- - Wednesday, June 6, 2012


ACCRA, GHANA — Armed groups in Liberia who supported Ivory Coast’s former president have killed at least 40 civilians in cross-border raids into Ivory Coast since July and are recruiting children as young as 14 into their ranks, a human rights group said Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch says the armed men, most of whom fought for Ivory Coast’s former president and flooded over the border to Liberia after his arrest, carried out at least four attacks targeting ethnic groups who support Ivory Coast’s current president, Alassane Ouattara.

Ivory Coast was brought to the brink of civil war when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to Mr. Ouattara after a 2010 election. The U.N. estimates at least 3,000 people were killed in the six months of violence that followed.

Mr. Gbagbo was arrested with the help of U.N. and French forces in April 2011, and is facing war-crimes charges in The Hague.

Both sides handed out weapons and recruited young men to fight during the conflict. Several thousand Liberian mercenaries joined the fight, the vast majority for Mr. Gbagbo’s side, Human Rights Watch says.

Following Mr. Gbagbo’s arrest, many of the mercenaries and militiamen who fought for him fled across the porous border into Liberia’s forests, or clandestinely, into its refugee camps.

The New York-based rights group says the Liberian government has failed to respond to the presence of armed groups on the border or to the recruitment of child soldiers.

“Rather than uphold its responsibility to prosecute or extradite those involved in international crimes, Liberian authorities have stood by as many of these same people recruit child soldiers and carry out deadly cross-border attacks,” said Matt Wells, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.


Military raid on Boko Haram kills 16 amid gunfire, blasts

LAGOS — Nigerian soldiers killed at least 16 militants, the army said Wednesday, after gunfire and blasts rocked an area of the country’s northeast where Islamists were believed to be hiding.

“It’s confirmed,” Col. Victor Ebhaleme told Agence France-Presse when asked about reports of 16 Boko Haram members being killed in the city of Maiduguri.

“They came to attack part of the city,” he said, declining to provide details.

Gunfire and explosions erupted Tuesday in Maiduguri as soldiers moved into the area where Boko Haram members were believed to be hiding, residents said.

“There have been at least eight explosions in these neighborhoods, and soldiers have moved in with tanks and have taken over the whole area,” one resident said Tuesday.

Another said the area was largely deserted of residents after earlier signs that soldiers were preparing a crackdown. Alleys had been sealed off ahead of Tuesday evening’s violence, they said.

The explosions and gunfire began rocking the city at about 4:30 p.m. and stopped at about 9 p.m.


Official: Troops bomb pirate base in Somali region

MOGADISHU — An official from the autonomous Somali region of Puntland said its forces launched an aerial attack targeting a pirate leader.

The official said Wednesday that forces in a helicopter fired on a house in the village of Bali Dhidid where the pirate was believed to be, possibly wounding him. The official asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The official said three vehicles were destroyed by the bombardment but the pirate boss, identified as Issa Yuluh, managed to escape.

The attack came a day after the Puntland’s troops launched a raid on the pirate-infested town of the Bargal.

Attacks by Somali pirates off the Somali coast have reduced sharply in the first quarter of this year following a concerted international effort to eradicate piracy.


IMF agrees to give Malawi $157 million to help economy

JOHANNESBURG — The International Monetary Fund and Malawi have agreed to a $157 million aid package to be distributed over three years to support the country’s economy, an IMF official said Wednesday.

The announcement by the IMF’s mission chief Tsidi Tsikata during a telephone news conference signals a shift in relations between the agency and the southern African country.

Under the late President Bingu wa Mutharika relations between Malawi and the IMF had been tense. Mutharika had refused to devalue the currency as the IMF had advised.

“The government has moved swiftly and boldly to change the policy environment,” Mr. Tsikata said.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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