Deaths from Nigerian refugee camp air strike rises to 90, could reach 170: MSF

people walk at the site of a bombing attack

GENEVA (Reuters) – The death toll from an accidental Nigerian air strike on a refugee camp in the town of Rann has risen to around 90 people, and could be as high as 170, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said in a statement on Friday.

Tuesday’s strike on the northeastern town in Borno state, which had Boko Haram militants as its target, has led to an investigation by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF). The inquiry’s report is due to be submitted no later than Feb. 2.

The aid group, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said the higher figure of 170 comes from reports from residents and community leaders.

“This figure needs to be confirmed,” said Bruno Jochum, MSF General Director, in the statement.

“The victims of this horrifying event deserve a transparent account of what happened and the circumstances in which this attack took place.”

Borno is the epicenter of Boko Haram’s seven-year-long attempt to create an Islamic caliphate in the northeast. The insurgency has killed more than 15,000 people since 2009 and forced some two million to flee their homes, many of whom have moved to camps for internally displaced people.

“A Nigerian airforce plane circled twice and dropped two bombs in the middle of the town of Rann, which hosts thousands of internally displaced people,” MSF said.

“At the time of the attack, an aid distribution was taking place.”

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch said the strike had destroyed 35 structures, and hit 100 meters from what appears to be a Nigerian military compound, raising questions about why precautions were not taken to avoid harming civilians.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Paul Carsten; editing by Ralph Boulton)

France clears ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais, children in limbo

Migrants/refugees with their belongings during evacuation

By Matthias Blamont

CALAIS, France (Reuters) – France began clearing the sprawling “Jungle” migrant camp on Monday as hundreds gave up on their dreams of reaching Britain, a tantalizingly short sea crossing away.

Following sporadic outbreaks of unrest overnight, the migrants chose instead with calm resignation to be relocated in France while their asylum requests are considered.

By lunchtime more than 700 had left the squalid shanty-town outside Calais on France’s northern coast for reception centers across the country. Hundreds more queued outside a hangar, waiting to be processed before the bulldozers move in.

French officials celebrated the peaceful start to yet another attempt to dismantle the camp, which has become a symbol of Europe’s failure to respond to the migration crisis as member states squabble over who should take in those fleeing war and poverty.

But some aid workers warned that the trouble overnight, when some migrants burned toilet blocks and threw stones at riot police in protest at the camp’s closure, indicated tensions could escalate.

“I hope this works out. I’m alone and I just have to study,” said Amadou Diallo from the West African nation of Guinea. “It doesn’t matter where I end up, I don’t really care.”

The Socialist government says it is closing the camp, home to 6,500 migrants, on humanitarian grounds. It plans to relocate them to 450 centers across France.

Many of the migrants are from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea and had wanted to reach Britain, which is connected to France by a rail tunnel and visible from Calais on a clear day. Some had wished to join up with relatives already there and most had planned to seek work, believing that jobs are more plentiful than in France.

Britain, however, bars most of them on the basis of European Union rules requiring them to seek asylum in the first member states they set foot in.


Even as the process began, the fate of about 1,300 unaccompanied child migrants remained uncertain.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged Britain last week to step up efforts to identify and resettle child migrants. London has given priority to children with family ties and discussions are underway with Paris over who should take in minors with no connections.

Britain’s Home Office said on Monday it had reluctantly agreed to suspend the transfer of more children, on the request of the French authorities.

For now, children will be moved to converted shipping containers at a site on the edge of the Jungle before they are interviewed by French and British immigration officials, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in Geneva said.

“It’s cold here,” said one Sudanese teenager who identified himself as Abdallah. “Maybe we’ll be able to leave in a bus later, or next week, for Britain.”

Armed police earlier fanned out across the Jungle as the operation got underway.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said that authorities had not needed to use force and that the large police presence at the camp on Monday was just for security.


Aid workers went from tent to tent, urging migrants to leave the camp before heavy machinery is rolled in to start the demolition.

The hundreds who volunteered on Monday to move on were each given two destinations to chose from before being bussed to the reception centers. There they will receive medical checks and if they have not already done so, decide whether to apply for asylum.

The far-right National Front party said the government plan would create mini-Calais camps across France.

Officials expect 60 buses to leave the camp on Monday and the government predicts the evacuation will take at least a week.

Many tents and makeshift structures that had housed cafes, bakeries and kiosks lay abandoned. On the side of one wooden shack a message to British Prime Minister Theresa May had been scrawled in spray-paint: “UK government! Nobody is illegal!”

Despite the calm, charity workers expect hundreds will try to stay and cautioned that the mood could change later in the week when work begins on razing the camp.

“There’s a risk that tensions increase in the week because at some point the bulldozers are going to have to come in,” said Fabrice Durieux from the charity Salam.

Others warned that many migrants who remained determined to reach Britain would simply scatter into the surrounding countryside, only to regroup in Calais at a later date.

“Each time they dismantle part of the camp it’s the same thing. You’re going to see them go into hiding and then come back. The battles will continue,” said Christian Salome, president of non-profit group Auberge des Migrants.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva and Kylie MacLellan in London; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Geert De Clercq and David Stamp)

Refugee from Iraq pleads guilty in U.S. to attempting to join Islamic State

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – An Iraqi-born man who entered the United States as a refugee pleaded guilty on Monday in Texas to attempting to volunteer to fight with Islamic State, federal prosecutors said.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al-Hardan, 24, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Houston to one count of attempting to provide material support, specifically himself, to the militant group, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the southern district of Texas said in a statement.

Al-Hardan, who most recently lived in Houston, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 17, prosecutors said.

The case comes during a U.S. presidential race in which the question of admitting refugees from the Middle East, especially Syria, has become a point of contention between the two leading candidates.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has called for increasing the number of Syrian refugees admitted and said the United States can adequately screen them. Republican nominee Donald Trump has opposed their entry and called for “extreme vetting” of incoming Muslim immigrants.

In the Texas case, federal agents began investigating Al-Hardan in 2014 after he communicated with a California man who he believed was associated with the Syrian Islamist rebel group Al-Nusrah, prosecutors said in a statement.

Al-Hardan in 2014 and 2015, in discussions with a confidential informant, said he planned to travel overseas to support Islamic State, prosecutors said.

He also said he had taught himself to make remote detonators and showed off a circuit board he built as a transmitter, prosecutors said.

Al-Hardan entered the United States as an Iraqi refugee in late 2009, about two years before the start of a civil war in Syria, after spending time in refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq, prosecutors said. He was later granted legal permanent residence.

The arrest of Al-Hardan gained national media attention in January, with Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a conservative Republican, citing it as an indication of why Texas was seeking to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

Islamic State, which controls tracts of land in Iraq and Syria, has claimed credit for a surge in global attacks this summer, even as it has been hammered by U.S.-led coalition air strikes. On Monday, Iraqi forces launched a U.S.-backed offensive to drive Islamic State from the city of Mosul.

President Barack Obama has said refugees are properly screened and vetted.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Macfie)

London ‘lifejacket graveyard’ aims to send message to U.N. Summit

LONDON (Reuters) – Aid organizations laid out 2,500 lifejackets symbolizing refugee crossings to Europe in a demonstration outside the British parliament on Monday timed to coincide with a United Nations summit on the worldwide migrant crisis.

The orange lifejackets spread out on the lawn of Parliament Square were worn by adults and children traveling from Turkey to Greece, part of a wave of migrants attempting the Mediterranean crossing to get to mainland Europe.

The United Nations refugee body UNHCR, International Rescue Committee, Migrant Voice, World Vision, and Médecins Sans Frontières collaborated for the display, which they called a “lifejacket graveyard” to illustrate the risks migrants take.

The UNHCR estimates 6,940 people drowned or went missing while trying to reach Europe between January 2015 and August 2016.

A display of lifejackets worn by refugees during their crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Chois, are seen Parliament Square in central London, Britain

A display of lifejackets worn by refugees during their crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Chois, are seen Parliament Square in central London, Britain September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth


“We hope this will send a message to the world leaders to call for durable solutions,” said Sanj Srikanthan, head of policy and practice at International Rescue Committee.

In New York, leaders of 193 states were gathering for the United Nations General Assembly, which was opening with its first ever summit specifically addressing global movements of refugees and migrants.

Aid organizations have often called on Britain to take more refugees but Prime Minister Theresa May was preparing to defend her country’s record.

She was expected to affirm the right of all countries to control their borders, a government statement said, and would call for “reducing unmanaged population movement” along with measures to help refugees claim asylum in the first safe countries they reach.

(Reporting by Helen Reid; editing by Stephen Addison)

Refugee girls, hoping for more than survival, need education

Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai addresses students at the Nasib Secondary School in Ifo2 area of Dadaab refugee camp during celebrations to mark her 19th birthday near the Kenya-Somalia border

By Tom Gardner

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday called on world leaders to provide education to girls in refugee camps to avoid them being forced into early marriage or child labor.

Yousafzai’s statement comes a week before U.S. President Barack Obama hosts the first U.N. summit on refugees in New York where he is expected to urge leaders to do more to help refugees in countries like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Kenya.

“Why do world leaders waste our time with this pageant of sympathy while they are unwilling to do the one thing that will change the future for millions of children?” Yousafzai said in a statement ahead of the Sept. 20 summit.

She said refugee girls were wondering how long they can stay out of school before they are forced into early marriages or child labor.

“They’re hoping for more than survival” she said. “And they have the potential to help rebuild safe, peaceful, prosperous countries, but they can’t do this without education.”

Fighting in Syria, Afghanistan, Burundi and South Sudan has contributed to a record number of people who were uprooted last year, according to the U.N. refugee agency, which estimates there are 21.3 million refugees worldwide, half of them children.

Almost 80 percent of all refugee adolescents are out of school, with girls making up the majority of those excluded from education, according to a report issued by the Malala Fund, which campaigns and fundraises for educational causes.

It also blamed donor countries for failing to provide adequate funding for secondary education, and failing to deliver on funding pledges made earlier this year.

The report also criticized wealthy donor countries for diverting resources away from host countries in developing regions, such as Turkey and Lebanon, to meet their own domestic refugee costs.

The report concluded by urging donors to commit to providing $2.9 billion by September 2019 to the Education Cannot Wait Fund, a new body to raise finance for the education of refugee children.

Yousafzai, 19, rose to international fame after surviving a 2012 assassination attempt by the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat valley to continue her fight for girls’ rights.

A regular speaker on the global stage, Yousafzai visited refugee camps in Rwanda and Kenya in July to highlight the plight of refugee girls from Burundi and Somalia.

In 2014, Yousafzai became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner for her work promoting girls’ education in Pakistan.

(Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit to see more stories)

More than 70 tents burned down in Iraqi refugee camp

Tents that were destroyed by fire are seen at Yahayawa refugee camp near Kirkuk, Iraq,

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – More than 70 tents were destroyed by fire on Monday in the refugee camp of Yahayawa, near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, but no one was injured, the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR said.

The ministry of displacement and migration “has requested us to provide tents and core relief items CRIs to affected families”, UNHCR spokeswoman in Baghdad, Caroline Gluck, said.

“We will respond with tents and CRIs without delay; the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs is coordinating with other clusters to provide any other assistance needed,” she said in an email.

The war with Islamic State has forced about 3.4 million people to leave their homes across Iraq, the U.N. says.

Last week, the UNHCR said that hundreds of thousands more people could be uprooted by the military assault to dislodge the militants from Mosul, the biggest city still under Islamic State control, in northern Iraq.

The Yahayawa camp houses about 500 internally displaced families and is managed by the provincial council.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Islamic State flag found in room of German train attacker

German emergency services workers work in the area where a man with an axe attacked passengers on a train near Wuerzburg

By Jens Hack

MUNICH (Reuters) – Police found a hand-painted Islamic State flag and a text written partly in Pashto in the room of a young Afghan refugee who attacked passengers on a train in southern Germany with an axe, a state minister said on Tuesday.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said it was too early to say whether the youth was a member of Islamic State or any other militant group. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to its Amaq news agency.

“We are aware of the claim of responsibility by Islamic State, but…the investigation has not produced any evidence thus far that would indicate this young man was part of an Islamist network,” Herrmann told a news conference.

The 17-year-old severely wounded four Hong Kong residents, one of whom remains in a critical condition, on the train late on Monday, and then injured a local woman after fleeing before police shot him dead.

The attack took place days after a Tunisian delivery man plowed a truck into crowds of Bastille Day revelers in the southern French city of Nice, killing 84. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for that incident.

The case is likely to deepen worries about so-called “lone wolf” attacks in Europe and could put political pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has welcomed hundreds of thousands of migrants to Germany over the past year.

A leader of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) said Merkel and her supporters were to blame for the dangerous security situation because their “welcoming policies had brought too many young, uneducated and radical Muslim men to Germany”.


Herrmann said people who knew the attacker had described him as a “quiet and balanced person who went to the mosque for important holidays, but wasn’t necessarily there every week.”

“He was described as a devout Muslim, but not in any way one who was a radical or fanatic,” Herrmann added.

At least one witness reported that the attacker, who had been living with a foster family in the nearby town of Ochsenfurt, had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).

Herrmann told Reuters TV that a hand-painted IS flag was found among his belongings when police searched his home, as well as a text that included references to Islam and the “need to resist”, according to an initial translation from the Afghan language of Pashto.

He said the text was subject to interpretation, and stressed that the attack was no reason to cast suspicion on other refugees or for Germans to stop living their lives normally.

“Some things clearly point to an Islamist background, but there is no evidence at this point connecting him to any other individuals, or indicating whether he radicalized himself,” Herrmann said. “That must all still be investigated.”

He started attacking his passengers with an axe and a knife around 9 p.m. local time as the train was approaching its last stop, the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg, Herrmann said.

The attacker, who came to Germany as an unaccompanied minor two years ago, fled into the town of Heidingsfeld after the emergency brake was pulled. He was pursued by a police unit and shot dead after attacking a woman and trying to assault the police officers, Herrmann said.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying condemned the attack, which he said injured four of five members of a Hong Kong family that was on holiday in Germany. Herrmann said the family had visited the medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber before the attack.

Leung’s office said Hong Kong and Chinese officials were in touch with the German embassy to follow up on the case, and representatives were en route to visit the family.

Unlike neighbors France and Belgium, Germany has not been the victim of a major attack by Islamic militants in recent years, although security officials say they have thwarted a large number of plots.

Germany welcomed about 1 million migrants in 2015, including thousands of unaccompanied minors. Many were fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

(This story corrects paragraph 15 to show name of town is Heidingsfeld, not Heiligenfeld)

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber, Noah Barkin, Andrea Shalal, Caroline Copley, Michelle Martin and Gernot Heller, and Jens Hack in Munich and Reuters TV; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Iraqi camps overwhelmed as residents flee Falluja fighting

Refugee camp in Iraq

By Stephen Kalin

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi government-run camps struggled on Sunday to shelter people fleeing Falluja, as the military battled Islamic State militants in the city’s northern districts.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the jihadists on Friday after troops reached the city center, following a four-week U.S.-backed assault.

But shooting, suicide bombs and mortar attacks continue.

More than 82,000 civilians have evacuated Falluja, an hour’s drive west of Baghdad, since the campaign began and up to 25,000 more are likely on the move, the United Nations said.

Yet camps are already overflowing with escapees who trekked several kilometers (miles) past Islamic State snipers and minefields in sweltering heat to find there was not even shade.

“People have run and walked for days. They left Falluja with nothing,” said Lise Grande, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. “They have nothing and they need everything.”

The exodus, which is likely to be many times larger if an assault on the northern Islamic State stronghold of Mosul goes ahead as planned later this year, has taken the government and humanitarian groups off guard.

With attention focused for months on Mosul, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in May that the army would prioritize Falluja, the first Iraqi city seized by the militants in early 2014.

He ordered measures on Saturday to help escapees and 10 new camps will soon go up, but the government does not even have a handle on the number of displaced people, many of whom are stranded out in the open or packed several families to a tent.

One site hosting around 1,800 people has only one latrine, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“We implore the Iraqi government to take charge of this humanitarian disaster unfolding on our watch,” the aid group’s country director Nasr Muflahi said.


Iraq’s cash-strapped government has struggled to meet basic needs for more than 3.4 million people across Iraq displaced by conflict, appealing for international funding and relying on local religious networks for support.

Yet unlike other battles, where many civilians sought refuge in nearby cities or the capital, people fleeing Falluja have been barred from entering Baghdad, just 60 km (40 miles) away, and aid officials note a lack of community mobilization.

Many Iraqis consider Falluja an irredeemable bulwark of Sunni Muslim militancy and regard anyone still there when the assault began as an Islamic State supporter. A bastion of the Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces following the 2003 invasion, it was seen as a launchpad for bombings in Baghdad.

The participation of Shi’ite militias in the battle alongside the army raised fears of sectarian killings, and the authorities have made arrests related to allegations that militiamen executed dozens of fleeing Sunni men.

Formal government forces are screening men to prevent Islamic State militants from disguising themselves as civilians to slip out of Falluja. Thousands have been freed and scores referred to the courts, but many others remain unaccounted for, security sources told Reuters.

At a camp in Amiriyat Falluja on Thursday, Fatima Khalifa said she had not heard from her husband and their 19-year-old son since they were taken from a nearby town two weeks earlier.

“We don’t know where they are or where they were taken,” she said. “We don’t want rice or cooking oil, we just want our men.”

(Additional reporting by Saif Hameed in Amiriyat Falluja; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Alexander Smith)