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At least 25 killed during Nigerian military raid: Amnesty
by Staff Writers
Lagos (AFP) July 15, 2011

Gabon troops to be backbone of French W. Africa forces: PM
Libreville (AFP) July 17, 2011 - French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told his country's troops in Gabon on Sunday that they will form the backbone of Paris' forces in its former colonies in west Africa.

Under a new defence plan for west Africa that is seeing France renegotiate agreements with a number of ex-colonies, the role of the French base in Gabon will be "reinforced" to form the "essential part" of the country's forces in the region, Fillon said during a visit to Gabon.

The base will be "at the heart" of a rapid-reaction force, said Fillon, who was visiting Camp de Gaulle in Libreville, where about 900 French soldiers are based.

"France's military presence on the continent has often been, in the past, the target of suspicions that have weighed on our image," said Fillon.

In order to reduce such suspicions, French President Nicolas Sarkozy "wanted to overhaul all of our (defence) agreements in order to make them transparent," Fillon said, leading to the renegotiations of defence agreements.

At least 25 people were killed during a Nigerian military raid after a bomb blast blamed on Islamists and many others have been reported missing, a statement from Amnesty International said Friday.

The statement referred to an incident last weekend in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, which has seen a wave of attacks attributed to an Islamist sect known as Boko Haram and where hundreds of troops have been deployed.

"In Kaleri Ngomari Custain, in Maiduguri, on Saturday 9 July at least 25 people were killed and at least 45 wounded, including women and children, when the Joint Military Task Force cordoned off a bomb site and went from house to house, shooting and arresting people living in the area," the organisation said.

"Many men and boys have been reported missing. According to eyewitnesses, the security forces burnt down several houses, forcing their occupants to flee."

The military had reported 11 dead in the wake of the incident, saying all were members of Boko Haram. Residents alleged that soldiers shot civilians and burnt down houses, but the military denied targeting innocent people.

There has been extreme tension in Maiduguri, hit by almost daily attacks in recent weeks. Soldiers were accused of again shooting civilians on Friday following a bomb blast that wounded eight policemen, which the military denied.

"Reports say members of the security forces have repeatedly threatened to shoot everyone in the area if they fail to tip them off about future bombs," Amnesty said.

"As a result thousands of people living in Maiduguri have already left the city, and many more continue to do so.

"Amnesty International calls on the Nigerian government to investigate the killings and bring to justice anyone found responsible for these heinous crimes.

"Allegations of rape of women by members of the Joint Task Force should also be investigated."

The military has also denied the rape allegations.

The sect claims to be fighting for the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria, a country of some 150 million people roughly divided in half between Christians and Muslims.

It re-emerged last year with a series of hit-and-run shootings targeting politicians, community leaders, police and soldiers, before turning to bombings, which have intensified in recent weeks. The attacks have also become increasingly deadly.

Amnesty said more than 140 people have been killed by Boko Haram bombings in Nigeria's north since January.

There has been intense speculation over whether some of the violence has been politically motivated and whether Boko Haram may have links to Islamist groups outside of Nigeria.

Most of the violence has occurred in Maiduguri and other areas of the mainly Muslim north, but a bomb ripped though a car park at national police headquarters in Abuja last month in an audacious attack.

A group of elders in Maiduguri have called for the withdrawal of troops from the city, saying the deployment has only worsened the situation.

A man claiming to be a spokesman for the sect has said that no ceasefire is possible until troops are withdrawn.

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Burkina army sacks 566 soldiers over mutiny
Ouagadougou (AFP) July 14, 2011
Burkina Faso's military has discharged 566 soldiers following a wave of mutinees that swept across the country earlier this year, army chief of staff Nabere Honore Traore said Thursday. During a late June meeting on insubordination in the army, "the military hierarchy proposed the termination of the contracts of 566 soldiers", Traore told journalists, explaining that more troops could still ... read more

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