- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

SRI LANKA

Rebel camp taken in army victory

COLOMBO | Soldiers captured a Tamil Tiger camp and a factory as government forces pushed the separatist rebels into a shrinking enclave in Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north, the military said Sunday.

A defense ministry statement said soldiers seized “a highly fortified camp” in the village of Maruthampuvel in the rebels’ last stronghold of Mullaittivu on Saturday.

It did not provide details of casualties, but said soldiers found eight bodies of rebel fighters killed in fighting elsewhere in the region.

The military has vowed to destroy the rebel group this year. Government forces in recent weeks have captured the guerrillas’ de facto capital of Kilinochchi.

Rebel spokesmen could not be contacted for comment because communication to the north has been severed.

SOUTH AFRICA

Miners trapped underground

JOHANNESBURG | Media reports say rescuers are trying to bring to the surface 167 gold-mine workers trapped underground in northern South Africa for nearly 24 hours.

The workers - mainly maintenance staff - were trapped when lightning struck an electrical substation late Saturday and caused a complete power blackout.

The South African Press Association quotes mine spokesman James Duncan as saying the miners have access to water and medical assistance.

Mr. Duncan said electricity supplies have been re-established and the company is trying to connect the power to the underground winders and lifts.

NIGERIA

Rescue botched, militants say

LAGOS | Militants said Sunday that the Nigerian military botched a rescue mission aimed at liberating two British hostages held captive in Nigeria’s restive southern oil region.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said in an e-mail message that the overnight mission caused the militants to separate the British victims and move them deeper into the region’s vast network of creeks and mangrove swamps.

The militants said the hostages weren’t in the village where the military launched its attack, which the militants said left some men, women and children dead.

A military spokesman couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

The British hostages are among 27 oil workers, including five expatriates, kidnapped by militants when their vessel was hijacked Sept. 9. The other hostages were later released.

PAKISTAN

Girls schools try to reopen

KARACHI | Pakistan will push to quickly reopen girls schools destroyed by Islamic militants in the country’s lawless northwest, the information minister said Sunday.

The militants’ efforts to deter girls from attending school in Pakistan are darkly reminiscent of the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which banned education for girls and forced most working women to return to their homes.

Speaking to reporters in the commercial hub of Karachi, Information Minister Sherry Rehman said all efforts would be made to ensure that classes in the Swat valley resume in March after the winter break.

Reopening the schools will be largely contingent on restoring security in the valley, which lies just outside Pakistan’s tribally governed belt along the Afghan border. The West is concerned that al Qaeda leaders have found refuge in the area.

ZIMBABWE

Mugabe rules out further concessions

HARARE | President Robert Mugabe ruled out giving any further concessions to Zimbabwe’s opposition, saying it has one last chance to join a government of national unity, a state newspaper reported Sunday.

Mr. Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will meet Monday for talks aimed at implementing a power-sharing agreement signed in September but stalled by disagreements over Cabinet posts.

But Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change insisted Sunday that all outstanding issues be resolved before a unity government was formed - not after.

The political deadlock has prevented authorities from addressing a spiraling economic crisis, with the central bank last week introducing a new 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note to keep pace with dizzying price increases. The note is worth about $30.

SOMALIA

Two civilians killed in attack

MOGADISHU | At least two civilians were killed during an attack on African Union peacekeepers by an extremist Islamic group in the Somali capital, witnesses said Sunday.

Al-Shabab, an extremist Islamic group, attacked two AU bases late Saturday. The troops retaliated, leading to heavy fighting, said Mohamed Hussein, a resident in the area where the attack occurred.

“I saw two dead men killed by mortar rounds,” Mr. Hussein said.

Fadumo Ali, a nurse at Medina Hospital, said nine civilians wounded in the attack were brought to her hospital.

The AU peacekeepers’ spokesman Barigye Bahoku said the force did not suffer any casualties. Al-Shabab spokesman Sheik Muktar Robow told local radio stations his group carried out the attack.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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