UN Demands Investigation into Deadly Afghan Hospital Attack

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Oct. 3, 2015 – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday strongly condemned the attack on a Medecins Sans Frontiers hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan that killed at least 12 aid workers and three children while the United Nations human rights chief said the attack may amount to a war crime.

Hospitals are protected under international humanitarian law while the Security Council lists attacks on hospitals and health facilities as one of the six grave violations against children caught up in armed conflict.

At least 37 more people were injured in the overnight attack, including 19 MSF staff.

In a statement issued by his spokesman in New York, Ban called for “a thorough and impartial investigation into the attack in order to ensure accountability.”

Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Hussein said the attack on the hospital “is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal.”

“The seriousness of the incident is underlined by the fact that, if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime,” he added, according to a statement issued by his office in Geneva.

The attack on Saturday, reportedly a result of U.S. airstrikes, ranks as one of the single deadliest ever attacks on aid workers: 22 United Nations staff were killed when their compound in Iraq was bombed by Al Qaeda in August 2003 while 16 French aid workers were killed in a 2006 attack in Sri Lanka blamed on government security forces.

The UN aid chief, Stephen O’Brien, added his condemnation of the attack in a statement issued late Saturday in New York. “Hospitals and clinics should be sanctuaries where people, including women and children, go for help,” he stated. “Attacking a hospital not only has a devastating immediate impact but denies people the opportunity to access lifesaving healthcare in the future,” and he supported calls “for an urgent and impartial investigation to ensure accountability.”

Afghanistan is by far the most dangerous country for aid workers, with 54 losing their lives last year – most as a result of attacks by Taliban or other anti-government forces.

There were at least 38 attacks on health facilities in Afghanistan last year, according to Ban Ki-moon’s annual report on children and armed conflict.

Foreign Terrorist Fighters Come from More than 100 UN Member States

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May 26, 2015 – More than half of the UN’s 193 member states are generating fighters for Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with some 25,000 recruits joining the terrorist groups from countries as diverse as Trinidad and Tajikistan, according to a new report from a United Nations expert group.

The report, from the Security Council team monitoring sanctions on individuals associated with Al Qaeda, says that six UN member states have generated more than 1,000 foreign fighters each while another 42 have generated more than 100 such fighters each.

“Open-source analysis by the team indicates an increase of 71 per cent in reported foreign terrorist fighters worldwide between the middle of 2014 and March 2015, in part owing to more comprehensive internal reporting by Member States and greater open-source data,” the authors state. “There has also been a sharp increase (from 70 to 733 per cent) in fighters from a number of European and Asian Member States.”

The destination countries for the majority of foreign fighters are Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, with smaller numbers present in Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, the Sahel countries, Somalia and the Philippines, according to the report while origin countries for large number of foreign fighters include Russia, Tunisia, Morocco and France. Smaller numbers are coming from countries that have no previous association with terrorism including Finland, the Maldives and Trinidad.

There is no standard profile for those that leave their home country to join terrorists groups, according to the report, other than they tend to be males between the ages of 15 and 35, though some are older veterans who fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan and returned home.

For some countries such as France, those joining terrorist groups often have a record of petty crime while in Britain, there are clusters of recruitment associated with certain towns and schools. In other cases, criminal networks, such as ethnic Chechens in Austria, are associated with recruitment.

Libya has become a major training ground for foreign fighters, the report says.

The Security Council is set to discuss the findings on Friday.

The full report is below.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UNSC Expert Panel on Al Qaeda Sanctions

UN Report on a Changing Al Qaeda

Crowd Fleeing After Attack on Westgate Mall, Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 2013 (image/ wikimedia)

Crowd Fleeing After Attack on Westgate Mall, Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 2013 (image/wikimedia)

Feb. 26, 2014 – Al Qaeda’s new leaders are younger, there is growing support for the group in sub-Saharan Africa, and it has become adept at exploiting gaps in governance to launch attacks and find new spaces to operate.

The latest report from the Security Council’s Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee also says that the influence of Ayman al-Zawahiri is rapidly waning and Al Qaeda affiliates mostly ignore his operational instructions.

The new leaders of Al Qaeda affiliates are in their late 30s and 40s whereas previous leaders ranged in age from the late 40s to 70s.

sub-Saharan African support for the Al-Qaeda ideology is one of the most significant trends to watch,” the report states, noting that the The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)  recruits from the Songhai and Fulani tribes. It also notes “the involvement of sub-Saharan and West Africans in recent attacks in Algeria and the Niger.”

Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasing capacity to take advantage of internal conflicts, as in Yemen and Syria, as well as becoming adept at exploiting gaps in governance in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. The Tibesti Mountains, on the borders between Chad and Libya, are a venue for terrorist training, the report says, and Mount Chaambi in Tunisia, on the border with Algeria, has also become a refuge for terrorists.

Payment of ransom to Al Qaeda and its affiliates is a main source of financing with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) receiving $120 million between 2011 and 2013, the report says. “A total of 1,283 kidnappings motivated by terrorism were reported in 2012, and a single hostage could deliver a seven-figure ransom into the hands of terrorists.”

Improvised explosive devices are the primary weapon of choice for Al Qaeda affiliates. “These remain a versatile and dangerous weapon and the principal cause of civilian casualties in many terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda affiliates.”

The full report is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN Security Council Remove Osama bin Laden from Sanctions List

Feb. 25, 2013 – The U.N. Security Council has removed Osama bin Laden from its list of individuals subject to a travel ban and assets freeze for associating with Al Qaeda.

The Security Council’s 1267 committee made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on its website.

While bin Laden breaching his travel ban was no longer an issue, it is believed that an investigation into any assets he may have left was the reason for delaying his de-listing.

– Denis Fitzgerald