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US begins airstrike in Afghanistan, kills IS planner

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The US military says it has killed an Islamic State ‘planner’ in retaliation for Thursday’s deadly suicide bombing in Kabul airport.

Spokesman for US Central Command, Captain Bill Urban, said the military had conducted a drone strike against an IS member in Afghanistan’s Nangahar Province, which borders Pakistan.

He said, “The US military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner.

“Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”

The US has not named the ‘planner’ it killed.

It is not clear if the fighter was involved in the devastating blast at the airport, which the Islamic State’s Afghanistan branch, ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for.

The blast killed as many as 170 Afghans and 13 American service members.

This is a swift action based on President Joe Biden’s promise to retaliate the deadly suicide bombing carried out by the Taliban at Kabul airport on Thursday.

Associated Press reports that the strike came amid what the White House called indications that IS planned to strike again as the US-led evacuation from Kabul airport moved into its final days. Biden has set Tuesday as his deadline for completing the exit.

Biden authorised the drone strike and it was ordered by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, a defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide details not yet publicly announced.

The airstrike was launched from beyond Afghanistan less than 48 hours after the devastating Kabul attack that killed 13 Americans and scores of Afghans with just days left in a final U.S. withdrawal after 20 years of war. U.S. Central Command provided few details; it said it believed its strike killed no civilians.

The speed with which the US military retaliated reflected its close monitoring of IS and years of experience in targeting extremists in remote parts of the world.

But it also shows the limits of U.S. power to eliminate extremist threats, which some believe will have more freedom of movement in Afghanistan now that the Taliban is in power.

Central Command said the drone strike was conducted in Nangarhar province against an IS member believed to be involved in planning attacks against the United States in Kabul. The strike killed one individual, spokesman Navy Capt. William Urban said.

The airstrike came after Biden declared Thursday that perpetrators of the attack would not be able to hide. “We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said. Pentagon leaders told reporters on Friday that they were prepared for whatever retaliatory action the president ordered.

“We have options there right now,” said Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

The President was warned Friday to expect another lethal attack in the closing days of a frantic US-led evacuation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s national security team offered a grim outlook.

“They advised the President and Vice President that another terror attack in Kabul is likely, but that they are taking maximum force protection measures at the Kabul airport,” Psaki said, echoing what the Pentagon has been saying since the bombing Thursday at Kabul airport.

Late Friday, the State Department again urged Americans to stay away from airport gates, including “the New Ministry of Interior gate.”

Few new details about the airport attack emerged a day later, but the Pentagon corrected its initial report that there had been suicide bombings at two locations. It said there was just one — at or near the Abbey Gate — followed by gunfire. The initial report of a second bombing at the nearby Baron Hotel proved to be false, said Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff; he attributed the mistake to initial confusion.

Based on a preliminary assessment, US officials believe the suicide vest used in the attack, which killed at least 169 Afghans in addition to the 13 Americans, carried about 25 pounds of explosives and was loaded with shrapnel, a US official said Friday.

A suicide bomb typically carries five to 10 pounds of explosives, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary assessments of the bombing.

Biden still faces the problem over the longer term of containing an array of potential extremist threats based in Afghanistan, which will be harder with fewer U.S. intelligence assets and no military presence in the nation.

Emily Harding, a former CIA analyst and deputy staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she doubted Biden’s assurances that the United States will be able to monitor and strike terror threats from beyond Afghanistan’s borders.

The Pentagon also insists this so-called “over the horizon” capability, which includes surveillance and strike aircraft based in the Persian Gulf area, will be effective.

In an Oval Office appearance Friday, Biden again expressed his condolences to victims of the attack.

The return home of US military members’ remains in coming days will provide painful and poignant reminders not just of the devastation at the Kabul airport but also of the costly way the war is ending.

More than 2,400 US service members died in the war and tens of thousands were injured over the past two decades.

The Marine Corps said 11 of the 13 Americans killed were Marines. One was a navy sailor and one an army soldier. Their names have not been released pending notification of their families, a sometimes-lengthy process that Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said involves “difficult conversations.”

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Everything is the opposite yet Nigeria not a complete disaster – Soyinka

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Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, has said Nigerians are still managing to eke out a living despite the bleak realities confronting the country.

Soyinka spoke during an interview with the Cable News Network monitored by our correspondent.

Commenting on the ironic title for his first novel in 48 years, Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, he said things happened around one as one grew up, witnessing the degrading of dream and environment in one’s society and on the continent.

He explained that for him, the issue had been an arduous journey, adding, “It has reached such a stage, I found intuitively, that only prose fiction can handle things that have been bubbling up inside me.”

He said the title came after some people some years ago conducted a poll which placed Nigeria among the top four happiest nations in the world.

The playwright noted, “That thing has been with me, in my head. I asked, ‘Who are these people? What do they know? What have they seen? What have they experienced in Nigeria that they make such an attribution?’ That title really has been waiting to answer that claim in many ways. When you look at the surroundings, everything is the opposite and yet, Nigeria is not a complete disaster.

“People still manage to eke out a living not only a living but to some extent a dignified and satisfied living. I think it’s not surface appearance of contentment or making the best of a really bad job, insisting that no matter what life must go on… It’s that which needed to be, quote and unquote, celebrated in addition to the bleak actualities.”

The elder statesman further said he took the decision to change his former relationship if Donald Trump was elected president of the United States despite “being literally an enemy of decency and humanity’’ and his blatantly discontent for non-white humanity.

He stated, “I never really totally turned my back on the United States. I mean how could one? We have many Nigerians there, to start with. When I stroll through the streets of the United States, I sometimes think the United States is an extension of Nigeria, that it’s part of our diaspora.” That’s not an easy decision but it was inevitable.”

Commenting on the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to Tanzanian novelist, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Soyinka said his immediate statement after the announcement was “let the African tribe expand wherever situated.”

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Insecurity: Royal Navy Warship arrives in Lagos

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The Royal Navyship, HMS TRENT has arrived Lagos State as part of its three months deployment to the Gulf of Guinea.

The HMS TRENT and her contingent of Royal Marines from 42 Commando are on a three-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea.

Port of Lagos is the second stop for HMS TRENT since departing Gibraltar in October.

The Royal Navy War ship was recieved by the United Kingdom, UK, Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Ben Llewellyn-Jones, at a reception on Saturday.

According to Llewellyn-Jones: “Nigeria’s security and prosperity matters to the UK. The Royal Navy is here because the UK is a committed partner for Nigeria and the wider West African region.

“We will continue to work with the Nigerian authorities to address illegal activity; improve maritime security; counter-piracy and tackle the Illegal Wildlife Trade.

“To do this we will draw on the experience we have of cross and multi-agency co-operation in the UK to promote peace, development, and prosperity.”

The ship’s company of HMS Trent have a packed schedule of events, including various capability demonstrations and training, with 42 Commando delivering their specific Vessel Boarding, Search and Seizure training to the Nigerian Navy.

In addition, members of the ship’s company will also step ashore with a charity beach clean as well as attending the Maritime Security Conference at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA).

Also speaking, HMS Trent’s Commanding Officer, Commander Thomas Knott said: “As Trent made her way to the Gulf of Guinea my crew honed their skills in Maritime Security Operations and commenced Counter Illicit Activity Patrols.

“Piracy, Narcotics and broader criminal activities in this region demand that my Royal Navy Sailors and Royal Marine Commando Force are always ready to respond, from Boarding Operations through to lifesaving assistance at sea.”

Boarding exercises are vital integration training for the newly embarked Royal Marines, who joined at the start of HMS Trent’s patrol of the Gulf of Guinea.

42 Commando will perform a key role as part of the ship’s company of HMS Trent, training partner forces across the region and helping to develop their capabilities.

The three-month deployment will see the ship travel around the Gulf of Guinea, visiting countries including Ghana, Senegal, and Gambia.

Alongside their commitments to conduct joint exercises and train with partners in the region, HMS Trent will also conduct maritime security patrols and promote the UK’s position as co-president at the G7++ Friends of Gulf of Guinea conference in November.

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FG considering posthumous pardon for Ken Saro-Wiwa, others – Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari says the Federal Government is considering a state pardon for nine Ogoni leaders/activists convicted and hanged by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha 26 years ago for opposing the operating practices of the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Corporation.

The Ogoni Nine are author and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel and John Kpuine, They were executed  on November 10, 1995.

Buhari gave the hint when he had an audience with some leaders and people of Ogoni land at the State House, according to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.

According to the President Buhari, despite the gravity of the circumstances, the Federal Government will consider the request to grant them pardon and bring closure to the case.

He said: “Furthermore, we are committed to ensuring clemency and national integration as part of this administration’s bid to lay the foundation for genuine reconciliation and bring closure to the issues of Ogoni Land.

“The unfortunate incidents of the early 1990s leading to the loss of lives of distinguished sons of Ogoni land and the collateral judicial processes are indelible in our memories.

“Despite the grievous circumstances, the Federal Government will consider the request for the grant of pardon to finally close the Ogoni saga,’’

President Buhari urged the Ogoni leaders to sensitize indigenes on value of protecting national assets like pipelines and other oil installations, saying willful damages usually create more havoc on their environment and hamper development in the area.

He also noted that the Federal Government is committed to the cleaning up of Ogoni land so that indigenes can regain their lives, return to farms and reactivate economic activities.

“You will need to educate the people of Ogoni land and the region more, that when pipelines are broken, the damage is more to the immediate environment and the people. The majority farmers and fishermen struggle because the fishes now move to the deep sea,’’ he said.

The President observed that bad industry practices coupled with security challenges had resulted in massive spills with attendant environmental degradation of Ogoni, leading to agitations and strife.

He said the government would bring to a close all pending issues on sons of Ogoni land.

 

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