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This December 2018, TechCrunch will host TechCrunch Startup Battlefield Africa 2018. TechCrunch, like many other publishers and businesses, is starting to take notice of Africa’s thriving startup scene. There are several benefits to entering the competition as an African startup. Aside from potentially winning a cash grand prize and trip San Francisco, all participating startups will receive extensive media exposure, and may even meet influential people in the startup world. Some of the most successful—and recent—African startups include:

  • Cellulant, a digital payments solution company raised $47.5 million
  • Branch, a micro lending platform, raised $20 million
  • M-Kopa Solar, an off-grid solar power company which raised $10 million
  • Jamii, a micro-health insurance company that offers health insurance policies for as low as $1, raised $750,000 (half of which came from grants)

Across the continent, there are over 300 tech hubs that are helping startups through mentorships, investment deals, and professional advisement. In the last six months alone, 11 startup incubators and accelerators have been launched to help these startups grow and secure funding. Furthermore, during the first half of this year, African startups managed to raise $160 million, which surpasses all investments made during the entire 2017 year.

TechCrunch welcomes eligible African-based early-stage startups to apply for participation in Startup Battlefield Africa 2018. As TechCrunch sorts through its volume of applications, it will base their decisions largely on which startups have the highest potential for an exit or IPO.

A team of highly skilled editors, who have years of experience analyzing potential high-value startups, will ultimately select 15 startups to compete. According to TechCrunch, eligibility requirements include:

  • Be early-stage companies in “launch” stage
  • Be headquartered in an eligible countries (which you can find on the TechCrunch website)
  • Have a fully working product/beta that’s reasonably close to, or in, production
  • Have received limited press or publicity to date
  • Have no known intellectual property conflicts

Like many startup competitions and programs, it’s important that you have all the little details lined up. Before you apply, you should have a branded website with reliable hosting. You should understand the difference between shared and VPS hosting, as it can mean the difference between a smoothly running site and one that crashes. For example, if you plan to receive an influx of leads after you’ve been accepted into the competition, your website could lag with shared hosting.

Furthermore, it’s important to understand how this particular competition works. These 15 chosen startups will receive free pitch coaching from a team of editors chosen by TechCrunch to help them prepare for their Battlefield presentations. Each team of startups will participate in three preliminary rounds in batches of five. Each team will have just six minutes to pitch their products or service. After each demo, a panel of judges have another six minutes to engage in a Q&A session, where they’ll be able to learn more about what each startup has to offer and what their current or potential future financial trajectory looks at.

Five of the 15 startups will move on to the semi-finals, and one of those five will be chosen as the winner. Winners will receive a $25,000 prize to help grow their startup and will not lose equity in the process (which is what usually happens when startups participate in accelerator or incubator programs). If the winning startup team qualifies, they’ll also receive a free trip to compete at TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 in San Francisco.

You’ll also want to take your time with your application. Have other people read over it to ensure that it makes the most sense, and that aren’t you aren’t missing any integral parts that could be important to the judges.

Another tip for ensuring success with your application and in the competition is to watch other people pitch their startups, and there are plenty of videos online to aid you. Look at pitch decks for other startups, too. By looking at other startup pitch decks, you’ll gain insight into how successful companies are securing investments and spots in competitions and programs. A few necessary components of a pitch deck include:

  • Problem & opportunity
  • Value proposition
  • Business model
  • Marketing plan
  • Competitive analysis
  • Financial projections

This isn’t the first time TechCrunch has turned to Africa to offer local startups a chance. Last year, the publisher held Startup Battlefield Africa in Nairobi and focused on technology that optimized supply chains, strengthened farmer’s revenue, and increased access to education. You can check out the entire event on this YouTube video covering the competition.

Startup Battlefield alumni include Yammer, Dropbox, Mint, LearnVest, Zenefits, Trello, Fitbit, and many others, and they’ve cumulatively raised over $8 billion.

 

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Boko Haram has released 82 schoolgirls from a group of 276 they abducted in north-eastern Nigeria three years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari’s office says.

The girls were handed over in exchange for Boko Haram suspects after negotiations.

They will be received by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on May 7, a statement said.

The abduction of the so-called “Chibok girls” triggered a global outcry and sparked a huge social media campaign.

Before the latest release, about 195 of the girls were still missing.

The number of Boko Haram suspects released by authorities remains undisclosed.

Christian pastor Enoch Mark, whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, told AFP: “This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. We hope the remaining girls will soon be released.”

It was unclear whether his daughters had been freed.

A statement from a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari said he was deeply grateful to “security agencies, the military, the Government of Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and local and international NGOs” for playing a role in the operation.

After the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno state, was raided in April 2014, more than 50 girls quickly escaped and Boko Haram then freed another 21 in October 2016, after negotiations with the Red Cross.

The campaign for the return of the girls drew the support of then First Lady Michelle Obama and many Hollywood stars.

Last month, President Muhammadu Buhari said the Nigerian government remained “in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed”.

Many of the Chibok girls were Christian, but were encouraged to convert to Islam and to marry their kidnappers during their time in captivity.

Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of other people during its 8-year insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate in north-eastern Nigeria.

More than 30,000 others have been killed, the government says, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee from their homes.

Salvează

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Twenty-one Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist group Boko Haram in Chibok in April 2014 have been reunited with their families after 30 months in captivity.

In an emotional ceremony in the capital Abuja, one of the girls said they had survived for 40 days without food and narrowly escaped death at least once.

It is unclear how the release was negotiated, but a Nigerian official says talks are under way to free some more girls.

Of the 276 students kidnapped in April 2014, 197 are still missing.Chibok girls Nigeria

One of the girls freed said during a Christian ceremony in Abuja: “I was… [in] the woods when the plane dropped a bomb near me but I wasn’t hurt.

“We had no food for one month and 10 days but we did not die. We thank God.”

Many of the kidnapped girls were Christian but had been forcibly converted to Islam during captivity.

Another girl said: “We never imagined that we would see this day but, with the help of God, we were able to come out of enslavement.”

Excited relatives were waiting to be reunited with the girls, who were released on October 13.

One parent said: “We thank God. I never thought I was going to see my daughter again but here she is… Those who are still out there – may God bring them back to be reunited with their parents.”

Nigerian authorities have denied reports that captured Boko Haram fighters were swapped for the girls.

According to the AP, a “handsome ransom”, in the millions of dollars, was paid by the Swiss government on behalf of the Nigerian government.

Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed said October 13 release was “the first step” for the liberation of all the remaining girls.

“Already we are on phase two and we are already in discussions,” he told journalists on October 16.

“But of course you know these are very delicate negotiations, there are some promises we made also about the confidentiality of the entire exercise and we intend to keep them.”

Some of the kidnapped girls managed to escape within hours of their kidnapping, mostly by jumping off trucks and running into nearby bushes.

In total, 219 girls were captured and taken away. But it appears that some of the girls may have died in captivity.

Reports say that, following more than two years in captivity and after being married off to Boko Haram fighters, some of the girls do not want to go home.

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Boko Haram has released a second video showing some of the schoolgirls they abducted from Chibok, northern Nigeria.

The footage released by the Nigerian Islamist group shows some 50 girls and a gunman who demands the release of fighters in return for the girls, and says some girls died in air strikes.

The Nigerian government says it is in touch with the militants behind the video.

Journalist Ahmad Salkida who had contact with Boko Haram has been declared a wanted man by the Nigerian army.

Boko Haram is said to be holding more than 200 of the 276 final-year girls it seized from a school in April 2014.Chibok girls Nigeria

Non-Muslims were forcibly converted to Islam, and it is feared that many of the schoolgirls have been abused and forced into “marriage” by their captors.

Parents of the missing girls have described their anguish at seeing their daughters in captivity.

The video begins with a shot of a masked man, carrying a gun, speaking to the camera. He says that some of the girls have been wounded and have life-threatening injuries, and that 40 have been “married”.

Speaking in the Hausa language, the gunman says the girls on display will “never” be returned if the government does not release Boko Haram fighters who have been “in detention for ages”.

The footage concludes with footage of bodies, said to be the victims of air strikes, lying on the ground at another location.

The militant also carries out a staged interview with one of the captives, who calls herself Maida Yakubu, in which she asks parents to appeal to the government.

Maida Yakubu’s mother, Esther, is one of several parents of Chibok girls who recently published open letters to their daughters detailing the pain they feel at their children’s absence and their hopes for the future.

Another girl among those standing in the background can be seen with a baby. Some of the girls can be seen weeping as Maida speaks.

Boko Haram has waged a violent campaign for years in northern Nigeria in its quest for Islamic rule, and a faction of the group recently pledged loyalty to ISIS.

Thousands of people have been killed or captured by Boko Haram, whose name translates as “Western education is forbidden”. Many of the girls abducted in Chibok were Christian.

Nigerian Information Minister Alhaji Mohammed insisted the government was doing everything possible to secure the girls’ release.

“We are being extremely careful because the situation has been compounded by the split in the leadership of Boko Haram,” he said.

“We are also being guided by the need to ensure the safety of the girls.”

The video is the first to be seen since CNN obtained footage in April purportedly showing 15 of the girls.

The Nigerian army declared journalist Ahmad Salkida a wanted man after he published details of the new video before it was released.

Ahmad Salkida, who moved to Dubai a few years ago, has written extensively about the inside operations of the group.

The Chibok girls had been thought to be in a heavily forested area of northern Nigeria.

A girl said to be one of those captured, Amina Ali Nkeki, was found wandering in the Sambisa Forest in May by an army-backed vigilante group.

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Former Nigerian chief of defense Alex Badeh has been accused of stealing $20 million from the air force and buying a mansion.

Retired Air Chief Marshall Alex Badeh denies 10 charges of fraud, criminal breach of trust and money laundering.

He was appointed chief of defense two years ago.

ACM Alex Badeh is accused of using the funds to buy a mansion in the capital Abuja along with a string of other properties.Alex Badeh arrested

More than $1 million in cash was also reportedly found at one of his homes.

Under former President Goodluck Jonathan, front-line troops complained that they were ill-equipped to fight the militants and discipline in the army was breaking down as soldiers refused to carry out orders.

An investigation has alleged that a total of $2 billion meant to buy arms to fight Boko Haram had gone missing.

The former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was charged in December in connection with the case involving $68 million that is alleged to be missing. He was accused of awarding phantom contracts to buy helicopters, fighter jets and ammunition, which he denied.

Twelve other senior Nigerian army officers were handed over to the anti-corruption agency in February for their alleged involvement in the arms scandal.

Muhammadu Buhari won elections a year ago on promises to tackle both Boko Haram and corruption.

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Chad has declared a state of emergency after Boko Haram attacks in the Lake Chad region.

At least two people were killed in a suspected Boko Haram suicide bomb attack.

Ministers say sweeping powers to control people’s movements are needed because the area, which borders Nigeria, is targeted by Boko Haram.

Chad has been instrumental in helping Nigeria retake most of the areas Boko Haram had seized in northern Nigeria.

In the last few months, the militant group has intensified attacks in remote areas around Lake Chad.

Boko Haram is suspected of involvement in the killing of at least two people in a village in Chad on November 8 and three Nigerian refugees in northern Cameroon on November 9.Boko Haram Lake Chad attacks

The state of emergency will give the governor of the region the authority to ban the movement of people and vehicles, search homes and recover arms, the government announced following an extraordinary cabinet meeting.

Aside from Chad, Boko Haram attacks have spread from north-eastern Nigeria, its traditional stronghold, to the neighboring countries of Niger and Cameroon.

Chad is also host to a new regional force set up to tackle the Nigeria-based militant Islamists.

Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria agreed to establish the 8,700-strong force, but it has yet to start operations in earnest because of reported funding difficulties.

According to Amnesty International, at least 17,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 2009, when Boko Haram launched its violent uprising to try to impose Islamist rule in northern Nigeria.

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An ex-Nigerian minister stole $6 billion of public money, the governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, has alleged.

Adams Oshiomhole said US officials informed President Muhammadu Buhari of the alleged theft during his visit to Washington last month.

Muhammadu Buhari took office in May, ending the rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The PDP has repeatedly denied allegations of widespread corruption during its 16-year rule.Adams Ooshiomhole Nigeria

Adams Oshiomhole, who accompanied Muhammadu Buhari to Washington, did not name the minister who allegedly stole the money.

During his visit to the US, Muhammadu Buhari said he had asked America to help recover $150 billion “stolen in the past decade and held in foreign bank accounts”.

US officials described the theft during the PDP’s rule as “earth-quaking”, Adams Oshiomhole told journalists in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

The PDP said Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Washington was a failure, in particular for failing to obtain “any sort of tangible gain for the fight against terrorism”.

Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, was invited to Washington shortly after becoming the first opposition candidate to win a national election in March.

He succeeded President Goodluck Jonathan.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, but the majority of its citizens live in poverty. The country’s oil sector has often been hit by allegations of corruption.

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Niger and Chad forces have launched a ground and air offensive against militant group Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria, officials say.

The campaign is said to be targeting militants in Borno state.

The move came as Nigerian officials dismissed Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) as a reaction to military pressure from Nigeria and its allies.

The pledge was posted online on March 7 in an audio message by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.

Abubakar Shekau called on Muslims everywhere to swear loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Boko Haram has been fighting an insurgency to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria since 2009, and in recent months the violence has increasingly spilled over into neighboring states.Niger and Chad armies attack Boko Haram in Nigeria

Chad, Cameroon and Niger have already been helping Nigeria in its battle against Boko Haram.

On March 6, the African Union endorsed the creation of a regional force of more than 8,000 troops to combat the group. However, the force’s remit will be limited to securing the Nigerian side of Lake Chad, rather than pushing further into Nigeria.

As the latest offensive began early on Sunday, a resident and an aid worker told AFP news agency there had been heavy arms fire close to Niger’s border with Nigeria.

A local radio station said that a convoy of more than 200 vehicles was moving towards the area, and that air strikes had been carried out on Saturday and early on Sunday.

The Nigerian military and troops from neighboring states have recently claimed some success in their campaign against Boko Haram, and Nigerian officials said the pledge of allegiance to IS was a sign of weakness

Army spokesman Col. Sami Usman Kukasheka said the Boko Haram leader was like a “drowning man”.

A spokesman for the Nigerian government, Mike Omeri, said Boko Haram needed help “as a result of the heavy casualties and bombardment and degrading of their capacity”.

However, Boko Haram militants have continued to launch deadly attacks.

On March 7, Boko Haram was blamed for a series of attacks in its former stronghold of Maiduguri, including suicide bombings, that left more than 50 people dead.

Nigeria postponed national elections by six weeks until March 28 in order to have more time to try to improve security in the north.

Col. Sami Usman Kukasheka called on Nigerians “to be more security conscious because given the onslaught on Boko Haram definitely they are bound to spring surprises”.

ISIS has forged links with other militant groups across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and in January, militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan pledged their allegiance.

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According to an audio statement, Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS).

The message, which has not be verified, was posted on the Nigerian militant group’s Twitter account and appeared to be by Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau.

Boko Haram began a military campaign to impose Islamic rule in northern Nigeria in 2009. The conflict has since spread to neighboring states.

It would be the latest in a series of groups to swear allegiance to ISIS.

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Boko Haram’s insurgency has threatened Nigeria’s territorial integrity and triggered a humanitarian crisis.

The militant group has carried out frequent bombings that have left thousands dead and has also attacked targets in the capital, Abuja.

ISIS has forged links with other militant groups across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

In November 2014, ISIS leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi accepted pledges of allegiance from jihadists in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

In January 2015, militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan announced that they were forming an ISIS province.

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Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama has accused the West of ignoring the threat of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

The Catholic Archbishop of Jos, in central Nigeria, said the world had to show more determination to halt the group’s advance in the country.

Ignatius Kaigama said the international community had to show the same spirit and resolve it had done after the attacks in France.

His warning came after 20 people were killed by three female young suicide bombers, one reportedly aged 10.Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama

The weekend attacks come after reports that hundreds of people were killed last week during the capture by Boko Haram of the town of Baga in Borno state.

The archbishop said the slaughter there had shown that the Nigerian military was unable to tackle Boko Haram.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said he was appalled by reports of the killings in Baga and condemned what he called “the depraved acts of Boko Haram terrorists”.

The Nigerian military has said it is trying to retake the town but has given few details about the operation.

On January 10, it said it had successfully fought off Boko Haram fighters trying to capture another major north-eastern town, Damaturu.

Nigeria’s politicians appear more focused on next month’s elections and President Goodluck Jonathan has not commented on the recent violence.

On January 11, two female suicide attackers killed four people and injured more than 40 people in the town of Potiskum.

A day earlier, another young female suicide bomber, reportedly aged 10, struck in the main city of north-east Nigeria, Maiduguri, killing at least 19 people.

A market explosion in the north-eastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri has killed at least 16 people and injured several others, medics say.

Some reports say that the market explosion was triggered by a girl suicide bomber who may have been as young as 10 years old.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack.

However, correspondents say that all the signs point to the militant Islamist Boko Haram group.

The market is reported to have been targeted twice in a week by female bombers late last year.

Borno State police spokesman Gideon Jubrin said that the girl suicide bomber let off an improvised explosive device near the area of the market where chickens were sold.Nigeria market explosion

Hundreds of people were killed on January 7 in an assault by Boko Haram militants on the town of Baga, following on their seizure of a key military base there on January 3.

Scores of bodies from that attack – described by Amnesty International as possibly the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram – are reported to remain strewn in the bush.

District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims in the Baga attack were children, women or elderly people who were not able to escape when insurgents forced their way into the town by firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.

“The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous,” Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for a civilian defense group that fights Boko Haram told the Associated Press .

Boko Haram launched a military campaign in 2009 to create an Islamic state.

The group has taken control of many towns and villages in north-eastern Nigeria in the last year.

The conflict has displaced at least 1.5 million people, while more than 2,000 were killed last year.

Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to an $84 million settlement with residents of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta for two oil spills.

Lawyers for 15,600 Nigerian fishermen say their clients will receive $3,300 each for losses caused by the spills.

The remaining $30 million will be left for the community, which law firm Leigh Day says was “devastated by the two massive oil spills in 2008 and 2009”.

They say they affected thousands of hectares of mangrove in south Nigeria.

The settlement was announced by Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary SPDC.

“From the outset, we’ve accepted responsibility for the two deeply regrettable operational spills in Bodo,” its managing director Mutiu Sunmonu said. Shell says that both spills were caused by operational failure of the pipelines.

However, Shell maintains that the extent of environmental pollution in the area is caused by “the scourge of oil theft and illegal refining”.

It also suggested that earlier settlement efforts had been hampered “by divisions within the community”.

The law firm representing the Nigerian fishermen and their community, Leigh Day, described it as one of the largest payouts to an entire community after devastating environmental damage.

“It is the first time that compensation has been paid following an oil spill in Nigeria to the thousands of individuals who have suffered loss,” the firm said in a press release confirming the development.Shell oil spill in Niger Delta

The deal, which ends a three-year legal battle, is the first of its kind in Nigeria, it added.

Leigh Day also said that Shell had pledged to clean up the Bodo Creek over the next few months.

Lawyer Martyn Day, who represents the claimants, said it was “deeply disappointing that Shell took six years to take this case seriously and to recognize the true extent of the damage these spills caused to the environment and to those who rely on it for their livelihood”.

An Amnesty International report into the effects of the oil spills in Bodo, a town in the Ogoniland region, said that the spills had caused headaches and eyesight problems.

The price of fish, a local staple food, rose as much as tenfold and many fishermen had to find alternative ways to make a living, the report added. A separate UN study said local drinking water sources were also contaminated.

The two spills came from the same pipe on the Trans Niger Pipeline, operated by Shell, which takes oil from its fields to the export terminal at Bonny on the coast. It carries about 180,000 barrels of oil per day.

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Scores of people have been killed in three explosions during Friday prayers at one of the biggest mosques in the Nigerian city of Kano, reports say.

The Central Mosque is close to the Emir of Kano’s palace and is where the influential Muslim leader usually leads prayers.

The Emir, Muhammad Sanusi, is currently in Saudi Arabia.

An eyewitness said he had counted about 50 bodies, but this figure has not been verified.

Other reports say some gunmen went on a shooting spree in the northern city after the blasts.

The militant Islamist Boko Haram group has targeted the city, the largest in northern Nigeria, several times during its five-year insurgency.

But most of its attacks are further east.

Earlier this month, the Emir called on people to defend themselves against Boko Haram.

At a prayer meeting Muhammad Sanusi said residents should “acquire what they need” to protect themselves.

A police spokesman said the Emir’s comments were a “call for anarchy” and should not be acted on.

The Emir, who until earlier this year was governor of Nigeria’s central bank, normally stays silent on political matters.

According to new reports, Boko Haram militants have seized the north-eastern Nigerian town of Chibok, the home of more than 200 schoolgirls the insurgents kidnapped in April.

Militants attacked and took control of the town, in Borno state, on Thursday evening, residents said.

The militants have repeatedly targeted villages around Chibok over recent months.

Boko Haram says it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.

Residents told the Sahara Reporters news website that the militants headed to the centre of Chibok and declared that they were taking it over as part of their caliphate.

The schoolgirl kidnappings in Chibok caused worldwide outrage and sparked a social media campaign.

Since the kidnapping people have complained that the area was not well protected and many residents of Chibok had already moved to safer parts of the country, fearing another attack.

Boko Haram has changed tactics in recent months by holding on to territory rather than using hit-and-run attacks that have left thousands dead.

Last month, the group dismissed the government’s claims to have agreed a ceasefire. The government had said the ceasefire would set the stage for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls.

Chibok is a relatively small, mainly Christian town.

Its seizure comes a day after a government helicopter came down in Yola, in north-east Adamawa State – the second military helicopter to go down in the area in a week.

Officials and residents said the army had managed to recapture the town of Mubi, which was the biggest town under Boko Haram’s control.

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A suicide bombing at a school assembly in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Potiskum has killed at least 47 students, police have said.

The explosion at a boys’ school in Potiskum is believed to have been caused by a suicide bomber dressed as a student.

The militant group Boko Haram is believed to have carried out the attack, police said.

The group has targeted schools during a deadly five-year insurgency aimed at establishing an Islamic state.

It is waging a sustained campaign to prevent children from going to school. It believes girls should not attend school and boys should only receive an Islamic education.

The explosion ripped through the assembly hall at the Government Science Secondary School, reports say.

The explosion at a boys' school in Potiskum is believed to have been caused by a suicide bomber dressed as a student

The explosion at a boys’ school in Potiskum is believed to have been caused by a suicide bomber dressed as a student

Soldiers who attended the site of the explosion were met with fury by the assembled crowds who pelted them with stones and accused them of not doing enough to halt Boko Haram’s insurgency.

Schools in Yobe state have been frequently attacked by Boko Haram militants.

The state is one of three in Nigeria that have been placed under a state of emergency as a result of the group’s activities.

Potiskum, one of the largest towns in Yobe, has been targeted before by Boko Haram.

Last week, a suicide bombing killed 15 people in the town.

The bomber joined a religious procession of the rival Shia Muslim sect, before blowing himself up.

In April, Boko Haram sparked global outrage by abducting more than 200 girls from a boarding school in Chibok town in Borno state.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has dismissed government claims to have agreed a ceasefire, under which the girls would be released.

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Boko Haram militants have reportedly abducted dozens of women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s north-eastern Adamawa state.

The abductions have not been confirmed by the authorities, but Adamawa residents say they took place a day after the military announced it had agreed a ceasefire with the Boko Haram group.

The government hopes the Islamist group will free more than 200 girls seized in April as part of negotiations.

Boko Haram has not confirmed the truce.

Following the ceasefire announcement, the government said further talks with Boko Haram were due to be held this week in neighboring Chad.

In a separate incident, at least five people were killed in a bomb blast at a bus station in a town in the northern state of Bauchi.

Boko Haram militants have reportedly abducted dozens of women and girls from two villages in Nigeria's north-eastern Adamawa state

Boko Haram militants have reportedly abducted dozens of women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s north-eastern Adamawa state (photo AFP)

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

News of the new abductions came as Nigerian lawmakers approved a $1 billion loan – requested by the president in July – to upgrade military equipment and train more units fighting the north-eastern insurgency.

But they asked the finance minister to give the chamber more details about how the external borrowing would be sourced.

Security already costs the country close to $6 billion, roughly a quarter of the federal budget.

The abduction of the schoolgirls from their boarding school in Borno state sparked a global campaign to pressure the government to secure their release.

Borno is the group’s stronghold. It has been under a state of emergency, along with neighboring Adamawa and Yobe states, for more than a year.

The villages that were attacked on Saturday – Waga Mangoro and Garta – are close to Madagali and Michika towns, which have been under the control of the Islamist militant group for several weeks.

According to people in the area, a large group of insurgents attacked the villages, rounding up women and girls.

They forced them to harvest groundnuts on a farm, then abducted those who were teenagers or in their early 20s.

Communication with the affected area is difficult, which is why it takes time for news of attacks to filter out.

Other raids by suspected Boko Haram fighters were reported by residents in Adamawa and Borno over the weekend.

Since the state of emergency was declared in May 2013, Boko Haram has taken many women and children hostage and has agreed to some prisoner swaps.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared Nigeria free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases.

Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country, won praise for its swift response after an infected Liberian diplomat brought the disease there in July.

The WHO officially declared Senegal Ebola-free on Friday, October 17.

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa, mostly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

The WHO has officially declared Nigeria free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases

The WHO has officially declared Nigeria free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases

An estimated 70% of those infected have died in those countries.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to discuss how to strengthen their response to the threat posed by Ebola.

European countries have committed more than 500 million euros ($600 million).

The money is being sought to help reinforce over-stretched healthcare systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and to mitigate the damage Ebola is doing to their economies.

Ahead of the talks, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested the EU could send a civilian EU mission to West Africa that would serve as a platform for sending medical staff.

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Nigerian army has agreed a truce with Islamist militants Boko Haram – and that the schoolgirls the group has abducted will be released.

Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce. Boko Haram has not made a public statement.

The military has struggled to defeat Boko Haram, which has been fighting an insurgency since 2009.

Boko Haram sparked global outrage six months ago by abducting more than 200 schoolgirls.

The girls were seized in the north-eastern town of Chibok in Borno state, and their continued captivity has led to criticism of the Nigerian government’s efforts to secure their release.

Boko Haram sparked global outrage six months ago by abducting more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria

Boko Haram sparked global outrage six months ago by abducting more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria

The hostages are thought to have been taken to the vast Sambisa forest, along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.

Members of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign tweeted on October 17: “We are monitoring the news with huge expectations.”

Air Chief Marshal Badeh revealed the truce at the close of a three-day security meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon. He said Nigerian soldiers would comply with the agreement.

The agreement was sealed after a month of negotiations, mediated by Chad.

As part of the talks, a government delegation twice met representatives of the Islamist group.

Boko Haram, which translates as “Western education is forbidden”, has stepped up attacks against civilian targets since the Nigerian military offensive began.

The group promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.

It frequently attacks schools and colleges, which it sees as a symbol of Western culture.

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At least 13 people have been killed after gunmen have attacked a teacher training college in the Nigerian city of Kano, officials said.

Students were seen fleeing from the city’s Federal College of Education and at least one explosion was heard.

Another 34 people were injured.

It is not clear who was responsible, although suspicion will fall on militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009.

In July 2014, Kano suffered a spate of five attacks in four days, one of which also targeted a college and killed six people.

In July 2014, Kano suffered a spate of five attacks in four days, one of which also targeted a college and killed six people

In July 2014, Kano suffered a spate of five attacks in four days, one of which also targeted a college and killed six people (photo Reuters)

In May 2013, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, vowing to crush the insurgency.

However, the militants have stepped up attacks, killing more than 2,000 civilians this year, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Boko Haram’s name translates as “Western education is forbidden”, and it has carried out several attacks on schools and colleges, seeing them as a symbol of Western culture.

In April, Boko Haram raided a boarding school in Chibok town in the northern state of Borno, and is holding more than 200 girls that its gunmen abducted during that attack.

Boko Haram has seized Nigeria’s key north-eastern town of Bama after fierce fighting with government forces, residents say.

Thousands of civilians have fled the town, along with soldiers, they added.

However, military sources said the army was still in control of Bama, the second biggest town in Borno state.

Last month, Boko Haram said it had established an Islamic state in the towns and villages it controls in north-eastern Nigeria.

If confirmed, the capture of Bama would be an extremely significant development and would raise concerns that Boko Haram’s next target will be Maiduguri, the state capital about 44 miles away.

Boko Haram established an Islamic state in the towns and villages it controls in north-eastern Nigeria

Boko Haram established an Islamic state in the towns and villages it controls in north-eastern Nigeria

Boko Haram captured Bama, which the 2006 census showed had a population of about 270,000, after heavy fighting on August 31 and September 1.

The militants, who travelled in tanks and armored trucks, first seized the military barracks in the town, residents said.

Nigerian security sources said the assault had been repelled and about 70 militants had been killed, news agencies report.

The air force was used to “dislodge the swamp of terrorists” from Bama, the military said on its Twitter account.

An overnight curfew has been imposed in Maiduguri to prevent “infiltration” by militants after the “heavy casualties” they suffered, it added.

Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency has intensified in recent months despite the deployment of thousands of extra troops to the worst-affected areas.

In April 2014, Boko Haram captured more than 200 girls from a boarding school in the town of Chibok, also in Borno state.

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Nigerian schools have been ordered to remain closed until October 13 as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.

The new academic year was due to start on Monday, September 1.

The education minister ordered the closures to allow staff to be trained on how to handle suspected Ebola cases.

Five people have died of Ebola in Nigeria. The West Africa outbreak has centered on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 1,400 people.

It is the largest ever outbreak and has infected an estimated 2,615 people. About half of those infected have died.

The virus is spread between humans through direct contact with infected bodily fluids.

Nigerian schools have been ordered to remain closed until October 13 as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus

Nigerian schools have been ordered to remain closed until October 13 as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus (photo Getty Images)

There is no cure for Ebola but with intensive care treatment and proper hydration, patients have a chance of survival.

It spread to Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country – in July, when a person infected with Ebola flew from Liberia to Lagos.

The Nigerian government says it hopes its efforts to contain the virus are working, as there is only one confirmed case of Ebola remaining.

“All state ministries of education are to immediately organize and ensure that at least two staff in each school, both private and public, are trained by appropriate health workers no later than 15 September 2014 on how to handle any suspected case of Ebola,” said Education Minister Ibrahim Shekarau.

“And also embark on immediate sensitization of all teaching and non-teaching staff in all schools on preventive measures,” he said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has temporarily shut an Ebola testing laboratory in Kailahun in eastern Sierra Leone after a Senegalese health worker became infected with the virus.

There have been 392 Ebola deaths in Sierra Leone, according to the latest UN figures released on August 22. Kailahun is one of the worst-affected districts and is currently under blockade.

“It’s a temporary measure to take care of the welfare of our remaining workers,” a WHO spokesman is quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying.

On Tuesday, the WHO said an “unprecedented” number of doctors and nurses had been infected with Ebola which was further impeding control efforts.

Infections were due to a shortage of protective equipment and staff, it said.

Only one or two doctors are available for 100,000 patients in some of the affected countries.

Terrorist group Boko Haram has said it has set up an Islamic state in the towns and villages it has seized in north-eastern Nigeria.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was speaking in a video released to congratulate his fighters for seizing the town of Gwoza earlier this month.

It is not clear if Abubakar Shekau has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria.

Nigeria’s army has rejected the claim as “empty”.

Thousands of people have been killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, since 2009 when Boko Haram began its insurgency.

Gwoza, which had 265,000 residents in the last census, is the biggest town under Boko Haram control.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was speaking in a video released to congratulate his fighters for seizing the town of Gwoza earlier this month

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was speaking in a video released to congratulate his fighters for seizing the town of Gwoza earlier this month

It has raised its flags over the palace of the Emir of Gwoza, the town’s traditional ruler, residents say.

“Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic state,” Abubakar Shekau said in the 52-minute video.

It controls several areas, mostly in Borno state where the group was launched, but also in neighboring Yobe state.

The video also shows about 20 men in civilian clothes apparently being shot dead.

Nigeria’s military spokesman Chris Olukolade responded with a statement dismissing the declaration.

“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state is still intact,” he said.

In his previous video, released in July, Abubakar Shekau congratulated the Islamic State (IS) for its advances in Iraq and Syria but did not say whether they were allies – there is no evidence that the two groups have been working together.

IS has seized much of northern Iraq in recent months, leading the US to launch air strikes.

Last week, the militants sparked global outrage by killing American journalist James Foley.

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Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has declared the outbreak of Ebola “a national emergency” and approved more than $11 million to help contain it.

The move comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) said the spread of the virus in West Africa was an international health emergency.

WHO says 961 people have died from Ebola in West Africa this year, two of them in Nigeria.

The total number of cases stands at 1,779, the UN health agency said.

In a statement, President Goodluck Jonathan called on Nigerians to report any suspected Ebola cases to the nearest medical authorities.

Goodluck Jonathan also urged the public not to spread “false information about Ebola which can lead to mass hysteria”.

Nigeria has declared the outbreak of Ebola a national emergency

Nigeria has declared the outbreak of Ebola a national emergency

Nigeria became the fourth West African country involved in the outbreak when a dual US-Liberian citizen infected with Ebola arrived in Lagos after flying from Liberia via Togo on 20 July.

He died five days later and eight people who came into contact with him were also later diagnosed with Ebola. One of them, a nurse, died on Tuesday.

Nigeria’s state oil company said on Friday it had shut down one of its clinics in Lagos following a suspected case.

US health authorities said on Friday they were sending extra personnel and resources to Nigeria.

“We are starting to ramp up our staffing in Lagos,” US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention spokesman Tom Skinner told AFP news agency.

“We are really concerned about Lagos and the potential for spread there, given the fact that Lagos – and Nigeria for that matter – has never seen Ebola.”

International companies are also taking protective measures and the world’s largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal, says it has begun evacuating some workers at its iron ore mines in Liberia.

Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have already declared national emergencies over the spread of the virus.

WHO said on Friday that 68 new cases and 29 deaths were reported over the course of two days this week.

They included 26 new cases in Sierra Leone and 38 in Liberia, but no new cases in Guinea, where the outbreak began.

The agency said a co-ordinated response was essential to reverse the spread of the virus.

“The possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus,” WHO said after a meeting on Friday.

The Ebola virus was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. Experts say this outbreak is unusual because it started in Guinea, which has never before been affected, and is spreading to urban areas.

Two US citizens infected with Ebola while working in West Africa are currently being treated at a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Both have been treated with an experimental drug.

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Saudatu Koroma, a Sierra Leone woman who fled hospital after testing positive for the Ebola virus, has died after turning herself in.

Her family had forcibly removed her from a public hospital on Thursday.

Saudatu Koroma’s is the first case of Ebola to be confirmed in the country’s capital Freetown, where there are no facilities to treat the virus.

Since February, more than 660 people have died of Ebola in West Africa – the world’s deadliest outbreak to date.

Nigeria has put all its entry points on red alert after confirming the death there of a Liberian man who was carrying the highly contagious virus.

The man died after arriving at Lagos airport on Tuesday, in the first Ebola case in Africa’s most populous country.

The outbreak began in southern Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Since February, more than 660 people have died of Ebola in West Africa

Since February, more than 660 people have died of Ebola in West Africa (photo AP)

Reports on Saturday said that a prominent Liberian doctor, Samuel Brisbane, had died after a three-week battle with the virus.

And later it emerged that a US doctor working with Ebola patients, Kent Brantly, was being treated for the virus in a hospital in the capital Monrovia.

The virus, which kills up to 90% of those infected, spreads through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.

Patients have a better chance of survival if they receive treatment early.

Saudatu Koroma was the first registered Ebola case in the capital Freetown.

Both she and her parents – who are suspected of having the virus – had been taken to Ebola treatment centers in the east of the country..

Saudatu Koroma had been one of dozens of people who tested positive but were unaccounted for.

The Ebola cases in Sierra Leone are centered in the country’s eastern districts of Kenema and Kailahun, just over the border from the Guekedou region of Guinea where the outbreak started.

Police said thousands of people joined a street protest in Kenema on Friday over the government’s handling of the outbreak.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the doctor leading Sierra Leone’s fight against Ebola was being treated for the virus.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization said that 219 people had died of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said that all other passengers on board the flight with the infected man had been traced and were being monitored.

Nigeria has put all entries into the country on red alert after confirming the death of a Liberian man who was carrying the Ebola virus.

The man died after arriving at Lagos airport on Tuesday, in the first Ebola case in Africa’s most populous country.

Surveillance has been stepped up at all “airports, seaports and land borders”, says Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu.

Since February, more than 660 people have died of Ebola in West Africa – the world’s deadliest outbreak to date.

Nigeria has put all entries into the country on red alert after confirming the death of a Liberian man who was carrying the Ebola virus

Nigeria has put all entries into the country on red alert after confirming the death of a Liberian man who was carrying the Ebola virus

It began in southern Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Liberian man collapsed on arrival in Lagos last Sunday. He was taken from the airport to hospital, where he was put in quarantine.

Officials have identified the 40-year-old man as an employee of the Liberian government.

Onyebuchi Chukwu confirmed that the other passengers on board the flight had been traced and were being monitored.

The patient had “avoided contact with the general public” between the airport and the hospital, he said.

Health specialists have been deployed at all entry points into the country, he added.

Ebola, which kills up to 90% of those infected, spreads through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.

Patients have a better chance of survival if they receive treatment early.

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