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.
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.
One killed, many trapped in shopping center collapse
ACCRA — A five-story shopping center built earlier this year in a bustling suburb of Ghana's capital collapsed Wednesday, killing at least one person and leaving several dozen people trapped in the rubble, authorities and eyewitnesses said.
Rescue crews used cranes to try to remove debris from the top of the building amid fears that machinery sifting through the wreckage could injure trapped survivors. Crowds of bystanders gathered as rescuers sifted through concrete and glass.
The fatality at the Melcom Shopping Center at Achimota, a suburb of Accra, was confirmed by Public Affairs Officer of the Ghana Fire Service Billy Anaglate.
President Bashir recovering from surgery in Saudi Arabia
KHARTOUM — President Omar al-Bashir is recovering from a minor surgery in Saudi Arabia, the official Sudanese news agency reported this week.
The presidential press secretary Emad Sidahmed told SUNA on Tuesday that the surgery was successful and Mr. Bashir was expected to leave the hospital in "the next few hours." He did not say what the surgery was for.
The agency had reported Monday that Mr. Bashir was heading to Saudi Arabia for a medical checkup related to an inflammation of the vocal cords. Media reports last month had said Mr. Bashir also underwent surgery on his vocal cords in Qatar.
Mr. Bashir, 68, is Sudan's longest-serving president since independence in 1958. He came to power in a 1989 military coup.
Newspaper editor shot in suspected robbery
LAGOS — The top editor of the Nigerian Compass daily newspaper was shot in a suspected robbery attempt in the country's southwest.
Sina Kawonise, the managing director and editor-in-chief, was shot in the leg Monday while traveling through Osun state, the newspaper said, adding that a police officer traveling with him also was shot. Both survived.
Mohammed Garba, the president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, said he was aware of the attack, but he did not believe the shooting involved politics because other travelers were violently robbed along the same highway at the same time. However, the newspaper said Mr. Kawonise recently received unspecified threats over the Internet.
Security agencies and thugs routinely harass and beat journalists in Nigeria. Eighteen journalists have been killed in the country since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports