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NightWatch 20150114

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NightWatch

For the night of 14 January 2014

Pakistan: On 14 January in Quetta, Baluchistan, an anti-terrorism court indicted former President and Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf in the murder of Baluch tribal leader Akbar Bugti. The court also indicted the former interior minister Sherpao and Home Minister Shoab Nausherwani. The court charged that Musharraf, who was president at the time, directed the military operation that killed Bugti.

Musharraf's attorneys represented him and presented the court with a medical certificate that said Musharraf was too ill to be present in person. The court ordered the provincial Director General of Health to confirm Musharraf's condition.

The court adjourned the case until 4 February.

Comment: Musharraf also faces multiple trials in multiple courts, including for the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and for high treason in usurping the constitution and imprisoning the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Unless the next court date is postponed, this case would be the first to go to trial. It is still not certain that the Army leadership would tolerate the first conviction of a former Chief of Army Staff.

The Army's positive public image and support have been restored, especially since General Raheel Sharif became Chief of Army Staff in 2013. The best recent indication of this is that the formation of military courtsthis week received almost no opposition from politicians or the public.

That most likely means that the Army will not tolerate a civilian court trying Musharraf. The new military courts are supplanting the anti-terror courts, one of which indicted Musharraf today. Musharraf might end up in a military court, in which case a lenient outcome would be a forgone conclusion.

Cameroon: Update. Cameroonian soldiers killed at least 143 Boko Haram fighters in Monday's clash at Kolofata army camp in northern Cameroon. On Monday the government said that one Cameroonian soldier died, but had no casualty figures for Boko Haram. The Minister of Communications said the Boko Haram casualty figure represented the heaviest losses the terrorists have sustained in Cameroon.

Comment: In the government press statement, the spokesman explained the precision of the casualty figure. Cameroon derives its casualty figures by literally counting the corpses. If a vehicle explodes, the soldiers count the number of people observed in that vehicle. That conservative approach also explains the delay in announcing enemy casualties. Nigeria, in contrast, usually estimates enemy dead after a clash.

Nigeria: Nigerian soldiers thwarted a Boko Haram attack Wednesday in the town of Biu. The Nigerian Defense Headquarters said five terrorists and two anti-aircraft guns had been captured. Local residents claimed that at least 40 Boko Haram fighters died in the clash. The apparent targets were the Nigerian Army camp at Biu, an airfield and the town.

Comment: Nigeria could stand some good news. What is unusual about this clash is that the Nigerian soldiers apparently ambushed the Boko Haram militants while they were moving towards Biu in 10 pickup trucks and two motorcycles. That indicates they had some warning of the attack, which almost never happens.

This is the first recent success the Nigerian Army can claim and one of the few times its soldiers have stopped Boko Haram from overrunning a town in the northeast. The casualty figure suggests that a significant number of the terrorists escaped. They will be back because Biu is on the road to Maiduguri. Other towns on that road are already in Boko Haram control.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, is the last government stronghold and the ultimate target and prize for Boko Haram. Its capture would consolidate Boko Haram's territorial holdings and begin the breakup of Nigeria.

End of NightWatch for 14 January.

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