TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Deploys Drones in Search for Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated video released by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram.
Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this still image taken from an undated video released by Nigerian Islamist rebel group Boko Haram. Reuters

White House officials have confirmed that unmanned and unarmed reconnaissance drones are now patrolling an area of Nigeria the size of West Virginia in search of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April by the militant group Boko Haram

The United States has deployed drones to Nigeria to help search for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by militant group Boko Haram, officials confirmed Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said “unmanned, unarmed” aircraft had joined reconnaissance flights over a swath of Nigeria where Boko Haram is believed to be holding the girls hostage. Carney cautioned during a news conference that the area of greatest suspicion still covering an expanse of land “along the size of West Virginia.”

The announcement comes as some U.S. lawmakers are urging the use of force to rescue the Nigerian girls. Senators in both parties recently floated the idea of using special forces to aid in the search, and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain went further on Tuesday. “I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them,” McCain told to the Daily Beast.

Carney, however, said U.S. counterterrorism experts dispatched to Nigeria would limit their activity to an “advisory capacity,” focused on finding the girls.

Recent international attention and internal protests have ratcheted up pressure on Nigeria’s government to rescue the girls and crack down on Boko Haram. Over the last five years, the extremist group has waged a campaign of bombings, massacres and kidnappings in northern Nigeria that has claimed an estimated 1,000 lives.

TIME National Security

Climate Change Poses Growing National-Security Threat, Report Says

A new report published by the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board this week finds that climate change is a "catalyst for conflict" and a "threat multiplier," proving to be a growing threat not only to the environment but also U.S. national security

Climate change does not only threaten the environment but also U.S. national security, according to a new study.

Global warming presents the U.S. with several security threats and has led to conflicts over food and water because of droughts and extreme weather, says the report, which was written by a dozen retired American generals and published by the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board on Tuesday.

“Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national security challenges for the United States,” says the report, adding that problems will be felt “even in stable regions.”

The U.S. military should plan to help manage catastrophes and conflicts both domestically and internationally, it says, raising concerns regarding a wave of refugees fleeing rising sea levels.

“These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad, such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence,” the report states.

The authors of National Security and the Threat of Climate Change urge U.S. policymakers to act quickly. “The increasing risks from climate change should be addressed now because they will almost certainly get worse if we delay,” they say.

TIME boston bombing

Boston Bombing Suspect’s Alleged Accomplices to Face Trial

Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov, Robel Phillipos
This courtroom sketch shows defendants Azamat Tazhayakov, left, Dias Kadyrbayev, center, and Robel Phillipos, right, college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, during a hearing in federal court Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in Boston. Jane Flavell Collins—AP

A federal judge set a trial date for alleged Boston bombing accomplices Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both Kazakh nationals, who are charged with aiding Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to get rid of incriminating evidence and flee authorities

Two Kazakh nationals will stand trial for allegedly helping Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev evade authorities and jettison incriminating evidence.

USA Today reports that Federal Judge Douglas Woodstock rejected the defense team’s request to have all charges against Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov dropped, saying he would not weigh the evidence and act as “fact finder” before the trial dates.

Woodstock also rejected the defense team’s request to relocate the pair’s trials outside of Boston, where emotions might not run as high among selected jury members. Woodstock argued that the defense team’s concerns could be resolved through the usual jury vetting process.

Kazakh nationals Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov stand accused of obstructing police investigations by removing a laptop from the Boston bombing suspect’s dorm room and taking a backpack filled with firework shells emptied of explosive powder in the days after the April 15, 2013 bombings.

Tazhayakov will stand trial on June 30, and Kadyrbayev on Sept. 8. A third suspect, Robel Phillipos, will stand trial on charges of lying to investigators on Sept. 29.

[USA Today]

TIME Nigeria

Nigeria Refuses to Swap Militant Prisoners for Kidnapped Girls

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls
This photo taken from a video by Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorist network on May 12, 2014, purportedly shows some of the kidnapped girls Associated Press

Interior Minister Abba Moro says his government will not trade imprisoned Boko Haram extremists for the release of more than 200 schoolgirls, kidnapped by the militant group from a school last month, as demanded by the group's leader in a new video

The Nigerian government will not trade imprisoned Boko Haram extremists for schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist group, the country’s Interior Minister said Monday.

“As far as this government is concerned, the option of [the] swap of innocent citizens with people who have taken [up] arms against the country … is not on the table,” Abba Moro told the BBC.

In a video released Monday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said the group will free the girls if the Abuja government releases imprisoned Islamic militants.

“We will never release them until after you release our brethren in your prison,” he said.

The video purports to show some of the 200-odd girls who were kidnapped from their school one month ago while doing their final exams. Boko Haram wants to rid Nigeria of Western education and form an Islamist state.

Several nations, including the U.S., France, Britain and Israel, have sent experts or offered help to the Nigerian authorities.

[BBC]

TIME Nigeria

New Boko Haram Video Appears to Show Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls

Footage released by Boko Haram purportedly shows some of the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted in April as its leader says he'll free them in a prisoner exchange

+ READ ARTICLE

Updated 4:47 p.m. ET

A new video released by the extremist group Boko Haram claims to show for the first time more than 100 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted last month, amid growing outrage at the kidnapping and the government’s response.

The authenticity of the video, first published by AFP on Monday, could not immediately be confirmed. It depicts the girls wearing hijab and praying. In the video, a leader of the group boasts that the girls, who came from both Christian and Muslim families, have converted to Islam. “We have indeed liberated them,” the militant leader Abubakar Shekau says in the video. “These girls have become Muslims, they are Muslims.”

Shekau says he will only release the schoolgirls if the Nigerian government frees Boko Haram prisoners. “It is now four years or five years that you have arrested our brethren, they are still in your prison and you are doing many things to them, and now you are talking about these girls?” he said. “We will never release them until you release our brethren.”

A top Nigerian official quickly dismissed the notion that the government would release Boko Haram prisoners in exchange for the safe return of the schoolgirls, AFP reports. “The issue in question is not about Boko Haram… giving conditions,” Interior Minister Abba Moro said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday that the United States has no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video, and that U.S. intelligence agencies are scouring the video for clues.

“Our intelligence experts are combing over every detail of it for clues that might help in the ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls,” Carney said.

A team of almost 30 American officials is already in the country assisting in the investigation; it includes four Department of State advisers, 17 Department of Defense advisers and four people from the FBI.

In an earlier video, Shekau had threatened to force the girls into marriage, saying he would “sell them in the market, by Allah.”

Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from their school in Chibok almost a month ago, and an international social media campaign is demanding their release. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been widely criticized for his failure to prevent the attack and for his response. The United States announced last week that it was sending a team to aid in search and rescue of the girls.

-with reporting from Zeke J Miller in Washington

TIME China

China Cracks Down on ‘Terrorist Videos,’ Arrests More Than 200

Paramilitary policemen stand guard near the exit of the South Railway Station in Urumqi, Xinjiang.
Paramilitary policemen stand guard near the exit of the South Railway Station, where three people were killed and 79 wounded in a bomb and knife attack on Wednesday, in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region, on May 1, 2014. Petar Kujundzic—Reuters

Beijing arrested 232 people who "circulated videos promoting terrorism through the Internet and on portable devices" as the nation continues to reel from a series of knife attacks at rail stations that have been blamed on the autonomy-seeking Uighur minority

Police in China’s restive northwest have arrested more than 200 people for “dissemination of violent or terrorist videos,” state media said Monday.

The six-week security operation in Xinjiang, home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority group, comes after a spate of bombings and knife attacks at train stations across the country.

A total of 232 people who “circulated videos promoting terrorism through the Internet and on portable devices” have been detained, the state-run Global Times newspaper said, citing a Legal Daily report.

In late March, Xinjiang’s regional government announced a ban on possessing “terror-related” videos or spreading them via the Internet.

The crackdown was introduced after the March 1 slaughter of 29 people at a railway station in the southwestern city of Kunming by at least 10 knife-wielding attackers. Some 143 others were wounded in the incident, which was blamed on Uighur separatists.

On April 30, a knife-and-bomb attack struck a rail station in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi just as Chinese President Xi Jinping was wrapping up a tour of the northwestern region. The raid left 79 wounded and three dead, including two attackers.

Then on May 6, six people were injured by at least one knife-wielding assailant at a train station in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. One suspect was shot and detained by security officials.

Relations between China’s majority Han population and the Uighur minority are tense, especially in Xinjiang, where many Uighurs demand greater autonomy and say they are being overwhelmed by a flood of Han migrants. Beijing counters that its policies have brought higher living standards and prosperity to the resource-rich region.

TIME Nigeria

Nigerian President: Missing Schoolgirls Likely Still in Country

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan speaks to the media on the situation in Chibok and the success of the World Economic Forum in Abuja May 9, 2014. Afolabi Sotunde—Reuters

President Goodluck Jonathan said he believes the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram have not yet been trafficked across the border. His government has drawn global wrath for its sluggish response to the kidnapping of over 250 girls by the Islamic militant group

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Friday he believes the hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram last month are still in the country and have not been sent across the border, despite rumors to the contrary.

Jonathan’s government has drawn global wrath for its sluggish response to the April 14th kidnapping of over 250 schoolgirls by the Islamic militant group. The president’s comments come after some reports the girls had been brought across the border to Cameroon.

There are stories that they have moved them outside of the country,” Jonathan said, Reuters reports. “But if they move that number of girls to Cameroon, people will see, so I believe they are still in Nigeria.”

We are also working with the experts that will use remote sensors to see them (insurgents) wherever they are. So that basically says they are within the Sambisa area,” Jonathan said, referring to the Sambisa forest near the school where the girls were taken.

Jonathan’s statement appears intended to refute rumors that the girls may have been sold as brides to men in neighboring Chad and Cameroon. The rumors were bolstered by a video of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau admitting his group had abducted the girls and saying “I will sell them in the market, by Allah.”

The White House has sent a team of military and law enforcement officials to Nigeria to help locate the missing girls.

[Reuters]

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Kills Hundreds in Violent Rampage

Leader of Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau delivering a speech in a recent video.

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram is suspected of killing hundreds of people in a brutal 12-hour rampage in northeastern Nigeria, just weeks after it claimed responsibility for kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls who remain captive

Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group behind the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls last month, killed hundreds of people in a violent attack in northeast Nigeria earlier this week.

Suspected members of Boko Haram raided a town near the Cameroon border Monday and, during a 12-hour rampage, lit houses on fire and shot at locals, killing as many as 300 people, according to reports confirmed by the Associated Press on Thursday. The group is also reported to have kidnapped another eight girls in the region.

Boko Haram has been waging a deadly fight to create a separate Islamic state since 2009. It has recently drawn renewed international attention after it kidnapped nearly 300 girls from a school on April 14.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday pledged to find the girls, saying at the World Economic Forum being hosted in Abuja that their rescue would mark “the beginning of the end of terrorism in Nigeria,” Reuters reports.

But the abductions have been particularly embarrassing for Jonathan as business leaders and officials converge on Abuja for the Forum. The girls are still missing more than three weeks after the mass kidnappings, and Boko Haram’s leader has said that he’ll sell the girls “on the market,” which could effectively turn them into sex slaves.

Jonathan, facing mounting domestic and international pressure to respond to the girls’ kidnapping, recently welcomed an offer from the U.S. to send a team to help with the search. Nigerian officials have also announced a $300,000 reward for information leading to the girls’ rescue.

[AP]

TIME Asia

Not Again: Knife Attack at Train Station in Southern China

Armed policemen stand guard next to passengers after a knife attack at a railway station in Guangzhou, Guangdong province May 6, 2014.
Armed policemen stand guard next to passengers after a knife attack at a railway station in Guangzhou, Guangdong province May 6, 2014. Reuters

Another brutal stabbing incident in Guangzhou reported by state media, leaving at least six people injured by four knife-wielding assailants, comes less than a week after a coordinated bomb and knife attack killed dozens at a railway station in Urumqi

Updated: May 6, 2014, 7:10 a.m. E.T.

For the third time in months, and the second time this week, there has been a knifing at a Chinese railway station. At approximately 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, local time, one or more men stabbed at passersby outside a train station in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Six people were injured, one critically, according to state-media reports. (Local press initially said there were four attackers, but Chinese police now say the suspect acted alone; eyewitness accounts vary.)

Photographs from the scene show what is becoming alarmingly common: blood on the pavement and bodies on the ground. Last Wednesday, a bomb and knife attack at a railway station in the city of Urumqi, in China’s far northwest, left three dead and dozens injured. On March 1, a coordinated assault on a railway station in Kunming, in southwestern China, left 33 dead and more than 100 injured.

It is not yet clear if the incident in Guangzhou is related to what happened in Urumqi or Kunming. Chinese authorities blamed both those attacks on separatists from the country’s predominantly Muslim Uighur minority. President Xi Jinping, who wrapped up a high-profile Xinjiang tour just before the Urumqi attack, last week announced plans to arm Chinese police officers with guns. In the wake of the recent spate of violence, he ordered the army to help local government deliver a “crushing blow” to terrorists.

Details from Guangzhou are still scarce, but early eyewitness accounts suggest the attacker or attackers wore white and brandished long knives. A woman named Liu Yuying told China News Service, a Chinese news agency, that she was exiting the station when she saw two men with “watermelon knives.” The Guangzhou Journal reported that they carried blades a half-meter (or about 20 in.) long.

Though the motive has yet to be determined, Chinese netizens were quick to connect the violence in Guangzhou to earlier incidents and condemn authorities for not doing enough to prevent mass attacks. “The counterterrorist effort is not enough,” one person wrote. “The innocent people are paying the price.”

TIME Africa

Nigeria’s President Vows to Find Abducted Girls Amid Mounting Pressure

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan speaks at the 68th United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013 in New York City Andrew Burton—Getty Images

President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to rescue over 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram three weeks ago after being blasted for failing to respond

After weeks of silence, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged during a nationally broadcast speech on Sunday to find an estimated 276 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from their school by insurgent group Boko Haram in mid-April.

“Wherever these girls are, we’ll get them out,” said President Jonathan on live television Sunday.

However, he accused some of the victims’ parents of withholding information about their daughters and called for “maximum cooperation” from parents.

Jonathan’s speech comes in the wake of heavy criticism both internationally and domestically of his government’s fumbled response to the kidnapping and of the failure to quash Boko Haram’s increasingly brazen campaign of violence across the country, which has seen more than 1,500 people killed during the first four months of 2014.

Following a successful media campaign featuring the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, thousands of people rallied across the world over the weekend demanding action from the Nigerian government.

“I think it’s so important that the Nigerian government do a lot more in finding these women,” Matilda Egere-Cooper, a demonstrator of Nigerian origin in London, told CNN during a protest on Sunday.

Last Friday the President met with his top advisers and called for the creation of a “fact-finding committee” to investigate the April 14 mass kidnapping in Chibok, Borno state. He also promised to beef up security measures in the nation following a string of bombings in Abuja last month.

“[The] government strongly believes that the people of Nigeria, standing together, will overcome the current security challenges,” said the country’s Minister of Information Labaran Maku, according to a press release published after the meeting.

“The President assures Nigerians that ‘wherever the girls are in the world, we will get them back, apprehend and punish the culprits.’”

While the U.S. has been hesitant to provide security assistance to Nigeria because of ongoing human-rights concerns in the country, Secretary of State John Kerry promised to provide support to the beleaguered administration during a speech over the weekend.

“The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime,” said Kerry during a press conference in Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa on Saturday.

“We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice.”

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