Mysterious armed men waylaid a tanker on Tuesday in the placid waters off the coast of Iran near the Strait of Hormuz. The strategic straits are close to the UAE and are where oil tankers transit to move the world’s oil.
No group ‘claimed responsibility’ and the men left soon after taking control of the Hong Kong-flagged tanker. Iran may have been responsible for the incident.
The vessel was just one of many places targeted by groups that are using the distraction of the pandemic to attack, lay claim, harass and kill. Waterways are particularly at risk because the world’s navies are dealing with the threat of the virus to key crews, such as aircraft carriers.
Reports indicate that France’s only aircraft carrier has numerous cases. The USS Theodore Roosevelt has been sent to port due to the pandemic. Submarines have also had to quarantine crew.
Terrorist groups all over the world are watching for an opening due to the pandemic. For instance Chad is wavering in support of anti-terror operations in the Sahel. Canada is pulling some troops from anti-ISIS training in Iraq; French troops in Iraq handed over a post and are leaving, Spanish troops also left as have UK and Czech troops. ISIS is taking advantage, launching more attacks north of Baghdad near Kirkuk.
ISIS also seeks to leverage troubles in Syria to rile up supporters in the Al-Hawl camp and sleeper cells near Deir Ezzor.
In Libya armed groups are going wild with new attacks amid the pandemic. Turkish and Qatari backed members of the Tripoli-based government have upped their activity.
In addition the UAE and Saudi backed forces of Khalifa Haftar have increased their activity fighting against Tripoli’s militants. In Mali militants plundered an army base during an attack in early April, while French forces as part of Operation Barkhane carried out 83 airstrikes in March to deter attacks by increasingly organized groups of militants, jihadists, ISIS and others across the Sahel.
The Sahel region includes countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, all plagued by extremist groups. Nigeria is also fighting Boko Haram and in Somalia al-Shabab is active. There is an “alarming increase in violence,” according to reports across thousands of miles of Africa.
Some of the deadliest incidents have struck Chad’s forces, Niger, Nigeria and other nations fighting in the Sahel. There is no respite to the war, it has only gotten worse and it is made more complex because the extremists exploit weak borders, ungoverned spaces and move from country to country.
ISIS has also struck Mozambique in east Africa. The threats were dismissed in 2018 and 2019 but now the jihadists have captured villages in Cabo Delgado.
Al-Shabab in Somalia is also causing trouble. In January it attacked US forces, and the US carried out airstrikes on March 25. On March 9 other airstrikes hit the group but it also reportedly killed a governor in Somalia. The group’s attacks have plagued Kenya and Ethiopia has also carried out strikes on Al-Shabab. As if that were not enough, there were also attacks by armed groups in the Congo on Wednesday.
At the same time far away in Afghanistan there has been an uptick in ISIS attacks, including shelling of military bases and a terror attack against Sikhs in Kabul. There was also a terror attack in Egypt on Tuesday.