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SOMALIA

7 Somalis killed by shells in market

MOGADISHU - Witnesses said a barrage of artillery shells pounded the largest market in Somalia's capital, and a medical official said seven people were killed.

Pro-government forces have been waging an offensive against Islamist militants since February. The pro-government troops have captured several key positions so far.

Ambulance service chief Ali Muse said Wednesday that seven civilians died after shells hit Bakara market, and that 21 others were wounded.

Civilians in the Somali capital have suffered through two decades of violence, which started when the Horn of Africa nation descended into chaos in 1991.

Somalia's government said Tuesday that the offensive has made "remarkable" gains in the last few days.

SUDAN

South Sudan says north bombs its territory

KHARTOUM - South Sudan's army (SPLA) on Wednesday accused the north of bombing its territory, violating a 2005 peace deal ahead of the oil-producing region's independence.

Sudan's north-south conflict raged for all but a few years since 1955 and claimed 2 million lives in Africa's longest running civil war.

The south voted this year to secede and will become the world's newest nation on July 9.

SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer said the north dropped bombs on March 21 between a village and an SPLA base causing no casualties in Raja County in Western Bahr al-Ghazal, which borders the north's war-torn Darfur region.

Sudan's northern army denied it had carried out any bombing raids near the area.

The north-south U.N. peacekeeping mission said it had reports from the SPLA of bombing raids and had sent a patrol to investigate.

Last year, the north bombed the south while chasing Darfur rebels they said were being supported by the semi-autonomous southern government.

UGANDA

Report: Police unit tortures suspects

NAIROBI - An international rights group said Wednesday that a secretive Ugandan police unit frequently operates outside the law, carries out torture and in some cases kills suspects. Police denied the report and said its accusations were exaggerated.

Human Rights Watch said in a report released Wednesday that Uganda's Rapid Response Unit has a history of violent and unlawful operations since it was formed under a different name in 2002 by President Yoweri Museveni.

Daniel Bekele, the group's Africa director, said the unit tortures, detains and sometimes even kills suspects. The new report recommends that Uganda's police issue orders to end the illegal detention and torture of suspects and to end impunity for human rights violations committed by members of the Rapid Response Unit.

The head of the Rapid Response Unit, Joel Aguma, denied that his force operates outside the law.

The report's author talked to 77 Rapid Response Unit detainees, 60 of whom said they had been severely beaten at some point during their detention and interrogations by the plainclothes police force.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa joins emerging markets bloc

BEIJING - Heads of the world's leading emerging economies will gather in China in mid-April to discuss post-crisis financial reforms and mark the inclusion of South Africa as a member of the bloc.

Qu Xing, president of the government think tank China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), said at a Wednesday briefing that China had invited South Africa to join the BRIC group last year to make it "more representative."

The informal bloc of developing markets had originally included Brazil, Russia, India and China - the world's biggest developing economies. Though South Africa's overall economy is substantially smaller, it accounts for 40 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's economy.

With the influence of emerging economies rising, the bloc will consider setting up a formal structure and secretariat to help enhance cooperation by the "ad hoc political club," said Liu Youfa, CIIS vice president and an expert on emerging economies.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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