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Gunmen Invade Secondary School, Abduct Students in Katsina, Nigeria

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Gunmen raided a secondary school in Katsina State, northwest Nigeria and abducted several students, reports have said.

According to reports, the gunmen invaded Government Science Secondary School in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina on Friday night.

The attack on the school and environs started at about 11 pm and lasted for over two hours. An undisclosed number of students and residents of the town were declared missing after the raid.

Unlike previous attacks, where invaders launched attacks on motorbikes, the gunmen were said to have strolled into the school on foot and kidnapped the students.

Quoting an unnamed policeman, several reports said the gunmen killed a police officer and the gateman.

One of the eyewitnesses disclosed that “they shot sporadically in the students’ hostels. They searched bags looking for food and kidnapped dozens”.

“We ran to the bush together with some students, we were terribly confused and so many students sustained injuries while running.”

As of the time of compiling this report, it was not clear how many students were either hiding in the bush or those in the custody of the abductors.

Friday’s incident happened two days after armed groups kidnapped a village head and 20 other civilians in Gamji village Sabuwal Local Government Area of Katsina State.

The attack happened less than 24 hours after President Muhammadu arrived the state for a week-long private visit.

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Serious Sexual Violence, Rape Reported in Ethiopia’s Tigray – UN Envoy

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The United Nations (UN) has revealed that serious allegations of sexual violence are being reported in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.

Pramila Pattern, a Mauritian-British barrister and UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict, said the reports included a high number of alleged rapes in Mekelle, Tigray’s capital.

Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) seized control of Mekelle from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on 28 November after several weeks of fighting.

“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Ms Patten said in a statement.

“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.

“While medical centres have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.

“In addition, there are increasing reports of sexual violence against women and girls in a number of refugee camps.”

She called on those parties involved in the hostilities “to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence”.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a ground and air offensive on 4 November to oust the region’s ruling party, after its troops captured federal military bases.

He declared victory in Tigray after a month’s conflict, but fugitive TPLF leaders vowed to continue the fight.

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Israeli Billionaire Jailed 5 Years, Fined $56.48M over Guinea’s Bribery Scandal

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A court in Switzerland has sentenced the billionaire Israeli businessman, Beny Steinmetz, to five years in prison for bribery in relation to acquiring mining rights to lucrative iron-ore deposits in Guinea.

Some of the money was said to have been transferred through Swiss banks.

A Swiss criminal court on Friday found billionaire Israeli businessman Beny Steinmetz guilty of corruption and also ordered him to pay 50 million Swiss francs ($56.48 million) fine.

The judgment is a landmark verdict in one of the mining world’s most high-profile legal disputes.

Delivering judgment, the judge, Alexandra Banna, said, “It is clear from what has been presented that the rights were obtained through corruption and that Steinmetz cooperated with others to obtain them.’’

The court, she said, had therefore sentenced him “to a deprivation of liberty for five years”, in line with the prosecutors’ request.

The court also convicted and sentenced Steinmetz’s co-defendants, a French man and a Belgian woman.

They were also found guilty of corruption and were given a 3-1/2 year jail sentence each and a two-year suspended sentence, respectively.

The judgment followed a two-week trial of Steinmetz and his co-defendants variously accused of bribery and corruption.

The convicts were accused of conspiring and paying or arranging payment of $10 million in bribes.

The bribes were aimed at influencing officials so as to obtain exploration permits for the world’s richest untapped deposits of iron ore in Guinea.

They were also accused of forging documents to cover it up through a web of shell companies and bank accounts.

They had denied all the charges before the court.

Central to Steinmetz’s defence was his claim that he was not involved in the day-to-day running of Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR).

He described himself as the owner and company ambassador but not the boss of the group that employs some 100,000 members of staff.

Steinmetz said he would appeal the judgment.

“It is a big injustice,” he told reporters outside the Geneva courthouse.

The battle for control of the iron ore, buried in the remote Simandou mountain range of West Africa’s Guinea, has triggered probes and litigation around the world.

This has also thwarted efforts to extract the lucrative commodity.

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Two Million Displaced in Sahel Violence – UN

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The Sahel has reached a ‘grim milestone’ with no fewer than two million people displaced by unrelenting violence, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.

The Sahel, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria’s extreme north, is home to some of the world’s least developed countries.

The UNHCR said: “Needs are surging across a region where multiple crises converge including armed conflict, extreme poverty, food insecurity, climatic changes, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The extreme vulnerability of the Sahel has been laid bare by the impact of forced displacement.

“This is caused by widespread and gruesome violence perpetrated by armed insurgent groups and criminal gang.”

According to the agency, internal displacement in the region has increased fourfold in just two years.

It said there were 490,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IPDs) at the beginning of 2019, more than half of whom were from Burkina Faso.

The Sahel also hosts over 850,000 refugees, mainly from Mali, it added.

“Already this year, violence in Niger and Burkina Faso has forced more than 21,000 people to flee their homes and seek refuge within their own countries.

“In Burkina Faso, since Dec. 31, a series of armed attacks on the town of Koumbri and nearby villages in the North of the country have displaced more than 11,000 people.

“Most are women and children who fled at night after attackers began shooting at their homes.

“They have reached safety and are now staying within local communities in Ouahigouya and Barga, some 35 kilometres away,” UNHCR said.

The agency warned that the communities hosting the displaced had reached a breaking point.

Many of the IDPs, it said, lack basic needs like shelter in spite of the generosity of their hosts.

UNHCR added that they were in urgent need of water and access to medical and sanitation services to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The humanitarian response is dangerously overstretched, and UNHCR is urging the international community to redouble its support for the region.

“States must act now to help Sahel countries address the root causes of this forced displacement, to boost strategic and sustainable development.

“And to strengthen institutions such as schools and hospitals, many of which have shut due to ongoing violence.The situation has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it noted.

The agency enumerated its interventions in the region to include provision of shelter, relief items, hygiene materials and cash.

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