- - Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Government imposes curfew in capital

TUNIS | Tunisia’s government is imposing a curfew on the capital and surrounding region after weeks of violent riots reached Tunis.

The government said in a statement Wednesday that a curfew will be in place from 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. Such curfews are highly unusual in this generally stable North African country.

The announcement came after police firing tear gas and protesters throwing stones clashed in the center of the capital Wednesday, bringing the unrest to the government’s doorstep for the first time.


Turnout in vote passes 60 percent

JUBA | More than 60 percent of registered voters already have cast ballots in an independence referendum, crossing the threshold needed for the vote to be valid if it creates the new country of southern Sudan as expected, a southern official said Wednesday.

The south’s secession would split Africa’s largest country in two and deprive the north of most of its oil fields, though Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said he will let the south go peacefully.

Ann Itto, an official with southern Sudan’s ruling Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement, told journalists on Wednesday that nearly 2.3 million voters had cast ballots so far, surpassing the 60 percent of registered votes needed to ensure the outcome’s validity.


Army opens fire on opposition

ABIDJAN | Security forces loyal to the sitting president who is refusing to cede power descended on an opposition stronghold Wednesday and opened fire for the second time in as many days, only hours after opposition supporters had taken to the streets in protest.

Journalists who approached the Abobo area heard shots ringing out but could not get close. Residents here voted in large numbers for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, who was internationally recognized as the winner of the presidential election.

With the backing of the army, the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has refused to leave the presidential palace. In the weeks since the Nov. 28 ballot, the U.N. has said that more than 210 people have been killed, mostly Ouattara supporters.


Religion, region at play in presidential election

ABUJA | Nigeria’s ruling political party is preparing to pick its presidential candidate for the coming April election.

That vote Thursday, pitting President Goodluck Jonathan against former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, highlights the ethnic and religious fault lines still running through the oil-rich nation more than 40 years after civil war.

Mr. Jonathan, a Christian from the south, represents a minority ethnic group. Mr. Abubakar is a Muslim from the nation’s north. Some say the north deserves another term at the presidency as elected leader Umaru Yar’Adua died in office in May. A Christian president previously held the office for two, four-year terms.


Soldiers complicit in arms smuggling

RABAT | Moroccan soldiers turned a blind eye to the smuggling of weapons that were seized in the recent dismantlement of a terrorist cell with links to al Qaeda’s North African branch, the interior minister said Wednesday.

Taieb Cherqaoui told journalists that five Moroccan soldiers stationed in the disputed Western Sahara had accepted kickbacks in exchange for allowing smuggled goods into the Moroccan-occupied territory, unchecked.

The goods, which were not inspected, were transported on camels across a security wall built in the south-central Amgala region of Western Sahara, he said.

The five soldiers will be brought before the courts, Mr. Cherqaoui vowed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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