Boko Haram leader is dead, rival Daesh in West African Province confirms

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaks in front of guards in an unknown location in Nigeria in this still image taken from an undated video obtained on January 15, 2018. (Boko Haram Handout/Sahara Reporters via Reuters)
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaks in front of guards in an unknown location in Nigeria in this still image taken from an undated video obtained on January 15, 2018. (Boko Haram Handout/Sahara Reporters via Reuters)
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Updated 07 June 2021

Boko Haram leader is dead, rival Daesh in West African Province confirms

Boko Haram leader is dead, rival Daesh in West African Province confirms
  • Daesh confirmed Abubakar Shekau killed himself in a fight against them, two weeks after reports emerged that he died
  • Shekau committed unimaginable terrorism and atrocities

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: The militant group Daesh West African Province (ISWAP) said in an audio recording heard by Reuters on Sunday that Abubakar Shekau, leader of rival Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, was dead.
Shekau died around May 18 after detonating an explosive device when he was pursued by ISWAP fighters following a battle, a person purporting to be ISWAP leader Abu Musab Al-Barnawi said on the audio recording.
“Abubakar Shekau, God has judged him by sending him to heaven,” he can be heard saying.
Two people familiar with Al-Barnawi told Reuters the voice on the recording was that of the ISWAP leader.
Shekau’s death could lead to the end of a violent rivalry between the two groups, enabling ISWAP to absorb Boko Haram fighters and consolidate its hold on territory in northeastern Nigeria, political analysts said.
That would allow ISWAP to focus its attention on the government and military, whose war efforts are languishing.
In the audio recording, the man identified as Al-Barnawi said his fighters had sought out the warlord on the orders of Daesh leadership, and battled Boko Haram insurgents until Shekau fled.
Eventually, ISWAP chased him down and offered him the chance to repent and join them, he said.

“From there he retreated and escaped, ran and roamed the bushes for five days. However, the fighters kept searching and hunting for him before they were able to locate him,” the voice said.
After finding him in the bush, ISWAP fighters urged him and his followers to repent, the voice added, but Shekau refused and killed himself.
“Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the afterlife than getting humiliated on earth, and he killed himself instantly by detonating an explosive,” he said.
Shekau led the transformation of Boko Haram from an underground extremist sect in 2009 to a full-fledged insurgency, killing, kidnapping and looting its way across northeast Nigeria.
The group has killed more than 30,000 people, forced around 2 million people to flee their homes and spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
ISWAP was previously part of Boko Haram before its split five years ago, pledging allegiance to Daesh. The schism was caused by religious ideological disagreements over the killing of civilians by Boko Haram, to which ISWAP objected.

“We are so happy,” the voice said, describing Shekau as “the big troublemaker, persecutor and destructive leader of the nation.”

“This was someone who committed unimaginable terrorism and atrocities. For how long has he been leading people astray? How many times has he destroyed and abused people?” the voice said.
Boko Haram has not yet officially commented on the death of their leader, who waged a more than decade-long insurgency in northeast Nigeria, while the Nigerian army said it was investigating the claim.

In the past two years, ISWAP emerged as the more dominant force in the region, carrying out large-scale attacks against the Nigerian military.
As the group now looks to absorb Shekau’s fighters and territory, Nigeria’s army potentially faces a more unified jihadist force, analysts say.
But ISWAP may also struggle to control or persuade Boko Haram factions loyal to Shekau outside Sambisa, especially in border areas.
“It may not be over yet,” one security source said. “ISWAP will have to subdue or convince these camps to coalesce (them) into its fold to fully consolidate its control.”
Extremist infighting may present opportunities for Nigeria’s army to seize.
But should ISWAP absorb part of Shekau’s men and weapons, it might be in a position to cut off roads to and from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, said Peccavi Consulting, a risk group specializing in Africa.
“If ISWAP convinces Shekau’s forces to join them, they will be controlling the majority of the enemy forces as well as having a presence in most of the ungoverned spaces in the northeast,” it said in a note.
Since 2019, Nigeria’s army has pulled out of villages and smaller bases to hunker down in so-called “supercamps,” a strategy critics say allows jihadists to roam free in rural areas.
Following its takeover of Sambisa, ISWAP sent messages to locals in the Lake Chad region, telling them they were welcome to its self-declared “caliphate,” said Sallau Arzika, a fisherman from Baga.
Locals were chased out of the lake islands after ISWAP accused them of spying for the military. Al-Barnawi said they could now return for fishing and trading after paying tax, with the assurance they would not be harmed, Arzika said.
(Wirh Reuters and AFP)


Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
Updated 6 sec ago

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
  • Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand
  • Each pill is estimated to cost between $1.97 and $2.96
MANILA: The Philippines will receive 300,000 courses of Merck & Co’s COVID-19 antiviral drug next month, licensed importers and distributors said on Wednesday, as Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand.
Singapore and Malaysia have signed deals to buy the drug, Molnupiravir, while Indonesia is finalizing a purchase agreement, among a slew of orders after data from interim clinical trials showed the pills could halve the likelihood of hospitalization or death for patients at risk of severe COVID-19.
“Molnupiravir can now be accessed by our countrymen upon being prescribed for such use by their respective physicians,” Monaliza Salian, president of MedEthix, a Philippine health care products importer, told a news conference.
MedEthix will import 300,000 courses of Molnupiravir for COVID-19 patients in four hospitals, she added. The shipment will be the first batch of the drug to arrive in the Philippines.
Each pill is estimated to cost 100 to 150 pesos ($1.97 to $2.96), said Meneleo Hernandez, president of pharmaceutical firm JackPharma, which will distribute the drug locally.
The Philippines has approved the “compassionate use” of Molnupiravir for 31 hospitals, Food and Drug Administration Chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said on Wednesday.
Molnupiravir would be the world’s first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval.
The Philippines’ health ministry on Wednesday reported 3,218 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest single-day tally in more than five months. It has so far fully inoculated roughly 26 million of its 110 million population.
With nearly 2.77 million cases and more than 42,300 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan
Updated 17 min 57 sec ago

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan
  • Pakistan has witnessed scores of such terrorist attacks in recent years

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Unidentified gunmen attacked a police patrol overnight in northwest Pakistan, killing four before fleeing the scene, a police official said Wednesday.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack in Lakki Marwat, a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. Police official Umar Khan said a search operation for the culprits was still underway.
Khan provided no further details and only said the funeral of slain officers was held Wednesday morning.
Pakistan has witnessed scores of such terrorist attacks in recent years, most of which have been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban and the Daesh group. Both organizations have been emboldened by Taliban resurgence in neighboring Afghanistan, where Pakistani militants are still believed to be hiding.
Before the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan often accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along their porous border.


Japan condemns Sudan military leaders

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders
Updated 27 October 2021

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders
  • Japan called for an immediate, safe, and unconditional release of Prime Minister Hamdok and other detained senior government officials

TOKYO: Japan strongly condemned the Sudanese security and armed forces’ actions of detaining prime minister Hamdok and other senior government officials and opening fire on the anti-military demonstrators, leaving many casualties.

“The government of Japan is deeply concerned about Sudan’s situation and condemns dissolving the Transitional Government by the arms forces,” an official statement by the foreign ministry said. “Such actions undermine the transition to civilian rule based on the Constitutional Declaration.”

Japan called for an immediate, safe, and unconditional release of Prime Minister Hamdok and other detained senior government officials.

“Japan closely cooperates with the international community and calls for the restoration of transition to civilian rule in Sudan,” the statement said.

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases
Updated 27 October 2021

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases
  • Since the pandemic began, Poland has reported 2,990,509 cases and 76,672 deaths

Poland reported 8,361 daily COVID-19 cases and 133 deaths on Wednesday, the health ministry said.
Since the pandemic began Poland, a country of around 38 million, has reported 2,990,509 cases and 76,672 deaths.


India’s top court probes spying charges against government

India’s top court probes spying charges against government
Updated 27 October 2021

India’s top court probes spying charges against government

India’s top court probes spying charges against government
  • India’s opposition has been demanding an investigation into how the Israeli spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India

NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Wednesday established a committee of experts to look into accusations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government used Israeli military-grade spyware to monitor political opponents, journalists and activists.
The Supreme Court order came in response to petitions filed by a group of Indian journalists, rights activists and opposition politicians following an investigation by a global media consortium in July. The committee, headed by a retired judge, is expected to give its findings by year-end.
India’s opposition has been demanding an investigation into how the Israeli spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India.
Modi’s government has “unequivocally” denied all allegations regarding illegal surveillance. India’s information technology minister Ashwani Vaishnaw in Parliament dismissed the allegations in July, calling them “highly sensational,” “over the top” and “an attempt to malign the Indian democracy.”
But the government in an affidavit did not tell the court whether it used the Israeli equipment for spying, citing security reasons.
On Wednesday, the court said the state cannot get a free pass every time by raising security concerns.
“Violation of the right to privacy, freedom of speech, as alleged in pleas, needs to be examined,” the Press Trust of India cited Chief Justice N.V. Ramanna as saying.
Based on leaked targeting data, the findings by a global media consortium provided evidence that the spyware from the Israel-based NSO Group, the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire company, was allegedly used to infiltrate devices belonging to a range of targets, including journalists, activists and political opponents in 50 countries.
The company said in July it only sells to “vetted government agencies” for use against terrorists and major criminals and that it has no visibility into its customers’ data.
Critics call those claims dishonest and have provided evidence that NSO directly manages the high-tech spying. They say the repeated abuse of Pegasus spyware highlights the nearly complete lack of regulation of the private global surveillance industry.
Pegasus infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously controls the smartphone’s microphones and cameras. In the case of journalists, that allows hackers to spy on reporters’ communications with sources.
Rights groups say the findings bolster accusations that not only autocratic regimes but also democratic governments, including India, have used the spyware for political ends.