- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

NIGERIA

Rights activists put riot toll at 460

JOS | The death toll after four days of clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs in the Nigerian city of Jos and nearby communities has topped 460, according to a mosque official and human rights activists.

Six military units and hundreds of police were stationed throughout Plateau state’s capital city in central Nigeria to enforce a 24-hour curfew Wednesday.

While the violence had subsided, streets were deserted and many businesses remained closed in Jos, which has been the scene of similar bloody sectarian clashes in recent years.

The relative calm has allowed mosque officials to retrieve more bodies from neighborhoods just outside Jos.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch put the number of Christian dead at 65.

Official police figures were significantly lower with 35 people dead, 40 injured and 168 arrested since Sunday.

NIGERIA

Ex-lawmakers urge presidency reform

ABUJA | Former Nigerian governors, senators and ministers urged parliament Wednesday to change the constitution to prevent a repetition of the political uncertainty plaguing Africa’s most populous country.

President Umaru Yar’Adua has faced growing pressure to transfer power formally to his deputy since leaving Nigeria nearly two months ago for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

More than 40 former leading politicians, many of whom are members of the president’s ruling People’s Democratic Party, said parliament must step in to defuse tension caused by his absence.

Under the constitution, the president must write a letter to the heads of both houses of parliament transferring executive powers to the vice president.

A federal court ruled last week that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan could perform all executive duties for the president without a formal transfer of power. Mr. Jonathan used executive powers for the first time Tuesday by ordering troops into the city of Jos to restore calm after four days of clashes.

SUDAN

Europeans arrested for taking asteroid pieces

KHARTOUM | Sudanese police said Tuesday they had arrested two European tourists for collecting fragments of an asteroid from the country’s northern desert without permission.

The tourists, from France and Belgium, found pieces of an asteroid that crashed to earth in the Abu-Hamad area of Sudan’s remote Northern state, Sudan’s Interior Ministry said.

Scientists tracked a car-sized asteroid as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded over northern Sudan’s Nubian Desert in October 2008. Experts from NASA and the University of Khartoum, collected fragments from the site soon afterward.

ZAMBIA

Politician threatens to ‘gang rape’ opponent

LUSAKA | The youth leader of Zambia’s ruling party on Tuesday threatened to “gang rape” a female politician unless she stopped criticizing President Rupiah Banda’s leadership ahead of next year’s elections.

The Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) youth Chairman Chris Chalwe singled out Forum for Democracy and Development leader Edith Nawakwi for attacking Mr. Banda’s leadership.

“We are going to gang rape Nawakwi if she continues attacking the president,” Mr. Chalwe told a crowd of people who had defected from opposition parties to join the MMD.

The youth leader currently faces charges of assault for beating journalists covering Mr. Banda’s return from a visit to Uganda on July 29 last year.

Ms. Nawakwi supported Mr. Banda’s candidacy in the 2008 elections but has lately criticized his leadership as a “total failure.”

On Wednesday, the MMD said Mr. Chalwe’s “gang rape” threat was “opinion” and not policy, but stopped short of condemning the remarks.

ANGOLA

Lawyer says activists arrested in attack

CABINDA | An Angolan human rights lawyer said Tuesday that police are rounding up peaceful activists and accusing them of responsibility in a deadly attack on the Togo national soccer team’s bus as it headed to the African Cup of Nations tournament.

Martinho Nombo said the five people arrested over the past week were not related to the separatist group that has claimed responsibility for the Jan. 8 attack that killed three people and wounded eight. Authorities already had arrested two members of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC).

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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