Top of the Morning: French Tanker Hijacked off Ivory Coast; US Counterterrorism Missteps in Africa

Top stories from DAWNS Digest.

French Tanker Hijacked Off Ivory Coast

Yet another troubling incident of piracy off the west coast of Africa. This has been a trend around the Gulf of Guinea for over a year. “Pirates hijacked a French-owned fuel tanker off Ivory Coast, abducting 17 sailors in the latest attack by criminal gangs targeting the ships to steal their valuable cargo, officials said Monday. Meanwhile, a sailor died in a similar attack Monday near Nigeria’s largest city. The M/T Gascogne had offloaded some of the diesel fuel in its hold before the attack Sunday off the coast of Abidjan, according to a statement by Ivory Coast’s Transportation Ministry. Pirates overpowered the crew of the vessel, which included seven sailors from Togo, four from Benin, two from Ivory Coast, two from Senegal and one apiece from China and South Korea, the ministry said.” (Yahoo!

US Counter-Terrorism Missteps in the Sahel

A very deeply reported story explores the wrong moves and competing pressures the US has faced in fighting terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel. “Belmokhtar had trained at camps in Afghanistan, returned home to join a bloody revolt and was about to be blacklisted by the United Nations for supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But he hadn’t attacked Americans, not yet, and did not appear to pose a threat outside his nomadic range in the badlands of northern Mali and southern Algeria. Military commanders planned to launch airstrikes against Belmokhtar and a band of Arabs they had under surveillance in the Malian desert, according to three current and former U.S. officials familiar with the episode. But the ambassador to Mali at the time said she vetoed the plan, arguing that a strike was too risky and could stir a backlash against Americans…Last month, his group, Signatories in Blood, took dozens of hostages at a natural-gas complex in Algeria. At least 38 foreign captives were killed, including three Americans. In addition to raising his global profile, the spectacular attack turned Belmokhtar into a symbol of how the United States over the past 10 years bungled an ambitious strategy to prevent al-Qaeda from gaining a foothold in North and West Africa.” (WaPo