25 January 2013

Africa News Round Up

In Mali, the army says it is investigating allegations that soldiers have carried out summary executions in the Islamist-controlled north, the BBC reports.

A senior military officer told the BBC it was neither confirming nor denying such acts had taken place.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has accused Malian troops of killing Arabs and ethnic Tuaregs.

On Thursday, an unnamed senior officer in Mopti - one of the areas where the executions are alleged to have taken place - told the BBC's Mark Doyle that an investigation team was looking into the claims.

Some of the alleged executions were carried out in the Mopti area, a town which is strategically vital because it has a large military airport nearby, one of only a few in Mali capable of taking large transport planes.

Reports have suggested that mainly black African Malian troops, drawn largely from the south, are targeting Arabs and ethnic Tuaregs in frontline towns.

The Paris-based FIDH has called for an independent investigation into the alleged abuses and said that those responsible should be punished.

Also in Mali, a group of Malian fighters say they want talks to end the French-led offensive in the north, after splitting from the main rebel force, Aljazeera reports.

The breakaway faction of Ansar al-Dine said in a statement released on Thursday that it "rejected all forms of extremism and terrorism and was committed to fighting them," adding it wanted a "peaceful solution" to the Mali crisis.

It said the new group, the Islamic Movement for Azawad, was composed entirely of Malian nationals and called on Mali and France to cease hostilities in the zones it was occupying in the northeastern regions of Kidal and Menaka "to create a climate of peace which will pave the way for an inclusive political dialogue".

An elected official from the northern city of Kidal told The Associated Press that the split was a long time coming and

reflected how Ansar al-Dine enlisted large numbers of fighters and co-opted local authorities for economic and political reasons - not ideological ones.

A French diplomatic official said France was taking the claims of a split seriously, but needed proof, not just words.

In Libya, the British Embassy in Tripoli has been in contact with its nationals advising them to leave the Libyan city of Benghazi immediately in response to a "specific, imminent threat" to Westerners, the BBC reports.

Germany and the Netherlands followed suit and urged their citizens to leave Benghazi.

But Libya's deputy interior minister Abdullah Massoud insisted the security problems in Benghazi did not warrant such a response.

He told the BBC the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Libya had not been informed about the change in travel advice for British nationals.

The minister added he would be contacting the Foreign Office for further clarification and insisted such actions added to instability in the region.

Foreign Office minister David Lidington told the BBC the government had received "credible, serious and specific" reports about a possible "terrorist threat".

He added: "The terrorist risk in Benghazi and other parts of this region has been there for some time before Mali and the Algeria crisis of last weekend... the safety of British citizens is our top priority."

The German government said on its website that it had been "made aware of a specific, imminent threat to Westerners in Benghazi" and urged "all German citizens to immediately leave the city and region of Benghazi".

Thijs van Son, a spokesman for the Dutch foreign ministry, told the Associated Press news agency that travel warnings for Benghazi had been upgraded as the ministry had "reason to believe there was a serious threat".

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