© AFP | US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at the White House on October 2, 2015, in Washington, DC
© AFP | US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at the White House on October 2, 2015, in Washington, DC
There are strong indications that the United States government may launch attacks against Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East, as a drone base being constructed in the Niger Republic would soon be completed.
According to reports, the American drone base is under construction in Agadez, a town in Niger.
The facility is expected to offer US military, greater ability to use drones against Islamist extremists in countries like Libya, Mali and Nigeria.
But some security experts revealed that such drone attacks against insurgents in the North might kill innocent people.
The project, considered to be the United State’s most important military construction effort in Africa, according to secret files obtained by an online medium, The Intercept, will gulp $100m.
The construction of the base is an indication that the US is paying more attention to terrorist groups in Nigeria and other countries on the African continent.
“As the only country in the region willing to allow a US base for MQ-9 Reapers — a newer, larger, and potentially more lethal model than the venerable Predator drone — Niger has positioned itself to be the key regional hub for US military operations, with Agadez serving as the premier outpost for launching intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions against a plethora of terror groups,” The Intercept said.
The Americans have for years operated an air base in Niamey, Niger’s capital, but in September 2014 the US African Command announced plans to build a drone facility for “Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.”
The documents obtained by The Intercept and made available online stated, “The top MILCON [military construction] project for USAFRICOM is located in Agadez, Niger to construct a C-17 and MQ-9 capable airfield.
“Remotely Piloted Aircraft presence in Africa supports operations against seven (Department of State)-designated foreign terrorist organisations.
“Moving operations to Agadez aligns persistent ISR to current and emerging threats over Niger and Chad, supports French regionalisation and extends range to cover Libya and Nigeria.”
Reacting to the development, a member of the American Society of Industrial Security, Prof. Femi Adegbulu, told SUNDAY PUNCH that there was a possibility of collateral damage, should the US launch drone attacks against Boko Haram in the North.
He said, “There are two sets of drones, one for surveillance and the other for attacks. A reconnaissance drone is used for intelligence gathering, while the other kind of drone is used for attacks. There is no 100 per cent accuracy in warfare.
“You lose lives, money, time, and resources. The possibility of collateral damage cannot be ruled out, especially since Boko Haram terrorists are known to use humans as shields when attacked.”
Similarly, a former Director, Department of State Services, Mike Ejiofor, told one of our correspondents that he was concerned about the US military’s plan to launch attacks against Boko Haram from Niger.
“I am worried that the US military will be making such efforts to launch attacks against Boko Haram from outside Nigeria. If the US did not get the nod from the Federal Government to establish its drone base in the country, how could the US military launch attacks against Boko Haram from Niger Republic?”
When the spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, Mr. Charles Nwodo, was contacted at 3pm, he asked one of our correspondents to give him till 6pm to respond to the story.
However, when he was called again at 6pm, he did not pick the calls placed to his telephone line. Also, Nwodo had yet responded to a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
Army releases 348 suspected Boko Haram detainees
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army on Saturday freed 348 suspected Boko Haram members as a gesture to celebrate the country’s 56th Independence anniversary.
The detainees included 114 male, 107 female and 127 children.
They were handed over to the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, at the Ramat Square, Maiduguri by the acting General Officer Commanding, the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. Victor Ezegwu.
Ezegwu explained that the suspects were arrested at various camps and havens of the insurgents in Borno State.
He said they were investigated and found to be innocent of involvement in insurgency.
He also said 115 out of the 127 children among the suspected insurgents were between the ages of five and 10, while 12 of them were 11 years and above.
He however, said some suspects, including six foreigners who illegally entered Nigeria, would be prosecuted.
He added that the suspected insurgents had been handed over to the Police and the Department of State Services.
He said the foreigners comprised of four Cameroonians, a Chadian and a Jamaican, who would be separately handed over to the Nigerian Immigration Service for deportation.
An explosion occurred during a SpaceX fueling operation at its launch site in Florida around 9:07 a.m. Eastern today, destroying a satellite that Facebook intended to use to provide internet connectivity to rural Africa, SpaceX officials and local authorities said.
SpaceX was conducting a fueling test on Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral when the incident took place, an engineer at the Kennedy Space Center told ABC News.
The explosion happened "in preparation for today's static fire," and resulted in "the loss of the vehicle and its payload," SpaceX said in a statement.
The explosion was felt around the facility, and a mushroom cloud could be seen over the launch site, the engineer told ABC News.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the loss of the Falcon rocket today, "Originated around upper stage oxygen tank. Cause still unknown. More soon."
Video from the scene showed smoldering infrastructure.
No Reported Injuries
There were no injuries as a result of the explosion, the Brevard County Emergency Management Office told ABC News. The office tweeted, "There is NO threat to general public from catastrophic abort during static test fire at SpaceX launch pad at [Cape Canaveral] this morning."
Brian Purtell, a spokesman for the Air Force's 45th Space Wing, which controls Cape Canaveral's space operations, said that personnel were being evacuated from the facility.
"Once we determine everybody is out of there, then we can go in when it's safe to kind of determine what happened," he said, noting that SpaceX had a scheduled launch for early Saturday morning.
NASA released a statement Thursday evening expressing confidence in the private space company with which it contracts, saying, "we remain confident in our commercial partners," but warning that "it's too early to know whether the incident will affect the schedule for upcoming NASA-related SpaceX launches to the International Space Station."
The rocket that was destroyed was carrying the AMOS-6 communications satellite, a spokesman for SpaceX told ABC News, adding that the mission was commercial and not for NASA.
SpaceX announced in January 2013 a deal with Space Communications Ltd. (Spacecom) to launch AMOS-6 into geosynchronous orbit sometime in 2015, which would "provide communication services, including direct satellite home internet for Africa, the Middle East and Europe," and was built by Israel Aerospace Industries.
As part of its activities in space, the AMOS-6 was going to "provide internet coverage to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa" as part of Facebook's Internet.org initiatives to increase internet connectivity around the world, according to a posting on the social network by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg, who coincidentally is travelling in Kenya today, posted on Facebook: "I'm deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX's launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent."
"We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided," he said.
In an email, a spokesman for Spacecom acknowledged the SpaceX statement, but did not add further details.
Israel Aerospace Industries said that it was, "disappointed about this incident," and was ready to provide assistance. The manufacturer said that the satellite was "the largest and most advanced communications satellite ever built in Israel."
The US Defence Secretary James Mattis has said any use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be met with an "effective and overwhelming" response.
Mr Mattis spoke in South Korea, where he had been reaffirming US support, before flying to Tokyo.
He also reconfirmed plans to deploy a US missile defence system in South Korea later this year.
North Korea's repeated missile and nuclear tests and aggressive statements continue to alarm and anger the region.
The US has a considerable military presence in South Korea and Japan, as part of a post-war defence deal. There are just under 28,500 US troops in the country, for which Seoul pays about $900m (£710m) annually.
President Donald Trump has previously said he wants both South Korea and Japan to pay more towards maintaining that presence.
Mr Mattis used his visit to reassure South Korea that the Trump administration "remains steadfast" in its "iron-clad" defence commitments to the region, said the Pentagon.
Speaking after talks at the defence ministry with his South Korean counterpart Han Min-koo, Mr Mattis told reporters that "any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming".
North Korea conducted its fifth test of a nuclear device last year, and claims it is capable of carrying out a nuclear attack on the US, though experts are still unconvinced its technology has progressed that far.
It has also said in recent weeks that it has a new intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of reaching the US mainland, which it is prepared to test launch at any time.
Mr Mattis's assertion that an attack by North Korea would get massive retaliation will hardly be a revelation to Kim Jong-un, says the BBC's Stephen Evans in Seoul.
The bigger question is whether to talk to the North Korean leader to try to persuade him to abandon or limit the size of his nuclear arsenal, our correspondent adds. On that, the Trump administration has so far been silent.
Over 100,000 visas have been revoked as a result of President Trump’s ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, an attorney for the government revealed in Alexandria federal court Friday.
The number came out during a hearing in a lawsuit filed by attorneys for two Yemeni brothers who arrived at Dulles International Airport last Saturday. They were coerced into giving up their legal resident visas, they argue, and quickly put on a return flight to Ethiopia.
“The number 100,000 sucked the air out of my lungs,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg of the Legal Aid Justice Center, who represents the brothers.
The government attorney, Erez Reuveni from the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation, could not say how many people with visas were sent back to their home countries from Dulles in response to the travel ban. However, he did say that all people with green cards who came through the airport have been let into the United States.
For people like the brothers, Tareq and Ammar Aqel Mohammed Aziz, who tried to enter the country over the weekend with valid visas and were sent back, the government appears to be attempting a case-by-case reprieve. They and other plaintiffs in lawsuits around the country are being offered new visas and the opportunity to come to the U.S. in exchange for dropping their suits.
Ben Murray Bruce, lawmaker representing Bayelsa east senatorial district, believes it is not enough to check kidnapping through capital punishment, but that drastic measures should be equally taken about looting of public funds.
Known for his radical stance on issues, the entertainment mogul took to Twitter to question governors on what they are doing to make corruption less attractive.
“Many state governors have signed laws condemning kidnappers to death. My question is does the law apply to those who kidnap public funds?” he wrote on Twitter.
Bruce’s tweet comes two days after Akinwunmi Ambode, governor of Lagos state, endorsed death penalty for kidnapping.
Speaking while signing the anti-kidnapping bill into law, Ambode said the spate of abduction in the state had reached a level that require decisive action from government.
“Security is of utmost importance to our administration and we are confident that this law will serve as a deterrent to anybody who may desire to engage in this wicked act within the boundaries of Lagos,” he had said.
“It is important that we ensure that everything we do in respect of this anti-kidnapping law is in good faith and good spirit to eradicate the issue of kidnapping once and for all in the state.”
Ambode added that the justice system would be activated to execute the anti-kidnapping law to the letter.
Human rights group Amnesty International is against death penalty.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Republican presidential front-runner candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday unveiled proposals for reforming U.S. healthcare that included repealing Obamacare, allowing prescription drugs to be imported, and turning the Medicaid program for the poor into block grants to states.
The plan also calls for the sale of health insurance plans across state lines, full deduction of health insurance premiums from income tax and adds: “We must also make sure that no one slips through the cracks simply because they cannot afford insurance.”
Trump, who is the front-runner in the race to become the Republican nominee in November’s presidential election, is also proposing allowing individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HAS) to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. Contributions to HSAs would be tax-free and could be passed on to heirs without any tax penalty.
The proposals include requiring “…price transparency from all healthcare providers, especially doctors and healthcare organizations like clinics and hospitals. Individuals should be able to shop to find the best prices for procedures, exams or any other medical-related procedure.”
On drug prices, Trump departs from standard Republican policy by calling for lowering barriers to cheaper imported pharmaceuticals.
“Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers,”
the statement says, adding that “Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America.”
The proposals also call for reforming mental health programs and institutions, but provides few details about how to do this.
Trump also called for tighter enforcement of immigration laws, a key plank in his campaign platform, as a way to bring down healthcare costs.
“Providing healthcare to illegal immigrants costs us some $11 billion annually. If we were to simply enforce the current immigration laws and restrict the unbridled granting of visas to this country, we could relieve healthcare cost pressures on state and local governments,” the proposal statement says.
Democrats were quick to criticize the plan.
“As Democrats have said all along, Donald Trump is not an outsider engaging in a hostile takeover of the GOP – in fact, he embodies the Republican Party.
“The fact that his healthcare ‘plan’ is clearly cribbed from worn-out and false GOP talking points proves that Trump is just another Republican politician who wants to take healthcare away from millions of Americans without offering any substantive alternative,” Democratic National Committee Communications Director Luis Miranda said in a statement.