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Ivory Coast to reopen Ghana border on Monday: defence minister
by Staff Writers
Abidjan (AFP) Oct 08, 2012

African Union, Somali troops capture Islamist-held town
Nairobi (AFP) Oct 07, 2012 - African Union troops alongside Somali forces seized the formerly Islamist-held town of Wanla Weyn on Sunday, the latest loss for the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab fighters, commanders said.

Its capture -- reportedly without a fight -- is a key step towards opening up the main highway linking the capital Mogadishu to Baidoa, a major town wrested from the Shebab by Ethiopian troops in February.

The AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which also seized the Balli Doogle airstrip on Sunday, have now advanced over 90 kilometres (55 miles) northwest from Mogadishu since launching an offensive outside the city in May.

"Somali government forces with the support of AMISOM troops have secured the strategic town of Wanla Weyn on the Afgoye-to-Baidoa corridor," said Andrew Gutti, commander of the 17,000-strong AMISOM force.

Wanla Weyn lies roughly a third of the way to Baidoa from Mogadishu, with the remaining 160 kilometres (100 miles) still controlled by the Shebab.

"The capture of this town denies Al Shebab another source of illegal income after a string of defeats," Gutti added in a statement.

"It will also facilitate the provision of much-needed humanitarian assistance to the local population."

Kenyan troops -- who invaded Somalia a year ago before later integrating into AMISOM -- are also pushing up from the south, having last week seized the Shebab bastion and major port of Kismayo.

The hardline insurgents still control the town of Jowhar, some 80 kilometres northeast of Mogadishu, and the small port town of Barawe, lying some 180 kilometres down the coast from the capital.

However, the fighters have largely retreated ahead of each assault, with some reportedly relocating to the northern Galgala mountains in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region.

In addition, vast and remote areas of bush surround many of the towns seized, which could also provide a haven for fighters who have fled.

But the Shebab remain a potent threat, still controlling rural areas as well as carrying out guerrilla attacks -- including suicide bombings -- in areas apparently under government control.

The latest advance comes a day after Somalia's newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud named his prime minister, businessman Abdi Farah Shirdon Said, in the first major decision of the administration.

Mohamud, who took office last month after being chosen by parliament in a UN-backed process, is being supported by international efforts in the hope of rebuilding stability after more than two decades of anarchy and war.

However, Shebab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage dismissed the new prime minister as "yet another apostate appointment by foreign powers."

Ivory Coast's land and sea borders with Ghana, closed after a deadly attack on September 21, will reopen Monday, the defence minister announced late Sunday.

Paul Koffi Koffi said on RTI public television that President Alassane Ouattara had decided the borders would reopen at 7:00 am (0700 GMT) Monday.

All borders were closed after gunmen attacked a border checkpoint at Noe in Ivory Coast and then fled to Ghana, but air links were reopened on September 24.

Five assailants were killed in the shootout, another five were arrested, while the rest fled into Ghana, Ivorian officials said.

Ghanaian police said they had arrested three men in possession of AK-47 rifles on suspicion that they were plotting to overthrow Ouattara's government.

Koffi said that since the closure "the two brotherly countries have strengthened their security along the common border with the aim of preventing any incursion" while Ouattara and his Ghanaian counterpart John Dramani Mahama "have stayed in permanent contact."

Mahama said on September 26 that Ghana would not allow its territory to be used as a base to attack neighbouring nations.

He noted "the unfolding tensions in Ivory Coast," and said Ghana "will not harbour any individuals or groups whose intent is to utilize Ghana as a base of operation to undermine the safety and security of another nation," in an address to the United Nations that was distributed in Accra.

The closure of the frontiers caused major difficulties for trade between the neighbours and for residents of the border region.

Ivory Coast's security forces were in August hit by a wave of attacks in and around Abidjan and in the west of the country, attacks blamed by the authorities on former president Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo's FPI party rejected the accusation.

It was the most serious surge of violence since the end of the post-election conflict between December 2010 and April 2011 which according to a UN estimate left about 3,000 people dead.

Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, was seen as one of Africa's most stable states, until it descended into crisis after the 2010 elections.

Fighting broke out after strongman Gbagbo refused to step down in favour of his long-time rival Ouattara, who was declared the election's winner.

Five months of unrest followed before Gbagbo was eventually arrested after forces loyal to Ouattara stormed his heavily fortified home with French and UN military backing.

Ghanaian authorities last Monday charged Gbagbo's spokesman with murder following a warrant from his home country, days after he was granted bail while awaiting an extradition hearing.

Justin Kone Katinan's lawyer Patrick Sogbodjor said that while the alleged murder was committed in Ivory Coast, prosecutors charged him in Accra as a procedural move to keep him in custody after his earlier release on bail.

He was charged with three counts of conspiracy and the murder of two men in Abidjan in March last year.

Desire Dallo, a former minister in Ivory Coast currently being detained in his home country, was also said to be facing the same charges.


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15 killed in Sudan military crash: state media
Khartoum, Sudan (AFP) Oct 7, 2012 - Fifteen Sudanese military personnel were killed and seven others injured when their transport plane crashed west of Khartoum on Sunday on its way to conflict-plagued Darfur, state media reported.

The death toll rose from an initial 13 after two victims succumbed to their injuries, army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad was quoted as saying by the state SUNA news agency.

It is the worst toll in a series of Sudanese military aviation incidents since early 2011 and follows a recent surge of unrest in Darfur, the far-west region where a rebellion began nearly a decade ago.

A military investigation team has visited the crash site and expects to conclude its probe soon, Saad said.

"The pilot informed the airport that he had a problem with one of his engines," before the plane went down west of Jebel Aulia, he told AFP earlier.

Debris was scattered across red desert sand charred black from the impact, a photograph taken at the scene showed.

Saad said the plane, with six crew and 16 other members of the armed forces, was carrying military equipment from Khartoum to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

A witness said a helicopter ferried the dead and injured from the crash scene, which had been sealed off by soldiers, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) west of the capital.

Jebel Aulia is a popular recreational site about one hour's drive south of the Khartoum area.

Sudan's armed forces, which rely on Russian-made planes and helicopters, have suffered a number of aircraft losses in recent years.

In July, Darfur rebels said they shot down an Mi17 helicopter, killing seven personnel from the military which blamed a malfunction for the incident.

Last December, all six crewmen aboard another military helicopter died when it crash-landed and burned in North Kordofan state. The army cited a technical problem, as it did in April 2011 when a helicopter went down in Darfur killing all five soldiers on board.

Washington on Thursday voiced concern that security in western Darfur was worsening and threatening the implementation of peace accords there.

"The United States is deeply concerned by the sharp deterioration in security in North Darfur and adjacent parts of Jebel Marra, Sudan," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

More than 70 civilians were killed in Hashaba, North Darfur, between September 25 and 27 in fighting and aerial bombardments between rebels and the Sudanese government forces, she said.

Washington was also "appalled" by Tuesday's attack on a UN patrol in which four Nigerian peacekeepers were killed and eight wounded, she added.

Rebels from black African tribes rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003. Clashes with government troops, banditry and inter-ethnic fighting continue but levels of violence have fallen compared to nearly a decade ago.


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Nigerian college says massacre not linked to campus vote
Mubi, Nigeria (AFP) Oct 04, 2012
Officials from a Nigerian college near the site of a massacre that left at least 40 people dead this week dismissed reports Thursday that the killings were linked to tensions over a campus vote. However, claims persisted among residents in the town of Mubi in northeastern Nigeria that the massacre, which saw victims shot or have their throats slit, was somehow linked to student politics. ... read more

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