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Africa Security Roundup

A number of significant developments have taken place on the African continent of late that deserve attention due to their ramifications beyond the mere locale in which they were perpetrated. Instead of focusing on just one issue as usual with the RapidRecon format, I will address and offer analysis on two important events.

First, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the Nigerian insurgent group that has been battling security forces and foreign oil companies for redistribution of oil revenues, successfully launched what may prove to be a watershed attack over the night of June 19. MEND assaulted Royal Dutch Shell's Bonga oil platform, the group's first attack on Nigeria's primary offshore oil field. What is notable about this attack is the fact that the oil platform lies 75 miles off the Nigerian coast. Previously, the majority of MEND's attacks have focused on oil installations in the Niger Delta, a tangled maze of creeks and swamps, an environment like the Louisiana bayou, that affords the group safe haven. The ability to attack this oil platform such a distance offshore demonstrates that the group has developed a frightening sophistication and maritime capability. The attack has halted Royal Dutch Shell's offshore production, chopping off a full 10% of Nigeria's production.

An American, Jack Stone, is reported captured by MEND during the course of the attack. In an emailed statement, MEND also called for oil and gas tankers to avoid the area or risk attack.

In light of the assault on the offshore rig, this is a threat that should be taken seriously as MEND clearly has demonstrated the ability and willingness to perform such a strike. Needless to say, this is not good news for the price of gasoline. If further evidence of the need for the United State Navy's Littoral Combat Ship was necessary, this attack proves that there truly is a need for a fast vessel capable of operating against lower-grade threats close to shore.

Turning now to the Horn of Africa, clashes broke out earlier this week on June 17 between the armed forces of Eritrea and Djibouti. News reports hold that nine Djiboutian soldiers were killed and more than 60 wounded. Eritrea was blamed internationally for instigating the violence. A statement from the UN Security Council condemned the Eritrean action and urged the nation to show "maximum restraint" in the affair. U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff had harsh words for the Eritreans:

"We call on all the parties to cooperate, particularly Eritrea, with all efforts designed to help minimize and reduce tensions on the border."

[...]

"There's been a pattern of irresponsible, destabilizing behavior by Eritrea in the past," he told reporters. "This latest incident ... was launched from the Eritrean side."

Predictably, Eritrea denied American criticism. Though the situation is unlikely to escalate further, the situation is notable as the United States has a significant military presence in Djibouti, which is located on some strategic real estate adjacent to the Red Sea's outlet into the Arabian Sea. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is based at Camp Lemonier and is the jumping off point for operations in Somalia and the wider region. If clashes continue to escalate between the two neighbors, there exists a slight chance of direct American involvement, though slim at the current point in time.