APNewsBreak: Africa land grabs endanger elephants

APNewsBreak: Africa land grabs endanger elephants

WASHINGTON (AP) — A nonprofit research group says political and military elites are seizing protected areas in one of Africa's last bastions for elephants — and that's putting lots of land at risk for ivory poaching operations.

The report from says Zimbabwe has maintained robust elephant numbers compared with other African countries.

But economic penalties imposed by the U.S. and Europe have led Zimbabweans with ties to President Robert Mugabe's ruling party to find new ways of making money.

The report coming out Monday says they may be turning to elephants' highly valued ivory tusks.

Wildlife trafficking has long been viewed as a conservation issue. But it's exploded into an illicit global economy monopolized by mafia-like syndicates and enabled by high-level bureaucrats and powerful business interests.

16 hours ago Photos


Islamic militants claim this week's Nigerian blast

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's Islamic extremists are claiming responsibility for the massive explosion at a busy bus station that killed at least 75 people in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, this week.

It comes in a new video received Saturday. The leader of the Boko Haram network threatens more attacks saying "We are in your city, but you don't know where we are."

Abubakar Shekau makes no mention of the abductions of more than 100 girls and young women from a remote northeastern school. Officials say dozens of the girls have managed to escape but 85 remain unaccounted for.

Parents and townspeople have joined security forces and vigilantes searching the dangerous Sambisa Forest for the kidnapped girls.

Boko Haram says Western education and influence have corrupted Africans and only Islamic law can save Nigeria.

April 19, 2014 12:48 pm

Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamic extremists claim blast that killed 75 people in capital Abuja

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamic extremists claim blast that killed 75 people in capital Abuja.

April 19, 2014 12:38 pm

Guinea to cancel BSG Resources-Vale mining rights

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — The government of Guinea says it plans to revoke the mining rights to one of the largest untapped iron ore deposits in the world, following a watchdog's recommendation.

A committee reviewing mining deals in the West African country has said it has evidence the exploitation rights were obtained through corrupt practices and recommended they be canceled. The deal is also under U.S. investigation.

Government spokesman Damantang Camara announced late Friday that Guinea would follow the committee's recommendation.

The rights are held by a joint-venture owned by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz's BSG Resources and Brazilian mining firm, Vale. But the report focused its allegations on BSG Resources.

BSG Resources has said it will fight the allegations. Vale has said it does not believe it has been accused of wrongdoing.

April 19, 2014 11:32 am

Nigeria preacher: Healer or controversial leader?

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — It's Sunday, and 15,000 people are seated in the enormous arena-like church, fanning themselves against the dusty humid air in Nigeria.

The preacher in a blue flowered shirt taps his microphone to announce "prophecy time." He places his hands on worshippers, who spin in circles, wave their arms in the air and finally collapse to the ground, shaking. They've been delivered.

"Emmanuel!" he shouts. "Emmanuel!" the crowd echoes. A camera crew of 20 scurries around speakers branded with the slogan for his Emmanuel TV station, "Distance is not a barrier." The service is beamed worldwide.

This is T.B. Joshua, one of the best-known preachers in Africa and among the most profitable in Nigeria, the go-to faith healer and spiritual guide for leaders such as the late Ghanaian president John Atta Mills, Malawian president Joyce Banda and former Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations has branches around the world, and a recent YouTube video even credits him with predicting the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

Yet critics say this wildly popular televangelist hinders efforts to curtail the spread of HIV and tuberculosis with testimonies by church-goers that faith and his holy water can cure both. He is also accused of taking advantage of his followers and tightly controlling those closest to him, who call him "Daddy."

Joshua brushes such concerns aside.

"The gospel needs to be preached all over the world," says Joshua, whose full name is Temitope Balogun Joshua, in a rare interview at his church with The Associated Press. "You cannot light a candle and put it under a roof."

Even in Nigeria, a country of 170 million where various forms of evangelical Christianity are practiced passionately in churches around every corner, Joshua stands out for his ambition. His Lagos church has a sprawling campus of restaurants, overflow tents for thousands and dorms for visitors, who all hope to be touched, even if only by proximity, by the man known as "the prophet." Joshua also has satellite centers in London, Greece, Ghana, South Africa and several other countries, along with a 24/7 television station on cable and online that comes with simultaneous translations in French and Spanish.

The man who says he comes from the poor village of Arigidi is worth between $10 and $15 million based on assets, according to Forbes magazine, which in 2011 estimated his personal wealth.

His church, however, has become controversial for showing on its website people with testimonies of being healed of HIV. They hold up a required before and after certificate, allegedly signed by a doctor, stating that their HIV-positive status has transformed to negative. UNAIDS notes that there is no available cure for HIV, and any interruptions to medical treatment can have serious health implications and infect others.

"We strongly advise people not to waste their money on T.B. Joshua and his false cures," said Marcus Low, head of policy at the South Africa-based Treatment Action Campaign, which advocates for increased access to treatment and support services for people living with HIV. "Supposed faith healers often lead people to forego effective treatments in the mistaken belief that they have been cured. They exploit the desperation that many sick people feel and use this desperation to enrich themselves."

When asked if he advises followers to forego HIV/AIDS medication for his "anointing water," Joshua responded: "Let me tell you, I am a medium. In the same way, doctors are mediums to bring treatment."

Joshua, 50, claims his mother was pregnant with him for 15 months. Later in life, he says, he fell into a trance for three days and saw a hand pointing a bible at his heart. He started his church more than 20 years ago, and now has allegedly more than 50,000 people visit his Lagos synagogue weekly, including foreigners.

"It's the opposite of sacrifice," said disciple Angela Brandt about working for Joshua. She has stayed on the campus in Nigeria after visiting from California more than a decade ago. She said she was healed of severe scoliosis.

Joshua told the AP that God heals through him, with a smile and confidence that show why he's so beloved to some. He sits in a small office with a blue and white robe over his clothes, with several flat screen televisions visible from his desk. He uses a buzzer to call in — and sometimes shout at — young, barefoot men and women who serve him.

That kind of treatment of his disciples has also raised questions. Former disciple Giles Hurst, 31, says at first he was "lovebombed," a term that can be used to describe when cults or groups shower a recruit with love and accolades to get them to join. But when he became a disciple, Hurst said, he saw the other side.

Competition was fierce among the 200 or so disciples for Joshua's attention, and they were encouraged to "report" each other for behaviors deemed wrong, he said. Sins are confessed in front of others, recorded and archived, according to Hurst and other former disciples. Passports are taken, along with novels and any medications, including mild painkillers or malaria pills, he said of when he was there.

Permission from Joshua in the form of a signed "pass" is needed just to make a phone call or email, Hurst said.

"Nobody questions it ... he is a holy man, he can do whatever," Hurst said, a statement backed by interviews with other former disciples.

The danger Joshua posed became clearer, Hurst said, when his mother, who was devoted to the church, started losing her battle with cancer. Hurst claims that she refused chemotherapy because Joshua told her she was healed. And the cancer did shrink at first, but six months later, she was dead.

When Hurst told Joshua the news a few months later, he said the man he called "Daddy" hung up. It was explained to him that "the prophet" didn't like to listen to bad news.

Ruth Mackintosh, who is from the U.K., said she's lost her sister, brother-in-law, two nieces and a nephew to the church.

"There is no possibility for meaningful conversation (with them)," she said. "They speak in cliches and set phrases." And many who devote themselves to Joshua, and leave, find themselves without money, a resume or education, Mackintosh and Hurst agreed.

Calls and emails to Joshua's church for reaction to these allegations went unanswered.

Money doesn't seem to exchange hands anywhere on the Synagogue, Church of All Nations campus. But to remain a church member, the former disciple explained, you must give. Followers are expected to give about 10 percent of their paychecks, the payments are monitored and people are ranked and seated accordingly, Hurst said. T-shirts, books and frames photos promoting Joshua are also for sale.

However, even former disciples agree that Joshua himself does give a lot money to charity and in scholarships.

Joshua defended his church's resources.

"Without material and money, I wouldn't be able to carry out so much huge, huge, huge, huge ... People come here for support," Joshua said.

Hundreds of foreigners gathered at Lagos airport recently, going back home after visiting Joshua's church campus. They wore Emmanuel TV T-shirts, laughed and exchanged stories of their strengthened faith, love and hope, intoxicated by their time with Joshua — he talked with each individually during their weeklong stay.

Sithini Mahola, a 36-year-old woman from South Africa, explained Joshua's draw: "The problems you face, maybe you aren't strong enough to overcome, so you need someone stronger to commit to your faith."

April 19, 2014 9:54 am

Officials: 24 more abducted Nigerian students free

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian education official says 24 more schoolgirls abducted by Islamic extremists have escaped. That means 44 are free and 85 are still missing.

At least 129 female students were kidnapped from a high school in the extreme northeast of Nigeria before dawn Tuesday.

Those who managed to escape their captors had been found wandering in a forest near their school. Borno state education commissioner Muso Inowu Kubo says some of the latest escapees were found nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) away.

Extremists have been attacking schools and slaughtering hundreds of students in the past year. Some have been kidnapped, but this week's mass abduction is unprecedented.

The militants have rampaged this week starting with a bombing attack in the capital, Abuja, that killed 75 people.

April 18, 2014 3:08 pm

Mali opposition: Tuareg impasse makes north unsafe

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — An opposition party says an impasse in negotiations between Mali's government and separatist rebels is creating insecurity in the country's north.

Tuareg rebels, who want an independent homeland in Mali's north, launched a rebellion in 2012 and took control of much of the area. But al-Qaida-linked extremists later moved in, and a French-led intervention ousted armed groups last year.

There were hopes that a newly elected government would negotiate a political solution. But President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has not named an official negotiator, and the talks have yet to start in earnest.

On Thursday, the opposition Party for National Renaissance published a scathing assessment of the situation.

The report said the impasse allowed armed groups to operate again in the north, citing recent killings, kidnappings, mine explosions and rocket fire.

April 18, 2014 9:35 am

Thugs with machetes attack Nigerian party congress

KADUNA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian officials say machete-wielding thugs have attacked delegates at a meeting of Nigeria's main opposition coalition, wounding scores in the northern city of Kaduna.

Aisha Umar of the National Electoral Commission says the attackers on Thursday hacked off the arm of a man carrying a ballot box. Scores of people were hospitalized.

She says thugs armed with machetes, knives and clubs also hijacked the ballot boxes for the election of ward leaders for the All Progressives Congress in the state, also called Kaduna. Police made several arrests.

Nigerian elections often involve violence. Africa's most populous nation is gearing up for February 2015 elections that are expected to present the biggest challenge yet to the People's Democratic Party, which has governed since 1999, when decades of military rule ended.

April 17, 2014 1:42 pm

S. Sudan: 12 die after mob attacks UN base

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — A military officer in South Sudan said about 12 people were killed and dozens injured when an angry mob of armed youths stormed a U.N. compound and attacked civilians from a minority ethnic group.

In a statement released Thursday night, the U.N. mission in South Sudan condemned the "unprovoked attack" and called for a full investigation into the "heinous murders."

U.N peacekeepers opened fire to repel the attackers, who forced their way into a camp protecting close to 5,000 ethnic Nuers who have sought safety in the base since fighting in South Sudan broke out in mid-December.

Maj. Major Kuol Mayen Deng of South Sudan's military said that Ugandan troops stationed in the region are now protecting the U.N. base. Deng said at least 12 people were killed.

April 17, 2014 11:29 am

West Africa's Ebola outbreak has claimed 137 lives

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The World Health Organization says an Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed 137 lives.

The disease, typically found in central or eastern Africa, has infected people in Guinea's remote forests, its capital and in neighboring Liberia.

In a statement posted on its website Thursday, the U.N. health agency said authorities have identified more than 220 suspected or confirmed cases of the disease in the two countries. Nearly 200 of those are in Guinea.

There is no cure and no vaccine for the disease, which causes patients to bleed internally and externally. It is highly contagious, and infected people are held in isolated wards.

The European Union announced Thursday that it was increasing its aid to those providing care for Ebola patients to 1.4 million euros ($1.9 million).

April 17, 2014 11:22 am

5 newspapers suspended in Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Five Ivory Coast newspapers whose publications have been temporarily suspended are denouncing the measure.

Most of the newspapers were suspended for mocking President Alassane Ouattara or referring to him as a dictator. One was targeted for discussing the safety of bush meat, which the government banned in the wake of an Ebola outbreak. The National Press Council, acting on a government complaint, banned the papers for several issues.

Ouattara came to power in 2011 after deadly fighting following former President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to step down. Three of the newspapers support Gbagbo.

On Thursday, editors of the papers called the suspensions, which began this week, abusive.

Ivory Coast has made significant strides in press freedom recently, according to Reporters Without Borders, but it still regularly suspends opposition newspapers.

April 17, 2014 9:26 am

Ex-Senegalese president's son to face graft trial

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — An official says the son of Senegal's former president will be tried for illicit enrichment following an investigation into how he amassed his multi-million dollar fortune.

Soro Diop, an adviser to the Justice Ministry, said Thursday that Karim Wade will be tried in two months, ending speculation that the charges might be dropped.

Wade, who was a minister in the government of his father Abdoulaye Wade, was arrested last April following a months-long investigation into how he amassed a fortune estimated at more than $1.3 billion. He remains in detention.

Diop said the amount Wade will be accused of illegally amassing has been reduced to around $700 million.

The former president was voted out of office in 2012 and several officials in his government have been charged with illicit enrichment.

April 17, 2014 9:19 am

Kenya sends 91 Somalis to Mogadishu amid crackdown

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's police chief says 91 Somali nationals have been deported to Mogadishu.

The deportations are part of a massive security operation being carried out by Kenyan police in Somali neighborhoods of Nairobi.

Police Chief David Kimaiyo said Thursday that 91 Somali nationals were sent to Mogadishu. This follows the deportation of 82 Somalis last week.

The security sweep is ostensibly to look for terrorism suspects and illegal aliens, but residents and rights groups say the police are shaking down residents and physically and sexually abusing some.

Omar bin Omar, a resident in Nairobi's Somali enclave of Eastleigh, said men with beards who wear clothes associated with Islam are being targeted.

The operation was launched this month following a series of terror attacks in Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa.

April 17, 2014 5:00 am

Pistorius forensic expert continues testimony

Pistorius forensic expert continues testimony

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The prosecutor at the murder trial of double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius is continuing his cross-examination of one of the defense's forensic experts.

Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel was questioning materials analyst and former policeman Roger Dixon Thursday on the expert's findings regarding Pistorius' fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year. Dixon has offered a different sequence for the shots that killed Steenkamp, contradicting testimony by a police ballistics expert and the pathologist who did the autopsy on Steenkamp's body.

Nel criticized Dixon for testifying in areas he had no expertise in.

Dixon testified that Steenkamp's wounds show she may have been in a different position than the prosecution says when she was shot multiple times through a toilet door by Pistorius. The athlete is charged with premeditated murder.

April 17, 2014 2:56 am Photos


Nigerian military: 121 kidnapped students free

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's military says all but eight of 129 female students kidnapped from a northeastern school by Islamic militants are free.

Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade says one of the kidnappers has been captured. Without giving details he says "the others have been freed this evening."

The government said security forces were in hot pursuit of militants who abducted more than 100 girls at a high school early Tuesday.

The governor of Borno state said at least 14 freed themselves: four of the students — aged between 16 and 18 — jumped off the back of a truck and 10 escaped into the bush when the extremists asked them to cook and were not paying attention.

The abductions came hours after an explosion blamed on extremists killed 75 people in Nigeria's capital.

April 16, 2014 5:02 pm

UN deploys Ugandan guard unit in Somali capital

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ugandan officials say about 400 troops will be deployed in Somalia on Thursday under a new United Nations guard unit charged with protecting U.N. staff and installations in the violence-prone Somali capital.

Dressed in the U.N.'s blue helmets and Ugandan military fatigues they will wear while on duty in Mogadishu, the troops were urged to show discipline in a ceremony witnessed by their Western trainers on Wednesday.

The U.N. last year recommended the deployment of a "static" guard unit to strengthen the security of its compound within the international airport in Mogadishu, which has been attacked repeatedly by Somalia's Islamic extremist rebels, who are linked to al-Qaida.

Ugandan troops have for years led a U.N.-backed African Union peacekeeping force that in 2011 ousted the al-Shabab rebels from Mogadishu.

April 16, 2014 9:46 am

AP names Nigeria chief of bureau

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The Associated Press has named Michelle Faul, who has covered the major stories of Africa over the past three decades, as its bureau chief in Nigeria.

The appointment was announced Wednesday by Africa Editor Andrew Selsky.

"Michelle Faul is a wonderful writer and a meticulous reporter with deep experience who has a knack for building sources," Selsky said. "These skills, along with her ability to grasp the nuances of events, will benefit AP's worldwide audience as she explains what is happening in Africa's most populous nation, one that today is being ravaged by an Islamic insurgency."

Faul has been AP's chief Africa correspondent based in Johannesburg since 2005, traveling widely in sub-Saharan Africa.

She won an Associated Press Managing Editors' award for Enterprise Reporting for her coverage of unrest in eastern Congo in 2009 and for coverage of violence in Ivory Coast in 2011.

From South Africa, she covered the 2009 elections that brought Jacob Zuma to the presidency, the police killings of striking miners in 2012, an event that had echoes of apartheid, and Nelson Mandela's declining health.

Faul first traveled to Nigeria for the AP in 1990 to write about how the oil industry was polluting the land and impoverishing residents of the Niger Delta.

In her new role, Faul will be based in Lagos. She will be responsible for directing AP coverage of Africa's biggest oil producer and economic powerhouse as it prepares for elections early next year.

She will continue to report to Selsky.

Faul joined the AP in her native Zimbabwe in 1983. She was forced to leave under threat of arrest two years later for her coverage of mass killings by the government. She reported on East Africa from Nairobi, Kenya, for two years before moving to the AP's International Desk in New York City in 1988. The following year she transferred to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to cover West Africa.

She was named Caribbean news editor, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1995, and was promoted to chief of bureau there in 2000.

Faul covered the great famine in Ethiopia, civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone and the transformation of many West African countries from military dictatorships amid widespread pro-democracy demonstrations.

In the Caribbean, she reported on the arrival of the first detainees at the U.S. lockup at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. efforts to fight drug smuggling, the devastating volcanic eruption in Montserrat, and on Jean-Bertrand Aristide's fall from power in Haiti. She returned to Haiti in 2010 as part of the AP team that covered the deadly earthquake there.

Faul, 57, previously worked for the British Broadcasting Corp., Agence France-Presse and The Sunday Mail and Herald newspapers of Zimbabwe.

April 16, 2014 9:18 am

Tanzanian president warns Congo rebels to disarm

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — The president of Tanzania is warning armed rebels operating in eastern Congo to put down their arms or risk being hunted down by Congolese and U.N. forces.

Tanzania has contributed troops to a special U.N. brigade tasked with pursuing armed groups in Congo's east, where several rebel groups vie for control of the mineral-rich area and its resources.

In an interview with The Associated Press, President Jakaya Kikwete hailed the U.N. intervention force's success in defeating the M23 rebels, one of the main armed groups in the area.

But that defeat and Tanzania's participation in the force have irritated neighboring Rwanda, which is widely believed to have backed the M23 rebels to serve as a buffer against another armed group.

Kikwete denied there was any significant dispute with Rwanda.

April 16, 2014 8:45 am

Planned anti-gay rally in Ethiopia is cancelled

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Officials say that plans for an anti-gay rally in Ethiopia's capital have been cancelled.

Two groups had been planning to hold a large anti-gay rally in Addis Ababa on April 26. But Dereje Negash, chairman of a religious group affiliated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, said the cancellation came after people inside the church asked the government to prevent the rally.

Several African countries, notably Uganda and Nigeria, have increased penalties against gay acts recently. Same sex acts in Ethiopia are punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Redwan Hussein, a government spokesman, said Wednesday that the government does not support anti-gay movements that have been building. He said plans to add gay sex to a list of crimes ineligible for a presidential pardon have been dropped.

April 16, 2014 8:31 am

Gunmen kill 9 on bus in Ethiopia near dam project

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopian officials say that attackers fired on a public bus in the country's west, killing nine people and wounding seven.

Redwan Hussein, a government spokesman, said Wednesday that the attack took place in the Banishangul Gumuz region, an area that has an increased security presence to protect construction of the country's Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Egypt views as a threat to the flow of the Nile River.

Unknown gunmen fired early Tuesday on a public bus that was carrying 28 residents. The region has seen previous attacks by a rebel group that laid down arms last year after 17 years of protests.

Hussein said authorities had not yet made any arrests but were pursuing suspects.

April 16, 2014 5:05 am

Baby lost in bombing chaos to be reunited with mum

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian newspaper reports that a baby lost in the chaos of the bus station bomb blast in Nigeria's capital is set to be reunited with her critically wounded mother.

The Daily Trust newspaper says 10-month-old Goodness is being cared for at a hospital where it was presumed her mother was among 75 dead victims of Monday's explosion.

Then family members found her mother Gloria Adams in another hospital.

The newspaper says hospital officials are preparing to reunite the two on Wednesday. It quotes a doctor as saying the baby only suffered a swollen eye.

Health officials say 141 wounded victims are in 15 hospitals and clinics.

The death toll from the explosion blamed on Islamic extremists is expected to rise.

April 16, 2014 4:13 am

Belgian head of Congo's Virunga park shot

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Park officials say the Belgian director of Africa's oldest national park, a reserve in conflict-ridden eastern Congo, has been shot and seriously wounded.

A statement on the website of Virunga National Park said chief warden Emmanuel de Merode was shot Tuesday while traveling between Goma and Rumangabo. The statement gave no other details. The website said he was in serious condition but the park's Twitter site said he was in critical condition. A spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Virunga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to endangered mountain gorillas but also a hotbed of activity by illegal armed groups, including poachers. Virtually every rebellion in eastern Congo in the past 30 years has started there.

April 16, 2014 3:49 am

Pistorius trial: Judge sets 2-week adjournment

Pistorius trial: Judge sets 2-week adjournment

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The judge in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has ruled that proceedings will adjourn for more than two weeks after Thursday and resume on May 5.

Judge Thokozile Masipa said Wednesday that she was responding to a request for a break from the chief prosecutor and which was supported by the defense. Pistorius' trial started Mar. 3 and Masipa said the case had lasted longer than expected.

Chief defense lawyer Barry Roux has said he will call between 14 and 17 witnesses. Forensic expert Roger Dixon, the third witness called by the defense, was testifying Wednesday.

Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder for shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his home last year. He says he shot her by mistake; the prosecution says he killed her intentionally after an argument.

April 16, 2014 3:18 am Photos


State TV: 48 die in bus and truck accident in Togo

LOME, Togo (AP) — State television in Togo says that 48 people died when a bus and truck collided on a road north of the West African country's capital.

A government statement read out on state TV Tuesday night said the dead included 15 people from Burkina Faso and a Nigerian. Another 15 people were severely injured.

Survivors of the crash said the truck had only one headlight, and the bus driver mistook it for a motorcycle. A minibus was also involved in the crash, 100 miles (175 kilometers) north of the capital.

Images on state television showed bodies being carried away in white shrouds.

Road accidents are common in Togo, where roads are poor and vehicles are often overloaded with people and goods.

April 15, 2014 5:53 pm

Suspected extremists kidnap 100 girls in Nigeria

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Officials say suspected Islamic extremists have abducted about 100 female students from a school in northeast Nigeria — but some of the teens managed to escape from the back of an open truck.

Borno state police commissioner Tanko Lawan said some of the girls were abducted Monday night from a school in Chibok, on the edge of the Sambisa Forest that is an insurgent hideout.

A State Security Service official said gunmen killed a soldier and police officer guarding the school and took off with at least 100 students.

Islamic extremists have been abducting girls to use as cooks and sex slaves.

Extremists also are blamed for Monday morning's explosion at a busy bus station in Nigeria's capital that killed at least 75 people and wounded 141.

April 15, 2014 10:50 am

In handcuffs, Rwanda musician admits to crimes

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — A day after his arrest, a prominent Rwandan singer said at a police news conference Tuesday that he has been in touch with outlawed rebel groups.

Kizito Mihigo, a genocide survivor and prominent singer and composer, said he engaged in "treasonous exchanges" over Skype and an app called Whatsapp. He added just before being whisked out of the news conference: "Let us learn to love each other."

Police presented Mihigo and Cassien Ntamuhanga, who until recently was the director of a Christian radio station, to journalists. Authorities say the two — who appeared in handcuffs — were planning terror attacks in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Police say the two were working with an opposition political group, the Rwanda National Congress, and the FDLR, an opposition rebel group in Congo.

April 15, 2014 9:10 am

Minister: 75 dead in blast at Nigerian bus station

Minister: 75 dead in blast at Nigerian bus station

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's health minister says three wounded victims have died, raising the toll to 75 dead in the massive blast at a busy bus station in Nigeria's capital.

Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu visited some of the wounded in hospitals Tuesday, and put their number at 141. He said the previous figure of 164 wounded had counted some patients twice.

Chukwu said the death toll will likely increase as pathologists determine how many victims were blown apart.

President Goodluck Jonathan has blamed Islamic extremists for Monday's blast during morning rush hour.

The explosion just miles from Nigeria's seat of government is increasing doubts about the military's ability to contain an Islamic uprising that has killed more than 1,500 people this year. The extremist group's leader had threatened to attack Abuja and neighboring Cameroon.

April 15, 2014 8:56 am Photos


Fighting threatens an oil center in South Sudan

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — A U.N. official in South Sudan says fighting around an oil-rich region has wounded five workers from a Russian oil company.

Joe Contreras said Tuesday that U.N. peacekeepers from Mongolia rescued 10 staff members from the Russian oil company Safinat just north of the city of Bentiu. He said two of the five wounded were in critical condition.

A rebel spokesman based in Ethiopia claimed that rebel fighters have captured Bentiu, the capital of Unity state.

But the spokesman for South Sudan's military, Col. Philip Aguer, said that the fighting is still ongoing and the picture from Bentiu isn't yet clear.

South Sudan saw massive violence sweep the country in mid-December when fighting broke out between troops loyal to the former vice president and those loyal to the government.

April 15, 2014 6:59 am

Death toll in Ebola outbreak rises to 121

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The World Health Organization says an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa has been linked to the deaths of more than 120 people.

As of Monday, the organization recorded a total of 200 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola, which is normally found in central or eastern Africa, in Guinea, Liberia and Mali. The bulk of the cases are in Guinea, and Mali has yet to have a confirmed case. Tests are ongoing.

The deaths of 121 people in Guinea and Liberia have been linked to the disease.

There is no vaccine and no cure. Officials have said the current outbreak could last months. Health care workers are isolating the sick and tracking down anyone they have come into contact with.

April 15, 2014 4:06 am

Pistorius resumes testimony at murder trial

Pistorius resumes testimony at murder trial

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius has resumed testifying at his murder trial under questioning from the chief prosecutor, who says the athlete's statement that he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by mistake is a lie.

Pistorius, who was being cross-examined for a fifth day Tuesday, came under intense pressure a day earlier from prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who said the double-amputee runner killed Steenkamp after an argument. Pistorius had struggled to explain alleged inconsistencies in his testimony and broke down sobbing on two occasions, forcing Judge Thokozile Masipa to temporarily halt proceedings.

Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp through a closed toilet door in his home before dawn on Feb. 14, 2013. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder.

April 15, 2014 2:45 am Photos


Fighting erupts in Central African Republic town

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — A local official in Central African Republic says Muslim fighters have overrun his town, killing several residents and sending others fleeing to the bush.

Eric Kongbo said Monday that the fighters arrived in Grimari, in the country's center, a day earlier. Kongbo, who was himself in the bush, said it was unclear how many people had been killed because residents were too afraid to return to the town.

Capt. Ahmat Nidjad Ibrahim of the Muslim fighters said Christian militias had attacked the town and his fighters were merely chasing them.

Central African Republic exploded into sectarian violence last year amid mounting resentment toward a Muslim rebel government. French and African Union forces are trying to bring stability and the U.N. has approved a peacekeeping force.

April 14, 2014 2:43 pm

14 accused of mutiny stand trial in Sierra Leone

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — A court martial of 14 soldiers accused of mutiny has opened in the capital of the West African nation of Sierra Leone.

Each soldier faces eight counts of mutiny, according to the charge sheet read out in court on Monday. The soldiers were arrested in August 2013 on suspicions they were planning a meeting aimed at destabilizing the democratically elected government.

All 14 pleaded not guilty to the charges, and they were denied bail. The penalty for mutiny is death by firing squad.

Sierra Leone is still slowly recovering from a devastating civil war that ended in 2002, though it has held elections since them that were deemed to be transparent.

April 14, 2014 12:55 pm

Senegal to send Mali 250 more peacekeeping troops

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Senegal plans to send more peacekeeping troops to neighboring Mali, where international forces are trying to restore stability after jihadi extremists took over the country's north.

Senegalese President Macky Sall announced Monday that he would send in 250 more troops during a visit by the Malian leader, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Around 500 Senegalese soldiers are already in the country as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force.

Mali descended into chaos following a 2012 coup, and al-Qaida-linked militants seized control of the much of the country's north. French troops intervened to push back the radicals last year, and thousands of U.N. peacekeepers are now helping to maintain peace.

April 14, 2014 12:56 pm

Gambia won't take passengers from Ebola-hit areas

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Gambian authorities have written a letter to airlines flying into the West African country saying they cannot pick up passengers from countries where there have been suspected cases of Ebola.

An ongoing outbreak of the virus has claimed more than 100 lives in Guinea and Liberia. Senegal closed its land border with Guinea, and the Conakry airport has instituted health checks for departing passengers.

A letter from the Gambian Transport Ministry addressed to four airlines instructs them not to pick up passengers in the capitals of Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone. The letter, dated April 10, was obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

It does not mention Ebola, but Guinea and Liberia have been the epicenter of the disease. Sierra Leone was believed to have some cases at one point.

April 14, 2014 11:32 am

Prosecutor's unrelenting questions to Pistorius

Prosecutor's unrelenting questions to Pistorius

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The chief prosecutor in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial continued Monday to question nearly every aspect of the Olympian's story surrounding his fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked Pistorius exactly what words he used when he claims he was shouting at a perceived intruder on Feb. 14, 2013, what the noise was that he said he heard that made him fire through a toilet door to kill Steenkamp, and how long he held on to his 9 mm pistol for after the shooting.

Nel said the questions would all show that the double-amputee runner's version of a mistaken killing "cannot be reasonably possibly true."



Asked by Nel to repeat the exact words he used at the perceived intruders, Pistorius said he screamed at them to "get the (expletive) out my house." Pistorius paused before answering and sobbed after the words, causing the judge to call one of two unscheduled breaks Monday for the athlete becoming emotional. Nel said Pistorius did use those words, but to Steenkamp in the midst of a fight the prosecution maintains ended with Pistorius shooting his girlfriend multiple times through the door.



Pistorius said he heard "a wood abrasion noise" from inside the cubicle that he interpreted as an intruder opening the door to come out and attack him, causing him to shoot. In hindsight, Pistorius said, he must have heard Steenkamp moving a magazine rack inside the cubicle. Again, Nel said part of Pistorius' story was correct, but Pistorius heard the magazine holder being moved as Steenkamp fell back on it after he shot her the first time, and he even changed his aim to hit her with later shots as she fell.

"That's not correct," Pistorius said, claiming he couldn't hear anything after the first shot because his ears were ringing.



Pistorius testified he searched desperately for Steenkamp in the dark bedroom after the shooting, feeling across the bed, on the floor next to it and behind a curtain before realizing it might have been her in the toilet. Nel asked Pistorius why he didn't turn on the lights and also check to see if the bedroom door was open and if Steenkamp had fled that way as gunshots had been fired.

"It's one of the things that make your version unbelievable," Nel said. Pistorius responded that once he realized Steenkamp wasn't in the bedroom he feared it was her in the toilet.



Even after being unable to find Steenkamp, Pistorius has testified that he still wasn't absolutely certain that there weren't intruders in the cubicle. Prosecutor Nel said he could have checked the bathroom window to see if a ladder outside had been put up against it by intruders, as Pistorius said he initially thought. Pistorius said he didn't do that.

"My mind was with Reeva," Pistorius said. "Yes, it could still be an intruder but my mind was with Reeva."



Nel doubted that Pistorius would have held on to his cocked 9 mm pistol all the time while searching for Steenkamp in the bed, on the floor and behind the curtain, and then later when he opened the curtains and unlocked the balcony doors to scream for help — all while walking uncertainly on his stumps. Pistorius said it happened, he just doesn't remember it clearly.

"My mind wasn't thinking about this gun in my hand," Pistorius said.



A blood-marked duvet and a pair of Steenkamp's jeans that the prosecution claims were found on the bedroom floor were signs of a fight, Nel said. The prosecutor said Steenkamp was a neat person and it was out of character that her jeans were strewn on the floor when the rest of her clothes were packed away in an overnight bag. He said the jeans showed she was getting dressed to leave because of the fight. Pistorius denied the fight, pointing out the jeans were inside out and had merely been taken off.



Pistorius conceded that he had no explanation for the fact that Steenkamp still had undigested food in her stomach eight hours after the athlete says they had dinner. Experts said that the stomach would normally be empty of food six hours after eating. Nel said the explanation was that Steenkamp ate much later, around 1 a.m. according to the state pathologist, because the couple was up late and arguing. Pistorius again denied the argument, but on the stomach contents he said: "I don't have an explanation."


Follow Gerald Imray at

April 14, 2014 10:58 am Photos


Musician, journalist arrested in Rwanda

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Police in Rwanda say they have arrested a musician and a journalist for alleged links to opposition groups.

Rwandan police said Monday they arrested Kizito Mihigo, a genocide survivor and prominent singer and composer of music on the genocide, and Cassien Ntamuhanga, who until recently was the director of a Christian radio station.

The two are accused of working for an opposition political group, the Rwanda National Congress, and the FDLR, an opposition rebel in Congo. The police statement said the two are planning the "violent overthrow of the government."

Kizito was until recently close to the government and had sung the national anthem in front of President Paul Kagame. His reconciliation programs, which brought together genocide victims and perpetrators, had been embraced by the government.

April 14, 2014 10:04 am

Pistorius cross-examination into 4th day

Pistorius cross-examination into 4th day

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius is being cross-examined at his murder trial for the fourth day by chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

Pistorius is into his second week of testimony Monday as he attempts to convince a South African judge that he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by mistake in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day last year.

Pistorius' story has come under intense scrutiny from Nel, who argues that the double-amputee Olympian's version of the shooting on Feb. 14, 2013 is a lie.

Pistorius testified last week that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder about to attack him when he fired four shots through a closed toilet door in his bathroom. The prosecution says the couple argued and Steenkamp fled to the toilet cubicle screaming before the athlete shot her intentionally.

April 14, 2014 2:56 am Photos


In Uganda, a nurse is accused of spreading HIV

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Goaded by journalists who wanted a clear view of her face, the Ugandan nurse looked dazed and on the verge of tears. The Ugandan press had dubbed her "the killer nurse," after the HIV-infected medical worker was accused of deliberately injecting her blood into a two-year-old patient.

The 64-year-old nurse, Rosemary Namubiru, was charged with attempted murder, denied bail and sent to jail in an unusual case that many here saw as a horrifying example of the lax hospital standards believed to be prevalent in this East African country.

But in the course of her trial — on the revised charge of criminal negligence — the nurse is attracting sympathy and emerging as the apparent victim of rampant stigma in a country that until recently was being praised as a global leader in fighting AIDS and promoting an open attitude toward the disease.

The nurse, while attempting to give an injection to a distraught child on Jan. 7, accidentally pricked her finger with a needle, according to AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy group that has been monitoring the ongoing trial. After bandaging her finger she returned to administer the injection, apparently using the contaminated needle. Uncertain about whether the same needle was used, the child's mother "became concerned about the possibility that her child had been exposed to HIV," the group said. After a test showed the nurse was HIV positive, she was arrested and prosecutors argued against giving her bail on the grounds that she posed a grave danger to the public.

If convicted, the nurse faces seven years in jail and would be the first Ugandan medical worker to be sentenced under a colonial-era law against negligent acts likely to lead to the spread of an infectious disease.

The child who may have been exposed to HIV was given post-exposure treatment and will be tested again for HIV in coming days, according to lawyers and activists familiar with the case.

Namubiru's trial has consequences for the rights of people with HIV and AIDS, say AIDS activists in Uganda and abroad. Uganda, which achieved global attention in the 1990s for its efforts to stem the spread of the disease, has about 1.5 million people living with HIV out of a total population of 36 million. Activists note that it's virtually impossible to find a Ugandan family that hasn't been affected by the disease since it was first reported here in the 1980s. Yet stigma toward people suffering from AIDS persists, shocking activists.

The nurse's case illustrates "the failure of both the media and the prosecutor's office to act responsibly" and could set "a dangerous precedent and could have grave consequences for the fundamental rights of people living with HIV and AIDS in Uganda and beyond," said AIDS-Free World, in a statement.

Namubiru shouldn't be on trial and her case should simply have been referred to the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council, a statutory body charged with protecting the public from unsafe nursing practices, said Dorah Kiconco, a Ugandan lawyer who runs a watchdog group called the Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS.

"She was working and she got into a bad accident and it should have been treated as such," Kiconco said. "She's on trial because of her HIV status."

Jane Kajuga, a spokeswoman for Uganda's public prosecutor, defended the decision to press charges, saying there's evidence a crime was committed.

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law said the nurse's "life has been ruined. No matter the outcome of the trial, the panorama of ferociously intemperate accusation will haunt her and her family forever."

Uganda's HIV rate has been rising in recent times, confounding officials who succeeded in reducing the prevalence from 18 percent in 1992 to 6.4 percent in 2005. Now the rate stands at 7.3 percent, according to the most recent survey by Uganda's Ministry of Health. Ugandan health officials say more married couples are getting infected, in part because of what campaigners have dubbed a "sexual network" in which married people keep secret lovers. Billboards in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, urge couples to "put your love to the test" by testing for HIV.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last year publicly tested for HIV in a bid to spark similar action among reluctant Ugandans. Although being HIV positive no longer spells a death sentence, even for poor Ugandans, public knowledge of one's HIV-positive status can destroy a life. A Ugandan man who worked in the presidential palace as a gardener recently accused his bosses of firing him after they discovered that he was infected with HIV.

Ugandan Maj. Rubaramira Ruranga, one of few officials who have publicly revealed they have HIV in a bid to discourage stigma, said the case against the nurse proves that "stigma still rages on" in Uganda.

"If I were her I would be very angry, I would feel isolated and I would feel dejected," he said. "She was brutalized."

April 13, 2014 11:27 am

Combative prosecutor makes mark in Pistorius trial

Combative prosecutor makes mark in Pistorius trial

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Prosecutor Gerrie Nel fired another tough question at murder suspect Oscar Pistorius.

"Are you sure, Mr Pistorius, that Reeva did not scream after you fired the first shot?" asked Nel.

The athlete, who earlier said he was tired and struggling under the relentless interrogation, leaned back in the witness box and remained silent. The wood-lined courtroom in South Africa was hushed and expectant on Friday. Was Pistorius thinking through an answer, or was he on the verge of an emotional outburst, or was he reflecting on his predicament and Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he killed in his home last year?

After a tense pause, the Olympic athlete said he wished Steenkamp had let him know she was in the toilet cubicle where he shot her — by mistake, according to his account. He said she did not scream, but also that his ears were ringing with the gunshot and he would not have heard screams.

Pistorius often seemed worn down as the caustic prosecutor picked holes in parts of his story. The dramatic cross-examination has drawn attention to Nel, a prominent state prosecutor dubbed "pitbull" in local media and on social networks for his combative, often effective style.

One of the highlights of his career came in 2010 when he secured the conviction on corruption charges of Jackie Selebi, a former national police commissioner and ex-president of Interpol — Nel got an international prosecutors' award for his efforts in that case.

Now Nel's international profile is ascending further after three days of challenging and even ridiculing the claim by Pistorius, 27, that he accidentally killed Steenkamp, 29, by firing through a closed toilet door, mistaking her for an intruder in his house before dawn on Feb. 14, 2013. The prosecution says the double-amputee runner is lying, and that he killed his girlfriend after an argument during which she fled into the toilet cubicle to seek refuge. Nel will continue questioning Pistorius on Monday.

A radio station made a parody rap song about defense lawyer Barry Roux, and now Nel has one too ("They call me Gerrie Nel/And I am mad as hell.") In The Times, a South African newspaper, cartoonist Zapiro depicted Nel as a bullet, his head on the tip, speeding toward an alarmed Pistorius.

He has a gentler side, according to Rapport newspaper. It reported that in his personal time, Nel teaches young children how to wrestle and that he is patient and never loses his temper with his students.

Pistorius' murder trial is being broadcast on television. While Pistorius is not shown on the screen during his testimony, viewers have watched Nel browbeat the once globally admired figure who reached a pinnacle when he ran in the London Olympics in 2012. Pistorius, who has been free on bail for the last year, could be jailed for 25 years to life if convicted of premeditated murder and also faces three separate, gun-related charges.

"You will blame anybody but yourself," Nel told Pistorius last week in an attack on the character of the athlete. It was an attempt to shred the defense's presentation of its client as humble, responsible and loving toward the woman he killed. At one point, Nel laughed derisively at one of a number of answers from Pistorius that he described as evasive or contradictory, or downright false, prompting Judge Thokozile Masipa to reprimand the prosecutor for the outburst.

On another occasion, Masipa cautioned Nel to "mind your language" for accusing the athlete of lying.

In 2008, Nel was arrested in what his backers said was an attempt to interfere with the case against Selebi, the former police chief, but he was soon cleared. Nel was also head of the regional branch of the Scorpions, a crime-fighting unit that was later disbanded in a decision that raised concern about the independence of law enforcement from politics. He was a prosecutor in a case leading to the convictions of two men for the 1993 killing of Chris Hani, an anti-apartheid leader whose death stirred fears of racial violence as South Africa transitioned from white rule to an all-race democracy.

Surrounded by security, Pistorius daily leaves the Pretoria court to fend his way through a crush of press and bystanders. On a recent afternoon, Nel left the court quietly, unassuming in a dark suit and open-necked shirt. Despite his newfound celebrity status, he walked across the street, almost unnoticed.

April 13, 2014 9:49 am Photos


Guinea-Bissau vote aims to bring stability

BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau (AP) — The people of Guinea-Bissau are heading to the polls and the question on everyone's mind is whether this tiny West African nation, known as a transit hub for cocaine traffic, will finally find stability through democratic elections.

The presidential and parliamentary vote opened Sunday almost exactly two years to the day after the last coup, which short-circuited elections between two rounds of voting. The 2012 putsch hardly came as a surprise in the former Portuguese colony: No leader in Guinea Bissau's 40 years of independence has finished his time in office.

But with these elections many in Guinea-Bissau are hoping the country will achieve stability. Voters flocked to polling stations across the country early in the day. Polls close at 1700GMT and results are expected within a week.

April 13, 2014 4:40 am

Rally calls on Burkina Faso president to run again

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Thousands of supporters of Burkina Faso's longtime president are calling for a constitutional amendment so the leader of the West African nation can seek another term.

Organizers said a rally Saturday drew about 50,000 supporters of President Blaise Compaore's ruling party and affiliated parties.

The rally comes after a series of defections of high-level officials from the ruling party over concerns that Compaore would try to change the constitution in order to run for another term next year.

The defectors have set up their own political party, raising tensions in a country known for its relative stability and economic growth in a volatile region.

Compaore has been in power since 1987. A provision in the constitution bars him from running again when his current term expires in 2015.

April 12, 2014 4:54 pm

State TV announced members of Mali's new Cabinet

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — State television has announced the members of Mali's new Cabinet, following the government's resignation earlier this month.

Moussa Mara, a former urban policy minister, is the new prime minister who was appointed to replace Oumar Tatam Ly who resigned, citing dysfunction in the administration.

Late Friday state broadcaster ORTM announced Mara's Cabinet. Many ministers remained in place, including for important posts like defense and internal security.

Mara has vowed to shake up the government and fight corruption in the West African country, which is trying to restore stability after a 2012 coup.

Following the coup, rebel groups, including al-Qaida-linked jihadists, seized Mali's north, prompting a French-led military intervention. Elections late last year brought to power President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and a new parliament.

April 12, 2014 4:41 am

Pistorius trial: The points of contention

Pistorius trial: The points of contention

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Did Reeva Steenkamp scream before she was killed by Oscar Pistorius or was she silent? Was the duvet thrown on the floor by lovers fighting or by the police? A look at the main points of contention at Pistorius' murder trial:



Prosecutors say that the testimonies from several neighbors who said they heard a woman scream before and during the fatal gunshots shows that Pistorius and Steenkamp were fighting in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013. Prosecutors assert that the double-amputee Olympic athlete is lying about mistaking his girlfriend for an intruder and that she ran to bathroom yelling before she was shot.

Pistorius' defense says the argument never happened and will call closer neighbors who did not hear a woman scream.

The athlete says Steenkamp never screamed or even spoke to him to let him know where she was in the moments leading up to the fatal shooting through a closed toilet door.

But the double-amputee Olympian also stated during his testimony that the first of four shots he fired caused his ears to ring and he couldn't hear anything. Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel pounced on the detail as proof Pistorius couldn't claim Steenkamp never screamed during the shots — even according to his own story — because he wouldn't have heard her anyway.



Key to Pistorius' defense is that he never saw or heard Steenkamp get up from the bed to go to the bathroom and therefore Pistorius did not know she was in the toilet stall when he fired with his 9 mm pistol, hitting the model in the hip, arm and head. Prosecutor Nel challenged that claim by referring to a small light that was on in the bedroom, saying he would have noticed her movement if, as Pistorius says, the light was bright enough to disturb his sleeping. Nel also argued that if he heard a bathroom window sliding open, alerting him to a possible intruder, he would have also heard Steenkamp first move from the bed because that was much closer to him.



Prosecutors say a duvet shown lying on the bedroom floor in police photos indicates the couple were fighting and not in bed as Pistorius claims. Pistorius says the duvet was moved off the bed by police investigators after the shooting. Contamination of the scene by police is one of the defense's main arguments. Nel says the positions of the duvet, a pair of jeans partially on top of it, a fan in front of the balcony doors and the curtains wide open all are problematic for his story, which police didn't know at the time, and claiming evidence tampering to that extent is far-fetched.



In a possibly critical moment Friday, the judge who will decide the verdict in the murder trial noted that Pistorius was making "all these mistakes" during testimony. Pistorius said the little inconsistencies were because he was tired. Judge Thokozile Masipa said it was important that he say if fatigue was affecting his evidence, but her observation gave a rare insight into how she might be viewing proceedings.



Pistorius' good character has been placed front and center by the defense as an indication that he wouldn't have intentionally shot his girlfriend. Prosecutors have produced a series of incidents to show he is not the perfect role model, including when he allegedly fired a gun in a public place on two occasions and denied responsibility.

Pistorius also testified Friday that he was once shot at by someone in another car on a highway in 2008 or 2009. Pistorius said he turned off the highway and phoned a friend but when Nel asked him who, he said he couldn't recall. He also conceded he never reported it to police. Nel said that's because it never happened and the story indicated how far Pistorius would go to lie to show he had a fear of being attacked to back up his explanation for shooting Steenkamp.


Gerald Imray is on Twitter at

April 11, 2014 1:51 pm Photos


French forces find weapons cache in northern Mali

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — French forces say they have found a cache of weapons buried in the desert of northern Mali, which was overrun with jihadi extremists until a French intervention last year.

French military spokesman Remi Libessart said Friday that forces found a dozen mortar shells, about 30 rockets and other munitions. Libessart said the French were tipped off by locals who thought there might be something buried in the desert 20 miles (30 kilometers) northwest of Timbuktu.

French forces intervened in Mali last year to drive out rebel groups, including al-Qaida-linked jihadists, who had taken over the country's north in the chaos that followed a 2012 coup.

But some jihadists are still operating in the north, and weapons caches are still occasionally uncovered.

April 11, 2014 11:21 am

Rwanda orphans school teaches unity post-genocide

RWAMAGNA, Rwanda (AP) — Most of the kids in a Rwandan school set amid the lush green, rolling hills of eastern Rwanda don't identify themselves as Hutu or Tutsi.

That's a positive sign for Rwanda, which is now observing the 20th anniversary of its genocide, a three-month killing spree that, according to the official Rwandan count, left more than 1 million people dead, most of them Tutsis killed by Hutus.

The teenagers attending the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a school with dorms that creates tight-knit student families, say the ethnic slaughter that their parents or grandparents were a part of either as victims or perpetrators won't be repeated. The school director echoes the sentiment.

"This is the generation now that will in the future make sure that this kind of politics doesn't exist in the country. We promote unity and hope," said Jean Claude Nkulikiyimfura.

"One of the major debates is that better education would help the kids not to think, 'Yes, I'm a Hutu. I'm a Tutsi.' Good education would promote the idea of how do you develop yourself, how do you develop your community, instead of this division that was created mostly by their parents," he added.

The school tries to bring in Rwanda's most vulnerable kids, especially those affected by the genocide. Most students are orphans, he said. Others have parents in jail because of their role in the violence.

"What we try to do is heal their hearts," he said. "These kids come wounded. They come with heavy scars in their souls."

Though the school's first classes were populated by students orphaned in the genocide, today's 500 students are orphans because of other factors, such as HIV/AIDS and because of violence that took place in neighboring Congo or incursions from Congo after the genocide ended.

Unity is the theme. The school hopes to teach the students that their position in life will be achieved through merit. Gender won't matter, and more importantly, Nkulikiyimfura said, ethnic identity won't matter.

Sharon Kalisa's favorite subject is history, especially genocide studies. The 17-year-old said she wants to know how and why the genocide happened. Both of her mother's parents were killed in the 100 days of violence. Kalisa says she sees similarities between the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, most notably the undercurrents of poverty and unequal rights.

A decade after the genocide, New York City resident Anne Heyman and her husband attended a talk about Rwanda. There, they asked what the biggest problem the country faced was. They were told the number of orphans the genocide left behind was overwhelming. There was no hard number, Nkulikiyimfura said, but some estimates put the number of orphans in the low millions.

Heyman decided to open a school on the model used in Israel for orphans of the Holocaust. With help from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and corporate donor Liquidnet Holdings, she purchased land in 2006 to build a school and dorm-like homes. The school's annual budget is $2 million a year, or about $4,500 per child.

Almost all the operating funds come from donors in America but the school will soon get new funds from a $24 million solar project with 28,000 solar panels being built on school land by Gigawatt Global. The project will generate 8.5 megawatts, about 8 percent of Rwanda's electrical capacity, said Chaim Motzen, the project's coordinator.

Heyman died earlier this year at age 52 after a horse-riding accident. Coralie Keza, 20, said Heyman made a big impact on her.

"The thing I liked about this place is it changed me, having good people around you," she said after eating lunch of rice, potatoes and cucumbers at the school cafeteria, a building boasting a colorful mural depicting people walking on a red-dirt road, some hand-in-hand, and other happy people. "Pushing you to do good things, being supportive of your breakdowns. Before coming here I was someone else, not this person. I felt hopeless. I had no desire of living."

She added: "Kids from here will do good things in life and I really wanted her to see that."

Nkulikiyimfura, a graduate of the University of Arkansas, is proud of the school's graduation record. The first year of graduates, in 2012, saw 90 percent of the class go on to university, college or technical schools. About a dozen are studying abroad. Four students from the school attend classes at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Keza hopes to join them.

While the students at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village represent just a small section of Rwandan youth, Rwandan society overall hesitates to talk about the Hutu-Tutsi divide, following a directive from the Tutsi-led government that was issued to squelch tribal animosities. The students at this school give the impression that their generation may move past old ethnic distinctions and divides.

April 11, 2014 10:17 am

Crocodile close calls: UK man walks length of Nile

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Close calls with crocodiles and a brutal civil war have not deterred a British man from attempting to walk the length of the Nile River.

The yearlong, 4,250 mile journey along the world's longest river will see the former British army captain pass through seven countries.

After four months trekking through Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, Levinson Wood is now in South Sudan, a country with little infrastructure that has been destabilized by months of fighting between pro- and anti-government forces. The 31-year-old Wood said it took three years to plan the walk from Rwanda to Egypt.

Wood said he faces many dangers on the walk from both man and beast but he noted that past explorers didn't have the luxury of a satellite phone or Google maps.

April 11, 2014 8:22 am

Kenya gov't to oversee wildlife authority actions

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's central government says it will oversee the running of the country's wildlife authority for the next three months in a bid to stop the poaching of the country's elephants and rhinos.

Richard Lesiyampe of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources said Friday that six senior Kenya Wildlife Officials have been placed on leave to pave the way for investigations into the wildlife service's operations. Lesiyampe outlined a raft of changes the organization will undergo in the coming days

Last month, Richard Leakey a famed scientist and founding head of Kenya Wildlife Service, alleged that the service had been infiltrated by people enriching themselves from poaching. He urged the government to overhaul management at the wildlife service.

Poachers have killed 18 rhinos and 51 elephants so far this year.

April 11, 2014 7:22 am

Nigeria complains about Mugabe calling it corrupt

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The official News Agency of Nigeria reports Zimbabwe's envoy has been called in for a complaint about President Robert Mugabe's remarks about corruption in Nigeria.

It says the ministry of foreign affairs on Thursday told Zimbabwean diplomat Stanley Kunjeku that Nigeria will not tolerate Mugabe's "vitriolic and denigrating" attack.

The row was sparked by comments Mugabe made March 15 bemoaning deepening corruption in Zimbabwe and asking, "Are we now like Nigerians where you have to reach into your pockets to get anything done?"

Firing back, Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper this week noted most African leaders are too polite to criticize "the archetypal African despot" who has "run the once-prosperous country literally aground."

Transparency International lists Zimbabwe as more corrupt, at No. 157 of 175 countries with Nigeria at 144.

April 11, 2014 4:53 am

Pistorius back on witness stand

Pistorius back on witness stand

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius has resumed testifying at his murder trial under questioning from the chief prosecutor, who has accused the athlete of lying about how he fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius' return to the witness box Friday followed a week of testimony in which the double-amputee runner said he killed Steenkamp by accident after mistaking her for an intruder in his home last year. The prosecution says Pistorius killed the 29-year-old model after an argument on Feb. 14, 2013.

Pistorius, 27, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. His trial began March 3.

April 11, 2014 2:46 am Photos


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