- - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NIGERIA

23 sailors kidnapped in tanker attack

LAGOS | Armed pirates raided a tanker off the West African coast and kidnapped 23 sailors Wednesday, sailing off with the vessel in waters increasingly at risk of piracy, an international monitoring group said.

The International Maritime Bureau, which monitors piracy worldwide, said pirates boarded the tanker as it idled about 62 nautical miles from Benin’s capital of Cotonou.

Pirates struck as the vessel tried to transfer its cargo to another ship, the bureau said.

The pirates sailed off with the crew to an unknown location, the bureau said.

The attack occurred as another vessel in the same area came under attack from pirates. In that case, however, the crew was able to lock themselves into a strongroom and wait for the attackers to leave, the bureau said.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea over the past eight months has escalated from low-level armed robberies to hijackings, cargo thefts and large-scale robberies, according to the Denmark-based security firm Risk Intelligence.

Last month, London-based Lloyd’s Market Association, an umbrella group of insurers, listed Nigeria, neighboring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as Somalia, where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish.

West African pirates also have been more willing to use violence, beating crew members and shooting and stabbing those who get in the way. Analysts say many of the pirates come from Nigeria, where corrupt law enforcement allows criminality to thrive.

SOUTH AFRICA

African Union pushes for ‘inclusive’ Libya

PRETORIA | A top-level African Union team met Wednesday to discuss ways to press for an inclusive government in Libya, with the region still refusing to recognize the new leadership in Tripoli.

South African President Jacob Zuma hosted the meeting in Pretoria for the AU panel, which included the leaders of Uganda, Mauritania, Mali and Congo-Brazzaville.

Presidents Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda were expected at the talks, along with Mauritania’s foreign minister and Mali’s ambassador to Pretoria.

Although about 20 African countries have recognized the National Transitional Council (NTC), the AU so far has refused to do so and instead has stuck to its “road map” for Libya, which calls for an inclusive government in Tripoli.

What that means exactly is still unclear.

UGANDA

2 men convicted of World Cup bombings

KAMPALA | A Ugandan judge has convicted two suspects over bombings last year that killed 76 people in the East African nation.

Judge Owiny Dollo on Wednesday convicted Edris Nsubuga and Muhamoud Mugisha after they pleaded guilty Tuesday to involvement in the July blasts in Uganda’s capital.

Nsubuga said he detonated one of the bombs with his mobile phone. Mugisha said he helped plan the attack with the al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group that claimed responsibility.

LIBERIA

Ambulance crashes into crowd, kills 11

MONROVIA | An official in Liberia says 11 people were killed after an ambulance crashed into a crowd that had been waiting all day to see a visiting presidential candidate.

Regional official Momo Kiadii said Wednesday the ambulance crashed into the crowd late Tuesday in the western town of Vonzula. He said many others were injured.

Presidential candidate Kennedy Sandy was visiting the region on a campaign tour.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

President commits to holding vote on time

KINSHASA | Congo’s leader says he’s committed to holding November’s presidential election on time.

President Joseph Kabila spoke to thousands of supporters Wednesday, saying the vote should be credible and democratic.

Mr. Kabila took office in 2001 after his father’s assassination. He was formally elected in 2006 in the vast Central African country’s first democratic vote in 40 years.

He has pushed through a series of constitutional changes to strengthen his powers, replacing a two-round voting system with one winner-takes-all round.

Analysts anticipate that Mr. Kabila will be re-elected if the opposition vote is split among several candidates.

Congo suffered back-to-back civil wars, and the country’s east remains mired in conflict.