- - Wednesday, June 13, 2012


BAMAKO — Fighting broke out Wednesday between secular and Islamist rebels who are vying for control of northern Mali, leaving at least three people wounded after a shootout that underlines the growing tensions in the region.

Oumar Ould Hamaha, a fighter with the Islamist group known as Ansar Dine, said a group of armed rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad tried to enter the city of Timbuktu when the groups began firing at each other.

Two of the NMLA rebels were wounded and one member of Ansar Dine was hurt in the melee, he said.

Attaye Ag Mohamed, an NMLA member, blamed the violence on al Qaeda-linked militants operating in the area.

The NMLA is led by Tuareg separatists, including some who fought in the army of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. After the fall of Tripoli and Gadhafi’s death, they regrouped in northern Mali, one of the traditional homelands of the Tuareg people, and launched a rebellion saying they wanted to carve out an independent homeland for the Tuareg nation, called Azawad.

They seized only minor towns for the first three months of their uprising, but on March 21, a coup in Mali overturned its democratically elected government. The rebels took advantage of the power vacuum to push forward and seized the northern half of the nation, a territory larger than France, in a matter of weeks.


African force seeks EU, U.S. help in Somali war

NAIROBI — An African force fighting Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels has asked the European Union and the United States for help in wresting control of the key port of Kismayo.

“Our aim is to get to Kismayo by August,” Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said this week, adding that taking al-Shabab’s last bastion would entail an “operation by land, sea and air.”

The African Union force in Somalia has “asked the EU to help us … [but] they are reluctant,” he said at a news conference with foreign reporters.

The EU deployed a fleet of warships off the Horn of Africa in 2008 to protect merchant vessels from Somali pirates.

“We have asked the Americans for assistance. We are talking about financial assistance,” he said.

Kenya rolled tanks and troops across the border into Somalia in October, and Ethiopian soldiers went in one month later. Burundian and Ugandan troops pressured al-Shabab into abandoning fixed positions in the capital, Mogadishu, in August.

The Islamists have lost other major towns such as Beledweyne and Baidoa but have held on to the port of Kismayo, from which they draw most of their revenue.


Panel to probe reports of extrajudicial killings

BUJUMBURA — Burundi has set up a commission to investigate accusations by human rights groups of extrajudicial killings and torture, the country’s prosecutor general said this week.

“We have just set up a commission of six prosecutors that will be tasked with shedding light on cases that some reports have called extrajudicial killings or torture,” Valentin Bagorikunda told reporters.

Burundian human rights groups have denounced hundreds of extrajudicial killings since the country’s 2010 presidential election, which was boycotted by the opposition.


Zuma names first female police chief in shakeup

PRETORIA — President Jacob Zuma this week fired his police chief, who is implicated in suspect property deals, and replaced him with the first female head of the scandal-tarnished security service.

Mr. Zuma removed police Commissioner Bheki Cele from the post after an investigative commission found him “unfit for office” because of leases for police offices far above market rates.

He appointed Mangwashi Phiyega as the nation’s police chief. Ms. Phiyega is a trustee of Nelson Mandela’s foundation and an executive at Barclays-owned banking group Absa.

Mr. Zuma also announced a Cabinet reshuffle, naming former prisons minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to replace unpopular Defense Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who now heads public services. Ms. Sisulu is the daughter of anti-apartheid leader Walter Sisulu.

Mr. Zuma also fired Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, who was responsible for a disastrous toll-road project in Johannesburg.


Life sentence for convict in postelection violence

NAIROBI — A Kenyan court has sentenced a man to life in prison for murder during Kenya’s 2007-08 postelection violence in the first conviction from the more than 1,000 people killed during the rampages.

Justice Roselyn Wendoh this week convicted Paul Kipkemboi Ruto of killing Kimani Thiongo.

Four Kenyan leaders will face trial at the International Criminal Court, where they are accused of directing the violence. The court began investigating the four when it became clear that Kenyan institutions were not investigating and trying cases related to the violence.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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