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France would back African intervention in Mali: minister
by Staff Writers
Lorient, France (AFP) Aug 4, 2012

Gunmen kidnap 4 foreigners, kill 2 sailors in Nigeria: navy
Lagos (AFP) Aug 4, 2012 - Gunmen attacked a barge belonging to an oil services company off the coast of Nigeria on Saturday, kidnapping four foreigners and killing two Nigerian sailors, the navy said.

"Four expatriates are reported to have been kidnapped from the vessel. Two sailors were killed," navy spokesman Commodore Kabir Aliyu said, adding that the nationality of those abducted had yet to be ascertained.

Six naval personnel -- all Nigerians -- were aboard the vessel, which belongs to the Sea Truck oil services company, for security. Two were killed and two were wounded, he said.

The Nigerian navy has dispatched a boat and a helicopter to the area, he added.

France would back an African military intervention in Islamist-held northern Mali, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday.

But even if he believed such an operation was inevitable -- and desirable -- it was not for France to take the lead, he added.

"It is not for France to take the military initiative in Mali," he told journalists during a visit to Lorient in northwest France.

He said France "wants it to be the African forces, in particular those of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) and possibly the African Union, that take the initiative," he said.

An African military intervention in northern Mali was "desirable and inevitable," he added.

"France will support it and, I hope, the European Union also."

At stake was political stability in the south of Mali which was not yet guaranteed, even if interim president Dioncounda Traore had returned to the country from Paris earlier this week, he added.

The situation in the north of the country was "very worrying", said Le Drian.

The hardline Islamists who occupied the vast north in the chaos following a coup in Bamako have tightened control over the area, imposing a harsh form of Islamic law.

Among those now in power in the north are the Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Late last month, members of the new Islamist regime dragged an unmarried couple to the centre of the town of Aguelhok for a public stoning, the first reported execution according to strict Sharia law since the takeover.

"We must ... avoid (letting) Mali become a 'Sahelistan'...," Le Drian said, drawing a parallel with hardline Islamist forces in Afghanistan.

He added that he would be discussing Mali with his Spanish counterpart Pedro Morenes later this month, taking time out from a holiday in Spain.

Islamists freed two Spanish aid workers together with an Italian colleague in northern Mali last month: they had abducted them from a Sahrawi refugee camp in Tindouf in western Algeria last October.

Their captors, the previously unknown Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), says it is an offshoot of AQIM.

In a speech on July 14, Bastille Day in France, French President Francois Hollande also said that it was for Africans to decide when and how to intervene in northern Mali, though at the same time he promised unspecified support.

ECOWAS wants to send a 3,000-strong military force to Mali, but is waiting for United Nations approval and a formal request from Bamako.

On Wednesday, ECOWAS pledged support for Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore, after mediators extended a deadline for the country to form a unity government.

Diarra's interim government was set up in April to take over from the junta which seized power on March 22.

It was in the wake of the March military coup in the south of the country that hardline Islamists and Tuareg rebel forces seeking an independent homeland seized control of the north.

The Islamists subsequently forced out the Tuareg nationalists to take control of the region and imposed Sharia law.

The five-month-old conflict has forced 260,000 Malians to flee to neighbouring countries, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told reporters Friday after a visit to the region.

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Zimbabwe man in court for delivering cyanide at water works
Harare (AFP) Aug 4, 2012 - A manager of a local transport company has been charged for delivering cyanide to the main water treatment works in the capital Harare, state media reported Saturday.

Farai Muchenje, 37, a manager at Pair Trade Investments, was charged with contravening the Water Act and Enviromental Management Act after his company delivered sodium cyanide -- a deadly chemical -- to the Morton Jaffrey water treatment plant by mistake, The Herald newspaper reported.

A truck driver transported 20,000 kilogrammes (43,000 pounds) of the chemical from Mozambique to Zimbabwe on July 19. It was destined for use in gold processing and industries.

But the consignment accidentally ended up at the water plant, which serves the city's population of over two million people.

None of it was used in water treatment, the paper said.

The driver is still on the run.

Muchenje was freed on $1,500 bail.


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Gunmen kill 2 sailors, kidnap 4 foreigners in Nigeria
Lagos (AFP) Aug 4, 2012
Gunmen attacked a barge belonging to an oil services company off the coast of Nigeria on Saturday, killing two Nigerian sailors and kidnapping four foreigners, navy officials said. The suspected sea pirates stormed the vessel in the Gulf of Guinea, an area that has seen a sharp spike in the number of reported marine attacks over the last six months. A spokeswoman for Sea Trucks Group, wh ... read more

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