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NIGERIA

Religion, region at play in presidential election

ABUJA | Nigeria’s ruling political party is preparing to pick its presidential candidate for the coming April election.

That vote Thursday, pitting President Goodluck Jonathan against former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, highlights the ethnic and religious fault lines still running through the oil-rich nation more than 40 years after civil war.

Mr. Jonathan, a Christian from the south, represents a minority ethnic group. Mr. Abubakar is a Muslim from the nation’s north. Some say the north deserves another term at the presidency as elected leader Umaru Yar’Adua died in office in May. A Christian president previously held the office for two, four-year terms.

MOROCCO

Soldiers complicit in arms smuggling

RABAT | Moroccan soldiers turned a blind eye to the smuggling of weapons that were seized in the recent dismantlement of a terrorist cell with links to al Qaeda’s North African branch, the interior minister said Wednesday.

Taieb Cherqaoui told journalists that five Moroccan soldiers stationed in the disputed Western Sahara had accepted kickbacks in exchange for allowing smuggled goods into the Moroccan-occupied territory, unchecked.

The goods, which were not inspected, were transported on camels across a security wall built in the south-central Amgala region of Western Sahara, he said.

The five soldiers will be brought before the courts, Mr. Cherqaoui vowed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports