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LAGOS | A major union promised Thursday to stop the beating heart of Nigeria’s economy - crude oil production - as part of a nationwide strike and protests gripping Africa’s most populous nation.

The union’s ability to enforce the shutdown Sunday across the swamps of Nigeria’s southern delta to massive offshore oil fields remains in question, though the threat of a strike could sway global oil prices with traders worldwide concerned about supply.

Nigeria, home to more than 160 million people, has been paralyzed by a national strike that began Monday after the country's government abandoned subsidies that kept domestic gasoline prices low. Overnight, prices at the pump more than doubled, from $1.70 per gallon to at least $3.50 per gallon. The costs of food and transportation also doubled.

Popular anger over losing one of the few benefits average Nigerians see from being an oil-rich nation, as well as disgust over government corruption, has led to demonstrations nationwide and related violence that has killed at least 12 people.


Government promises probe into death of French reporter

DAMASCUS | Syria on Thursday said it will probe the death of a French reporter, as the opposition accused it of “liquidating” journalists to hush up its deadly 10-month crackdown on dissent.

Gilles Jacquier, 43, was the first Western reporter to die in Syria since anti-regime protests erupted in March. He was killed when a shell exploded among some 15 journalists covering demonstrations in Homs.

The opposition Syrian National Council denounced the “murder,” saying it was a “dangerous sign that the authorities have decided to physically liquidate journalists in an attempt to silence neutral and independent media.”


Putin opens website, Russians say, ‘Dont’ run’

MOSCOW | Prime Minister Vladimir Putin launched the website for his presidential campaign Thursday, only to see it flooded with comments from detractors demanding he not run.

The negative responses, which were followed by a freezing of the site that saw many of those critical comments vanish, illustrated the growing sense of discontent with Mr. Putin, whose centralized, autocratic rule already has faced historic street protests in recent weeks.

Shortly after the launch of the website, several visitors said it was time for Mr. Putin to get out of politics altogether.

“I strongly urge you to remove your candidacy from the presidential election,” wrote a user who identified himself as Arkady Vishnev. “This step will be the most useful thing you can do for the country.”