Somali National Army (SNA) on Saturday killed six al-Shabab militants in a gun battle in the country's southern region of Gedo, a military officer confirmed.
Mohamed Ali Abdullahi, commander of Somali National Army (SNA) in Bardhere town told journalists that they have launched an attack on al-Shabab militants in the area following a tip-off from the locals.
"Residents informed us that the militants were forcing them to give compulsory taxes, and our army attacked the area, there was a stiff confrontation, but we finally drove them out of the town and killed six of them during the gunfight," the military commander said.
He added that their forces also burnt two battle vehicles from the militants.
"Al-Shabab militants entered our village ordering us to pay mandatory taxes, but the government army suddenly attacked them, both sides fought for hours, but the militants are now out of the city," Mulki Afrah, a resident told Xinhua via phone.
Southern regions of Somalia have become the battleground of clashes between government forces and al-Shabab extremists after the militants were chased out from the capital Mogadishu in August 2011 by Somali army and African Union forces.
Rebels killed four Ebola response workers in an overnight ambush in eastern Congo, the World Health Organization said Thursday, warning that the attack will give the waning outbreak new momentum in what has been called a war zone.
"We are heartbroken that our worst fears have been realized," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. It was by far the deadliest such attack in the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, the United Nations health agency said.
The dead included a member of a vaccination team, two drivers and a police officer. Many of the six others wounded were with Congo's health ministry.
Mai-Mai fighters attacked a camp housing scores of aid workers overnight in Biakato, local official Salambongo Selemani told The Associated Press. Warnings had been posted demanding that the health workers leave or face "the worst," Selemani said.
The other attack targeted an Ebola response coordination office in Mangina, WHO said. Allied Democratic Forces rebels are to blame, Beni territory administrator Donat Kasereka Kibwana said.
WHO's emergencies director Dr. Mike Ryan, however, said neither the attackers' identities nor their motivation had been confirmed but it was "unmistakably a directed attack at the response." More than 100 WHO staffers and other aid workers were evacuated.
This is not the first time that health workers trying to contain the outbreak have been targeted. Overall, health workers and infrastructure have been attacked 386 times with seven people killed and 77 wounded, Ryan said.
Some have called this outbreak more complicated than any other. Several rebel groups are active in the region, and local officials say some believe Ebola is nothing but a political ploy.
"Imagine, a doctor leaves home in the U.S. or elsewhere to come sleep in a tent to help save us from this scourge of Ebola and yet poorly educated young people want to attack him. ... It is very deplorable," said Fiston Kamango, a youth leader in Biakato.
The latest attacks come after days of deadly unrest in the city of Beni, where residents outraged by repeated rebel attacks stormed the local U.N. peacekeeping base, demanding more protection. WHO evacuated 49 of its staffers there, leaving 71 in place.
The United States, Britain, Canada and Switzerland on Thursday issued a joint statement condemning the "senseless acts of violence" by armed groups and appealing for calm while saying they understood the local frustrations.
Ebola response work was put on lockdown in Beni, dismaying health experts who say every attack hurts crucial efforts to contain the deadly virus. Most of the recent new cases have been reported in the newly targeted communities of Biakato, Mangina and Beni.
"The last strongholds of the virus were in these areas," WHO's Ryan said. He called working conditions in the remote areas difficult at the best of times.
The number of cases had been dropping in the yearlong outbreak which has killed more than 2,100 people and was declared a rare global health emergency earlier this year. Several days this month, zero cases were reported. Just seven cases were reported in the past week, WHO said.
Cases have surged after previous attacks on health workers and facilities. "Ebola was retreating. These attacks will give it force again," the WHO chief said.
In one example of how any pause can sharply affect Ebola containment efforts, WHO has said no one in Beni could be vaccinated against the virus on Monday. The health agency previously could trace more than 90% of contacts of infected people in the city but now that figure is just 17%, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday.
Residents accuse Congolese and U.N. forces of not doing enough to protect civilians from the rebels who fight for control of the region's vast mineral wealth. The ADF alone is blamed for the murders of more than 1,500 people in and around Beni in the past four years.
The latest rebel attack outside Beni killed 19 people, the U.N. said Wednesday.
After an emergency meeting Monday, President Felix Tshisekedi decided to allow joint operations between Congolese and U.N. forces in Beni following the protests that also burned the town hall.
Far from the capital, Kinshasa, some traumatized residents in the densely populated border region near Uganda and Rwanda are wary of outsiders, further complicating the Ebola containment work in a part of Congo that had never recorded the virus before.
Despite two promising new Ebola vaccines, health workers continue to battle misinformation and reluctance to seek treatment for the virus that is largely spread via close contact with the bodily fluids of infected people, including the dead.
In addition, many local health workers have been recruited by the "well-paying" Ebola response, leading to shortages of trained people to deal with other serious health issues such as an even deadlier measles outbreak and malaria, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said in a statement.
An Islamic State group affiliate claimed responsibility Thursday for a helicopter collision that killed 13 French soldiers earlier this week in Mali, while France said it will reassess its military operation in West and Central Africa after its deadliest toll in nearly four decades.
The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara statement, with no evidence, came almost three days after the low-flying helicopters collided on a moonless night while pursuing extremists near the border with Niger. An investigation has begun into the cause of the crash and the flight data recorders have been found.
French military spokesman Col. Frederic Barbry said the military would not comment on the claim. Shortly after the crash, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Francois Lecointre said the helicopters had been supporting French forces on the ground pursuing fighters with the IS affiliate.
A national memorial ceremony will take place Monday in Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that "our mission there is important, yet what we are now living in the Sahel leads us to look into all strategic options." He said the government and military will work on the issue in the coming weeks.
Macron this week defended France's largest overseas military mission, which involves 4,500 troops, saying it is aimed at enhancing France's own security and providing support to African countries.
The helicopter collision drew global attention to an emerging front for IS-linked groups as IS loses strength in its core area in Syria and Iraq. Counterterror officials have worried about the risk of fighters fleeing that region for Africa's sprawling Sahel, the arid strip south of the Sahara Desert.
Before his death this year, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi congratulated "brothers" in Mali and neighboring Burkina Faso for pledging allegiance.
Extremist groups have been using forested areas along the poorly defended border areas of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso to find refuge while spreading south into more populated areas. Nearly half a million people have fled their homes this year alone in once-peaceful Burkina Faso.
France has been outspoken on the need for more global support for counterterror operations in the Sahel, especially funding for the five-nation G5 Sahel counterterror force that was created two years ago.
France intervened in Mali in 2013 after extremists seized control of major towns in the north and implemented a harsh version of Islamic law. They were forced back into the desert, where they have regrouped.
A new surge in extremist attacks in Mali has killed well over 100 local troops in the past two months, with IS often claiming responsibility. The extremists loot military posts and profit from mining operations.
Public frustration in Mali over the insecurity has been directed at the French military presence as well.
The crash was France's highest military toll since 1983, when 58 paratroopers were killed in a truck bombing in Lebanon.
Kenya's president and top opposition leader on Wednesday launched a report that they call a road map for unifying the country and ending deadly violence around elections.
The country has seen post-election violence in 1992, 1997, 2007 and 2017, when the Supreme Court shocked the country by nullifying the presidential election over irregularities and ordered a fresh vote, which the opposition boycotted.
The long-awaited Building Bridges Initiative was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta and rival Raila Odinga after they shook hands last year to end a months-long political standoff in which at least 92 people were killed.
Among the report's recommendations is creating a prime minister post, replacing the electoral commission and nearly doubling county governments' share of the national budget from 18% to 35%.
It also takes aim at widespread corruption, saying government officials should not engage in business while in office.
The report was criticized by some observers, including those who had hoped for bolder recommendations against corruption.
Anti-corruption expert John Githongo called it "muddled."
Economist David Ndii, who was Odinga's chief strategist during the election, called the report an "Uhuru-Raila self-preservation political project."
This isn't the first time Kenya has attempted to calm political violence. A truth and reconciliation commission report presented to Kenyatta in 2013 recommended prosecutions and reparations but has not been acted upon.
The commission was formed after the 2007 post-election violence in which more than 1,100 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.
The new report now likely goes to Parliament, though some Kenyans argue that some of its recommendations will require a referendum.
Odinga and Kenyatta said the report should spark national debate that will lead to reforms.
"These proposals ... are not the end but the beginning of a much-needed debate about the new Kenya," Odinga said.
More than a dozen people are dead in the latest rebel attack near the city of Beni, where outraged residents this week stormed a United Nations base to demand protection, a local official said Wednesday.
The attack in Oicha, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Beni, took place overnight, said Beni territory administrator Donat Kibwana. He blamed the Uganda-based Allied Democratic Forces rebels, who have killed more than 1,500 people in and around Beni in the past four years.
"We have reinforced the military presence in the territory of Beni, but also the army has pursued the rebels," he said. "We call on the population to remain calm."
This week's protests in Beni, after repeated rebel attacks, have turned deadly while disrupting crucial efforts to contain the yearlong Ebola virus outbreak in the region that has killed more than 2,100 people.
Three protesters have been killed by police and four others killed by U.N. peacekeepers trying to disperse the crowds, a civil society spokesman, Ghislain Muhiwa, asserted.
The U.N. mission in Congo "came to kill us or to protect us?" he said. "The choice is simple: Either they fight the enemy or they go home."
More than 5,000 people marched with the LUCHA civil society group Wednesday in Beni, honoring one member who was killed.
The International Committee of the Red Cross called for calm and restraint, saying health care workers should not be targeted. It said that since Nov. 19, facilities supported by ICRC teams have treated five people wounded in attacks in Beni and another 27 wounded in demonstrations.
The violence forced Ebola responders into lockdown in Beni, according to the World Health Organization, which evacuated 49 of its staffers but left 71 in place.
The U.N. mission, accused of inaction, has said it cannot carry out operations unilaterally in a region where Congo's military is already active, and that it cannot participate in Congolese military operations without being invited.
After an emergency meeting Monday, Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi decided to allow joint operations between Congolese and U.N. forces in Beni following the protests that also burned the town hall.
"We have people that manipulate the suffering of the people and use it against the government or against (the U.N. mission)," U.N. envoy Laila Zerrougui told reporters on Tuesday. "We are the scapegoat. We know that."
She said the U.N. was investigating the death of a protester on Tuesday who she said was armed with a petrol bomb and trying to enter the U.N. compound.
Some residents believe the U.N. mission has more resources than Congolese forces and should be doing more, Zerrougui said.
"But the reality is that a peacekeeping mission is not deployed in a country to wage war," she said. "We cannot afford to go and bombard and kill people and then the day after you have photos of children and women massacred in a bombardment by the U.N. ... A government can do that and say this is collateral damage. We cannot do that. We cannot afford to do that. And it is not acceptable that we do that."