Taken down a peg

The Economist

A former coup leader is dragged to court

IT SEEMS unlikely that Amadou Sanogo will be remembered for much other than his incompetence. The Malian army captain bungled his way to power last year as leader of a coup, clearing the way for ethnic rebels and religious extremists to take over half the country. His clumsy posturing isolated Mali diplomatically and brought it close to ruin. Only popular discontent and bloodthirsty supporters lent the captain—a man of much ego and little talent—a measure of power. Until now. Read the rest of this entry »


Mali’s Fog of War: Refugees Tell of Terror, Hunger and Rape

TIME.com

It took Ibrahim Touré three weeks to escape from Timbuktu after rebels seized the desert town, but, in his heart, he hasn’t really left. The 26-year-old shopkeeper studies the floor as he talks, cradling a welter of scabs and fresh scar tissue on his right elbow. Sometimes he stops to rub his head with an uncertain hand — the unforgiving sun, maybe, or a reaction to the horrors he has seen and suffered. If what he says is true, then the fog of war in northern Mali — where Tuareg separatists, Islamic militants, Arab militias and a hodgepodge of terrorist groups are vying for control following a spectacularly successful military campaign — is concealing a grisly spate of human-rights abuses, humanitarian suffering and war crimes. Read the rest of this entry »


Clinging to power

The Economist

EVERY morning a bus caked in dust pulls into Bamako bringing the latest rumours of war. Looking dazed and dehydrated after 24 hours on the road, Mohammad Maiga explains how Tuareg separatists and Islamist militants have turned his native Gao, northern Mali’s most populous town, into a ghost town. “Everyone is leaving,” says Mr Maiga. “There’s no food, no supplies.” Blackouts last all day. Banks and offices have been pillaged by rampant rebels. Read the rest of this entry »


Justice for Ivorians starts with Gbagbo’s extradition. Can it continue?

Gbagbo and his wife Simone in the custody of forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan on 11 April 2011 (Aristide Bodegla/AP)

The Independent

Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivorian president who led his country to the brink of civil war, shuffled off a chartered plane and into the custody of The International Criminal Court at The Hague yesterday in a groundbreaking extradition that could spell an end to a decade of bloodshed and rebellion in Ivory Coast.

Amid howls of protest by some Gbagbo supporters, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, promised that the strongman’s arrest was “just the beginning” and that more suspects would stand trial for crimes committed during inter-ethnic violence that flared up following Ivory Coast’s 2010 presidential election.

Diplomats, human rights groups and analysts say Ocampo’s ability to honor that commitment, and the willingness of the Ivorian authorities to try people on both sides of the political divide, are essential if the West Africa nation is to put its troubles behind it. Read the rest of this entry »


After the US pulls out, will CIA rely more on Afghan mercenaries?

The Christian Science Monitor

Thousands of Afghan mercenaries are believed to be helping America battle Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies. But they’re accused of flagrant human rights abuses.

With his broad cheekbones, hair swept back under a sequined cap, and the gentle manner of a well-to-do Pashtun, Atal Afghanzai might easily pass for a doctor or an engineer.

Instead, his career path led into a cloak-and-dagger world of covert armies and foreign agents, until a rare lethal run-in with an Afghan police chief landed him on death row in Kabul’s most notorious prison.

Young and motivated, Mr. Afghanzai is one of thousands of Afghan mercenaries believed to be working with the CIA to help America battle Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their allies. His story – confirmed by US diplomats, other Western officials, and Afghan authorities – illustrates the military advantages of this secret war. But, with the US poised to ramp up reliance on paramilitaries like Afghanzai as it pulls out frontline troops, the practice is raising the ire of Afghans who accuse the groups of human rights abuses. Read the rest of this entry »


Afghanistan’s Dirty War: Why the Most Feared Man in Bermal District Is a U.S. Ally

 

Commander Azizullah, Sept 23, 2010 | U.S. Army photo by Sgt Justin P Morelli

Time.com

So-called Afghan security guards have become essential to what NATO calls security in parts of the country. The local populace, however, is terrified

On Nov. 30, 2009, in the shadow of mountains that crumple up 9,000-ft. ridges, an Afghan mercenary bankrolled by the U.S. military and hell-bent on the destruction of Taliban rebels allegedly stopped three men heading home to celebrate ‘Id al-Adha with their families. According to an elder from Bermal, the Afghan district where the incident took place, Commander Azizullah and his men bound their hands. Then, the elder told TIME, Azizullah drew his pistol and shot them. There was no evidence that these men were insurgents, the elder says. “But he killed them anyway.” Read the rest of this entry »


Militias funded by US accused of rights abuses

The Independent

Militias in Afghanistan funded by the United States are terrorising the communities they were supposed to protect, murdering, raping and torturing civilians, including children, extorting illegal taxes and smuggling contraband, according to a damning new report from Human Rights Watch.

In a 102-page report entitled ‘Just Don’t Call It a Militia’ the group documents how the Afghan government and the U.S. military have provided guns and money to paramilitary groups without adequate oversight or accountability. Because of their links to senior Afghan officials, many of these groups operate with impunity.

Their behaviour fuels support for the Taliban, and creates insecurity rather than decreasing it. But, under U.S. General David Petraeus, who recently left Afghanistan to head up the Central Intelligence Agency, Nato aggressively pursued a strategy of raising militias as a security quick-fix ahead of its departure in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »


Nato urged to investigate Afghan ‘war criminal’ employed by US

The Independent

The head of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission has urged Hamid Karzai’s government and Nato to investigate allegations, first reported in The Independent, that an Afghan strongman employed by United States Army Special Forces embarked on a spate of war crimes, including rape, the summary execution of children, and torture. “We call on Special Forces – indeed, any forces – and the Afghan government to conduct an investigation of these allegations and find out if [the allegations are] correct or not,” said Nader Nadery, who heads the Human Rights Commission.

He said the commission would make its own efforts to verify the claims against Commander Azizullah, the leader of a US-sponsored militia in the south-eastern Paktika province, but that “it is a core responsibility of the government of Afghanistan to launch an investigation… this is the only way to build confidence in [the country's security] forces”. Read the rest of this entry »


Afghanistan: ‘If he is aware of our complaints, he will find us and kill us’, say witnesses

The Independent

Proper procedure would have been to detain and question the family he suspected of hosting Taliban insurgents but Azizullah did things differently, opening fire on their house with his men. Then they locked the survivors inside. And then they set the place ablaze.

This story is one of many separate alleged instances reported by interviewees during an investigation by The Independent lasting several months. Three separate reports, including two by the UN from early 2010, confirmed many of The Independent’s findings, and documented their own, separate allegations of atrocities. Read the rest of this entry »


Revealed: Afghan chief accused of campaign of terror is on US payroll

The Independent

Witnesses back leaked UN reports detailing claims of rape and murder against feared Tajik warlord

An Afghan warlord backed by US special forces faces persistent allegations that he launched a two-year spate of violence involving burglary, rape and murder of civilians, desecration of mosques and mutilation of corpses. Yet, despite repeated warnings about the atrocities Commander Azizullah is alleged to have committed, he has remained on the payroll of the US military as an “Afghan security guard”, a select band of mercenaries described by some as “the most effective fighting formation in Afghanistan”.

Interviews with religious leaders, tribal elders, villagers, contractors and Western and Afghan officials all pointed to a reign of terror in which they believe 31-year-old Azizullah, a ethnic Tajik, targeted Pashtun civilians while fighting the Taliban. Although individual allegations, all from ethnic Pashtuns, might be inaccurate, malicious or motivated by envy of Azizullah’s close and lucrative links to US special forces, taken together they come from sources belonging to a range of tribes and from several areas. The testimony also tallied with several independent reports documenting the allegations against Azizullah and seen by The Independent, including two confidential reports compiled by UN officials and circulated to Nato personnel last year. Read the rest of this entry »


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