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Obama Sends U.S. Troops, Drones To Cameroon In Anti-Boko Haram Fight

By Warren Strobel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The United States is sending 300 U.S. troops, along with surveillance drones, to Cameroon to bolster a West African effort to counter the Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

In a notification to Congress, President Barack Obama said an advance force of about 90 military personnel began deploying on Monday to Cameroon, with the consent of the Yaounde government.

The troops will “conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the region,” Obama said. “These forces are equipped with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security, and they will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed.”

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the troops would provide intelligence to a multi-national task force being set up to fight Boko Haram and composed of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin.

Boko Haram, which wants to carve out an Islamist caliphate and has allied itself to Islamic State, earlier this year stepped up cross-border attacks on Nigeria’s neighbors.

On Sunday, two female suicide bombers killed nine people in the town of Mora in Cameroon’s Far North region, employing a tactic increasingly favored by Boko Haram.

The American officials said the U.S. soldiers would deploy initially to the city of Garoua in northern Cameroon, not far from the Nigerian border. The force will include Predator drones for surveillance, they said.

The White House said the move was not in response to any changed assessment of threat in the region.

The United States has no combat troops in Africa, but has been increasing support to allies in the region battling Boko Haram.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu and Frances Kerry)

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s (CHCI) 38th Annual Awards Gala in Washington October 8, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Islamist Militants Kidnap Wife Of Cameroonian Official

By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times

JOHANNESBURG — Islamist militants believed to be associated with the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped the wife of a Cameroonian vice prime minister Sunday, in a worrying sign that the violence in northeastern Nigeria is spreading beyond its borders.

Militants mounted an attack on the village of Kolofata and killed three people according to Cameroonian officials, Reuters reported.

The gunmen also abducted a traditional leader and his family in an early morning raid on the community near the Nigerian border, following attacks in recent days that left several Cameroonian soldiers dead.

News agencies reported the gunmen seized the wife of Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali while Ali managed to flee, Cameroonian officials said.

The attacks occurred just across the border from Gwoza, where extremists have mounted many Nigerian attacks since last year.

The militants have been active in the region for some time, carrying out attacks in Nigeria and sometimes fleeing into Cameroon. Last year, Boko Haram or a related group kidnapped a French family of seven, who were later released.

Others abducted last year and later freed include a Canadian nun, a French priest, and two Italian priests. Ten Chinese construction workers kidnapped in Cameroon in May remain in captivity.
Tens of thousands of northern Nigerians have fled into Cameroon in the last year.

But militants suspected of being with Boko Haram or a similar group have in recent days launched attacks in Cameroonian villages. Cameroon has deployed soldiers along the border but there has been little regional cooperation between Cameroonian and Nigerian forces until recently. Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger agreed to set up a regional force of nearly 3,000 men to confront Boko Haram and other Islamist militant groups.

In northern Nigeria’s biggest city, Kano, an attack on a church Sunday by unknown assailants left five people dead and others wounded. No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Boko Haram, which opposes secular education, Western culture and democracy, is staging an insurgency in northern Nigeria in an attempt to establish an Islamist state. The group is still holding around 219 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted in April.

AFP Photo

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Spain Mourns World Cup Exit, More Victims In Line

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) – Defending champions Spain slumped into mourning over their disastrous World Cup exit on Thursday ahead of a clash between England and Uruguay that could see another famous name fatally wounded.

A picture of midfielder Andres Iniesta, his head in his hands after the 2-0 defeat by Chile, symbolized the end of a golden run in which Spain won the World Cup and two straight European Championships.

The image dominated Spain’s press on the day after the country’s second straight defeat in Group B sparked soul searching into the failure.

“A terrible end to the most glorious era,” said the Madrid sports daily Marca.

Spain’s coach Vicente del Bosque said he would not be rushed into a decision on his future.

“When something negative comes out of such an important competition then of course there are consequences. I don’t want to go into an analysis right now — there will be plenty of time for that,” said the 63-year-old whose side also lost 5-1 to the Netherlands.

“We are not falling apart. We will take the time to do what is best for Spanish football — and I include myself there.

“We must not make snap decisions. We played two games and were not able to overcome our rivals — Holland and Chile were better than us on the day.”

Del Bosque acknowledged his side were poor in the second half where they fell to pieces against the Dutch and in the first 45 minutes against a Chilean side who scented blood from the outset.

“But we mustn’t make excuses. We are out, we were inferior and we must look to the future,” he insisted.

Captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who has come in for heavy criticism, said: “The level of commitment was not what we wanted it to be.”

“We didn’t deserve to go through to the next round. We have been beaten by superior teams,” added Casillas, 33, who will be one of the golden generation whose places are now threatened.

Cameroon were also slammed after their 4-0 defeat by Croatia in Group A in which Alexandre Song was sent off for punching Croatia goalscorer Mario Mandzukic and Benoit Assou-Ekotto aimed a headbutt at teammate Benjamin Moukandjo after a dispute.

Coach Volker Finke called the behavior “disgusting” and “unacceptable”.

Cameroon joined Spain in dropping out of Group B while Australia already know they are out in Group A.

Arjen Robben put hot form side the Netherlands ahead against the Socceroos in Wednesday’s third game. But Australia then went ahead through through a spectacular Tim Cahill volley and a Mile Jedinak penalty.

Goals by Robin van Persie and Memphis Depay gave the Dutch a 3-2 win. Van Persie will miss Monday’s match against Chile to decide who wins Group A after picking up a second yellow card of the tournament.

Meanwhile Steven Gerrard warned England’s players they face a “terrible” summer if they lose to Uruguay on Thursday and crash out of the tournament.

The two former World Cup winners, both of whom lost their first Group D games, play in Sao Paulo at 1900 GMT. In Group C, Colombia play Ivory Coast and Japan play Greece.

Uruguay could bring back star striker Luis Suarez, heightening pressure on England in the crunch battle.

The England captain, who went through disappointing World Cup campaigns in 2006 and 2010 — when England lost 4-1 to Germany — said he underlined the high price of failure in a special address to the squad.

“Going into this game, (they have) to realize it could be a terrible long, frustrating summer if we don’t get it right on Thursday,” he said.

“There is no hiding place for a player when you go out of a tournament. You go home earlier than you expect. It can be tough as a player and it can take an awful long time to get over it.”

After losing 2-1 to Italy, defeat to Uruguay would probably consign England to one of the earliest World Cup exits in their history.

Japan and Greece face a similar high stakes encounter in Natal at 2200 GMT. With Japan outmuscled by Ivory Coast 2-1 and Greece thumped 3-0 by Colombia on Saturday, defeat for either side is likely to be fatal.

AFP Photo/Dani Pozo