in the southern province of Cadiz.
“The criminal gang collected money by extorting the minors’ families in Morocco, sometimes using violence and threats, until they paid a ransom of €500 to release the children,” Europol, which worked with Spanish police on the operation, said in a statement.
Spanish police said they had smashed this second group with the arrest of six of its members.
The Strait of Gibraltar separates Spain and Morocco by around just 15 kilometers (nine miles) — a ferry ride between the two continents takes roughly 40 minutes — making it one of the key smuggling routes for illegal immigrants crossing into Europe.
Spain is the third busiest gateway for migrants arriving in Europe, still far behind Italy but catching up fast with Greece.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 22,400 people arrived in Spain by sea last year, nearly triple the number for 2016. Some 223 people died along the way.