- - Wednesday, October 20, 2010


British hostage freed in Somalia

MOGADISHU | A British contractor kidnapped in Somalia while working for the aid group Save the Children has been freed after negotiations with his captors, local officials said Wednesday.

Regional officials in central Somalia said Frans Barnard, a Nairobi-based security consultant, was freed late Tuesday about 150 miles from the town of Adado, where he was abducted last week.

Within Somalia, the kidnapping of foreign nationals has become relatively rare because nearly all aid agencies have barred expatriate workers from operating there after hard-line Islamist militants gained control of more territory.


Kibaki to step up fight against graft

NAIROBI | Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said Wednesday he would step up the fight against corruption in East Africa’s biggest economy, a day after suspending a Cabinet minister over fraud charges.

Mr. Kibaki said the new constitution he promulgated in August had given fresh impetus to a war against corruption that analysts say is endemic and has choked growth in Kenya’s economy, deterring potential investors.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kibaki suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto after high-court judges ruled Mr. Ruto should stand trial for fraud over a land deal.

Mr. Kibaki came to power in 2002 on an anti-graft platform, but his record in this area has failed to impress his critics.


Muslim sect kills despite crackdown

MAIDUGURI | Members of a Muslim sect blamed for recent violence across northern Nigeria apparently have fatally shot another police officer despite a military crackdown in the region, authorities said Wednesday.

The shooting death of Inspector Kashim Bukar comes as the military promises to deploy attack helicopters to Maiduguri, a city formerly home to the Boko Haram sect that has seen targeted killings in recent weeks.

Three gunmen attacked Inspector Bukar as he walked home Tuesday night after watching a soccer match at a television center in his neighborhood, Borno state Police Commissioner Muhammed Abubakar said.

His death makes a total of 13 police officers reportedly killed in Maiduguri and a neighboring city by Boko Haram members. Eight others, including traditional and religious leaders and politicians, also have been killed.

The killings come while police man checkpoints during the day and military units patrol the streets at night in the northeastern Nigerian city, near the border with Chad.

Lt. Gen. Onyeabo Azubike Ihejirika, chief of army staff, said the country’s air force soon will send combat helicopters to the state.


Firm in court probe of Zimbabwe diamonds

JOHANNESBURG | Rights groups said Wednesday they have asked a South African court to force the company mining diamonds in Zimbabwe’s controversial Marange fields to reveal how it uses its earnings.

Nicole Fritz, director of the Southern African Litigation Center, which helped prepare the petition, said the documents would show if diamond wealth is funding President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party ahead of elections, which could come as early as next year.

Southern Africa Resource Watch and three Zimbabweans filed the petition in court on Monday, seeking to force the mining firm New Reclamation Group to provide documents on its operations in Marange.

Zimbabwe’s military seized control of the Marange fields in late 2008, forcing out tens of thousands of small-scale miners in a campaign that rights groups say left about 200 dead.

The Kimberley Process against “blood diamonds” documented serious abuses by soldiers against villagers, who were beaten to force them to mine the gems in early 2009.


Bashir pledges no return to war with south

KHARTOUM | Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed Wednesday that there will be no return to civil war with the south as an independence vote for the region looms.

Just a week after saying that the only outcome he would accept from the landmark referendum due in January would be a vote for unity, Mr. Bashir insisted his government was working for peace.


Jihadist threatens attacks against France

NOUAKCHOTT | The leader of an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group on trial in Mauritania used a court appearance Wednesday to threaten attacks against France and its interests in the northwestern African country.

“I want here to promise them, black nights are awaiting France and [President Nicolas] Sarkozy,” Khadim Ould Semman, leader of the Ansarou Allah (Supporters of God) group, told the court in the Mauritanian capital.

Mr. Ould Semman is one of 19 suspected members of the group being tried for the 2008 murder of a policeman. His group is linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the north African wing of the terrorist network.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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