- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2008

SOMALIA

European aid workers among six kidnapped

MOGADISHU | Gunmen stormed an airstrip in Somalia on Wednesday, kidnapping two Kenyan pilots and four European aid workers in the latest strike against humanitarian organizations in the lawless Horn of Africa nation.

The Europeans - two French, a Bulgarian and a Belgian - were among a group on a runway near the central Somali town of Dusamareb when the gang struck, local residents said.

The four aid workers were with French-based Action Against Hunger.

Aid workers have been increasingly targeted this year for assassination and kidnap in Somalia, where Islamist insurgents are fighting the government and its Ethiopian military allies.

Suspicion generally falls on clan militia and the insurgents. But the Islamists accuse President Abdullahi Yusuf’s government of staging such attacks to blacken their name.

CAMEROON

Hostage killed in rescue bid

YAOUNDE | One of the 10 hostages seized by a local militia off Cameroon’s coast last week was killed in a failed rescue attempt by Nigerian marines, a leader of the militia said Wednesday.

The unidentified hostage was killed when the marines attacked the militia in Cameroon’s Bakassi Peninsula, militia commander Ebi Dari said.

Bakassi is part of Cameroon, and it was not clear why security forces from neighboring Nigeria would be involved. Nigerian and Cameroonian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Gunmen in speedboats seized six French workers, two Cameroonians, one Senegalese and one Tunisian from an oil-industry tugboat off Cameroon’s coast Friday. France later said a seventh hostage also had French nationality, but it was not known which one.

Mr. Dari is the leader of the Cameroon-based Niger Delta Defense and Security Council, an umbrella group for several militias that have operated in Bakassi for years. The militias want autonomy for Bakassi and say it desperately needs more development.

CONGO

Fighting forces thousands to flee

KIWANJA | Sporadic gunfire and explosions echoed Wednesday around this town in eastern Congo, as rebels fought pro-government militiamen for a second day, forcing thousands to flee.

A wider cease-fire between the rebels and the government was holding, however, and diplomats scrambled to assemble a regional peace summit Friday in Kenya.

Associated Press journalists who visited Kiwanja before being turned back by rebels saw several thousand people on the roads, including mothers with babies on their backs, as insurgents loyal to warlord Laurent Nkunda searched houses.

Kiwanja is about 45 miles north of the provincial capital Goma and the clashes between rebels and a militia known as the Mai Mai appear to be taking place on the town’s far outskirts or in the hills and fields of coffee and corn beyond.

Fighting in Congo intensified in August and has since displaced around 250,000 million people, forcing exhausted refugees to struggle through the countryside, lugging belongings, children, even goats. Tropical rainstorms, which drench eastern Congo every day, have added to their misery.

After forcing the army into a humiliating retreat and reaching the outskirts of Goma, Mr. Nkunda called a cease-fire Oct. 29.

A regional summit is expected Friday in Nairobi, Kenya, attended by Congolese President Joseph Kabila, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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