- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009


Pro-government militia seizes town

NAIROBI, Kenya | Pro-government militiamen in southern Somalia have seized a second town from rebels as President Sheik Sharif Ahmed’s fragile administration seeks to crush the insurgency, witnesses said Wednesday.

Residents in Gedo region, which borders Kenya and Ethiopia, said heavily armed militiamen including the Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca group swept into Luuq town after seizing Bulahawa on Monday. Luuq had been under the control of Hizbul Islam rebels, who fled as the militia approached, residents said.

On Monday, Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca forces chased another insurgent group, al-Shabaab, out of Bulahawa without firing a shot. The United States accuses al-Shabaab of being al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia.

On Wednesday, Somali members of parliament voted overwhelmingly to declare a state of emergency while the government battles the rebels. The move means Mr. Ahmed can make major decisions without having to consult parliament.


U.S. planes to join anti-piracy push

VICTORIA | The U.S. military said Wednesday it would be deploying unmanned reconnaissance aircraft in the skies above the Seychelles archipelago to bolster anti-piracy patrols.

Maritime security groups warned in May of an increase in the number of pirate “mother ships” operating in Seychellois waters.

Piracy has increased off the Somali coast, where sea gangs defy foreign navies monitoring the vast shipping lanes linking Asia and Europe, although monsoon rains have caused a lull in attacks.

“We have the recent arrival of our P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that will aid in conducting the surveillance of Seychelles territorial waters and as we look into the future, [we will] bring unmanned surveillance vehicles,” said Gen. William Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command.

Two vessels flying the Indian Ocean nation’s flag have been hijacked this year, while in April an Italian cruise ship fended off an assault in Seychelles’ waters.


President claims rights over statue

DAKAR | Soaring above the Dakar skyline, the nearly finished monument to the African Renaissance in Senegal’s capital is billed as a symbol of Africa’s rise from “centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism.”

But critics of the bronze family of a man, woman and infant - at 164 feet tall just higher than New York’s Statue of Liberty - say it only goes to show that even one of the continent’s strongest democracies must put up with the whims of its rulers.

President Abdoulaye Wade, who has long styled himself a champion of the poor on the world stage, sparked the furor by declaring himself the “intellectual owner” of the monument and entitled to a 35 percent cut from future tourist revenues.

Wade supporters say the president had drawn sketches for the monument in a book, “A Destiny For Africa,” which he wrote in his early political career. Mr. Wade denies any suggestion of self-enrichment, pointing out that his cut would go to private charities financing nurseries for poor children in Senegal and across Africa.

To the dismay of the president’s office, however, local blogs have lapped up a photo caricature of the statue in which the man’s head is replaced by that of the Senegalese leader. The infant takes on the face of Mr. Wade’s son Karim, whose appointment in May to lead a powerful new “super ministry” raised eyebrows because of his relative lack of experience in politics.


10 opposition lawmakers held

HARARE | Zimbabwean police Wednesday arrested 10 opposition parliamentarians from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, party spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

The arrests are likely to raise tension in the unity government Mr. Tsvangirai formed with his rival, President Robert Mugabe, to end the political crisis in the southern African country.

The MDC, which defeated Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF in last year’s parliamentary elections, accuses Mr. Mugabe of plotting to whittle down its majority by arresting its lawmakers on various charges.

The MDC won 100 seats in the 210-member lower house of parliament against ZANU-PF’s 99. A smaller faction of the MDC won 10 seats, and an independent holds the one remaining seat.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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