Briefly: Islamists reject terrorism, offer to talk with government

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Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU — An Islamist group carrying out public executions and amputations in northern Mali this week said it now rejects “all forms of extremism and terrorism” and is ready to talk with the government.

The turnabout was announced by a representative of an Ansar Dine delegation that has been holding talks for the past several days with mediators in the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso.

It was not immediately clear whether the declaration would affect the group’s imposition of its form of strict Islamic Shariah law in the regions under its control. Nor was it clear whether the delegation in Ouagadougou represents all elements within Ansar Dine, which has links to al Qaeda.

Representative Mohamed Aharid said the group is “ready for a frank and constructive dialogue with all national bodies representing the traditional authorities of Mali.”

He also said the group, which controls the fabled town of Timbuktu and large swaths of the north, would “observe a complete secession of hostilities to guarantee free movement of persons and goods and to facilitate relief operations in the zones under their control.”

The meetings in Burkina Faso appear to be part of a new, regional attempt to set up negotiations to resolve the Mali crisis ahead of a possible military intervention that is expected to be led by African forces with logistical backing from the European Union and the United States.

France is heading the international effort to plan the military campaign to end the Islamists’ occupation.

South Africa

14 rhinos found with horns illegally removed

JOHANNESBURG — Police say 14 rhinos in two South African provinces have been found dehorned in the past week. Three of them died.

Capt. Paul Ramaloko said late this week that 11 of the rhinos were found at the Hartzhoogte game lodge in the country’s North West province, where two had died.

Capt. Ramaloko said a driver taking tourists on a game safari in the Eastern Cape found three dehorned rhinos that had been darted, including one that died. He said the surviving rhinos are being treated and police are investigating.

At least 458 of the country’s endangered rhinos have been illegally hunted and killed this year.

South Africa is home to some 20,000 rhinos. Growing Asian demand for rhino horn is believed to be behind the poaching spike.

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