Armed Conflicts

An American Missionary Kidnapped in Nigeria as Neighbouring Countries Seethe

With kidnappings and violent attacks almost a daily occurrence in Nigeria, the disappearance of an American missionary appears to have stirred a new wave of outrage among the international community at the worsening conditions in the West African country, once considered a rising star and the largest economy on the continent.Phyllis Sortor, a reverend with the Free Methodist Church USA, was taken from Hope Academy in Kogi state, central Nigeria, where she had been working since 2005.The kidnapping was probably not the work of Boko Haram, said Philip Obaji Jr., a freelancer and founder of 1 GAME, an advocacy group that fights for the right to education for disadvantaged children in northeastern Nigeria.Kogi state police commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi announced that a ransom of around 300,000 dollars had been demanded by Tuesday afternoon, barely 24 hours after the kidnapping, which is not typical for Boko Haram.“Kidnapping is big business here in Kogi. Most of the times, ransoms are paid to secure the release of abductees,” Ahmed, a local journalist, said in an interview. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a ransom is paid to secure Ms. Sortor’s release.”On the same day as Sortor’s kidnapping, a Chinese construction worker was abducted from his work site by armed men. All of southern Nigeria is prone to kidnappings, and public officials, their relatives, and foreign workers are regularly abducted for ransom. An estimated 1,500 kidnapping cases are reported every year.Meanwhile, it has been nearly one year since over 270 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in Chibok, Nigeria.Local activists have been stepping up their demands that the government make the disappearance of the Chibok girls the top priority. “Our rallies are the reason why [the government] remembers,” organizer Funmi Adesanya told TIME magazine, “but I don’t think they are really doing anything about it.While President Goodluck Jonathan and his national security advisor promised to end the Boko Haram threat before elections now scheduled for March 28, the new multinational force of Cameroon, Chad and Niger appears to be drawing new and dangerous fire from the insurgents.On Saturday, some 5,000 Cameroonians marched in their capital, Yaounde, and denounced the violence caused by Boko Haram.“It was important to tell Cameroonians that we are at war and a part of the country is suffering,” newspaper editor Gubai Gatama told Al Jazeera. “About 150,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, some 200,000 Nigerians are in refugee camps and 170 schools in Cameroon have been closed,” he said. “I am sure Boko Haram has got the message that the people are united against them.” Two hundred Cameroonian soldiers have been killed in the cross-border skirmishes so far.Edited by Roger Hamilton-Martin

Gaza Reconstruction, Hampered by Israeli Blockade, May Take 100 Years, Say Aid Agencies

Despite all the political hoopla surrounding an international pledging conference in Cairo last October to help rebuild Gaza, the reconstruction of the Israeli-devastated territory is apparently moving at the pace of paralytic snail.

Families See Hope for Justice in Palestinian Membership of ICC

"I have lost all meaning in life after the death of my child, I will never forgive anyone who caused the tearing apart of his little body.  I appeal to all who can help and stand with us to achieve justice and punish those who killed my child."

U.N. Member States Accused of Cherry-Picking Human Rights

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has criticised member states for ‘cherry-picking’ human rights – advocating some and openly violating others – perhaps to suit their own national or political interests.

Syrian Conflict Has Underlying Links to Climate Change, Says Study

Was the four-year-old military conflict in Syria, which has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people, mostly civilians, triggered at least in part by climate change?

Environmental Damage to Gaza Exacerbating Food Insecurity

Extensive damage to Gaza’s environment as a result of the Israeli blockade and its devastating military campaign against the coastal territory during last year’s war from July to August, is negatively affecting the health of Gazans, especially their food security.

June Election Offers Asia-Pacific a Chance for Greater Influence in ICC

The health-related resignation of an International Criminal Court (ICC) judge has paved the way for Asia-Pacific governments to improve their legal representation in the international legal system, said the group Coalition for the ICC on Thursday.

Opinion: The Middle East and Perpetual War

There is a currently popular idea in Washington, D.C. that the United States ought to be doing more to quash the recently born Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), because if we don’t, they will send terrorists to plague our lives.

Opinion: Europe Under Merkel’s (Informal) Leadership

When I am asked whether Europe is still a relevant “protagonist” in the modern world, I always answer that there is no doubt about it. For a long time now, the continent has been shaken by financial crises, internal security strategy crises – including wars – and instability within its borders, which definitely make it a protagonist in world affairs. 

Gazan Fishermen Dying to Survive

The beautiful Mediterranean Sea laps gently onto the white sandy beach near Gaza City’s port. Fishing boats dot the beach as fishermen tend to their boats and fix their nets.

All-Out War in Libya Predicted without Further Peace Talks

Libya is teetering on the edge of all-out war, with a brutal stalemate and misery for civilians predicted unless a recent minor diplomatic breakthrough can be built upon.

Despite U.N. Treaties, War Against Drugs a Losing Battle

As the call for the decriminalisation of drugs steadily picks up steam worldwide, a new study by a British charity concludes there has been no significant reduction in the global use of illicit drugs since the creation of three key U.N. anti-drug conventions, the first of which came into force over half a century ago.

Human Rights in Asia and the Pacific: A “Regressive” Trend, Says Amnesty International

The cradle of some of the world’s most ancient civilizations, home to four out of the planet’s six billion people, and a battleground for the earth’s remaining resources, Asia and the Pacific are poised to play a defining role in international affairs in the coming decade.

Syria’s “Barrel Bombs” Cause Human Devastation, Says Rights Group

The warring parties in the brutal four-year-old military conflict in Syria, which has claimed the lives of over 200,000 civilians and triggered “the greatest refugee crisis in modern times,” continue to break every single pledge held out to the United Nations.

At the Margins of a Hot War, Somalis Are ‘Hanging on by a Thread’

After twin suicide bombings at a popular Mogadishu hotel last week that killed 25 and wounded 40, news reporters were seen swarming through the city, spotlighting the victims, the assassins, the motives and the official response.

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