News from South Africa, Brazil and Nigeria

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on February 18, 2014

SOUTH AFRICA – Trapped miners being rescued – and arrested

Illegal miners trapped in a South African mine overnight on Saturday were on Sunday afternoon being brought out from underground and arrested by police as they emerged.


Rescue officials move a rock removed from an abandoned gold shaft as they work to rescue trapped suspected illegal miners in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, on Feb. 16, 2014.

By 7 pm local time, 11 had been brought out of the mine shaft after a large boulder blocking their escape had been removed.

A spokesman for rescue service ER24 said miners were transferred straight from an ambulance to a police van.

“Miner reluctant to come to the surface for fear of being arrested,” the spokesman tweeted as one of the men was brought out. “Illegal mining is a crime, and once all miners receive medical attention, they are arrested.”

The miners may have been trapped deliberately by a rival group as they worked to try and find pieces of precious metal left behind after industrial operations in the shaft ended several years ago, a spokesman for ER24 said.

They were discovered after emergency services staff heard screaming while conducting a routine drill in the area.

Around 30 miners were close to the surface, where a large boulder was blocking the entrance. They communicated to rescue workers that there are 200 people trapped in total and the rest are down a steep tunnel.

Werner Vermaak, a spokesman for ambulance service ER24, said rescue workers had to wait several hours for specialist equipment including a crane to move the boulder without destabilizing the ground around it, but they had now begun work.

Water has been passed through gaps to the miners – the temperature in the area was 80F by 3pm.

Mr. Vermaak said that the way the miners were trapped by the boulder suggested foul play. “Sometimes it happens that rival groups close the entrance off,” he said.

Mining is one of South Africa’s biggest industries and disused mines cover the landscape around Johannesburg. Mining firms are expected to secure the areas to prevent illegal access but the security is frequently breached by people eager to search for scraps left behind by the commercial operations.

As a result, such entrapments are almost a weekly occurrence, although rarely on the scale of the latest incident near Benoni. “They are very common in this area particularly but this is probably the largest one we have seen for quite some time,” Mr. Vermaak said.

BRAZIL – 1.1 million petition Brazil to give Snowden asylum

A petition with more than a million signatures was submitted to the Brazilian government on Thursday urging President Dilma Rousseff to grant asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Snowden, now in Russia on temporary asylum status, asked Brazil for asylum in December in an open letter to its citizens.

A activist adjusts his mask of former NSA analyst Edward Snowden before a protest demanding Brazil's government grant Snowden asylum, outside the foreign ministry in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. Last year, Snowden revealed that the United States collected data on billions of telephone and email conversations in Latin America's biggest country, including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's communications with aides. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

A activist adjusts his mask of former NSA analyst Edward Snowden before a protest demanding Brazil’s government grant Snowden asylum, outside the foreign ministry in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

His call was taken up by Avaaz, an international campaigning group that launched the petition in December and has since collected more than 1.1 million signatures. [Germany’s Deutsche Welle reports: The petition was initiated by David Miranda, partner of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who conducted the first media interviews with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.]

The Brazilian government had said it required a formal request from Snowden to grant asylum. Today, more than a million people have done what Snowden cannot and presented this request in his name, Avaaz Director Ricken Patel told Agence France-Presse in a statement.

In exchange for asylum, Snowden offered to aid Brazil in investigating the NSA’s surveillance operations in their country. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who obtained and reported on the first document Snowden leaked, lives in Brazil.

The European Union also considered granting Snowden asylum this week. Members of the EU parliament debated an amendment to a report this week that would have required EU nations to provide protection to Snowden. A parliamentary committee, however, voted against the amendment on Wednesday. 

Snowden’s temporary asylum status in Russia expires at the end of July. One Russian official recently hinted his protection could be extended.

NIGERIA – Boko Haram targets Christian town and fishing village in latest attacks

Kano, Nigeria (CNN) — Over 100 Christians in northeastern Nigeria have been killed in two separate attacks launched by Boko Haram Islamists, according to officials and residents. [The Wall Street Journal  reported: Several hundred fighters screaming “Allah akbar,” or “God is great,” ran through the village of Izge Saturday night, said local resident Ibrahim Musa. The town is a predominately Christian enclave in Nigeria’s largely Muslim northeast.]

nigeria-mapScores of Islamist insurgents dressed in military uniforms stormed the Christian farming village of Izghe, in Borno state*, late Saturday and opened sporadic fire on residents, killing at least 106 people in an attack specifically targeted at male residents. [*Borno State is a state in north-eastern Nigeria.  Its capital is Maiduguri.  It  has been under emergency rule since May last year in a bid to stop an Islamist rebellion that has claimed thousands of lives since 2009.]

The gunmen, who arrived in the village riding in trucks and on several motorcycles, opened fire and hacked male residents they had assembled in the village square. They moved door to door in search of male residents who were hiding.

The attack prompted an exodus of hundreds of panic-stricken residents of nearby villages to the neighboring Madagali district in Adamawa state.

“We suspect that the gunmen were members of Boko Haram. They have taken over the village,” said Madagali local government chairman, Maina Ularamu..

The attackers looted businesses and food stores “and loaded all their spoils into vehicles owned by residents and fled into the bush,” said Ularamu.

A survivor of the attack, farmer Barnabas Idi, said he scaled the fence of his house and crawled for about 40 minutes to safety. Idi said there were no security forces in the town at the time of the attack. [“The attackers came around 9:30pm in six trucks and some motorcycles. They were dressed in military uniform,” Idi said. “They asked men to assemble at a place, and began hacking and slaughtering them.”]

In the second attack early Saturday, suspected Boko Haram gunmen opened fire on Doron Baga, a fishing village along Lake Chad.

“They opened fire from all directions, forcing residents to jump into the lake in a bid to escape, and many drowned while others were gunned down,” said Babagana Gwoni, a survivor of the attack.

The gunmen looted fish and foodstuffs before setting houses on fire, Gwoni said.

Lt. Col. Mohammed Dole, a military spokesman, confirmed the Doron Baga attack but declined to give details. “We received report of the attack on Doron Baga, but we don’t have details because the area falls under the operational jurisdiction of the Multinational Joint Task Force,” Dole said.

The Multinational Joint task Force comprises troops from Nigeria, Niger and Chad and was set up in 1998 primarily to fight light weapons proliferation. Its mandate has been expanded to include combating the Boko Haram insurgency. [Boko Haram militants have carried out frequent attacks in both cities and remote areas of the northeast, despite a military operation launched when emergency rule was declared.]

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at  on London’s Daily Telegraph on Feb. 16, The Hill on Feb. 14 and CNN on Feb. 17.)




from a Wall Street Journal report: