- - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

LAGOS — Gunmen attacked a ship operated by a French oil and gas services company off the coast of Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, kidnapping six Russian sailors and an Estonian in the assault, the firm said Wednesday.

Paris-based Bourbon SA offered only a tersely worded statement on its website about the attack Monday near the Niger Delta, where the company works closely with oil companies such as French firm Total SA.

Gunmen apparently attacked the Bourbon Liberty 249, an anchor handling vessel, and seized the sailors before escaping, the company said.

Another nine sailors on the vessel sailed safely away to the company’s port in Onne in Nigeria’s Rivers state, the company said.

Foreign oil companies have pumped oil out of the Niger Delta, a region of mangroves and swamps the size of Portugal, for more than 50 years.

Despite the billions of dollars flowing into Nigeria’s government, many in the delta remain desperately poor, living in polluted waters without access to proper medical care, education or work.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Food group says Africa should grow wheat

DEBRE ZEIT, Ethiopia — The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center says demand for wheat is growing faster than for any other food crop in sub-Saharan Africa, where corn has long been considered the most important cereal crop.

As the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization marked World Food Day on Tuesday, experts were re-examining what crops are best produced in Africa, for Africans.

Ethiopia last week hosted a conference to look at ways to increase the amount of wheat African farmers grow. Only 44 percent of the wheat consumed in Africa is produced locally.

The corn and wheat center says African countries in 2012 will spend $12 billion to import 40 million tons of wheat — money that could be used for other pressing needs.

Wheat production in sub-Saharan Africa dropped sharply in the 1980s after an influx of food aid made the crop unprofitable, said the maize and wheat improvement center.

At the same time, the focus of international development shifted to corn and cassava. A growing demand for wheat has led agricultural experts to rethink the crop in Africa, the group said.

SUDAN

Parliament OKs security, oil deals with S. Sudan

KHARTOUM — Sudan’s parliament Wednesday approved deals with South Sudan on oil and security that the two countries’ presidents have hailed as ending their conflict.

About half of the chamber’s 350 lawmakers were present for the ballot, and only two of them voted against the agreements.

The late-September deals, signed by Sudanese President Omar Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, came after the neighbors fought along their border in March and April, sparking fears of wider war.

A U.N. Security Council resolution ordered a cease-fire and the settlement of crucial unresolved issues, under African Union mediation.

KENYA

Grenade blast kills 3 suspects during raid

MOMBASA — Police said three terror suspects in Kenya’s largest coastal city were killed after a raid turned violent.

Aggrey Adoli, the top police official in the Mombasa area, said that during a 2 a.m. raid Wednesday a terrorist suspect threw a grenade at officers, wounding four of them. He said three suspects were killed in the clash. He said the grenade caused the deaths.

Police said they recovered assault rifles, grenades and ammunition from the house.

Coastal Kenya has seen an increase in violence in the past year. Somali militants have carried out attacks and a separatist movement known as the Mombasa Republican Council has clashed with authorities.

Wednesday’s violence came only hours after security officials launched a crackdown on the council.

NIGER

Aid workers kidnapped in central Niger

NIAMEY — Six aid group employees were abducted from the guesthouse where they were sleeping in a central Niger town, an eyewitness and the provincial governor said this week.

Men in two Toyota pickup trucks pulled up to a guest house run by Care International in the town of Dakoro late Sunday and seized five Nigerians and a worker from Chad, said Sidi Mohamed, the governor of the Maradi region. All six Africans work for the aid group “Bien-Etre Familiale,” or “Family Health,” he said.

The guest house is frequented by international aid workers who use Dakoro as a base to carry out projects in the grasslands that extend to the north, and are home to the dwindling nomadic communities.

Mr. Mohamed said the abductors were likely looking for foreign nationals.

SOUTH AFRICA

Hip-hop star guilty of murder

JOHANNESBURG — A court in South Africa found a hip-hop star guilty Tuesday of the murder of four schoolchildren in a drag-race crash that had victims’ families worried that wealth and fame would get the accused off easy.

Molemo Maarohanye, best known by his stage name Jub Jub, faced charges of murder and attempted murder stemming from a March 8, 2010, drag race in which he and his co-defendants drove cars that plowed into a group of schoolchildren, killing four and seriously injuring two.

The crash happened in Soweto, not far from the magistrate’s court where they would be charged.

A magistrate ruled that the men had been driving under the influence of drugs, finding both guilty on four counts of murder and on two counts of attempted murder.

The case against Jub Jub, 32, was followed closely in South Africa, where many families worried the hip-hop star and his co-defendant, Themba Tshabalala, would not be convicted because of their wealth.

From wire dispatches and staff reports