- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

GABON

Police arrest grave robbers

LIBREVILLE | A police sting in Gabon brought down a ring of grave robbers suspected of selling human skulls to makers of traditional medicines and amulets, officials said Wednesday.

Eight Gabonese suspects were arrested last week in connection with the sale of nine human skulls and femur bone, said Col. Alphonse Ngo’o, head of judicial police in the central African nation.

Police started searching for the traffickers after a number of families in the capital, Libreville, complained that their relatives’ graves had been dug up or disturbed, Col. Ngo’o said. He declined to say how the eight men were identified.

The purported ringleader, Jean Martin Moussavou, told local television reporters that the group had been selling skulls to the makers of traditional medicines since 2004.

The skulls were then ground down into a powder that healers use in various drinks and amulets believed to give the wearer strength or power, he said. Mr. Moussavou added that he sold many skulls for use in a common initiation rite, known as Bwiti, in which young men and women drink a potion that is expected to bring on visions.

NIGERIA

Pirates hijack Norwegian ship

OSLO | Armed pirates hijacked a Norwegian ship off southern Nigeria on Wednesday, roughing up the crew but releasing them after two hours, officials said.

The suspected pirates climbed aboard the ship in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, early Wednesday morning, Norwegian Rescue Service spokesman Stein Solberg said in Oslo. They “pushed around” the 22-member crew, all Indian citizens, but no one was injured, he said.

The hijackers escaped with valuables after threatening the crew, said Jarle Ellefsen, a spokesman for the Bergen-based Spar Shipping company.

“They took money, PCs and radio equipment - stuff like that,” he said. “They also wrecked some of the inside of the ship and broke doors.”

The ship, the Spar Gemini, had anchored near the port after arriving with a shipment of dry goods from China, he said.

Piracy is rampant in the waters off oil-rich Nigeria, now considered among the most dangerous for armed raids in the world.

SUDAN

Genocide charges condemned

KHARTOUM | Sudan’s parliament has condemned genocide charges against the country’s president, saying his indictment by the International Criminal Court endangers vital peace agreements in Darfur and the rest of the country.

Ghazi Salah Eddin Atabani, a top member of the ruling National Congress Party, read out the resolution at the end of a heated parliament session Wednesday where about 300 lawmakers expressed support for President al-Bashir.

The elected body’s statement says Mr. al-Bashir’s indictment for genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur would “complicate the situation” and “abort the peace negotiations.”

KENYA

Chinese arrested with ivory

NAIROBI | Three Chinese citizens were arrested Wednesday at Nairobi’s international airport carrying dozens of pieces of ivory, including chopsticks, bracelets and carved figurines.

The two women and one man had about 5.5 pounds of ivory, said Kentice Tikomo, a spokesman for the Kenyan Wildlife Service. They were scheduled to appear in court later Wednesday on charges of trafficking in ivory, which carries up to three years in prison, Mr. Tikomo said.

Kenya’s elephant population has grown from 16,000 to 27,000 since the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned the ivory trade in 1989. But that is far fewer than the estimated 167,000 elephants Kenya had in 1973, before poaching devastated the country’s herds.

There is a huge demand for ivory in China. On Tuesday, the U.N. granted China permission to import some ivory from African government stockpiles despite opposition from some environmental groups. Kenya was not among those countries.

Much of the ivory destined for China is carved into jewelry and ornaments bought by tourists.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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