- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2010


Private security guards kill pirate

NAIROBI, Kenya | In the first killing of its kind, private security contractors fatally shot a Somali pirate in a clash that left two skiffs riddled with bullet holes, officials said Wednesday.

The killing raises questions over who has jurisdiction over a growing army of armed guards on merchant ships flying flags from many nations.

The exact circumstances of Tuesday’s shooting are not clear, but the European Union Naval Force said guards were onboard the Panama-flagged MV Almezaan when a pirate group approached it twice. On the second approach, there was a shoot-out between the guards and the pirates.

An EU Naval Force frigate was dispatched to the scene and launched a helicopter that located the pirates. Seven pirates were found, including one who died from small-caliber gunshot wounds. The pirates had two small skiffs and a larger ship — a whaler — believed to be a mothership for food and fuel.

Spanish forces aboard the warship Navarra arrested the six remaining pirates, took custody of the pirate’s body and sunk the larger boat, Spain’s Ministry of Defense said.


Banker among Cabinet picks

ABUJA | Nigeria’s Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has picked a raft of new faces including a Goldman Sachs banker for his new Cabinet, a shake-up his backers hope will herald a more muscular period of government.

Mr. Jonathan fired the Cabinet a week ago in a bid to assert his authority a month after assuming executive powers, and the fast appointment of a new team could ease political uncertainty in Africa’s most populous nation.

Senate President David Mark on Wednesday read out 33 nominees sent by Mr. Jonathan for approval, a list which included just nine members of the outgoing Cabinet.

Former Minister of State for Petroleum Odein Ajumogobia, tipped as a possible oil minister, and Olusegun Aganga, a London-based executive at Goldman Sachs seen as a contender for a Finance Ministry post, were among the nominees.

Among the new nominees are Murtala Yar’Adua, ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua’s nephew whose business interests span banking and oil, and Jubril Martins Kuye, junior finance minister under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.


Photo exhibits on rights seized

HARARE | A Zimbabwean rights group that organized a photo exhibit documenting human rights violations scrambled to re-hang its scratched and damaged displays just minutes before the show was slated to begin Wednesday, a day after police confiscated the photos.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai condemned police for seizing the photos in his opening speech to some 300 guests, including top government officials, foreign diplomats and rights activists.

Police who seized the show’s 65 photos on Tuesday said they were not fit for display because they showed nudity, horrific bruises and wounds and unidentified bodies.

Irene Petras, a lawyer representing the ZimRights group that organized the show, said the attempt to stop the show had “no basis in law” and violated basic rights on national healing and reconciliation after years of political violence and economic turmoil in Zimbabwe.

Ms. Petras also said the head of the group was arrested and detained for several hours Tuesday and threatened with unspecified criminal charges.

The show’s organizers won a court ruling Wednesday ordering the photos’ return to the independent downtown Gallery Delta. The photos were returned just five minutes before the show’s scheduled opening.


Defense minister warns of ‘crisis’

BUJUMBURA | Burundi’s army is in a state of crisis that could “plunge the country into the abyss” two months ahead of a marathon round of elections, the country’s defense minister has warned.

Gen. Germain Niyoyankana was speaking to reporters late Tuesday, when court martial began in Bujumbura of 18 soldiers arrested in January and charged with “military plotting” and “destabilizing the country’s institutions.”

Since December 2009, at least six junior officers have been arrested and eight other soldiers dismissed from the army, suspected of being behind tracts calling on soldiers to revolt. In February a soldier was killed in a shoot-out in a military camp in Bujumbura.

Since 2006 Burundi has been trying to emerge from 13 years of civil war sparked by the assassination of the country’s first democratically elected president, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, in an attempted coup by the army, dominated at that time by the Tutsi minority.

Starting in May, Burundi will embark on an electoral marathon, including presidential and legislative elections.


Dust storm covers country, hits services

LAGOS | A yellow haze descended across Nigeria last weekend, blotting out the sun, canceling airline flights and coating everything with a fine layer of dust.

The sudden storm sparked frightened text messages about supposedly killer acid rain, but meteorologists say the weather comes from the harmattan, a yearly trade wind that brings dust from the Sahara Desert through Nigeria and the rest of West Africa. This year, however, the harmattan has come at an abnormal time, a possible result of global warming. Experts say it may delay the rainy season in Africa’s most populous nation and there are worries it may even throw off future seasonal changes.

The harmattan, caused by shifting weather patterns, means “tears your breath apart” in Twi, a West African language. The harmattan season typically begins in late November, as Nigeria’s dry season begins to end, and ends in February. This year, the harmattan briefly appeared in January, and blew back into Nigeria without warning last weekend.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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