Mali militants block schooling for 2,000 children

A picture take on October 30, 2018 shows Burkinabe gendarmes sitting on their vehicle in the city of Ouhigouya in the north of the country. (AFP)
Updated 06 November 2018
0

Mali militants block schooling for 2,000 children

  • Mali is struggling with a militant insurgency that began with an uprising by Tuareg separatists in the north of the country in 2012

BAMAKO: Nearly 2,000 children in Mali have stopped going to school after suspected Islamists warned they would only allow religious education, teachers and local officials said Tuesday.
“Armed jihadists arrived in our village last week by motorcycle,” said a teacher in the village of Toubakoro, about 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako.
“They told everyone to gather in a mosque. They told us to close all schools where French is taught, and to teach only the Qur’an instead,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They threatened to punish anyone who broke the new rule.”
Mali is struggling with a militant insurgency that began with an uprising by Tuareg separatists in the north of the country in 2012.
The extremists were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
But large stretches of Mali remain out of the control of Malian, French and UN forces, which are frequent targets of attacks.
Violence began to spread out of the north three years ago, reviving tensions among ethnic groups in the center of the country.
Concurring sources said the group behind the threats at Toubakaro claims affiliation to a radical preacher from the Fulani ethnic group named Amadou Koufa.
The men made similar threats last week in the nearby villages of Dandougou, Balala and Ngounado, they said.
“More than 20 schools have been closed in five locations — almost 2,000 children are not going to school at the moment,” said local official Aboubacar Ndiaye, who said he had fled to Bamako “as a precaution.”
In his latest quarterly report on Mali, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that 1,108 schools had had to close “at least once” — defined as a closure of at least 20 days in one stretch — during the 2017-18 school year. Closures affected a total of 332,400 children.
Security Minister Salif Traore said on Tuesday that a “wide-scale” military operation to tackle threats against schools had begun on Saturday, and “suspects” had been arrested.


Armed civilian border group member arrested in New Mexico

Updated 1 min 43 sec ago
0

Armed civilian border group member arrested in New Mexico

  • Armed civilian groups have been a fixture on the border for years, especially when large numbers of migrants come. But, unlike previous times, many of the migrants crossing now are children
LAS CRUCES, N.M.: A New Mexico man belonging to an armed group that has detained Central American families near the US-Mexico border was arrested Saturday in a border community on a criminal complaint accusing him of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, authorities said.
The FBI said in a statement it arrested 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins in Sunland Park with the assistance of local police. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a separate statement that Hopkins was a member of the group that had stopped migrants.
Hopkins was booked into the Dona Ana County detention center in Las Cruces and it wasn’t immediately known whether he has an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
The FBI statement did not provide information on Hopkins’ background, and FBI spokesman Frank Fisher told The Associated Press that no additional information would be released until after Hopkins has an initial appearance Monday in federal court in Las Cruces.
The FBI said Hopkins is from Flora Vista, a rural community in northern New Mexico and approximately 353 miles (572 kilometers) north of Sunland Park, which is a suburb of El Paso, Texas.
The Sunland Park Police Department on Saturday referred an AP reporter to the FBI.
Balderas said in a statement that Hopkins “is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families. Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”
Federal authorities on Friday warned private groups to avoid policing the border after a string of videos on social media showed armed civilians detaining large groups of Central American families in New Mexico.
The videos posted earlier in the week show members of United Constitutional Patriots ordering family groups as small as seven and as large as several hundred to sit on the dirt with their children, some toddlers, waiting until Border Patrol agents arrive.
Customs and Border Protection said on its Twitter account that it “does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations that take enforcement matters into their own hands. Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.”
Jim Benvie, a spokesman for United Constitutional Patriots, did not immediately respond Saturday to a request for comment made via Facebook.
Benvie said in a video that the group’s members were assisting a “stressed and overstrained Border Patrol” and said the group is legally armed for self-defense and never points guns at migrants. The posted videos do not show them with firearms drawn.
Armed civilian groups have been a fixture on the border for years, especially when large numbers of migrants come. But, unlike previous times, many of the migrants crossing now are children.
In the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which has emerged as the second-busiest corridor for illegal crossings after Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, 86% of arrests in March were people who came as families or unaccompanied children.