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Briefly: Africa

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NIGERIA

Arrests made against Nigerian sect

MAIDUGURI — Security forces have arrested a top commander of a radical Muslim sect who is accused of orchestrating attacks in the country's northeast that have left police, clerics and others dead, a governor said Wednesday.

Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima told the Associated Press in an interview at his heavily guarded office that officials think a negotiated peace can be reached with the sect known locally as Boko Haram.

However, he warned that those involved in the group who continue the sect's sectarian campaign of assassinations and bombings will be hunted down by the increasing military and police presence in his state.

"I believe the worst is over," Mr. Shettima said, adding that five others also were arrested and are being detained.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege," came to prominence in July 2009 when its members rioted in Maiduguri. The riots and an ensuing military crackdown left 700 people dead and the group's mosque in ruins.

The group, which wants strict implementation of Shariah law across Nigeria, re-emerged last year to carry out shootings and bombings.

KENYA

U.N. reports gains in fight against famine

NAIROBI — The U.N. on Wednesday said food assistance has reached nearly half the Somalis in need, though it warned cases of diarrhea and cholera could spike with the seasonal rains expected in October.

Famine relief has gotten to about 1.85 million Somalis, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, reports that cases of diarrhea and cholera are down, though October rains could pose a high risk of transmission of waterborne diseases in highly populated camps for those displaced by the famine.

Tens of thousands of Somalis already have died from a lack of food, and the U.N. says 750,000 more are at risk of death from famine in the next four months. Six areas in southern Somalia have been declared famine zones.

Despite an increase in food aid in Mogadishu, Somalis in filthy camps for the internally displaced continue to die. Food aid is being siphoned off by corrupt power brokers, and government soldiers have stolen food.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday that even if the October rains materialize, the next harvest season typically accounts for only about 30 percent of Somalia's yearly food production - not enough to meet the immense need.

SOUTH SUDAN

U.N. asks South Sudan to return diverted funds

JUBA — The U.N. representative to South Sudan has asked the country to repatriate diverted funds.

Hilde F. Johnson told a news conference on Wednesday that hundreds of millions of dollars meant for South Sudan's government have been wired to private bank accounts abroad. She called such acts unacceptable.

Ms. Johnson lauded South Sudan President Salva Kiir for announcing at U.N. headquarters that steps were being taken to end impunity for perpetrators.

South Sudan broke away from Sudan in July to become the world's newest nation.

Violence in the new country this year already has killed 3,000 people. More than 300,000 others have been displaced by fighting.

SOUTH AFRICA

Rhino poaching takes center stage at meeting

JOHANNESBURG — More needs to be done to dispel the myth among the Vietnamese that rhinoceros horn can cure cancer, Vietnamese officials said Wednesday after meeting with their South African counterparts about curbing rhino poaching.

Already this year, 309 rhinoceroses have been poached in South Africa, compared to the 2010 record of 333, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs. The 2010 figure was nearly triple the deaths in 2009.

Demand for rhino horn among a growing Vietnamese middle class is believed to be driving the poaching spike in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa; Vietnam's own rhinos are nearly extinct.

David Newton of TRAFFIC, the wildlife-trade-monitoring network of the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said demand in China and Thailand also is a concern but that recently, the "vast majority" of rhino-horn smuggling prosecutions involved Vietnamese citizens.

Tuan Cong Ha, a Vietnamese environmental affairs official who headed his country's delegation in South Africa, called on medical researchers in his country to study what he called the cancer-cure "rumor" and make their findings public.

He also said attempts to educate Vietnamese should be more specific, saying previous campaigns have spoken only generally of the need to protect wildlife.

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