African press review 23 September 2014

The "Islamic State" armed group, which now controls part of Iraq and Syria, is making quite a few front pages this morning, following its call for the murder of nationals of countries acting against it and the threat of an affiliated group to kill a French hostage.

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In Algeria Le Soir gives front-page prominence to the kidnapping of Frenchman Hervé Gourdel by a group known as Jund-Al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate), pointing out that these former members of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb decided to align themselves with the Islamic State only days ago. The implication being that they'll be keen to make an early impact to impress head office.

They said yesterday that they would kill Gourdel within 24 hours unless France stops all participation in air attacks against Islamic State targets in Iraq.

Al-Shebab - who are they?

In Cairo the front page of the Egypt Independent is dominated by a headline reading "Islamic State urges more attacks on Egyptian security forces".

According to the article, Islamic State yesterday urged insurgents in Egypt's Sinai peninsula to press ahead with attacks and beheadings targeting Egyptian security personnel.

Egyptian officials, including Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, have acknowledged that coordination exists between Islamic State and other armed groups, including several based in Egypt, but insist there are no Islamic State fighters in the country.

Egypt has faced an Islamist insurgency since the army toppled President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last year.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

Sinai-based armed group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has killed hundreds of members of the Egyptian security forces over the last year, beheaded several people in recent weeks, claiming they were spies for Israeli intelligence.

The bloodshed, the first of its kind in Egypt, suggests that the group has become more radical. Egypt has backed Washington's call for global action to counter the threat from Islamic State.

Islamic State are also on the front page of South African financial paper, BusinessDay.

The Johannesburg-based daily reports that US and Arab allies unleashed bombs and cruise missiles on Islamic State targets in eastern Syria early this morning, opening a new front in the fight against the jihadist group, according to defence officials in Washington.

Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the air raids, US media reported, in an extraordinary show of regional solidarity against the fundamentalist group active in Syria and Iraq.

A US defence official confirmed that Arab "partners" joined the bombing runs but did not say which countries were involved.

In other news, BusinessDay reports that independent advisers to the World Health Organisation have spoken against a general ban on travel or trade with countries at the heart of the west African Ebola epidemic.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

Some airlines have stopped flights to affected areas. Aid agencies have said this has hampered their efforts and the ability of experts to reach victims of the world’s worst ever outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever.

In a statement issued after the UN Emergency Committee held its second meeting last week, the World Health Organisation said Ebola had killed at least 2,793 people in five countries and remains a "public health emergency of international concern".

Separately on Monday, the United Nations health wing said two of the five affected countries - Nigeria and Senegal - were managing to halt the spread of the disease.

Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace, is back in the news. 

You'll remember that she was awarded a doctorate by the sociology department of the University of Zimbabwe just last week. The papers in Harare were either full of praise or full of scepticism, depending on their political leanings. This was not, I remind you, an honorary degree, but a real PhD, based on a thesis on family structures.

Now it turns out that Grace Mugabe enrolled for the doctoral programme only in July. A copy of her thesis could not be found in the university library or online before graduation day, as is required.

In May last year the University of Zimbabwe was ranked 91st out of 100 universities in Africa. In 1980 it was in the top 10.

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