- - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

JOHANNESBURG — A surgeon said a 3-year-old South African girl who received a cloned skin transplant is likely to be discharged from the hospital next week.

Dr. Ridwan Mia, the surgeon who attached Isabella Kruger’s skin, said Tuesday that the toddler is breathing on her own and “doing very well.”

Isabella, better known by her nickname Pippie, suffered third-degree burns on more than 80 percent of her body in an accident at a family barbecue.

Earlier this month, doctors attached the skin, which was cloned in Boston using mouse cells as a scaffold.

Pippie has started to eat baby food and even chicken after months of using feeding tubes.

Dr. Mia said Pippie will need daily therapy in the months to come, including physiotherapy to strengthen her muscles.


Iranian says Israeli agents interrogated him in Kenya

NAIROBI — One of two Iranians facing charges related to accusations that the pair planned to carry out an attack with explosives in Kenya told a court Wednesday he had been interrogated by Israeli agents while in detention.

Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi were arrested last week with 33 pounds of explosives.

Mr. Mohammad on Wednesday said the two were interrogated by Israeli agents, a claim that, if true, would suggest security officials think the Iranians might have been targeting an Israeli-owned property.

Iranian agents are suspected in several attacks or thwarted attacks around the globe over the past year, including in Azerbaijan, Thailand and India. Most of the plots had connections to Israeli targets.

Several resorts on Kenya’s coast are Israeli-owned. Militants in 2002 bombed an Israeli-owned luxury hotel near Mombasa, killing 13 people. The militants also tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner at the same time. An al Qaeda operative was linked to those attacks.

Israel’s deputy ambassador to Kenya, Yaki Lopez, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that “this whole incident is an internal Kenyan issue.” He said he had no further comment, including on whether Israeli agents were involved in interrogations.


43 Ethiopians, Somalis suffocate in truck smuggle

ARUSHA — Forty-three Ethiopians and Somalis who paid to be smuggled from their homelands in search of better living conditions died in the back of a crowded, suffocating truck, an official said Wednesday.

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Pereira Silima on Wednesday said it was sad that so many people died from the illegal smuggling scheme.

Tanzania’s state television said the bodies were thrown off the truck and dumped in the bush after the driver of the truck realized Tuesday that some of the people he was smuggling had perished.

About 70 people in the truck survived and are receiving medical treatment and being questioned by police.

Tanzania lies on a smuggling route Africans use to travel to South Africa, where there are more economic opportunities.

Area residents were the first to report the deaths because of a foul smell.


Envoys: Kony hunters need boots, food

UNITED NATIONS — An African force hunting Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leader Joseph Kony needs boots, uniforms and food, international envoys said Tuesday.

Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo agreed earlier this year to set up a 5,000-strong force under the African Union to chase the notorious Kony.

But most of the force still has to be deployed in the huge, remote jungle and mountain region where the rebel fighters are said to be.

“These troops lack almost everything: They lack boots, they lack uniforms, they lack food rations, and they sometimes lack training. So there is a need for these things to be supplied that make a difference on the ground,” said Francisco Madeira, AU special envoy on the rebels, to reporters.

Abou Moussa, U.N. special representative for Central Africa, said all four countries had committed to provide the troops. “The issue is the resources to maintain them.”

Kony, who launched his rebellion in Uganda two decades ago, is said to have between 300 and 500 troops, about half of them children or former child soldiers.

Mr. Madeira said the rebel band was in an area as big as France on the border between Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic. It is still being blamed for attacks, including one this week on a uranium plant in Central African Republic.


New FM station breaks state monopoly

HARARE — Zimbabwe’s first licensed commercial radio station went live Monday, ending a 32-year monopoly by the state-controlled broadcaster and meeting some demands to free up the nation’s airwaves ahead of proposed elections.

Star FM radio claimed Monday that it is the first independent broadcaster since President Robert Mugabe led the nation to independence in 1980.

But that claim is offset by the fact that the station is owned by Zimbabwe Newspapers, publishers of newspaper titles loyal to Mr. Mugabe.

The broadcasting authority was criticized for licensing a station closely linked to the main Herald daily newspaper.

Star FM said Monday it will broadcast hourly news bulletins and 50-second headline summaries. The station said its news bulletins will be aired 15 minutes past the hour.

The state broadcaster’s bulletins are at the top of the hour. Its first bulletin on Monday reflected headlines in recent days from the Herald’s stable of newspapers.

The 24-hour station announced a schedule strongly weighted with music programs. When licensed last year by the Broadcasting Authority appointed by Mr. Mugabe, it was billed as Zimbabwe Talk Radio. No reasons were given for the change.


Ethiopia convicts journalist, 23 others

NAIROBI, Kenya — An advocacy group said the convictions in Ethiopia of 24 government opponents on terrorism and treason charges is a “dark day” for freedom of expression.

Amnesty International said journalist Eskinder Nega and leading members of the political opposition were among those convicted Wednesday.

Amnesty said the evidence in court demonstrated peaceful and legitimate activities, not criminal wrongdoing.

Mr. Eskinder was honored in May with PEN America’s Freedom to Write award. He was arrested in 2011 under Ethiopia’s sweeping anti-terrorism laws.

Ethiopia, a U.S. military ally, is known for taking a hard line with members of the opposition. Amnesty said the evidence against Mr. Eskinder centers on his discussions on whether the Arab spring demonstrations could spread to Ethiopia.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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