- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

SOMALIA

Thousands flee Islamists, floods

MOGADISHU — Islamist gunmen and pro-government militia prepared for fresh fighting in southern Somalia yesterday, officials and witnesses said, as thousands fled likely clashes and floods.

The government-allied Juba Valley Alliance (JVA) said it was ready to defend itself from Islamist forces moving toward its stronghold in the Gedo region, which suffered floods overnight when rivers burst their banks, killing eight persons. “Islamic court militias are preparing to wage an attack on us here,” JVA commander Abdullahi Sheik Fartag told Agence France-Presse by telephone from Bardheere, about 215 miles west of Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, Somalia’s weak government and powerful Islamist movement opened a war of words over a new passport. The Islamists, who control Mogadishu and much of southern and central Somalia, said it would not be accepted. Somali Foreign Minister Ismail Mohamud Hurre said the new passport, computer-readable to comply with stricter international travel rules, “cannot be forged and it is important for all Somalis to apply for this version.”

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

China grants loans for infrastructure

MALABO — Days after hosting a high-profile summit with Africa, China has granted oil-rich Equatorial Guinea more than $2 billion in loans for infrastructure projects, officials here said yesterday.

“It’s a line of interest-free credit, targeting development sectors that must be identified by the government in its efforts to modernize the country’s infrastructure and reinforce cooperation with China,” an official at the Guinean Foreign Ministry told Agence France-Presse.

Cooperation between Malabo and Beijing has improved dramatically since Equatorial Guinea became Africa’s third largest source of petroleum, after Nigeria and Angola. Chinese companies are already active in the hydrocarbon, construction and public-work sectors in the tiny central African country.

Weekly notes …

Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s coalition said yesterday it had detected systematic cheating in partial results from an Oct. 29 election runoff against President Joseph Kabila. “We have noticed that when the results are published, they are not the same as the results in our possession,” Eve Bazaiba, spokeswoman for Mr. Bemba’s Union for the Nation, told reporters. … A Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner called on people around the world to plant 1 billion trees in the next year, saying yesterday the effort is a way ordinary citizens can fight global warming. Wangari Maathai, who in 2004 became the first black African woman to win a Nobel Prize in any category, urged participants to ensure the trees thrive long after they are planted. “It’s one thing to plant a tree; it’s another to make it survive,” she said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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