- - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

MAURITANIA

Army on alert after al Qaeda attack

NOUAKCHOTT | Mauritanian soldiers patrolled the town of Bassiknou on Wednesday after al Qaeda-linked extremists attacked a nearby army base that houses an anti-terrorist unit, a military source said.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) launched the raid 10 days after one of its camps was destroyed in a raid by the Mauritanian army in western Mali as it sought to flush out extremists in the desert region.

A military source speaking on the condition of anonymity said soldiers were keeping watch around the town in the extreme south of the country, ready for any eventuality.

The area was rocked by gunfire and explosions as the army, backed by military aircraft, battled AQIM militants in a counterattack that reportedly lasted less than an hour.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africans protest NATO bombing of Libya

PRETORIA | More than 1,000 South Africans have rallied at the U.S. Embassy to call for an end to NATO strikes on Libya.

Wednesday’s union-organized rally ended with the handing over of a memorandum to U.S. officials saying bombings are undermining African efforts to negotiate a solution.

South African President Jacob Zuma is leading stalled African Union mediation efforts. He has faced criticism at home for supporting a U.N. resolution calling for protecting civilians in Libya.

Mr. Zuma blames NATO for overstepping the resolution.

The fiery leader of the governing African National Congress Youth League, Julius Malema, said at the rally that South Africa should have foreseen how the resolution would be used and should not have voted for it.

SENEGAL

Leader’s third term bid up to constitutional council

DAKAR | A debate over the legality of President Abdoulaye Wade’s bid for a third term in February’s elections must be settled by the constitutional council, the presidency said Wednesday.

Some 60 opposition and civil society organizations have urged Mr. Wade, 85, to drop his controversial candidacy after his bid to change election laws sparked recent riots in the capital.

“Is asking someone not to be a candidate a republican act? Leave it to the constitutional council. If the candidature is invalid it is up to the constitutional council to say so,” presidential spokesman Serigne Mbacke Ndiaye told journalists.

“The constitutional council will decide independently,” he added, saying those opposing Mr. Wade’s candidacy “know they cannot beat him.”

Mr. Wade was first elected in 2000, and although only two successive presidential terms are allowed, his party argues that this should be counted only from 2007, when a constitutional revision dropped the presidential term from seven years to five.

His critics accuse the president of lining up his 42-year-old son, Karim, to succeed him.

ZIMBABWE

Officials say polls are a year away

HARARE | Officials in Zimbabwe’s coalition government say elections may be held by the end of next year.

Patrick Chinamasa, chief negotiator for President Robert Mugabe, told state media that party negotiators are set to agree Wednesday on a timetable for elections after months of dispute.

He said negotiators are scheduled to sign and submit a document with a proposed timing for polls to Mr. Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Crisis Coalition, an alliance of civic groups, said a deal leaked to them by party officials proposes elections for August or September 2012. By then, a new constitution and electoral reforms demanded by regional mediators can be completed.

Mr. Mugabe has called for elections this year to end the troubled coalition.

NIGERIA

Bomb blast hits military checkpoint

KANO | Three soldiers were injured Wednesday when a bomb hit a military checkpoint in the troubled northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, where attacks by suspected Islamist radicals have killed dozens, the army said.

The early morning blast occurred near a food market in a densely populated low-to-middle class neighborhood in the heart of the city.

“Two men on motorcycle tossed the bomb at our men which exploded causing panic and fear in the neighborhood,” Brig. Gen. Jack Okechukwu Nwaogbo, the commander of a recently deployed unit, told Agence France-Presse by phone.

A resident, Mahmud Kumalaia, said the bomb appeared to have been hidden in a food flask left close to the checkpoint.

Gen. Nwaogbo said one suspect was arrested.

After the attack, the explosion site was cordoned off and the city’s main markets elsewhere were closed by security officials.

Attacks have become an almost daily occurrence in the city, and they are claimed by or blamed on Boko Haram, an extremist sect that sprung up in 2004, drawing inspiration from the Afghan Taliban.

Two years ago, Boko Haram launched a short-lived armed uprising in a doomed bid to establish an Islamic state.

Although the rebellion was crushed in a military assault that killed hundreds, mostly sect members, it failed to deter further attacks.

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