At least 29 Nigerien soldiers have been killed by jihadis near the country’s border with Mali, Niger's junta said, as they struggle to end a spate of attacks. More than 100 extremists used homemade explosives to target the West African nation's security forces who were deployed at the border area on a clearance operation, Niger Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Salifou Mody said in a statement late Monday. It's the second such attack against Nigerien soldiers in a week. During the month after Niger’s military seized power, violence primarily linked to extremists soared by more than 40%, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Jihadi attacks targeting civilians quadrupled in August compared with the month before, and attacks against security forces spiked in the Tillaberi region, killing at least 40 soldiers, the project reported. Read: At least 103 wedding guests killed when boat capsizes in northern Nigeria “This attack unfortunately caused the loss of several of our valiant soldiers,” Mody said Monday. “The provisional assessment of this attack is as follows: on the friendly side, 29 soldiers fell. … On the enemy side, several dozen terrorists were neutralized, fifteen motorcycles destroyed, a large quantity of weapons and ammunition seized.” The junta, which took over power after a July coup against Niger’s democratically elected government, declared a three-day national mourning period for the dead. It repeated claims made in the past that “destabilization operations” were being carried out by “certain foreign powers with the complicity of Nigerien traitors,” without further details or proof. Read: Nigeria’s Bola Tinubu sworn in as president Under growing pressure since the coup against Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, which the military said was carried out because of Niger’s security challenges, the junta promised that “all efforts will be made to guarantee the security of people and their property throughout the national territory.” Niger has battled a jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group for years. And the junta’s capacity to improve Niger’s security has increasingly been questioned recently as attacks have increased since mutinous soldiers toppled in July. Niger was seen as one of the last democratic countries in Africa’s Sahel region that Western nations could partner with to beat back the jihadi insurgency in the vast expanse below the Sahara Desert. The United States, France and other European countries poured hundreds of millions of dollars into shoring up the Nigerien military. Read more: Death toll tops 80 after attack in north Nigeria; 7 suspects arrested
At least 35 people were killed and more than ten seriously injured in a fire at a petrol warehouse on Saturday in Benin's southeastern department of Oueme, the Beninese Ministry of the Interior and Public Security reported. The fire, breaking out in a town near the border with Nigeria, was probably started when bags of petrol were being unloaded from a vehicle at around 9:30 a.m. (0830 GMT), the ministry said in a statement. Read: 5.3 mln people displaced by war in Sudan: OCHA The fire engulfed the place, causing an initial toll of 35 deaths, "including one child, and more than a dozen serious injuries sent to hospital, as well as significant material damage," said the statement. The fire brigade, police and medical teams were immediately mobilized to tackle the situation, said the statement, adding that the Public Prosecutor's Office has opened a full investigation into the cause of the accident. In Benin, smuggled petrol comes from its eastern neighbor, Nigeria, a major oil producer where fuel is cheaper. Read: Moroccans sleep in the streets for 3rd night following an earthquake that took more than 2,100 lives Thousands of liters of petrol sold on the streets of Benin's towns and neighborhoods generally come from stations located along the Benin-Nigeria border. The trade, which generates huge profits, also entails major risks, given the precarious conditions in which the product is stored. As a result, fires occur frequently with heavy tolls.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Friday said that some 5.3 million have fled from the war in Sudan since mid-April when the conflict broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Sudan violence likely to push over 1 million refugees out of the African country by October, UN says "With fighting between the SAF and the RSF in its fifth month since April, some 5.3 million people have fled their homes and sought refuge in Sudan or neighbouring countries," OCHA said in its latest report on Friday. "Within Sudan, more than 4.2 million people have been displaced to 3,929 locations across all 18 states as of September 19," it said. 110 million people forcibly displaced as Sudan, Ukraine wars add to world refugee crisis, UN says Also, over 1 million people have crossed into neighbouring countries, including the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan, OCHA cited the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) as saying. It noted that the UN-led humanitarian appeal remains woefully underfunded, only at about 31 percent of what is needed. "Donors should step up humanitarian funding for local and international organizations that are providing vital assistance in Sudan and neighbouring countries," according to the report. Abducted Bangladeshi peacekeeper rescued in South Sudan Sudan has been witnessing deadly clashes between the SAF and the RSF in Khartoum and other areas since April 15, resulting in at least 3,000 deaths and more than 6,000 injuries, according to figures released by the Sudanese Health Ministry.
Zahra el-Gerbi wasn't expecting much of a response to her online fundraiser, but she felt she had to do something after four of her relatives died in the flooding that decimated the eastern Libyan city of Derna. She put out a call for donations for those displaced by the deluge. In the first half-hour after she shared it on Facebook, the Benghazi-based clinical nutritionist said friends and strangers were already promising financial and material support. "It's for basic needs like clothes, foods and accommodation," el-Gerbi said. For many Libyans, the collective grief over the more than 11,000 dead has morphed into a rallying cry for national unity in a country blighted by 12 years of conflict and division. In turn, the tragedy has ramped up pressure on the country's leading politicians, viewed by some as the architects of the catastrophe. Also read: Searchers look for more than 10,000 missing in flooded Libyan city where death toll eclipsed 11,000 The oil-rich country has been divided between rival administrations since 2014, with an internationally recognized government in Tripoli and a rival authority in the east, where Derna is located. Both are backed by international patrons and armed militias whose influence in the country has ballooned since a NATO-backed Arab Spring uprising toppled autocratic ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Numerous United Nations-led initiatives to bridge the divide have failed. In the early hours of Sept. 11, two dams in the mountains above Derna burst, sending a wall of water two stories high into the city and sweeping entire neighborhoods out to sea. At least 11,300 people were killed and a further 30,000 displaced. An outpouring of support for the people of Derna followed. Residents from the nearby cities of Benghazi and Tobruk offered to put up the displaced. In Tripoli, some 1,450 kilometers (900 miles) west, a hospital said it would perform operations free of charge for any injured in the flood. Ali Khalifa, an oil rig worker from Zawiya, west of Tripoli, said his cousin and a group of other men from his neighborhood joined a convoy of vehicles heading to Derna to help out with relief efforts. Even the local scout squad participated, he said. The sentiment was shared by 50-year-old Mohamed al-Harari. "The wound or pain of what happened in Derna hurt all the people from western Libya to southern Libya to eastern Libya," he said. The disaster has fostered rare instances of the opposing administrations cooperating to help those affected. As recently as 2020, the two sides were in an all-out war. Gen. Khalifa Hifter's forces besieged Tripoli in a yearlong failed military campaign to try to capture the capital, killing thousands. Also read: Bangladesh hands over humanitarian aid to disaster-affected Libya "We have even seen some military commanders arrive from the Tripoli allied military coalition in Derna, showing support," said Claudia Gazzini, a senior Libya analyst at International Crisis Group. But the distribution of aid into the city has been highly disorganized, with minimal amounts of supplies reaching flood-affected areas in the days following the disaster. Across the country, the disaster has also exposed the shortcomings of Libya's fractured political system. While young people and volunteers rushed to help, "there was a kind of confusion between the governments in the east and west" on what to do, said Ibrahim al-Sunwisi, a local journalist from the capital, Tripoli. Others have leveled blame for the burst dams on government officials. A report by a state-run audit agency in 2021 said the two dams hadn't been maintained despite the allocation of more than $2 million for that purpose in 2012 and 2013. As the storm approached, authorities told people — including those in vulnerable areas — to stay indoors. "Everyone in charge is responsible," said Noura el-Gerbi, a journalist and activist who was born in Derna and is also a cousin of el-Gerbi, who made the call for donations online. "The next flood will be over them." Also read: Flooding death toll soars to 11,300 in Libya's coastal city of Derna, aid group says The tragedy follows a long line of problems born from the country's lawlessness. Most recently, in August, sporadic fighting broke out between two rival militia forces in the capital, killing at least 45 people, a reminder of the influence rogue armed groups wield across Libya. Under pressure, Libya's General Prosecutor al-Sediq al-Sour said Friday that prosecutors would open a file on the collapse of the two dams and investigate the authorities in the Derna, as well as past governments. But the country's political leaders have so far deflected responsibility. The Prime Minister of Libya's Tripoli government, Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah, said he and his ministers were accountable for the dams' maintenance, but not the thousands of deaths caused by the flooding. Meanwhile, the speaker of Libya's eastern administration, Aguila Saleh, said the flooding was simply an incomparable natural disaster. "Don't say, 'If only we'd done this, if only we'd done that,'" said Saleh in a televised news conference. When the rescue and recovery operation in Derna is done, other daunting tasks will lie ahead. It remains unclear how Libyan authorities will rehome much of its population, and rebuild. El-Gerbi, who has since closed down the donations page to encourage people to give directly to the Red Crescent, said two of her uncles are on their way from Derna to Benghazi, with potentially tens of thousands of others making the same journey. "They don't have work, know where to live, even what to eat," she said.
The death toll in Libya's coastal city of Derna has soared to 11,300 as search efforts continue following a massive flood fed by the breaching of two dams in heavy rains, the Libyan Red Crescent said Thursday. Marie el-Drese, the aid group's secretary-general, told The Associated Press by phone that a further 10,100 people are reported missing in the Mediterranean city. Health authorities previously put the death toll in Derna at 5,500. The storm also killed about 170 people elsewhere in the country. The flooding swept away entire families in Derna on Sunday night and exposed vulnerabilities in the oil-rich country that has been mired in conflict since a 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Here's a look at where things stand: WHAT HAPPENED IN LIBYA? Daniel, an unusually strong Mediterranean storm, caused deadly flooding in communities across eastern Libya, but the worst-hit was Derna. As the storm pounded the coast Sunday night, residents said they heard loud explosions when two dams outside the city collapsed. Floodwaters gushed down Wadi Derna, a valley that cuts through the city, crashing through buildings and washing people out to sea. A U.N. official said Thursday that most casualties could have been avoided. “If there would have been a normal operating meteorological service, they could have issued the warnings," World Meteorological Organization head Petteri Taalas told reporters in Geneva. "The emergency management authorities would have been able to carry out the evacuation.” The WMO said earlier this week that the National Meteorological Center issued warnings 72 hours before the flooding, notifying all governmental authorities by email and through media. Officials in eastern Libya warned the public about the coming storm, and on Saturday, they ordered residents to evacuate coastal areas, fearing a surge from the sea. But there was no warning about the dams collapsing. HOW DOES CONFLICT IN LIBYA AFFECT THE DISASTER? The startling devastation reflected the storm’s intensity, but also Libya’s vulnerability. Oil-rich Libya has been divided between rival governments for most of the past decade — one in the east, the other in the capital, Tripoli — and one result has been the widespread neglect of infrastructure. The two dams that collapsed outside Derna were built in the 1970s. A report by a state-run audit agency in 2021 said the dams had not been maintained despite the allocation of more than 2 million euros for that purpose in 2012 and 2013. Libya's Tripoli-based prime minister, Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah, acknowledged the maintenance issues during a Cabinet meeting Thursday and called on the Public Prosecutor to open an urgent investigation into the dams' collapse. The disaster brought a rare moment of unity, as government agencies across the country rushed to help the affected areas. While the Tobruk-based government of eastern Libya is leading relief efforts, the Tripoli-based western government allocated the equivalent of $412 million for reconstruction in Derna and other eastern towns, and an armed group in Tripoli sent a convoy with humanitarian aid. WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW? Derna has begun burying its dead, mostly in mass graves, said eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel on Thursday. More than 3,000 bodies were buried by Thursday morning, the minister said, while another 2,000 were still being processed, He said most of the dead were buried in mass graves outside Derna, while others were transferred to nearby towns and cities. Read: Bangladesh sends humanitarian aid to flood-affected Libya Abduljaleel said rescue teams were still searching wrecked buildings in the city center, and divers were combing the sea off Derna. Untold numbers could be buried under drifts of mud and debris, including overturned cars and chunks of concrete, that rise up to 4 meters (13 feet) high. Rescuers have struggled to bring in heavy equipment as the floods washed out or blocked roads leading to the area. Libya's eastern based parliament, The House of Representatives, on Thursday approved an emergency budget of 10 billion Libyan dinars — roughly $2 billion — to address the flooding and help those affected. HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KILLED? As of Thursday, the Libyan Red Crescent said that 11,300 people have been killed, and a further 10,100 are reported missing. However, local officials suggested that the death toll could be much higher than announced. In comments to the Saudi-owned Al Arabia television station on Thursday, Derna Mayor Abdel-Moneim al-Ghaithi said the tally could climb to 20,000 given the number of neighborhoods that were washed out. The storm also killed around 170 people in other parts of eastern Libya, including the towns of Bayda, Susa, Um Razaz and Marj, the health minister said. Read: Devastation in Libya: Bangladesh PM expresses deep shock The dead in eastern Libya included at least 84 Egyptians, whose remains were transferred to their home country on Wednesday. More than 70 came from one village in the southern province of Beni Suef. Libyan media also said dozens of Sudanese migrants were killed in the disaster. IS HELP REACHING SURVIVORS? The floods have displaced at least 30,000 people in Derna, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration, and several thousand others were forced to leave their homes in other eastern towns, it said. The floods damaged or destroyed many access roads to Derna, hampering the arrival of international rescue teams and humanitarian assistance. Local authorities were able to clear some routes, and humanitarian convoys have been able to enter the city over the past couple of days. The U.N. humanitarian office issued an emergency appeal for $71.4 million to respond to urgent needs of 250,000 Libyans most affected. The office, known as OCHA, estimated that approximately 884,000 people in five provinces live in areas directly affected by the rain and flooding. The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it has provided 6,000 body bags to local authorities, as well as medical, food and other supplies distributed to hard-hit communities. International aid started to arrive earlier this week in Benghazi, 250 kilometers (150 miles) west of Derna. Several countries have sent aid and rescue teams, including neighboring Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia. Italy dispatched a naval vessel on Thursday carrying humanitarian aid and two navy helicopters to be used for search and rescue operations. Read more: 6 Bangladeshis killed in storm Daniel-hit areas in Libya President Joe Biden said the United States would send money to relief organizations and coordinate with Libyan authorities and the United Nations to provide additional support.
Mediterranean storm Daniel caused devastating floods in Libya that broke dams and swept away entire neighborhoods in multiple coastal towns in the east of the North African nation. As many as 2,000 people were feared dead, one of the country's leaders said Monday. The destruction appeared greatest in Derna, a city formerly held by Islamic extremists in the chaos that has gripped Libya for more than a decade and left it with crumbling and inadequate infrastructure. Libya remains divided between two rival administrations, one in the east and one in the west, each backed by militias and foreign governments. The confirmed death toll from the weekend flooding stood at 61 as of late Monday, according to health authorities. But the tally did not include Derna, which had become inaccessible, and many of the thousands missing there were believed carried away by waters after two upstream dams burst. Video by residents of the city posted online showed major devastation. Entire residential areas were erased along a river that runs down from the mountains through the city center. Multistory apartment buildings that once stood well back from the river were partially collapsed into the mud. READ: Moroccans sleep in the streets for 3rd night following an earthquake that took more than 2,100 lives In a phone interview with station Monday, Prime Minister Ossama Hamad of the east Libyan government said 2,000 were feared dead in Derna and thousands were believed missing. He said Derna has been declared a disaster zone. Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesman for the country's armed forces based in the east, told a news conference that the death toll in Derna had surpassed 2,000. He said there were between 5,000 and 6,000 reported missing. Al-Mosmari attributed the catastrophe to the collapse of two nearby dams, causing a lethal flash flood. Since a 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed long-time ruler Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has lacked a central government and the resulting lawlessness has meant dwindling investment in the country's roads and public services and also minimal regulation of private building. The country is now split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias. Derna itself, along with the city of Sirte, was controlled by extremist groups for years, at one point by those who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, until forces loyal to the east-based government expelled them in 2018. READ: In ancient cities and mountain towns, rescuers seek survivors from Morocco's quake of the century At least 46 people were reported dead in the eastern town of Bayda, Abdel-Rahim Mazek, head of the town’s main medical center said. Another seven people were reported dead in the coastal town of Susa in northeastern Libya, according to the Ambulance and Emergency Authority. Seven others were reported dead in the towns of Shahatt and Omar al-Mokhtar, said Ossama Abduljaleel, health minister. One person was reported dead Sunday in the town of Marj. The Libyan Red Crescent said three of its workers had died while helping families in Derna. Earlier, the group said it lost contact with one of its workers as he attempted to help a stuck family in Bayda. Dozens of others were reported missing, and authorities fear they could have died in the floods that destroyed homes and other properties in several towns in eastern Libya, according to local media. In Derna, local media said the situation was catastrophic with no electricity or communications. Essam Abu Zeriba, the interior minister of the east Libya government, said more than 5,000 people were expected to be missing in Derna. He said many of the victims were swept away towards the Mediterranean. “The situation is tragic,” he declared in a telephone interview on the Saudi-owned satellite news channel Al-Arabiya. He urged urged local and international agencies to rush to help the city. Georgette Gagnon, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Libya, said early reports showed that dozens of villages and towns were “severely affected ... with widespread flooding, damage to infrastructure, and loss of life.” READ: Powerful quake in Morocco kills more than 2,000 people and damages historic buildings in Marrakech “I am deeply saddened by the severe impact of (storm) Daniel on the country ... I call on all local, national, and international partners to join hands to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people in eastern Libya,” she wrote on X platform, formerly known as Twitter. In a post on X, the U.S. Embassy in Libya said it was in contact with both the U.N. and Libyan authorities and was determining how to deliver aid to the most affected areas. Over the weekend, Libyans shared footage on social media showing flooded houses and roads in many areas across eastern Libya. They pleaded for help as floods besieged people inside their homes and in their vehicles. Ossama Hamad, the prime minister of the east Libya government, declared Derna a disaster zone after heavy rainfall and floods destroyed much of the city which is located in the delta of the small Wadi Derna on Libya’s east coast. The prime minister also announced three days of mourning and ordered flags across the country to be lowered to half-staff. Controlling eastern and western Libya, Cmdr. Khalifa Hifter deployed troops to help residents in Benghazi and other eastern towns. Ahmed al-Mosmari, a spokesperson for Hifter’s forces, said they lost contact with five troops who were helping besieged families in Bayda. READ: Powerful quake in Morocco kills more than 1,000 people and damages historic buildings in Marrakech Foreign governments sent messages of support on Monday evening. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates, said his country would send humanitarian assistance and search-and-rescue teams to eastern Libya, according to the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency. Turkey, which supports the country's Tripoli-based government in the west, also expressed condolences, along with neighboring Algeria and Egypt, and also Iraq. Storm Daniel is expected to arrive in parts of west Egypt on Monday, and the country’s meteorological authorities warned about possible rain and bad weather.
Moroccans sleep in the streets for 3rd night following an earthquake that took more than 2,100 lives
People in Morocco slept in the streets of Marrakech for a third straight night as soldiers and international aid teams in trucks and helicopters began to fan into remote mountain towns hit hardest by a historic earthquake. The disaster killed more than 2,100 people — a number that is expected to rise — and the United Nations estimated that 300,000 people were affected by Friday night’s magnitude 6.8 quake. Amid offers from several countries, including the United States and France, Moroccan officials said Sunday that they are accepting international aid from just four countries: Spain, Qatar, Britain and the United Arab Emirates. “The Moroccan authorities have carefully assessed the needs on the ground, bearing in mind that a lack of coordination in such cases would be counterproductive,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement. While some foreign search-and-rescue teams arrived on Sunday as an aftershock rattled Moroccans already in mourning and shock, other aid teams poised to deploy grew frustrated waiting for the government to officially request assistance. Read: Powerful quake in Morocco kills more than 2,000 people and damages historic buildings in Marrakech “We know there is a great urgency to save people and dig under the remains of buildings,” said Arnaud Fraisse, founder of Rescuers Without Borders, who had a team stuck in Paris waiting for the green light. “There are people dying under the rubble, and we cannot do anything to save them.” Help was slow to arrive in Amizmiz, where a whole chunk of the town of orange and red sandstone brick homes carved into a mountainside appeared to be missing. A mosque's minaret had collapsed. “It’s a catastrophe,’’ said villager Salah Ancheu, 28. “We don’t know what the future is. The aid remains insufficient.” Residents swept rubble off the main road into town and people cheered when trucks full of soldiers arrived. But they pleaded for more help. “There aren’t ambulances, there aren’t police, at least for right now,” Ancheu said, speaking about many parts of the region on Sunday morning. Those left homeless — or fearing more aftershocks — slept outside Saturday, in the streets of the ancient city of Marrakech or under makeshift canopies in hard-hit Atlas Mountain towns like Moulay Brahim. Both there and in Amizmiz, residents worried most about the damage in hard-to-reach communities. The worst destruction was in rural communities that rely on unpaved roads that snake up the mountainous terrain covered by fallen rocks. Read: In ancient cities and mountain towns, rescuers seek survivors from Morocco's quake of the century Those areas were shaken anew Sunday by a magnitude 3.9 aftershock, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It wasn't immediately clear if it caused more damage or casualties, but it was likely strong enough to rattle nerves in areas where damage has left buildings unstable and residents feared aftershocks. In a region where many build bricks out of mud, Friday's earthquake toppled buildings not strong enough to withstand such a mighty temblor, trapping people in the rubble and sending others fleeing in terror. A total of 2,122 people were confirmed dead and at least 2,421 others were injured — 1,404 of them critically, the Interior Ministry reported. Most of the dead — 1,351 — were in the Al Haouz district in the High Atlas Mountains, the ministry said. Flags were lowered across Morocco, as King Mohammed VI ordered three days of national mourning starting Sunday. The army mobilized search and rescue teams, and the king ordered water, food rations and shelters to be sent to those who lost homes. He also called for mosques to hold prayers Sunday for the victims, many of whom were buried Saturday amid the frenzy of rescue work nearby. Though it said for the first time Sunday that it would accept aid from four countries, Morocco has not made an international appeal for help like Turkey did in the hours following a massive quake earlier this year, according to aid groups. Read: Powerful quake in Morocco kills more than 1,000 people and damages historic buildings in Marrakech Aid offers poured in from around the world, and the U.N. said it had a team in Morocco coordinating international support. About 100 teams made up of a total of 3,500 rescuers are registered with a U.N. platform and ready to deploy in Morocco when asked, Rescuers Without Borders said. Germany had a team of more than 50 rescuers waiting near Cologne-Bonn Airport but sent them home, news agency dpa reported. A Spanish search-and-rescue team arrived in Marrakech and headed to the rural Talat N’Yaaqoub, according to Spain’s Emergency Military Unit. Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in a radio interview that Moroccan authorities asked for help. Another rescue team from Nice, France, also was on its way. Officials in the Czech Republic earlier said the country was sending about 70 members of a rescue team trained in searching through rubble after receiving an official request from the Moroccan government. Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said three military planes were prepared to transport the team. In France, which has many ties to Morocco and said four of its citizens died in the quake, towns and cities have offered more than 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in aid. Popular performers are collecting donations. The epicenter of Friday’s quake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Marrakech. The region is known for scenic villages and valleys tucked in the High Atlas Mountains. Devastation gripped each town along the High Atlas’ steep and winding switchbacks, with homes folding in on themselves and people crying as boys and helmet-clad police carried the dead through the streets. ”I was asleep when the earthquake struck. I could not escape because the roof fell on me. I was trapped. I was saved by my neighbors who cleared the rubble with their bare hands," said Fatna Bechar in Moulay Brahim. “Now, I am living with them in their house because mine was completely destroyed.” Read: Flooding in southern Brazil leaves at least 31 dead and 2,300 homeless There was little time for mourning as survivors tried to salvage anything from damaged homes. Khadija Fairouje's face was puffy from crying as she joined relatives and neighbors hauling possessions down rock-strewn streets. She had lost her daughter and three grandsons aged 4 to 11 when their home collapsed while they were sleeping less than 48 hours earlier. “Nothing’s left. Everything fell,” said her sister, Hafida Fairouje. The Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity was coordinating help for about 15,000 families in Al Haouz province, including food, medical aid, emergency housing and blankets, the state news agency MAP quoted the organization’s head, Youssef Rabouli, as saying after he visited the region. Rescuers backed by soldiers and police searched collapsed homes in the remote town of Adassil, near the epicenter. Military vehicles brought in bulldozers and other equipment to clear roads, MAP reported. Ambulances took dozens of wounded from the village of Tikht, population 800, to Mohammed VI University Hospital in Marrakech. In Marrakech, large chunks were missing from a crenelated roof, and warped metal, crumbled concrete and dust were all that remained of a building cordoned off by police. Tourists and residents lined up to give blood. “I did not even think about it twice,” Jalila Guerina told The Associated Press, "especially in the conditions where people are dying, especially at this moment when they are needing help, any help.” She cited her duty as a Moroccan citizen. The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m., lasting several seconds, the USGS said. A magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later, it said. The collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates occurred at a relatively shallow depth, which makes a quake more dangerous. It was the strongest earthquake to hit the North African country in over 120 years, according to USGS records dating to 1900, but it was not the deadliest. In 1960, a magnitude 5.8 temblor struck near the city of Agadir, killing at least 12,000. That quake prompted Morocco to change construction rules, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors. In 2004, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima left more than 600 dead.
Two attacks by al-Qaida linked insurgents in the restive north of Mali on Thursday killed 49 civilians and 15 government soldiers, the country's military junta said. A passenger boat near the city of Timbuktu on the Niger River and a Malian military position in Bamba further downstream in the Gao region were targeted, according to a statement from the military junta read on state television. It said the attacks have been claimed by JNIM, an umbrella coalition of armed groups aligned with al-Qaida. The Malian government killed about 50 assailants while responding to the attacks, the announcement said. It said also declared three days of national mourning from Friday to honor the civilians and soldiers killed in the attacks. Al-Qaida affiliated and Islamic State-linked groups have almost doubled the territory they control in Mali in less than a year, the United Nations said in a report last month, as they take advantage of a weak government and of armed groups that signed a 2015 peace agreement. Also read: At least 15 people killed and dozens injured in bus crash in Mali The stalled implementation of the peace deal and sustained attacks on communities have offered the IS group and al-Qaida affiliates a chance "to re-enact the 2012 scenario," they said. That's the year when a military coup took place in the West African country and rebels in the north formed an Islamic state two months later. The extremist rebels were forced from power in the north with the help of a French-led military operation, but they moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali in 2015 and remain active. In August 2020, Mali's president was overthrown in a coup that included an army colonel who carried out a second coup and was sworn in as president in June 2021. He developed ties to Russia's military and Russia's Wagner mercenary group whose head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed in a plane crash in Russia on Aug. 23. Also read: Doctor in embattled Somaliland city says at least 145 dead Timbuktu has been blockaded by armed groups since late August, when the Malian army deployed reinforcements to the region. The insurgents are preventing the desert city from being supplied with basic goods. Over 30,000 residents have fled the city and a nearby region, according to an August report by the United Nations' humanitarian agency. The deadly attacks come as the U.N. prepares to withdraw its 17,000-strong peacekeeping mission MINUSMA from Mali at the government's request. The pullout is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. The U.N. deployed peacekeepers in 2013 and MINUSMA has become the most dangerous U.N. mission in the world, with more than 300 personnel killed. The growing insecurity in Mali has increased instability in West Africa's volatile Sahel region. Mali has had two coups since 2020 in which the military vowed to stop the jihadi violence.
A nighttime fire ripped through a rundown five-story building in Johannesburg that was occupied by homeless people and squatters, killing at least 73 people early Thursday, emergency services in South Africa's biggest city said. Some of the people living in the building in South Africa's biggest city threw themselves out of windows to escape the blaze and might have died because of that, a local government official said. Seven of the victims were children, the youngest a 1-year-old, according to an emergency services spokesperson. As many as 200 people may have been living in the building, witnesses said. Emergency crews expected to find more victims as they worked their way through the building, a process slowed by the conditions inside. Dozens of bodies were lined up on a nearby side road, some in body bags, and others covered with silver sheets and blankets. Another 52 people were injured in the blaze, which broke out at about 1 a.m. in the heart of Johannesburg's central business district, Johannesburg Emergency Services Management spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said. Abandoned and broken-down buildings in the area are common and often taken over by people desperately seeking some form of accommodation. City authorities refer to them as “hijacked buildings." Read more: 2 found dead in eastern Washington wildfires identified, more than 350 homes confirmed destroyed Mulaudzi said the death toll was likely to increase and more bodies were likely trapped inside the building. The fire took three hours to contain, he said, and firefighters had only worked their way through three of the building's five floors by mid-morning. “This is a tragedy for Johannesburg. Over 20 years in the service, I’ve never come across something like this,” Mulaudzi said. The building's interior was effectively “an informal settlement” where shacks and other structures had been thrown up and people were crammed into rooms, he said. There were “obstructions” everywhere that would have made it very difficult for residents to escape the deadly blaze and which hindered emergency crews trying to work through the site, according to Mulaudzi. Search teams found 73 bodies. The chance of anyone being found alive hours after the fire broke out was “very slim,” he said. City officials said 141 families were affected by the tragedy, although they were not able to immediately say how many people were in the building at the time of the blaze. Many of them were believed to be foreign nationals, officials said. Read more: 18 bodies found in Greece as firefighters battle wind-driven wildfires across the country A witness who didn't give his name told television news channel eNCA that he lived in a building next door and heard people screaming for help and shouting “We're dying in here” when the fire started. Mgcini Tshwaku, a local government official, said there were indications that people lit fires inside the building to keep warm in the winter cold. Officials are looking into the cause of the blaze. Read more:At least 36 killed on Maui as fires burn through Hawaii and thousands race to escape After the fire was extinguished, smoke still seeped out of windows of the blackened building as daylight broke. Strings of sheets and other material hung out of some of the broken windows. It was not clear if people used those items to try and escape the fire or if they were trying to save their possessions.
Mutinous soldiers in Gabon said Wednesday they were overturning the results of a presidential election that was to extend the Bongo family’s 55-year hold on power. The central African country’s election committee announced that President Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64, had won the election with 64% of the vote early Wednesday morning. Within minutes, gunfire was heard in the center of the capital, Libreville. Read: Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa wins re-election after troubled vote, officials say A dozen uniformed soldiers appeared on state television later the same morning and announced that they had seized power. The soldiers intended to “dissolve all institutions of the republic,” said a spokesman for the group, whose members were drawn from the gendarme, the republican guard and other elements of the security forces. The coup attempt came about one month after mutinous soldiers in Niger seized power from the democratically elected government, and is the latest in a series of coups that have challenged governments with ties to France, the region’s former colonizer. Unlike Niger and two other West African countries run by military juntas, Gabon hasn’t been wracked by jihadi violence and had been seen as relatively stable. Read: Niger's neighbours running out of options as defence chiefs meet to discuss potential military force In his annual Independence Day speech Aug. 17, Bongo said “While our continent has been shaken in recent weeks by violent crises, rest assured that I will never allow you and our country Gabon to be hostages to attempts at destabilization. Never.” At a time when anti-France sentiment is spreading in many former colonies, the French-educated Bongo met President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in late June and shared photos of them shaking hands. The coup’s leaders vowed to respect “Gabon’s commitments to the national and international community.” Bongo was seeking a third term in elections this weekend. He served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who ruled the country for 41 years. Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in January 2019, while Bongo was in Morocco recovering from a stroke, but they were quickly overpowered. Read: At least 10 killed in southwest Congo as intercommunal violence worsens over land rights and taxes In the election, Bongo faced an opposition coalition led by economics professor and former education minister Albert Ondo Ossa, whose surprise nomination came a week before the vote. There were concerns about post-election violence, due to deep-seated grievances among the population of some 2.5 million. Nearly 40% of Gabonese ages 15-24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank. After last week’s vote, the Central African nation’s Communications Minister, Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou, announced a nightly curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., and said internet access was being restricted indefinitely to quell disinformation and calls for violence. Every vote held in Gabon since the country’s return to a multi-party system in 1990 has ended in violence. Clashes between government forces and protesters following the 2016 election killed four people, according to official figures. The opposition said the death toll was far higher. Read: 5 killed in Kenya as concerns grow over increasing terror attacks Fearing violence, many people in the capital went to visit family in other parts of the country before the election or left Gabon altogether. Others stockpiled food or bolstered security in their homes.