TIME Nigeria

At Least 20 Killed in Suspected Boko Haram Bombing

Nigeria Boko Haram attack explosion
Adamu Adamu—AP People gather at the site of suicide bomb attack at Redeem Christian church in Potiskum, Nigeria on July 5, 2015.

Three hundred people have been killed in a series of bomb attacks in the last week

LAGOS, Nigeria — A bomb blast in Nigeria’s northern university town of Zaria killed 20 people Tuesday, the Kaduna state governor reported, the latest in a string of deadly bombing and shooting attacks by the Boko Haram Islamic extremist group.

Gov. Nasir el-Rufai urged citizens to avoid crowded public places including mosques and churches as the militants widen and accelerate the pace of attacks that have killed some 300 people in a week. Boko Haram may be responding to an Islamic State group order for more mayhem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

On Twitter, El-Rufai said “I am sad that a terrorist bomb attack just killed 20 people in Sabon Gari, Zaria.” Local media said the blast targeted government headquarters as civil servants assembled for a training course.

Boko Haram wants to install an Islamic state across the West African nation of about 170 million people divided between a predominantly Muslim north and Christian south. The extremists say democracy has brought nothing but woes to Nigerians plagued by endemic corruption that keeps Africa’s biggest oil producer and richest economy mired in poverty.

Nigeria’s police force Monday night announced increased security around mosques and churches after Boko Haram assaults on Sunday killed more than 60 people in a mosque and posh Muslim restaurant in central Jos city and at an evangelical Christian church in northeastern Potiskum town.

The attacks come just five weeks into the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim and former military dictator who has vowed to crush the 6-year-old insurgency that has killed more than 13,000 people and driven 1.5 million from their homes.

Boko Haram took over a large swath of northeastern Nigeria last year. A multinational force from Nigeria and its neighbors forced the militants out of many towns, but attacks have increased in recent weeks.

 

TIME Nigeria

Central Nigerian City Targeted by Boko Haram Bombs, 44 Dead

67 other people were wounded and are being treated in hospitals

(JOS, Nigeria) —An emergency agency official says 44 people were killed by two bombs that exploded at a crowded mosque and an elite Muslim restaurant in Nigeria’s central city of Jos.

Abdussalam Mohammed of the National Emergency Management Agency says 67 other people were wounded and are being treated in hospitals.

Witnesses who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals say the explosion at Yantaya Mosque came as a leading cleric who preaches peaceful co-existence was addressing a crowd during the holy month of Ramadan.

Another bomb exploded at Shagalinku, a restaurant patronized by elite politicians.

Jos is located where Nigeria’s majority Muslim north and mainly Christian south collide. The city has been targeted in the past by bomb blasts claimed by Boko Haram Islamic extremists that have killed hundreds of people.

TIME Nigeria

Fresh Horror in Nigeria After Bloody Week That Claimed Almost 250 Lives

Some 17,000 people have died in violence related to Boko Haram since 2009

A suicide bombing at a church in Potiskum on Sunday, and dual explosions in the central city of Jos in the early hours of Monday morning local time, have shaken Nigeria and mark the end of a week of atrocities in the embattled country that has left more than 200 dead.

The explosions in Jos, at a mosque and a popular restaurant, killed 44 people and wounded 67 early morning July 6, the AP reports. Witnesses said the bombing at Yantaya Mosque took place during a lecture by a leading cleric famous for preaching peaceful co-existence. The second bomb exploded at Shagalinku, a restaurant known to cater to the political elite.

No one has claimed responsibility for the church blast in Potiskum, which killed a priest and four congregants, but it is consistent with past attacks attributed to militant Islamist group Boko Haram, CNN reports.

Potiskum has recently been the focus of Boko Haram violence; in January, three people were killed and 43 hurt during a bombing in a market, and the next week another attack left four dead and 48 hurt at a bus station. Another bus station was attacked in February, killing 17, and in May the town’s College of Administrative and Business Studies was targeted.

Jos is also often a target for violence, as it sits on the fault line between the country’s Christian south and Muslim north.

Additionally, this past week has seen what new Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari described as a “heinous” burst of violence, the BBC reports, including suicide bombings in two small Borno villages, the killing of 97 people near Lake Chad, and 48 men shot dead in two villages near Monguno.

Amnesty International estimates that more than 17,000 people have been killed since 2009 in violence involving Boko Haram.

[BBC]

TIME Nigeria

How 4 Girls Escaped Boko Haram to End Up in Oregon

Nigerians holding candles during a vigil for the one year anniversary of the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian school girls in Chibok, Abuja, Nigeria on April 14, 2015.
EPA Nigerians holding candles during a vigil for the one year anniversary of the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian school girls in Chibok, Abuja, Nigeria on April 14, 2015.

They're slowly adjusting to life in America

Correction appended

Four girls who narrowly avoided abduction by Boko Haram’s massive abduction of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls are now thriving at an Oregon Christian school, Cosmopolitan reports.

Three girls who evaded the kidnappers and one who happened to be away from school at the time of the abduction have been relocated to Canyonville Christian Academy, an international boarding school in Canyonville, OR.

The four girls were classmates of the 219 girls still missing after they were kidnapped from their Chibok school last April by Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The group has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the beginning of 2014, Amnesty International reports, and many of them are being sold into slavery or sexually abused.

The girls spoke exclusively to Cosmopolitan about their capture, escape and experiences in America. Mercy escaped by jumped off a moving truck. Deborah refused to talk about her experience. Grace made a run for it after she asked her captors to go to the bathroom– she made it to a nearby house, where strangers lied to protect her from the militants who came looking for her. Sarah was away from school the night of the abduction.

Now in the United States, the girls are learning about Facebook, staplers, and Christmas trees — but counselors say they’re not quite ready for bathing suits.

The abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls became a global movement last year at least partly due to the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign, whose co-founder Obiageli Ezekwesili was recognized in TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people earlier this year. The former Nigeria education minister gave an impassioned speech at the TIME 100 Gala in April on the hunt for the kidnapped girls:

Read the full Cosmopolitan story here.

Correction: This article originally misidentified Obiageli Ezekwesili’s former role in the Nigerian government. She was minister for education, and before that minister for minerals.

TIME Turkey

Here Are 3 Good Things That Happened in the World This Week

TURKEY-VOTE-RESULTS kurdish
Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images Young supporters of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) celebrate in the streets the results of the legislative election, in Diyarbakir on June 7, 2015.

Turkey, Nigeria and the E.U. all saw positive stories in a week when most of the news was depressing

Follow the news these days, and it’s hard to be an optimist. Ukraine’s ceasefire is a fiction. ISIS is capturing new ground and drawing new followers. The U.S. and China seem at odds in the South China Sea. The Greeks sometimes seem determined to stumble their way out of Europe. The list goes on. But with the real exception of Ukraine, these risks are exaggerated, and there are positive stories out there that deserve more attention. Here are three:

1. Turkey

Start with last weekend’s election results in Turkey. Not so long ago, this country was considered a major emerging market success story. That’s mainly because then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had helped unlock much more of the country’s growth potential by empowering development and entrepreneurship in the country’s Anatolian heartland. Under his leadership, per capita income tripled in a decade.

Unfortunately, Erdogan, now president, has drawn comparisons with Russia’s Putin by shifting focus from economic gain to a bid for lasting political dominance. To corner his enemies and expand his power, he has compromised the independence of Turkey’s courts, police forces, and central bank. His foreign policy has become a mix of nationalist paranoia and anti-Western resentment. He has also polarized his country.

But Turkish voters reminded us on June 7 that Turkey is not Russia, and Erdogan can’t become Putin. His Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, earned another victory, but not the supermajority Erdogan needed to rewrite Turkey’s constitution to give himself more power. In fact, for the first time in 13 years, the AKP didn’t even win a simple majority and will now have to form a coalition government.

Make no mistake: Turkey will be a mess for some time to come. Expected intensified political infighting over the next couple of years, but the big news is that there are still checks on Erdogan’s ambitions, even within his own party. It’s a step back for Erdogan–and a step forward for his country.

2. Nigeria

After years of corruption and stagnation, Africa’s largest economy needed new political energy. March’s presidential election provided exactly that. After 16 years of one-party rule following the country’s shift from military control to democracy in 1999, opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari won a clear victory and a strong mandate. The incumbent accepted defeat, and power changed hands peacefully. That’s crucial in a country where stability depends on a delicate political balance between Christians in the south, Muslims in the north and various ethnic groups and provincial factions.

With majorities for his APC party in parliament and governorships, Buhari brings energy for reform. A capable economic policy team is now settling into place. A badly needed revitalization of the oil sector is underway. Government spending restraint will earn greater investor confidence in Nigeria’s enormous potential. Buhari, a Muslim and former military commander, will more aggressively target Boko Haram, Muslim militants based in the country’s northeast, than his predecessor did.

3. Europe

Even in Europe, despite intense media focus on the risks of Grexit and Brexit—Greek and British exists from the E.U., respectively—there is cause for optimism. Last week, the Pew Research Center released a report detailing evidence of a revival of public faith in the broader European project. Pew surveyed 6,028 people in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK, countries that make up 70% of the EU population and provide 74% of its GDP. Though many of those questioned still say their economies are in rotten shape and won’t quickly return to pre-crisis levels, they do sense improvement—and credit the European Union for it. Despite the rise of Euro-skeptic parties like Spain’s Podemos, Britain’s UK Independence Party and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, public support for the EU within these member states has actually risen since 2013. In Britain, support for exit from the EU trails support for continued membership by 55 to 36 percent. Interestingly, majorities in Spain (70%), Britain (66%), Italy (58%), and Germany (50%) say the rise of “non-traditional” parties is a “good thing,” perhaps because they provide a useful check on the power of European institutions.

There’s no doubt that Ukraine’s conflict will deepen, tensions with Russia will rise further, Greece has a long way to go and the Middle East will burn hotter for longer. But add reform momentum in India, Italy, and Mexico, and there are still plenty of good news stories beyond the headlines.

Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME. He is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy, and a Global Research Professor at New York University. His most recent book is Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World

TIME Nigeria

New Nigerian President Buhari Pledges Renewed Fight Against Boko Haram

Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou  and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari observe a horse wearing a ceremonial outfit in Niamey
Tagaza Djibo—Reuters Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou (far right) and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (right) observe a horse wearing a ceremonial outfit in Niamey, Niger, June 3, 2015

The Jihadist group pledged allegiance to ISIS earlier this year

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took a hard line Wednesday against Islamist militant group Boko Haram during his first visit trip overseas since winning elections in March.

“I renew my commitment to track Boko Haram into a corner, to destroy it. Five years of the presence of this evil sect is enough,” the 72-year-old told reporters in Niamey, Niger, accompanied by his opposite number, President Mahamadou Issoufou. Buhari said he also planned to visit neighboring Chad on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Niger has recently stepped up efforts to help its neighbor combat Boko Haram in the northeast part of the country, but Buhari indicated that arrangement would end soon. “I think in the next four weeks we will be able to replace them with Nigerian forces so they can return to their country,” he said. He also credited Niger for accepting refugees — as many as 150,000 — who have fled the fighting in Nigeria to Niger.

Nigeria and neighbors Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin will also launch a new multinational effort to fight the insurgency around Lake Chad using a force of 8,700 troops, Issoufou announced at a separate event Tuesday. The neighboring nations will provide additional weapons to Nigeria and will help rebuild infrastructure damaged by recent fighting.

Founded in 2002, Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden,” launched a vicious insurgency in 2009 but only garnered global attention after the abduction of more than 250 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in April 2014.

[Reuters]

TIME Nigeria

Nigeria Hails the Freeing of 200 Women and Children but Regrets Continued Captivity of Chibok Girls

Former French first lady Valerie Trierweiler (3rdL) attends a gathering "Bring Back Our Girls" near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on April 14, 2015 to mark one year since more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram.
Gonzalo Fuentes—Reuters Former French first lady Valerie Trierweiler attends a gathering "Bring Back Our Girls" near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on April 14, 2015 to mark one year since more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram.

When a Nigerian military spokesman claimed on Tuesday to have rescued some 200 women and girls held captive by members of the Boko Haram, hopes soared that they might be the schoolgirls kidnapped a year ago from a dormitory that put the name of their small town, Chibok, in the global spotlight.

The kidnapping, which took place on April 14, 2014, spurred an international twitter campaign to #BringBackOurGirls, and saw a dedicated band of Nigerian mothers, students, activists and civil society members holding daily vigils in the capital, Abuja, and weekly protests elsewhere in the country.

More than 2,000 women and children from Northeastern Nigeria have been kidnapped by Boko Haram in the past 17 months, but the plight of the schoolgirls, who were kidnapped in one raid and seemed to have been targeted because they were seeking education, garnered the world’s sympathy. The founder of the Bring Back our Girls movement, former World Bank Vice President for Africa and former Nigerian Education Minister Obiageli Ezekwesili was relentless in her campaign to make sure the Chibok girls were not forgotten, and brought in international celebrities from Madonna to U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousufzai to promote the cause.

So fervent is the desire to see the girls back and alive, the disappointment that the 200 rescued women were not from Chibok was profound. “Alas it certainly seems they are not Chibok Girls and that is profoundly heart breaking,” Ezekwesili wrote TIME in an email. “Yet, that these girls and women who were also captives of those savages (for God knows how long) can now breathe the air of freedom is certainly victory.”

When the girls were first kidnapped, it took nearly two weeks for the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to respond, and even longer to launch a military effort to take on Boko Haram and track down the students. When the Nigerian military attacked the group, they were often defeated. In many cases soldiers simply abandoned their posts, largely due to inadequate weapons and fears that they would not receive additional air support if they did decide to engage. The failure of a hollowed-out military that had once been the pride of Nigeria and one of the most respected forces in Africa prompted national soul-searching, and may have lead, in part, to the electoral defeat of Jonathan in elections last month. While military spokesmen have claimed credit for the rescue and a spate of military defeats that forced Boko Haram into taking refuge in the dense Sambisa forest, the gains could not have been achieved without the support of an international coalition made up of militaries from neighbors Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

The incoming president, Muhammadu Buhari, has pledged to rebuild the army, but it will take years to recover from a decade of neglect and endemic corruption.

Despite the hopes and efforts of activists like Ezekwesili, the likelihood of finding all the Chibok girls is slim. In several videos posted to YouTube, Boko Haram founder Abubakar Shekau boasted that the girls, many of whom were Christian, had either converted to Islam and been married off, or refused to convert and sold as slaves. According to Amnesty International, Boko Haram fighters, fleeing the advancing Nigerian army, have in some instances slaughtered their own wives rather than let them be captured by “infidels,” a fate that could have befallen some of the Chibok girls. Amnesty also suggests that others might have perished due to the rigors of captivity, and, if the fate of several other Boko Haram escapees is a guide, they might have been used as sex slaves or forced to fight.

Boko Haram has also used young women in suicide attacks, though it is not clear that any of the bombers came from Chibok. Nonetheless, the efforts to rescue the Chibok girls, and all other Boko Haram abductees must continue, says Ezekwesili. The rescue of the 200 girls on Tuesday makes it clear. “We can seize on their rescue to add more pressure on our Government to SPARE NO EFFORT in finding our #ChibokGirls and all other abductees.”

As for the Chibok girls, it is yet another reminder that the world is unlikely to forget them, and the fact that neither the Nigerian military, nor an international Twitter campaign, has been able to find them.

TIME Nigeria

200 Girls Rescued From Boko Haram Camps Are Not the Chibok Schoolgirls

Former French first lady Valerie Trierweiler (3rdL) attends a gathering "Bring Back Our Girls" near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on April 14, 2015 to mark one year since more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram.
Gonzalo Fuentes—Reuters Former French first lady Valerie Trierweiler attends a gathering "Bring Back Our Girls" near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on April 14, 2015 to mark one year since more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram.

Many had hoped the rescued girls were the same ones kidnapped a year ago from a Chibok school

—The Nigerian army said that the hundreds of women and girls rescued from camps run by Islamist group Boko Haram Tuesday are not the same ones who were kidnapped from a Chibok school last April.

After Nigerian forces rescued 200 girls and 93 women from the Boko-Haram occupied Sambisa forest, many hoped missing Chibok schoolgirls whose abduction inspired the global campaign to ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ would be among them. The campaign’s founder, Obiageli Ezekwesili, said it was “heartbreaking” that the Chibok girls were not found, but added that any rescue is good news. “That these girls and women who were also captives of those savages (for God knows how long) can now breathe the air of freedom is certainly victory,” she told TIME. “We can seize on their rescue to add more pressure on our Government to spare no effort in finding our #ChibokGirls and all other abductees.”

Shortly after the rescue, an army spokesman announced that the rescued girls were other captives of Boko Haram, not the Chibok schoolgirls. Approximately 2,000 women and girls have been kidnapped by Boko Haram since the beginning of the year, according to Amnesty International.

According to testimony from escaped captives, girls and women abducted by Boko Haram are often raped, forced into marriage, or sold into sexual slavery. Sometimes they’re forced to become soldiers and attack their own villages. Some have despaired of finding the Chibok girls together, since Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau promised to “sell them on the market” shortly after they were abducted last year.

Ezekwesili gave a speech at last week’s TIME 100 gala urging the world not to forget the plight of the Chibok girls:

TIME indonesia

Indonesian Media Says 8 Foreign Drug Smugglers Executed

PHILIPPINES-INDONESIA-CRIME-DRUGS-EXECUTION
Ted Aljibe—AFP/Getty Images Activists hold candles and placards with portraits of Mary Jane Veloso in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila, Philippines on April 28, 2015.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected clemency appeals

Eight drug convicts, all foreigners, were reportedly executed by firing squad in Indonesia on Wednesday, after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected pleas from foreign governments and thousands of his own citizens to halt the executions.

The inmates, four Nigerians, two Australians, one Brazilian and one Indonesian, were killed on the Nusakambangan prison island early Wednesday, the Jakarta Post reports. But another condemned prisoner, Filipina domestic helper Mary Jane Veloso, was spared at least temporarily after new evidence came to light confirming her claim she was tricked into smuggling drugs.

The executed inmates included Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Australians who were part of the Bali Nine drug-smuggling group. Their former lawyer, Mohammad Irfan, has alleged to the Sydney Morning Herald that judges asked for more than $77,000 in bribes to give the pair a lighter sentence, and he also accuses Jakarta of political interference — once again putting a spotlight on Indonesia’s judicial system, which is largely seen as corrupt.

A Frenchman, Serge Atlaoui, was earlier given a temporary reprieve pending a legal appeal, which was granted after French President François Hollande warned: “If he is executed, there will be consequences with France and Europe.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (and former East Timorese President) José Ramos-Horta, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, British tycoon and adventurer Richard Branson and iconic hard-rock guitarist Tony Iommi were among the chorus of foreign leaders, fellow celebrities, local and overseas activists and ordinary people asking that the convicts’ lives be spared.

Families of the condemned came to Nusakambangan to spend the last hours with their loved ones, as police and military stepped up security there and in Cilacap. Chan, who was ordained as minister in the decade he spent at a Bali prison, asked to go to church with his family during his last days, said his brother Michael. As his last wish, Sukumaran, who began painting while incarcerated in Bali, has asked “to paint as long and as much as possible,” his brother Chinthu said. One of his latest self-portraits shown to journalists depicts a harrowing image of the artist shot through the heart.

Read next: Inside Indonesia’s Islamic Boarding School for Transgender People

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME indonesia

The Execution of Several Foreigners in Indonesia Appears Imminent

President Joko Widodo has said he will not interfere

Correction appended, April 24

In a sign that it may be preparing to put 10 mostly foreign drug offenders to death, Indonesia has asked foreign diplomats to travel Saturday to visit the maximum-security prison on the island of Nusakambangan where the inmates are being held.

According to Reuters, the legally required 72-hour notice has not been announced but a diplomat the news agency spoke with on condition of anonymity said, “We still don’t know when the actual date of the execution will happen but we expect that it will be in days.”

On Tuesday, through the state-owned news agency Antara, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the executions were “only awaiting the conclusion of all procedures and the legal process, which I will not interfere in. It is only a matter of time.”

The condemned include Australian, Brazilian, French and Nigerian nationals, as well as a Filipina maid named Mary Jane Veloso who has sparked a social-media campaign for clemency.

Also set to be executed are the two Australian ringleaders of the Bali Nine drug-smuggling group, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Repeated appeals to spare their lives have been made by the Australian government and the case has created tensions between the two countries. France also blasted the Indonesian legal system on Thursday.

According to David McRae, a senior research fellow at the Asia Institute in the University of Melbourne, who wrote an analysis paper on the subject in 2012, Jakarta is torn between domestic and international considerations. “One [stream of thought] relishes the opportunity for the government to present itself as firm in the face of international pressure,” he tells TIME. “But I think there are others who are concerned at the prospect of Indonesia’s relations with various of its important international partners becoming mired in needless rancor.”

Indonesia has severe punishments for drug offenses and has once again started implementing the death penalty after a five-year stoppage.

[Reuters]

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the drug offenders. Nine are foreigners and one is Indonesian.

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