UN decries Darfur staff death
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “appalled and saddened” by the fatal shooting of a Nigerian peacekeeper at an African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) base in Sudan’s Darfur region, he said on Friday. The attack, which came two days after the Sudanese government announced it had regained control of the area from rebels, also left two peacekeepers wounded, UN officials said. The UN statement said Ban was “deeply concerned” about restrictions imposed on UNAMID and humanitarian organizations by Sudan that are blocking the delivery of aid to civilians affected by recent clashes between the government and the Sudan Liberation Army’s Minni Minnawi faction. More than 40 peacekeepers have been killed in hostile action during UNAMID’s five-year history.
‘Christmas bomber’ charged
The authorities on Friday charged a man with masterminding a 2011 Christmas Day bomb attack on a Catholic church in Abuja that killed 37 people. Security forces captured Kabiru Sokoto, the main suspect in the attack, in January last year. He escaped a day later, but was recaptured the following month. In court on Friday, he pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism. Justice Adeniyi Ademola adjourned trial to May 2. Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing of St Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, on the outskirts of Abuja, which killed 37 people and wounded 57, in the deadliest of a series of attacks on Christmas Day.
Opposition leader attacked
A leader of the opposition Islamic Revival Party (IRP) was severely beaten on Friday evening in Dushanbe, a colleague said, in a sign of rising tensions ahead of presidential elections due in November. The IRP is the only opposition party represented in the parliament of the mainly Muslim nation of 8 million ruled for 20 years by President Imomali Rakhmon. “Several people attacked the deputy head of the IRP just outside his house. They beat him and kicked him, he was all covered in blood,” Khikmatullo Saifullozoda, another leading IRP member, told reporters. Mukhamadal Khayit was taken to hospital after sustaining moderate and severe wounds, Saifullozoda added. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack and what the motives were, but Saifullozoda linked it to politics. “The reason behind the beating is his active political activism, his civic opposition, his opposition to the current authorities,” Saifullozoda said.
Intelligence officer killed
Militants shot dead an intelligence officer on Friday night in Mukalla, capital of southeastern Hadramawt Province, a security official told reporters yesterday. “[Suspected] al-Qaeda gunmen on a motorbike opened fire on the officer Ibrahim Bameshel as he was on his way back home, killing him immediately,” the official said, adding that the assailants had fled. The authorities usually blame al-Qaeda for assaults on security officials carried out by gunmen on motorbikes. Al-Qaeda militants were driven out of most of their strongholds in the country’s south in June last year in an all-out offensive by government forces aided by local “resistance committees.” However, local sources say jihadists from the Ansar al-Sharia Islamist group have started distributing posters and leaflets in several towns across Hadramawt threatening members of the security forces and urging jihad. Some of their posters showed pictures of masked gunmen on motorbikes.