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NightWatch 20150211

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NightWatch

For the night of 11 February 2015

Yemen: France and the UK closed their embassies in Sana'a today. Houthi militiamen harassed US diplomatic personnel and confiscated their vehicles and side arms at the airport.

Comment: The attitude of the Houthis towards the US, Israel and the West has been a continuing concern. Before taking power, Houthi militiamen at checkpoints waved anti-US and anti-Israel signs and banners. Over the weekend, Saleh Ali al-Sammad, the top Houthi leader in Sana'a, attempted to allay those concerns. He said the signs were just signs.

Today's events at the airport indicate the Houthi political leaders are not in control of the militiamen or that the concern about anti-US attitudes is justified, or both.

Ukraine: The four-power summit in Minsk on ending Ukraine's conflict lasted into the early hours of 12 February, according to press sources. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said the talks were "active." He seemed upbeat, but provided no details.

Comment: A Russian news service reported that the heads of government of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia planned to make a joint statement late on 11 February. That did not occur.

One sticking point reportedly is whether the September ceasefire should be restored or a new ceasefire fashioned, based on new front lines created by the recent fighting. A likely point of agreement, according to news reports, is that the four leaders reportedly intend to commit to respecting the territorial integrity and the neutrality of Ukraine.

Fighting. In contrast to the Minsk talks, Ukrainian government and rebel spokesmen agreed that Debal'tseve is the hottest spot in the east. The government's "antiterrorist operations" press service said the rebels shelled the town 11 times. The government admitted losing 19 soldiers killed and 78 wounded.

Rebel spokesman Basurin said Ukrainian forces attacked six times. He also told the press that radio intercepts disclosed that Ukrainian forces are running out of artillery ammunition. Basurin said clashes occurred at four other places along the battle lines. Other sources said Ukrainians shelled Luhansk.

Comment: The latest rebel summary of Ukrainian losses in the past 25 days is one helicopter, 179 tanks, 149 infantry fighting vehicles, 135 artillery pieces, and over 2,300 killed. The rebels did not state their losses.

Niger: Boko Haram members attacked two towns in southeastern Niger in the past 24 hours. Late Tuesday they attacked N'Guigmi with mortars and machineguns, but were driven off. On Wednesday two female suicide bombers attacked Diffa, but only killed themselves.

Security sources told the press that security personnel are conducting house-to-house searches in Diffa for Boko Haram sympathizers.

Niger-Canada: A newspaper in Saskatoon, Canada, assured readers that troops from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa are not involved in combat in Niger, but are training with Niger troops on the outskirts of the town of Diffa, according to a Department of National Defence spokesman.

The members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, or CSOR, are in Niger to take part in an annual US.-organized training exercise called Flintlock. The Canadians are teamed with soldiers from Niger in the exercise, which starts Monday, 16 February and runs until 9 March.

Flintlock: Exercise Flintlock is US Africa Command's premier special operations exercise. According to a release by the Command, it will kick off with an opening ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m., 16 February in N'Djamena, Chad.

Over 1,200 personnel will be involved in Flintlock 2015, with outstations in Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Tunisia. Participants are from Burkina Faso, Denmark, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Senegal, Spain, the U.K., Mali, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and the US.

Comment: The timing of Flintlock might have influenced the willingness of the central African nations to form a new multi-national force. Early arrivals, such as the Canadians and French, might have contributed to the recent slight improvement in the security situation along Nigeria's borders with Niger and Cameroon. The US special forces have a base facility at N'Djamena, so their assistance is presumed.

Nigeria: Chad's army said it killed 13 Boko Haram fighters in an ambush at the Nigerian town of Gambaru. Eleven Chadians were wounded. "We knew they were going to attack us. We were waiting. The battle didn't last long. They fled," a military source said.

Comment: Reports of Boko Haram fleeing and being driven off have become more frequent in the past two weeks. The Chadian ambush might suggest tactical intelligence is improving along with discipline under fire.

There are almost no reports this week of Nigerian military operations. There also are no reports of recent Boko Haram clashes outside the northeast, west of Maiduguri.

End of NightWatch for 11 February.

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