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ECOWAS Will Help Guinea Organize Credible Elections, Says Official

An official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says the regional body is ready to help Guinea organize a credible election within the next six months. ECOWAS Political Director Abdel-Fatau Musah said the regional body will provide financial and technical assistance to ensure Guinea’s upcoming election meets international standards. “ECOWAS right from the beginning has been very supportive…under ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol and Democracy and Good Governance, ECOWAS is obligated to assist member states organizing elections … ECOWAS already had advanced an amount of

Six Dead In Somali Pirate Fights Over Ransom

At least six people have been killed in fighting among Somali pirates over a record ransom paid for a hijacked ship. Witnesses say at least four people were killed and several others were wounded Monday as pirates battled in the town of Harardhere. In addition, two pirates were killed Sunday when rival pirate gangs clashed on the hijacked ship, the MV Maran Centaurus. Harardhere was calm Tuesday after local elders mediated between factions of pirates. The pirates received between $5 and $7 million to free the Greek-flagged oil tanker and its 28 crew members on Monday. P

'Drone Missiles' Kill 5 in Pakistan

Pakistani intelligence officials say missiles fired by a suspected U.S. drone (pilotless aircraft) killed at least five militants Tuesday in the country's northwest tribal region. The officials say the drone fired two missiles at a compound and a vehicle in a village about 30 kilometers west of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, and just south of the Afghan border. There have been at least 11 suspected attacks by U.S.

Guinea’s Opposition-Chosen PM Says Will Soon Name Government

Guinea’s opposition coalition-chosen prime minister said he will soon name a cabinet that will work towards organizing the general election scheduled to be held within the next six months. Jean-Marie Dore said he is waiting to meet with interim military junta leader General Sekouba Konate before naming his government. “I am waiting the arrival of General Konate to take the act of nomination, and during the next days the government will be formed and we will start work,” he said. Dore is the leader of the opposition Union for the Progress of Guinea (UPG) party.

Yushchenko Apparently Loses Ukrainian Presidency

Exit polls announced within minutes after elections ended in Ukraine indicate the country's current and former prime ministers will emerge from a field of 18 candidates to face one another in a run-off in three weeks.  Incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko appears out of the running with a reported fifth-place finish. An exit poll conducted by Kyiv's Razumkov Center shows Viktor Yanukovych, who was accused of rigging the 2004 election, has garnered more than 31 percent of the vote.  Yulia Tymoshenko, the current head of government, has more than 27 percent, a bit higher than expected.  Incu

Record Ransom Frees Hijacked Tanker off Somali Coast

A record ransom payment has secured the release of a massive oil tanker seized in November by Somali pirates.  Piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia nearly doubled in 2009 from the previous year. The Maran Centaurus was the second-largest vessel ever captured and was carrying an estimated $2 million barrels of oil. The pirates claim they received $5.5 million for the ship's freedom, but a separate figure places the amount dropped on the ship at $7 million.  Both are believed to exceed any previous figure paid to the Somali sea bandits. Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East Africa

Haiti Earthquake Displaces 300,000

In its first estimate, the United Nations reports about 10 percent of the housing in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince has been destroyed, leaving some 300,000 people homeless.  The UN says a full assessment of the damages inflicted by the powerful earthquake will take several days to complete. The United Nations says some 3.5 million people are living in areas affected by the earthquake. Nearly three million are in the capital, Port-au-Prince, which was most seriously affected.  Aid agencies say it is too soon to know how many people were killed and injured.

US, China at Odds Over Taiwan Arms Deal

China is warning the United States that the recently announced sale of air defense missiles to Taiwan could damage trust between Washington and Beijing, and that further protests might follow.  China has called on the United States to end all arms sales to the island, but the missile deal is one of several advanced weapons systems that are likely to be approved by the U.S. Congress in the coming months. The planned U.S. sale of Patriot air defense missiles to Taiwan is part of a larger package of high-end military hardware that originally was approved by former U.S. president George W.

Southern African Leaders Discuss Madagascar, Zimbabwe at Summit

Southern African leaders have rejected plans by the leader of Madagascar to unilaterally organize national elections in March.

International Relief Operations Under Way in Haiti

International aid agencies report emergency operations for earthquake victims in Haiti are slowly gathering steam.  But, they say they are working under severe constraints and it will take time before essential, critical needs are met. The United Nations reports the airport is open, but is congested and good coordination will be necessary to move relief goods to affected areas.

Pirate Attacks Off Somalia Nearly Double

The International Maritime Bureau in London reports piracy incidents on the high seas increased nearly 40 percent in 2009 from a year ago.  Pirate activities off the coast of Somalia accounted for more than half of all attacks worldwide. In its annual report, the maritime watchdog said the number of attacks off the coast of Somalia doubled in 2009 from 111 to 217.   According to the bureau, pirates successfully hijacked 47 of those vessels and took 867 crew members hostage, earning them untold millions in ransom payments. The director of the International Maritime Bureau, Captain Potteng

China Says Cyber Hacking Is Against Law

China says cyber hacking is against Chinese law and that it welcomes international companies to operate in China.  This comes one day after Internet giant Google said it is considering pulling out of China because of cyber attacks and because of mandatory censorship requirements.  Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu faced numerous questions about Google's announcement that it is ready to leave China because of cyber attacks and censorship rules. She told reporters at a briefing Thursday that China's Internet is, in her words, "open." Jiang says Chinese law prohibits cyber at

Civil Rights Group Seeks Enforcement of Ruling Declaring Zimbabwe’s Land Distribution Illegal and Racist

A South African civil rights group is taking legal action to try to enforce a court ruling that labeled Zimbabwe’s land distribution program illegal and racist.     Under the policy, farms owned or operated by white farmers were seized and turned over to blacks, who had been denied land under white rule.     The ruling condemning that policy was handed down by a South African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal in 2008.  But the group Afriforum says it has not been enforced and the practice continues.     “Afriforum had been approached by Zimbabwean farmers about six months ago.  At th

Guinea's Injured Military Leader Moves to Burkina Faso

Guinea's injured military leader is in Burkina Faso where he is expected to meet with members of his ruling council, Wednesday.

Jordanian Bodyguard for Al-Qaida Reported Killed in Pakistan Drone Strike

The brother of a Jordanian militant who was a top bodyguard for al-Qaida says he was killed last week in an apparent U.S. drone (pilotless aircraft) strike in Pakistan. News reports quote a man, Omar Mahdi Zeidan, identified as the brother of Mahmud Mahdi Zeidan as saying he was a bodyguard for a top al-Qaida field commander, Mustapha Abulyazid.