Briefly: Africa

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SOMALIA

President asks for lifting of arms embargo

MOGADISHU — Somalia’s president asked the U.N. Wednesday to lift the arms embargo against his country, saying the recent merger between al Qaeda and al-Shabab has made the dropping of the arms ban necessary.

Thousands of Somalis marched through the capital during an anti-militant protest attended by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Many of the demonstrators were shouting and angry as they protested the al Qaeda merger.

One protester’s poster read: “Let us be united to fight our enemy al Qaeda.”

The Somali militant group al-Shabab has long had close links with al Qaeda, but the two announced an official merger last week.

“To say the arms embargo cannot be lifted now is unfair,” Mr. Ahmed said. “Our army is working under difficult conditions because of economic problems and a lack of arms.”

The U.N. imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in 1992, one year after warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The warlords then turned on each other, sinking the poverty-stricken nation of 7 million people into chaos.

Ahmed’s call for the lifting of the arms embargo comes one week before a high-level meeting on Somalia to be attended by world leaders in London.

The Somali army currently is armed by international donors.

SENEGAL

Police fire tear gas at opposition protest

DAKAR — Protesters defied a government ban Wednesday and made their way to a square just blocks from the presidential palace, the closest the opposition movement has come to the seat of power in two weeks of demonstrations ahead of next week’s election.

Senegalese police wearing helmets and fiberglass shields fired volleys of tear gas. The demonstrators dispersed, running into shops and across the dry lawn of the Place de l’Independance.

The country’s opposition had vowed to march on the palace in protest over 85-year-old President Abdoulaye Wade’s bid for a third term in the Feb. 26 ballot.

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