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Briefly: U.S. warns of attacks from Boko Haram sect

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LAGOS, Nigeria — The U.S. Embassy warned American citizens Wednesday that a terrorist Islamist sect is targeting hotels frequented by foreigners in Nigeria's capital.

The warning offered no specifics about the threat posed by the group known as Boko Haram. However, it added that the Nigerian government is aware of the threat and taking precautions to stop a possible assault.

Embassy spokeswoman Deb MacLean said U.S. officials spoke with the Nigerian government before issuing the alert. A similar alert issued in November angered Nigerian officials.

MALI

Mediators urge release of junta's prisoners

BAMAKO — Regional mediators urged Mali's junta leader on Wednesday to release politicians and high-ranking officers from the country's ousted government who have been detained by soldiers.

The arrests have raised concerns about whether coup leader Capt. Amadou Sanogo is, in fact, transferring powers to the new civilian interim government as promised under an agreement reached with the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States.

A number of senior politicians and high-ranking officers in Mali's security forces were arrested Monday night and Tuesday by the junta despite the fact that the junta leader had signed an agreement that is supposed to return Mali to constitutional rule.

Many of those arrested have close ties with the ousted president, Amadou Toumani Toure.

In a statement late Tuesday, the junta said it carried out the arrests "on the strength of specific information." Ongoing police investigations will be handed over very soon so judicial cases can be opened, the statement said.

SUDAN

Sudan demands end to occupation of oil field

KHARTOUM — Sudan will end the occupation of a key oil field by South Sudanese troops by "hook or crook," a Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.

Omar Dahab, head of Sudan's Foreign Ministry crisis team, added that "military steps are under way" to regain control of the Heglig oil field along the border between the two countries. South Sudanese troops took control of Heglig last week.

"We have to end the occupation by hook or crook, by either way," he said.

South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year after decades of civil war. But the two sides never agreed on how to share the oil wealth found in the region between the countries, and the border was never demarcated.

Meanwhile, Wednesday, fighting spread farther along the border when soldiers from both countries exchanged fire, killing 22 troops, a southern spokesman said Wednesday.

GUINEA-BISSAU

Coup leaders reach accord with opposition parties

BISSAU — Guinea-Bissau's junta on Wednesday drew up an agreement with the main opposition parties for a two-year transition period before presidential and legislative elections are held.

The accord confirms the dissolution of institutions overthrown in a coup a week ago and the creation of a National Transition Council that will name an interim president and government.

A source at the meeting to draw up the agreement said soldiers will return to the barracks "once the new president is inaugurated."

Soldiers ousted the government on April 12, aborting an electoral process that was meant to conclude on April 29 in a runoff election. They also arrested top government officials.

SWAZILAND

U.S. condemns crackdown on anti-monarchy protests

JOHANNESBURG — The United States slammed Swaziland's heavy-handed clampdown on protests last week, when student and labor activists were blocked from marching against Africa's last absolute monarchy.

"While every government has the right to take appropriate action to maintain peace and security, the government also has an obligation to protect the rights of citizens," said Molly Sanchez-Crowe, spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Swaziland.

Swazi security forces blocked marches on April 11 and 12 and stopped a prayer meeting on Saturday, imposing a ban on gatherings of more than two people.

The activists were demanding democratic reforms in the tiny kingdom, which is suffering from a crippling financial crisis.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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