At least 44 suspected members of Boko Haram who were arrested during a recent operation against the group have been found dead in their prison cell in Chad after apparently being poisoned, the country’s chief prosecutor has announced.
The prisoners were found dead on Thursday, Youssouf Tom said on television, and an autopsy carried out on four of the dead prisoners revealed traces of a lethal substance that had caused heart attacks in some of the victims and severe asphyxiation in the others, he said.
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The dead men were among a group of 58 suspects captured during a major army operation around Lake Chad launched by President Idriss Deby at the end of March.
“Following the fighting around Lake Chad, 58 members of Boko Haram had been taken prisoner and sent to Ndjamena for the purposes of the investigation,” Tom said, referencing the central African country’s capital. “On Thursday morning, their jailers told us that 44 prisoners had been found dead in their cell.”
“We have buried 40 bodies and sent four bodies to the medical examiner for autopsy,” he added.
An investigation was continuing to determine exactly how the prisoners had died, he said.
Accusations of mistreatment
A security source told the AFP news agency that “the 58 prisoners were placed in a single cell and were given nothing to eat or drink for two days”.
Mahamat Nour Ahmed Ibedou, secretary-general of the Chadian Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (CTDDH), has made similar accusations.
Prison officials had “locked the prisoners in a small cell and refusing them food and water for three days because they were accused of belonging to Boko Haram”, Ibedou told AFP. “It’s horrible what has happened.”
The government has denied the allegations.
“There was no ill-treatment,” Chad Justice Minister, Djimet Arabi, told AFP by telephone.
“Toxic substances were found in their stomachs. Was it collective suicide or something else? We’re still looking for answers,” he said, adding that the investigation was still on.
One of the prisoners was transferred to hospital on Thursday, but he was “faring much better” and had rejoined “the other 13 prisoners still alive and who are doing very well”, the minister said.
The government launched the military operation against Boko Haram in response to a devastating attack on Chadian troops on March 23 at a base in Bohoma, in the Lake Chad marshlands, that killed 98 soldiers. It was the largest one-day loss the army has ever suffered.
The operation, which ran from March 31 to April 8, has killed more than 1,000 of the group’s fighters and cost the lives of 52 soldiers, according to a Chadian army spokesman.
Since the March 23 attack, Chad’s president has warned his allies in the region that Chadian army will no longer take part in operations outside the country.
The force, considered one of the best in the region, has fought Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region as part of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) with Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Benin since 2015.
Chad is also part of the so-called G5 Sahel force – comprising soldiers from Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, as well – fighting armed groups in the Sahel. On Friday, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Chad remained committed to the group.
Dozens killed in fighting in Afghanistan as peace talks continue |NationalTribune.com
Fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban left dozens dead in a restive eastern province as negotiators from both sides pushed ahead with peace talks in Qatar. Overnight clashes erupted in three districts of Nangarhar province when Taliban fighters attacked several checkpoints of Afghan forces and pro-government fighters, Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar governor…
Fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban left dozens dead in a restive eastern province as negotiators from both sides pushed ahead with peace talks in Qatar.
Overnight clashes erupted in three districts of Nangarhar province when Taliban fighters attacked several checkpoints of Afghan forces and pro-government fighters, Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar governor told the AFP news agency on Thursday.
He said at least 11 Afghan security personnel were killed in fighting in Hesarak, while eight pro-government fighters were killed in Khogyani district.
The official added that about 30 Taliban fighters died in the clashes.
The Taliban has not commented on the fighting so far.
“There have been no attacks from our side … The enemies continue to attack and spill the blood of Afghans,” Afghanistan’s acting Minister of Defense Asadullah Khalid said.
The latest fighting comes as the Afghan government and the Taliban are engaged in talks in Doha aimed at ending the long-running conflict.
Representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban started face-to-face talks on Monday after months of delay over a contentious prisoners swap agreement between the two sides.
The negotiations are a result of a deal between the Taliban and the United States signed in February, which also paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 2021.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said although the talks raise hopes of the war ending in the country, many challenges remain.
“This is a new phase in diplomacy for peace in Afghanistan,” Khalilzad said last week.
“These negotiations are an important achievement, but there are … significant challenges on the way to reaching an agreement.”
Al Jazeera and news agencies
Dozens feared trapped in building collapse in India’s Maharashtra |NationalTribune.com
One person has died and at least 100 feared trapped in the debris of a five-storey building that collapsed in an industrial town in western India’s Maharashtra state, officials said. Not all the roughly 200 residents of the building in Raigad district’s Mahad town, about 165km (100 miles) south of India’s financial capital Mumbai, were…
One person has died and at least 100 feared trapped in the debris of a five-storey building that collapsed in an industrial town in western India’s Maharashtra state, officials said.
Not all the roughly 200 residents of the building in Raigad district’s Mahad town, about 165km (100 miles) south of India’s financial capital Mumbai, were at home when it crumbled in the evening, local legislator Bharatshet Maruti Gogawale told the Reuters news agency on Monday.
India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) spokesman Sachidanand Gawde told reporters that emergency workers had retrieved the body of one victim, who has not yet been identified.
“I believe about 100 to 125 people must have been inside at the time of its collapse,” Gogawale, who was present at the accident site, told Reuters.
The building was comprised of 47 flats, police officials in Mahad said in a statement.
Local residents and police combed through tin sheets, metal rods and other wreckage in a desperate search for survivors as ambulances ferried victims to nearby hospitals.
Authorities said more than two dozen people were pulled out by rescue teams and taken to hospital amid heavy monsoon rains.
NDRF rescue teams and canine squads were deployed to the scene of the accident.
An unnamed official with the Maharashtra state Disaster Management Unit later told the Press Trust of India that at least 51 people were missing.
A man removes the debris after a five-storey building collapsed in Raigad in the western state of Maharashtra [Reuters]
Former Mahad legislator Manik Motiram Jagtap told the local TV9 Marathi channel that the structure was 10 years old and built on “weak” foundations.
“It fell like a house of cards,” he said. “It is a scary situation.”
The office of Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of Maharashtra state, said on Twitter that he had been in touch with local representatives in the area.
“He has assured them that all possible support will be extended for speedy rescue and relief works,” the tweet said.
The cause of the accident was not clear. But building collapses are common in India, usually due to shoddy construction, substandard materials and disregard of regulations.
More than 1,200 people were killed in 1,161 building collapses across India in 2017, according to latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau.
Many of these accidents occur between June and September during the monsoon season, which plays a vital role in boosting agricultural harvests across South Asia.
But the monsoon season also causes widespread death and destruction, unleashing floods, triggering building collapses and inundating low-lying villages.
The death toll from monsoon-related disasters this year has topped 1,200, including more than 800 lives lost in India alone, according to a tally by the AFP news agency.
Dozens killed in separate Burkina Faso attacks |NationalTribune.com
In this file photo from 2015, soldiers guard positions near the Naaba Koom military base in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso [Arnaud Brunet/Reuters] An armed group in Burkina Faso attacked a cattle market and a humanitarian convoy, killing at least 35 people, the government said on Sunday. Twenty-five people were killed and more wounded in the attack…
In this file photo from 2015, soldiers guard positions near the Naaba Koom military base in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso [Arnaud Brunet/Reuters]
An armed group in Burkina Faso attacked a cattle market and a humanitarian convoy, killing at least 35 people, the government said on Sunday.
Twenty-five people were killed and more wounded in the attack on the market in the eastern village of Kompienga, while five civilians and five military police were killed near the northern village of Foube, the government said in a statement.
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Armed groups “targeted a humanitarian convoy returning from Foube after delivering supplies”, it said.
A further 20 people were wounded in the convoy attack, it said.
No group has claimed responsibility.
Saturday’s violence underscores deep instability in parts of Burkina Faso, which has been battling armed groups with links to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) since 2017.
Hundreds have been killed in the past year in the Sahel nation, and more than half a million people have fled their homes due to the violence, which has also raised ethnic and religious tensions.
The bloodshed follows the death of at least 15 people on Friday in an attack on a convoy transporting traders in northern Burkina Faso. That attack, in Loroum province, was also blamed on armed groups.
In the past five years, more than 900 people have been killed by armed groups, while some 860,000 people have fled their homes.
The Sahel country is part of a regional effort to battle an armed uprising along with Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad. Their militaries, under-equipped and poorly trained, are supported by 5,000 French troops in the region. Unrest in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger killed approximately 4,000 people last year, according to UN figures.
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