El-Arish, Oct 20 (AP/UNB) — Egyptian security officials and medics say shells hit two houses in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula, killing at least four civilians, including a child.
The officials said the shelling took place on Saturday in the town of Sheikh Zuweid. They said 12 people were wounded and taken to a nearby hospital. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Last week, nine people of the same family were killed and six wounded when a shell hit a truck carrying civilians in the town of Bir al-Abd.
Egypt is battling an Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai that intensified after the military overthrew an Islamist president in 2013. The militants have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and minority Christians.
Mogadishu, Oct. 19 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Somali forces on Friday night killed 20 al-Shabab extremists in an operation in Jalalaqsi town in the country's central region of Hiran, an official confirmed on Saturday.
Mohamed Nur Aga Jof, governor of Jalalaqsi town, said the militants were on a public vehicle and the forces got intelligence that al-Shabab fighters were on the road to attack their military base.
"There was a fierce confrontation between the army and the militants, and we finally killed 20 al-Shabab militants who were on board the vehicle," the official said.
He noted the forces also recovered 18 guns from the militants. Residents reported seeing bodies on the street following the intense clashes.
"We heard gunfire and later learned that government forces attacked al-Shabab militants who were sneaking into the town. There were bodies on the street this morning," Yahye Gelle, a resident, told Xinhua over the phone.
The latest operation came barely four days after Somali forces killed 11 al-Shabab militants in the country's southern region of Gedo.
The Somali army backed by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) chased al-Shabab extremists away from the capital Mogadishu in August 2011, but the militants still hold swathes of rural areas in central and southern regions.
Cairo, Oct 19 (AP/UNB) — Egyptian rights lawyers say authorities have released over 100 people who were among hundreds more arrested in a sweeping crackdown following small but rare anti-government protests last month.
Lawyers Mustafa el-Demiry and Khaled Ali say the detainees were released late Friday, pending an investigation into claims they took part in the activities of a banned group and disseminating false news on social media platforms.
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights says around 3,700 people including journalists, activists and foreign nationals, were arrested in the past month. More than 800 people have been released.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for releasing those arrested "solely for exercising their rights."
Police rapidly dispersed the small street protests in Cairo and several other cities on Sept. 20.
Cairo, Oct 18 (AP/UNB)— Sudan's largest single rebel group Friday held its first round of direct peace talks with the country's transitional government, despite an earlier boycott following a military crackdown.
The new transitional government and other rebel leaders kicked off talks Monday in South Sudan's capital, Juba, aimed at ending Sudan's years-long civil wars. The talks come in the wake of an August power-sharing agreement between the army and a pro-democracy movement following the overthrow of autocratic former president Omar al-Bashir.
The Sudan Liberation Movement-North, led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, had canceled talks with the government that were scheduled for Wednesday after the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces set up a checkpoint and detained 16 people in South Kordofan Province. Three people were later released. The group said others were attacked but didn't provide details.
The Rapid Support Forces are led by Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, a member of the Sudan's transitional Sovereign Council, who also leads the government delegation to the Juba talks.
On the resumption of talks, Ammar Amoun, head of the SLPM-North movement's delegation, told reporters late on Thursday that the government had taken "positive steps to correct earlier mistakes."
Following this week's attacks, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, declared a nationwide cease-fire on Wednesday.
The SLPM-North had vowed earlier not to resume the talks unless the government released the detainees, withdrew from the area where they were seized, and declared a documented cease-fire.
"We asked mediators to follow-up with the government until all flaws are addressed," Amoun told reporters Thursday. "However, this should not prevent us from going back to the negotiation table."
In a three-hour meeting, the two parties discussed prospects for peace in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces, where SLPM-North controls significant chunks of territory.
Achieving peace is crucial to the transitional government in Sudan. It has counted on ending the wars with rebel groups to revive the country's battered economy through slashing the military spending, which takes up much of the national budget. Transitional authorities have set a six-month deadline for making peace with the rebel groups.
Meanwhile, separate talks are being held with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of several other rebel groups from restive western Darfur, as well as the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces.
SRF spokesman Osama Said told The Associated Press that he expects a deal with the government soon.
The government "has demonstrated a strong political will and understanding of issues like co-existence, citizenship and the importance of eliminating all aspects of marginalization," said Said.
Earlier, Sudanese authorities have introduced good-will signals. They dismissed death sentences against eight rebel leaders and released more than a dozen prisoners of war. They have also delayed the formation of the parliament and the appointment of provincial governors to allow time for the rebels to come on board.
Bilene, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Unofficial results in Mozambique's elections point to sweeping victories for the ruling Frelimo party and President Filipe Nyusi, prompting some analysts to question the credibility of the polls and warn that the lopsided result may prolong the country's instability.
Mozambique's electoral commission has not released any official results yet, but the Sala da Paz consortium of Mozambican civil society organizations said it projects that Nyusi won 71% of the vote, far ahead of 21% for Ossufo Momade, leader of the Renamo opposition party. The estimates are based on the group's calculations of results posted outside polling stations.
The Frelimo party, in power since the end of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975, looks set to dominate the parliamentary elections and may win most of the 10 provincial governor positions, according to the civic group, the Center for Public Integrity.
Renamo's Momade is in a tight race for governor of Nampula, Mozambique's most populous province, according to unofficial results.
The reports of a landslide victory for Frelimo come despite a tightly fought campaign, where large rallies suggested Renamo's popularity, especially in central and northern Mozambique.
However, the Oct. 15 elections were marked by restrictions on observers and several reports of suspected ballot stuffing with some people apprehended carrying backpacks with ballots marked for Frelimo.
The European Union's observer mission criticized many aspects of the election, including lack of independent monitors of the vote-counting process.
"The absence of national observers in almost half of observed polling stations did not contribute to the transparency of the process," said chief EU observer Sánchez Amor.
The apparent magnitude of Frelimo's win was criticized by some independent analysts.
"A crushing electoral victory for Frelimo and president Filipe Nyusi ... will divide the country and push a lasting peace further away," said Nathan Hayes, analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit. "Frelimo victories in the historical opposition strongholds of Sofala, Zambezia, Manica, Nampula and Tete provinces ... would be a serious setback for the country's peace process and multiparty democracy."
If Renamo rejects the election results, it would be a severe blow to efforts to establish peace across Mozambique. A peace accord between Renamo and the government was signed in August, but an estimated 5,800 armed rebels loyal to Renamo have not yet turned in their weapons. A group purporting to represent those rebels have already warned that they will not disarm if they do not view the election as fair.