- Created on 06 November 2013
AP Photo/Thibault Camus
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- Al-Qaida's branch in North Africa claimed responsibility Wednesday for the slaying of two French radio journalists, who were kidnapped and killed over the weekend in the northern Malian town of Kidal, according to a statement posted on a portal frequently used by jihadists.
Sahara Media said on its website that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb murdered the Radio France Internationale journalists on Nov. 2 in retaliation for the "daily crimes" committed by French and Malian forces in northern Mali, where France launched a military operation in January to flush out the al-Qaida cell.
"The organization considers that this is the least of the price which President Francois Hollande and his people will pay for their new crusade," says the statement.
The website identifies the al-Qaida leader who carried out the killings as Abdelkarim al-Targui, one of the few Malian nationals who has risen to prominence inside the al-Qaida branch, led almost exclusively by Algerian jihadists. Targui is a native of the Kidal region and is believed to be responsible for the previous kidnappings of two French nationals, Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic, who were grabbed from the town of Hombori in northern Mali in 2011. Lazarevic remains in captivity. Verdon was executed earlier this year.
The assassination of veteran RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont, a senior correspondent, and Claude Verlon, a production technician, has shocked and angered France, as well as the world. The two were on assignment in Kidal where they had just finished interviewing a Tuareg rebel leader, when they were grabbed by four armed men in a four-wheel-drive vehicle at around 1 p.m. on Saturday. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found 12 kilometers (7 miles) outside the city, a few yards from the kidnappers' vehicle, whose steering wheel appeared to be broken, according to a senior Malian intelligence official who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
Investigators remain puzzled by why the attackers chose to kill the two journalists, rather than hold them for ransom. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has raised at least $89 million in ransom payments since 2003, after successfully carrying out at least 18 kidnappings of foreigners, many of them French nationals, according to global intelligence unit Stratfor. Just last week, four Frenchmen kidnapped three years ago were released, allegedly after a 20 million euro ($27 million) ransom was paid, according to the respected French daily Le Monde.
Among the theories that investigators are floating is that the kidnapping was led by junior al-Qaida members, perhaps without the approval of Targui, and hence without his brigade's backup. When their car broke down, the kidnappers felt exposed and knew that French forces stationed in Kidal would soon catch up with them. "They panicked and decided to get rid of the hostages," said the Malian military intelligence official. "That is the theory we are exploring right now."
- Created on 04 November 2013
JOHANNESBURG -- JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The producer of a movie about Nelson Mandela says he screened some scenes and showed film images last year to the former South African president, describing him as amused by the elaborate makeup process for the British actor who played him.
Anant Singh, producer of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," recalled Saturday that Mandela smiled and said "Is that me?" when he saw a picture of actor Idris Elba as an elderly Mandela.
Singh had visited Mandela at his home in Qunu, in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. Mandela, 95, has stayed in a hospital several times since December and remains critically ill at his Johannesburg home.
The film, based on Mandela's autobiography, will be released in South Africa in late November before opening in the U.S. and other markets.
- Created on 04 November 2013
(AP Photo / Ben Curtis, File)
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan authorities have charged four Somali nationals with offenses related to September's terrorist attack on Westgate Mall that killed 67 people.
A court ordered the four men — Mohamed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah Omar, Hussein Hassan Mustafah, and Adan Dheq — imprisoned until a court hearing next week. All four pleaded not guilty in the court.
Among the charges were harboring a fugitive and illegally registering as a Kenyan. The charges had to be read to the defendants in Somali by a translator.
Authorities have detained dozens of people in the wake of the four-day mall siege, but had not said any suspects were directly related to the attack. It's unclear how many arrests have been made.
The Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in retaliation for Kenya's deployment of troops in southern Somalia.
Abdi, Omar and Mustafah were charged with knowingly supporting Mohammed Abdinur Said and Hassan Dhohullow and others identified as perpetrators of the terrorist attack.
Dheq was accusing of harboring terror suspects. Authorities said a mosque in Nairobi's Somali neighborhood of Eastleigh knowingly harbored Abdikadir Hared Mohammed, a terror suspect.
The four are due back in court Nov. 11.
- Created on 01 November 2013
In this Saturday April 13, 2013 file photo Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, talks with Zambia's President Michael Sata before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Zambia's relationship with China is growing quickly, spurring development but also friction. While there is gratitude for the scarce jobs and new infrastructure that China has bought, labor relations are sometimes tense and some Zambians claim they are being exploited. (AP Photo / Yohsuke Mizuno, Pool, File)
LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) -- On Lusaka's Great East Road, the image of a young Chinese woman beamed from a recent billboard encouraging participation in Zambia's census, a symbol of how much China has weaved its way into the nation as a donor, investor and partner.
Zambia's relationship with China is growing quickly, spurring development but also friction. While there is nationwide gratitude for the scarce jobs and new infrastructure that China has brought, labor relations are sometimes tense and some Zambians complain they are being exploited.
This complex relationship between China, a global economic giant, and a financially struggling country is one being played out across Africa. The issues are particularly acute in Zambia, where census data shows that about 100,000 Chinese live and more than 500 Chinese companies are engaged in farming, retail trade, pharmacies, hospitals, information and communication technologies as well as road-building, mining and manufacturing.
This week Chinese investors made a bid to expand even more into a continent that is rich in natural resources and seen as an area with strong potential for growth at the "Africa Infrastructure and Power Forum" held in Beijing. Top executives from Zambia's power company as well as officials from key ministries such as commerce and mining are attending the event, slated to end Friday.
Other African countries seeking more business with China included South Africa, the continent's biggest economy. South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe this week ended a trip to China, the African country's top trading partner. Trade volume between the two countries has grown to $20 billion. In Zimbabwe, Chinese investment has increased so much that Chinese-language signs greet visitors arriving at the international airport in Harare, the capital.
In Zambia, a country of 14 million people with a GDP of $20 billion, the impact of China has been enormous.
"The Chinese have changed Zambia," said Nelson Mwendabai, a retired civil servant who ticked off Chinese-backed projects: a railway between Tanzania and Zambia, new roads, schools, clinics and stadiums. Mwendabai said: "We should just accept that they are our friends."
Zambian President Michael Sata criticized the Chinese presence as an opposition leader, seeking to harness nationalist unhappiness with Chinese accused of taking jobs from Zambians by engaging in low-pay jobs such as pushing wheelbarrows at construction sites. He changed his tune after his Patriotic Front party won elections in 2011. In April, Sata went to China on an 11-day state visit, soon after new Chinese ruler Xi Jinping took office.
"I have come to say 'thank you' for the work the Chinese are doing in Zambia," Sata told Xi.
Relations between Zambia and China date back to Zambia's independence from British colonial rule in 1964. The real Chinese push begun in the past couple of decades, as China expanded rapidly and sought natural resources to feed its economy. China's accumulated investment in Zambia stands at over $2.5 billion, mostly in mining and metal refining.
Chinese mining of Zambia's copper reserves is an important ingredient in China's industrial production, said Zhou Yuxiao, China's ambassador to Lusaka. Chinese mines are expanding into Zambia's northwest Copperbelt region, where fresh deposits of copper, gemstones, uranium and traces of oil have been located.
Chinese investment is expected to grow even more when industrial parks go into full production in 2015, allowing companies to manufacture and export tax-free goods. All these Chinese activities are being serviced by the Bank of China. China is also helping Zambia overcome electricity shortages by building a $2 billion hydro-electric project, part of which will start operating in December.
The benefits of China's presence, however, are tempered by outbursts of tension and even violence between Chinese managers and many Zambian workers who accuse them of poor pay, bad working conditions and inadequate safety regulations that have cost lives on occasion.
In one incident, four Chinese men involved in the mining industry were accused of paying for sex with minors. A magistrate later ordered them to be freed, saying police had bungled the investigation, but critics speculated that authorities had been bribed to drop the case. Separately, earlier this year, 400 workers working at a Chinese-operated mine complained of ill treatment for being held underground for three hours while an elevator was repaired; managers refused to pay them overtime despite protests from union officials.
Complaints about Chinese business practices in Zambia stretch back years and often are pointed to as examples of problems with Chinese investors across Africa. In 2005, an explosion at a Chinese-owned factory in northern Zambia killed 51 Zambian workers. In 2010 two Chinese managers were accused of shooting coal miners during a labor dispute. Months later, the mine agreed to pay compensation to 13 injured workers, and attempted murder charges against the managers were dropped.
But for Precious Kunda, China is essential. She runs three shops in Lusaka that sell dresses and women's accessories from China and she imports Chinese building materials for sale in Zambia.
Kunda said succintly: "They are cheap."