GENERAL

Piracy

15 January According to data released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in its annual report, the number of ships hijacked by pirates almost doubled in 2014 when compared to 2013. Pirates hijacked 21 vessels in 2014 compared with 12 in the previous year, and took 442 sailors hostage. The downward trend in the total number of reported attacks continued, dropping by 19 to 245 – its lowest level in eight years and a fall of 44% on the 2011 peak when Somali pirates were most active – the risk of being attacked at sea remains a danger. As well as the 21 hijackings, 183 vessels were boarded, 13 fired upon and there were 28 attempted attacks. Four sailors were killed in the incidents, 13 injured and nine kidnapped from their ships.

AFRICA

Cameroon

19 January Army and government officials said that Boko Haram Islamist militants from Nigeria kidnapped around 80 people, many of them children, and killed three others in a cross-border attack on villages in northern Cameroon. According to initial information, around 30 adults, most of them cattle herders, and 50 young girls and boys aged between 10 and 15 years were kidnapped. The Cameroon army launched an operation to track the rebels.

Central African Republic (CAR)

19 January The French Foreign Ministry and the Caritas charity said that a female French charity worker, Claudia Priest (67), and a man named only as Gustave, who works for CODIS a diocesan organisation dedicated to providing healthcare and education, were kidnapped in Bangui. The national secretary for Caritas, Abby Elysee Guendijande, said a pickup truck carrying three people including the French woman was stopped in the northern outskirts of Bangui which is controlled by the anti-balaka militia. He added that the kidnappers had answered the charity worker’s telephone when they called it and said: “Release our General Andjilo and we will liberate the hostages”. General Andjilo, a senior leader of the anti-balaka militia, had been arrested by UN Peacekeepers for crimes including murder, rebellion, rape and looting. Caritas is providing health and education support to villages in the country.

20 January A spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) in the Central African Republic said that a woman working for MINUSCA had been kidnapped in Bangui by armed men who stopped the vehicle in which she was travelling. A similar kidnapping attempt failed a bit earlier. The kidnapping came a day after a French charity worker and a churchman were kidnapped.

25 January Armel Mingatoloum Sayo, the Sports Minister, was kidnapped by armed men as he travelled home from a morning church service in the capital, Bangui. His wife, who was in the car with him, said the kidnappers instructed them to stop, forced her husband to get into their car and drove towards the Christian anti-balaka militia group stronghold at Boy-Rabe. The militant group later demanded the release of Rodrique Nagibona, their detained leader, who was arrested by UN troops earlier in the month.

In a separate incident, Thomas Ndomete, Mayor of Kaga-Bondoro, and Gaston Yenedmon, a local prefect, were kidnapped when they were stopped at an illegal roadblock 10 kilometres outside Kaga-Bondoro by former Muslim dominated Seleka group fighters. On 26 January, the two men along with six other officials were released by their kidnappers.

Egypt

11 January Gunmen kidnapped a police officer from a bus while he was travelling from the north Sinai city of Rafah to Al Arish. The kidnappers stopped the bus and singled out the police officer. A security official said it seemed like a terrorist operation and not a criminal one. He added that he was not sure if Ansar is responsible. Ansar is the country’s most lethal militant group which used to be called Ansar Bayt al Maqdis before recently changing its name. The group has sworn allegiance to Islamic State. The body of the victim was found on 13 January

Libya

3 January Thirteen Egyptian Coptic labourers were kidnapped by Ansar al Shania Islamists in Sirte when gunmen stormed a residence for expatriates. The incident took place a few days after the kidnapping of seven other Coptic civilians in the same area. Meftah Marzoug, Chairman of the Elders Council of Sirte, reported that the 13 Copts had been released on 5 January. He said: “The Egyptians have been detained by one of the dealers of illegal immigration due to a disagreement over the value of transporting them to the city”. He added that the intervention of the elders of the city had facilitated the release. He made no mention of the seven other missing Copts

12 January The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) new affiliate in Libya claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of more than 20 Christian hostages, mostly Egyptian Copts, who went missing earlier in the month. In a statement posted online, jihadists from the self declared “the Islamic State of Tripoli” said: “Urgent. Soldiers of the Islamic State captured 21 Christian crusaders”. Photos of several men were posted alongside the statement.

25 January Hassan al Saghir, Deputy Foreign Minister, was kidnapped from his hotel room in the eastern city of Al Baida where the recognised government is based, shortly before dawn. The kidnappers told hotel staff they were members of the security forces. No group immediately claimed responsibility. The Deputy Foreign Minister was released by his kidnappers on 26 January after being held for 24 hours. A ministry spokesman refused to reveal details of the release.

Mozambique

27 January Munir Sadradim Vali, of Asian origin and the owner of “Speed and Style”, a business selling car accessories, was kidnapped in Maputo. According to reports, the victim was going to open his shop at the start of the working day when three men, two of them armed, kidnapped him near the junction of Karl Marx and Agostino Neto Avenues. This was the first reported kidnapping in the country in 2015.

Nigeria

1 January Captain Musa Gemu, Commanding Officer of NNS Delta, warned Nigerians about the activities of some unscrupulous foreigners who are now engaged in crimes such as kidnapping and hostage taking. His warning came as he handed over two kidnapped expatriates, Radu Daniel Stefan, a Romanian and the Captain of a cargo vessel, and Sergjst Kuzuecuz, a Latvian, to their company lawyer at the Naval Base, Warri. Captain Gemu said the two men had been rescued by naval operatives when they stormed the Broadwell Hotel in Warri where the two men had, allegedly, been held hostage for about two weeks after being held illegally in Sapele by some Delta-based expatriate businessmen including a German and a Belgian.

2 January According to fleeing residents and an intelligence officer, Boko Haram extremists kidnapped about 40 boys and young men and killed scores of soldiers after an attack on a multinational military base at Baga near the village of Malari, Bono State, in the northeast near the border with Chad. The base included troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

12 January Four days after being kidnapped by four armed men, the body of Chief Edwin Okechuhwu, a prominent Makurdi, Benue State, businessman was found dumped in Makurdi. The victim had been kidnapped from his residence in the town at 8:00pm on the night of 8 January. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s family and demanded N15 million (USD92,300). It is suspected that the victim was killed as the family said they could not raise the money.

19 January Analysts say that the general election on 14 February will cause an increase in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as politicians seek campaign funding. This assessment could tally with a reported hijacking of a tanker in Ghanaian waters on 17 January. Ghana’s navy freed the MT Mariam that had been hijacked off the coast of Nigeria and arrested eight pirates. A Ghanaian military spokesman said that the pirates are suspected to be Nigerians.

21 January Nitsch Eberhard Robert, a German citizen and a teacher undergoing vocational training, who was kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamist militants in Gombi, Adamawa State, last July, was released by his kidnappers in Cameroon. The Cameroon government said in a statement the victim’s release was the result of an operation by Cameroon’s military and its allies. A Cameroon military aircraft landed at Yaounde International Airport, Cameroon, with the released victim. He alighted from the aircraft smiling and shook hands with the German Ambassador and Cameroon government ministers.

22 January Reports said that no fewer than six people including a pastor and his wife had been kidnapped by gunmen in the Ughelli Community of Delta State since the start of the year. The pastor and his wife were returning from a church service when they were kidnapped.

25 January Boko Haram released 192 people from two Islamist enclaves where they had been held since being kidnapped in a raid on 6 January on Katarko village, Yobe State. In all 218 women and children were kidnapped during the raid. Apparently, the raid had been in retaliation for an attack by local hunters and vigilantes on Buni Yadi during which several Boko Haram militants were killed.

Somalia

27 January A local official said that the al Qaeda linked militant group, al Shabaab, had kidnapped dozens of civilians for ransom as a result of the dire economic situation in its few strongholds in the centre and south of the country. The kidnappings occurred when militants in fighting vehicles stormed into Goof-Gadud village that is about 20 kilometres from Baidoa. The official added that 43 people, almost all nomads and farmers, are being held by al Shabaab terrorists.

Sudan

22 January An unknown armed militia released five high school students after their parents paid a ransom of SDG50,000 (USD8,800). The five students were kidnapped by gunmen in December 2014 on their return to Nertiti in Central Darfur state. A parent said the kidnappers threatened to kill the students if the ransom was not paid. Businessmen and commercial convoys are regularly attacked in Darfur by armed gangs who demand ransoms for their release. In the past criminal gangs have targeted international NGO staff, vehicles and properties but are now switching to targeting members of the public.

31 January Six Bulgarian contractors working for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) were released by their kidnappers after being held for one week. The three crew and three Heli Air Services company officials were flying in their UN marked helicopter from South Sudan to Khartoum for maintenance on 26 January when they made an “unexpected landing” in the southern region of South Kordofan. The six were being held by rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), who have been fighting the Khartoum government since South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011.

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