Haram jihadists have carried out multiple attacks on military bases in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, overrunning three of them and stealing weapons, security sources said Monday.
Fighters believed to be from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), the IS-linked faction of Boko Haram, stormed four bases from Friday through Sunday in the latest spate of attacks targeting the army, sources from the military and militia said.
There were no immediate details on casualties.
In the latest incident, on Sunday, the insurgents made a failed attempt to seize a base in the town of Dikwa following a predawn attack.
“The terrorists attacked troops in Dikwa around 4:00 am (0300 GMT) but the attack was repelled without casualty on our side,” a military officer, who did not want to be identified, told AFP.
The fighters came in 13 trucks fitted with heavy machine guns, said a second officer, who gave a similar account.
Dikwa which lies 90 kilometres (56 miles) from the state capital Maiduguri, is home to more than 70,000 displaced people who live in several camps where they rely on food and humanitarian assistance from aid agencies.
Late on Saturday, the jihadists blasted into a base in the town of Marte, 40 kilometres away, pushing troops out after a prolonged gunfight, the two military sources said.
The militants ransacked the base, carting away weapons abandoned by fleeing soldiers and setting fire to it. The soldiers withdrew to Dikwa.
As they retreated towards Lake Chad, the Islamist fighters sacked another base in Kirenowa village, 30 kilometres from Marte.
- Soldiers evacuated –
“The soldiers in Kirenowa have been evacuated to Dikwa after the attack by the terrorists”, the first officer said.
The jihadists were believed to have launched the attacks from their Lake Chad enclave where the Nigerian military has intensified aerial attacks on ISWAP camps.
Troops in a base in Dalwa village, 16 kilometres outside Maiduguri, were dislodged after a six-hour battle with ISWAP fighters which continued into Sunday, said the military sources and an anti-jihadist militia.
The fighting forced Marte residents to flee into Maiduguri, arriving in trucks on Sunday, according to residents of the city.
However, troops returned to the town late Sunday with reinforcement from Maiduguri, the sources said.
ISWAP has since July last year targeted dozens of military bases in attacks that have left scores of soldiers dead.
Boko Haram’s decade-long insurgency has killed 27,000 people and displaced about two million in Nigeria.
The violence has spilled over into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition to defeat the Islamist group.
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, June 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – After Thomas Gumede’s father died in April, the Zimbabwean bus driver could not afford an expensive funeral. So, he applied for a burial plot through the local municipality.
He never expected he would end up burying his father halfway across Bulawayo, a city in southwest Zimbabwe.
“There are no cemeteries near where I live,” said Gumede, 39, whose father’s burial plot is about 25km (15 miles) from his home.
“Imagine the transport costs,” he lamented. Each time he visits his father’s grave, he spends “at least $20 on petrol”.
As demand for housing continues to drive Bulawayo’s growth into surrounding rural areas, the city is struggling to find enough space to bury its dead, said Emmanuel Ndlovu, coordinator of the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association.
World Bank figures show about one-third of Zimbabwe’s 16 million people live in urban areas, and that its urban population is growing around 2 percent annually.
“The truth is, the municipality has run out of land, as it cannot keep expanding and encroaching into rural districts,” said Ndlovu, whose organisation lobbies the local municipality on behalf of residents.
With cemeteries in and around the city full to capacity, local authorities are encouraging citizens to consider alternatives to traditional burial.
But attempts to promote cremation, double burials or even recycled graves are coming up against long-held cultural and spiritual beliefs.
When Gumede was asked if cremation could be an option for his family, he rejected the idea outright by invoking “ubuntu,” the southern African philosophy that says a person is who they are because of their connectedness to all of humanity.
“We did not even consider (cremation) as a family. It’s unheard of in our ubuntu as Africans,” he said.
Early this year, the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) held public meetings to try to convince residents of the benefits of cremation, but the idea was roundly rejected as “unAfrican”, said Ndlovu.
According to BCC spokeswoman Nesisa Mpofu, the city of about 1.5 million people has had fewer than 30 cremations since the start of the year.
Searching for other solutions, the local government has started suggesting people bury two family members in the same plot, Mpofu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.
But, like cremation, the idea has met resistance among residents.
“I have never heard of any such thing as a double burial,” said Lloyd Tshuma, a secondary school teacher.
Tshuma planned to avoid the stress of finding a cemetery space in the city by being buried in his family’s traditional plot in the countryside.
“I will be buried in my rural (area), as has my whole family,” he said.
TWO NEW CEMETERIES
Bulawayo municipality has also considered reusing old graves, a practice that is becoming more common in many parts of the world, as a growing number of countries find themselves low on space to bury the dead.
But Gibson Banda, a member of the Bulawayo United Residents’ Association, another organisation representing residents’ rights in the city, said families are not ready to bury loved ones in other people’s graves.
“There is a problem there because we believe people’s spirits linger in their graves,” Banda said.
“Imagine, then, your relative being buried among unknown spirits.”
BCC spokeswoman Mpofu noted that there are two new cemeteries planned for the city, but construction for both has been delayed.
But, once the two new cemeteries are finished “projections are that these will be enough burial space for all in the foreseeable future,” Mpofu said.
A CRISIS OF SPACE
Bulawayo’s efforts to make space for the dead mirrors its struggles to find affordable housing for the living.
According to Mpofu, the city has a housing waiting list of about 115,000 applicants and a target to provide homes for 3,000 people every year.
But as people continue to migrate into cities from rural areas, meeting housing targets has proven difficult across the country.
According to the finance ministry’s 2019 Infrastructure Investment Plan, the country has a backlog of more than one million who need housing.
About 400 kilometres north of Bulawayo, the capital Harare is also expanding at a rate faster than the municipality can cope with, according to city officials.
In April, minister of state Oliver Chidawu told state media that land shortages in the city were largely due to what he called “weak” government institutions that had allowed developers to buy up council-owned land, including plots that had been earmarked for cemeteries.
The Harare municipality office did not reply to several requests for comment.
In Bulawayo, council officials are stressing the urgency of finding enough cemetery space.
At a city council meeting in March, councillor Mlandu Ncube warned that the city needs “more graves than houses”.
The city’s ongoing shortage of burial sites has Gumede worried about the choices his family will face when he dies.
As he mourned his father, he hoped to take comfort in the idea that he could be near him again in death. Now, he fears that chance has gone.
“By the time I die, I have no idea where I would be buried,” he said.
SEOUL, South Korea — A senior North Korean official who had been reported as purged over the failed nuclear summit with Washington was shown in state media on Monday enjoying a concert near leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korean publications on Monday showed Kim Yong Chol sitting five seats away from a clapping Kim Jong Un in the same row along with other top officials during a musical performance by the wives of Korean People’s Army officers.
Kim Yong Chol has been North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator and the counterpart of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo since Kim Jong Un entered nuclear talks with the U.S. early last year. He traveled to Washington and met President Donald Trump twice before Kim’s two summits with Trump.
Negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have been at a standstill since February, when the second summit between Trump and Kim broke down over what the United States described as excessive North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for only a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo last week cited an unidentified source to report that Kim Yong Chol had been sentenced to hard labor and ideological re-education over the failed summit in Hanoi. The newspaper also reported that senior envoy Kim Hyok Chol, who was involved in pre-summit working-level talks with American officials, was executed with four other officials from the North’s Foreign Ministry for betraying Kim Jong Un after being won over by the United States.
South Korea’s government and media have a mixed record on tracking developments among North Korea’s ruling elite, made difficult by Pyongyang’s stringent control of information about them.
Lee Sang-min, spokesman of Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said the ministry would not comment on a “specific internal event in North Korea or its participants” when asked about Kim Yong Chol’s reappearance in public. Seoul’s spy service has said it could not confirm Friday’s report of a possible purge, while the presidential Blue House cautioned against “hasty judgments or comments.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Berlin that he had seen the report and the U.S. was “doing our best to check it out.”
The report came at a delicate time for diplomacy as North Korea in past weeks has tested short-range missiles and issued belligerent rhetoric toward American and South Korean officials. Kim Jong Un declared in April that the Trump administration has until the end of the year to come up with mutually acceptable terms for a deal to salvage the negotiations. Experts say the North is playing measured brinkmanship aimed at increasing pressure on Washington without actually causing the nuclear negotiations to collapse.
North Korea has previously executed scapegoats to atone for high-profile political flops. But while many experts believe Kim Yong Chol was pushed to a back seat in negotiations with the United States, there were doubts about the report of a purge.
Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said Kim Yong Chol, who is also rumored to have health problems, wouldn’t have appeared in public this quickly if he was undergoing political re-education. Chang said it wouldn’t make sense for Kim Jong Un to execute Kim Hyok Chol when Kim Yong Chol, the more senior official, would be seen as more responsible for the failure in Hanoi.
“If Kim Jong Un sentences senior officials to hard labor, executes them, or puts them in political prison camps over the collapse of meetings, then no official would be willing to step up in external negotiations,” Chang said. “It’s unlikely that Kim would issue extreme punishment unless he’s giving up on the talks with the United States.”
Kim Yong Chol’s rise during the nuclear negotiations had baffled many North Korea watchers because he handled South Korea ties, not international or U.S. relations. Previously, he was a military intelligence chief believed to be behind a slew of provocations, including two deadly attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans and an alleged 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures. Both Seoul and Washington imposed sanctions on him in recent years.
Many experts in South Korea believe experienced foreign ministry hands such as Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui are likely to take the lead in North Korea’s nuclear diplomacy as it prepares for the possibility of protracted and highly complicated negotiations with Washington.
NEW YORK (AP) — Andy Ruiz Jr. had six weeks to prepare for the fight of his life.
He’ll have a lifetime to celebrate one of boxing’s biggest heavyweight stunners.
A massive underdog just like Buster Douglas, Ruiz knocked down British champion Anthony Joshua four times — four! — and the final two in the seventh round proved the decisive blows.
Ruiz, the first heavyweight of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight title, capped one of boxing’s epic upsets to win Joshua’s shares of the heavyweight championship Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
“I just feel so good, man,” Ruiz said. “This is what I’ve been dreaming about, this is what I’ve been working hard for. I can’t believe I just made my dreams come true.”
Ruiz etched his name in heavyweight lore by TKO at 1:27 in the seventh round to become the surprise champ in a bout that had shades of Douglas’ upset over Mike Tyson for the heavyweight title in 1990. Ruiz barely was on anyone’s heavyweight radar when he was summoned as a replacement to fight the undefeated Joshua in front of a packed Garden.
Considered a joke by fans, all Ruiz did was dominate the British champion and used a TKO to turn his life and the heavyweight division upside down. The 270-pound heavyset heavyweight knocked down Joshua twice in the third round and did it two more times in the seventh before referee Mike Griffin ended the fight. Joshua was woozy and seemed to stumble toward the wrong corner after the final blow.
Ruiz stepped in after fighting on April 20, when he stopped Alexander Dimitrenko. Jarrell Miller’s failed drug tests sent the challenger to the sideline and paved the way for Ruiz’s unexpected title shot. Ruiz (33-1, 21 KO’s) seized the opportunity and made boxing history to win the WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO championships. He raised his arms in celebration and jumped around the ring as his corner quickly mobbed him and a wild celebration kicked off.
“I’ve got that Mexican blood in me,” he said. “Talking about the Mexican style? I just proved it.”
The true shock might have been that the Garden was packed on a Saturday night for a fight few expected to be competitive. Yes, Ruiz is up there with Douglas and Hasim Rahman for who-can-believe-it wins, but casual sports fans don’t even know the names of most boxing champions — consider, instead of pay-per-view parties, this card was streamed by DAZN.
When ring announcer Michael Buffer announced the name of the judges “should this fight go the distance,” fans laughed at the ridiculous possibility as Ruiz was an ultimate underdog.
Joshua (22-1, 22 KO’s) and Ruiz were both knocked down in an electrifying third round that had the sellout crowd of 20,201 howling with each heavy hit. Joshua knocked down Ruiz early in the round and the promise of an early finish seemed horizon.
Ruiz, his trunks a bit too low for his portly frame, came right back and used an overhand right that rocked the champ and sent him to the canvas. Joshua recovered only to get pummeled in the corner. Ruiz knocked him down again in the final ticks of the round as fans in a disbelieving Garden crowd screamed “Oh my God!” Again, Joshua beat the count but the bell saved the Brit from a going a second longer in his weakened state. Had it not been a championship fight, perhaps Griffin would have stopped the bout.
Alas, for Joshua, it went on.
Ruiz, whose father, a native of Mexico, got him into the gym when he was 6 and had his son in bouts a year later, shook up the boxing world. Johsua was the fan favorite and had all the hype for his first fight in the United States.
“If it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be here,” Ruiz said.
NBA star Kyrie Irving and rapper Meek Mill were among the celebrities in the house expecting Joshua to roll to a win and set up more ambitious, lucrative bouts against the likes of Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and a few other potential opponents.
“Sorry I let my fans down, sorry I let my supporters down,” Joshua said.
Ruiz made some new ones.
“It is never over until it’s over with the Mexicans. God bless them. Congrats Andy Ruiz,” former UFC champion Conor McGregor tweeted.
Wilder, owner of the WBC crown, decided to give Luis Ortiz a rematch. Ortiz battered Wilder for parts of their fight in early 2018 before running out of gas and getting knocked out.
Wilder tried to steal the headlines this week when he announced his rematch with Fury was set for 2020. Wilder and Fury fought to a split draw in December in Los Angeles, with Wilder retaining his WBC heavyweight title after knocking down his British challenger twice.
Joshua instead heads toward a likely rematch against Ruiz later this year.
Fans booed when Ruiz was shown on the big screen holding a personalized Knicks jersey. He walked out to his press conference wearing the jersey — his coronation complete, a table full of championship belts all for him.
“My life is going to change,” he said. “I don’t have to show them no more.”