Monday, April 30, 2007


Woolmer's remains were flown to South Africa on Sunday. Pakistan's cricket coach Bob Woolmer, who died of strangulation earlier this year, was also poisoned, a BBC investigation has learned.
The results of toxicology tests mean it now seems certain the ex-England player was rendered helpless before being strangled, the Panorama programme says.
Woolmer's murder in March during the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies cast a shadow over the tournament.
His remains were flown back to his home in Cape Town in South Africa on Sunday.
The casket, which had been sealed in a large wooden crate, arrived on board a commercial flight to Cape Town's International Airport from Jamaica.
He was found dead in his Kingston hotel on 18 March, the day after his side lost to Ireland in the World Cup.
A post-mortem examination said he had been strangled.
On 20 April the inquest into the death was postponed because the coroner was advised there had been "recent and significant developments".
Now a Panorama investigation has learned that a toxicology report on Woolmer's body shows that there was a drug in his body that would have incapacitated him.
The final results of the report are due to be given to Jamaican police next week.

Some 30 detectives are investigating Woolmer's death.
"Those tests will show there was a drug in his system that would have incapacitated Mr Woolmer," Panorama's Adam Parsons says.
"It now seems certain that as he was being strangled, he'd already been rendered helpless - leaving him unable to fight back.
"The specific details of that poison are now very likely to offer a significant lead to finding his murderer."
The policeman leading the murder investigation, Mark Shields, told Panorama that it is "difficult and it's rare" for one man to strangle another.
"A lot of force would be needed to do that. Bob Woolmer was a large man and that's why one could argue that it was an extremely strong person or maybe more than one person.
"But equally the lack of external injuries suggests that there might be some other factors and that's what we're looking into at the moment."
Family spokesman Gareth Pyne-James told the Associated Press news agency that Woolmer's funeral in South Africa would be a private ceremony.
"Arrangements have been made and the family will decide whether it's going to be an interment or cremation," Theo Rix, from a local funeral home, told Reuters news agency.

Panorama: Murder at the World Cup will be broadcast on BBC1 at 20:30 BST, Monday.



More than 2m people are living in camps after four years of conflict. Sudan's government says it will meet Darfur rebels for talks being organised by the South Sudanese authorities.
Foreign Minister Lam Akol told the BBC he hoped the rebels would attend the meeting, which is due to be held in the South Sudan capital, Juba, next month.
One Darfur rebel leader said various leaders were meeting in North Darfur early on Sunday when their talks were interrupted by a government air raid.
At least 200,000 people have died since the conflict began, the UN estimates.
Past attempts at bringing the rebel groups and the Sudan government to the discussion have failed, partly due to divisions among the rebel groups.
Sudan Liberation Movement chairman Ahmed Abdul Shaffi said the various factions first had to agree on a common position before they could begin talks with the government.
Several people were wounded and a government helicopter was brought down when the air raid took place, Mr Shaffi told Reuters news agency.
The Sudanese military say one of their helicopters has disappeared in north Darfur, and they are now searching for it.
A peace deal was signed last year in Nigeria with one Darfur rebel group, but it has failed to stop the conflict.
The BBC's Alfred Taban in Khartoum says the chances of talks taking place are better than before.
He says the southern government is trying to boost the peace process because international donors have said unless there is peace in Darfur, there will be limited money going into the south for reconstruction following the peace deal there.
The 21-year conflict between north and south ended in 2005, with an autonomous government in the south.
On Sunday, protests took place around the world to demand intervention to end the fighting in Sudan's Darfur region to mark the fourth anniversary of the conflict.
Under the slogan "Time is up... protect Darfur", demonstrators in some 35 capitals turned round some 10,000 hourglasses filled with fake blood to highlight the continuing violence in Darfur.
But Sudan's foreign minister warned that external pressure on the government would not work.
"Those who think that the government will act under pressure are making a grave mistake. We do what we think is right for our people and this is what we have been doing all along," Mr Akol told the BBC's Network Africa.
What was originally a conflict between the Sudanese government and rebel groups in Darfur opposed to it has now spilled over into Chad and the Central African Republic.
Last year the government of Sudan agreed in principle to accept a joint African Union/UN peacekeeping force but Khartoum wants the force to be mostly African in composition and for the African Union to take the leading role, not the UN.
There has been a lot of diplomatic debate between Washington, Beijing, New York and Khartoum recently as international pressure is brought to bear on Sudan's government, BBC UN correspondent Laura Trevelyan notes.
The US and the UK have been persuaded to hold off on imposing sanctions against the Sudanese government for now to see if Khartoum does shift significantly and allow for a major deployment of peacekeepers.



Wielding the presidential veto.
By Laura Smith-Spark BBC News, Washington.

George W Bush used his veto for the first time on a stem cell bill. US leader George W Bush is preparing to exercise his presidential veto for only the second time in seven years of office.
The move has been prompted by the approval by Congress of a bill linking war funding to a timetable for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.
The Democrat-controlled Congress passed the bill narrowly despite Mr Bush's repeated threats to veto it.
Once the bill is presented to Mr Bush, he will have 10 days in which to return it to Congress with his objections - but is expected to do so sooner.
Both the House and Senate will then have to muster a two-thirds majority in favour of the bill if they are to override the veto.
Given the Democrats' slim majorities they are highly unlikely to succeed, meaning the legislation will have to be revised and approved in both Houses again before returning to the president.
So how much significance does the veto have - and can we expect to see it wielded more often in future?
Powerful tool
Mr Bush has made very little use of what is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools the president has to rein in Congress.

Highest number exercised:
F D Roosevelt (1933-45) - 372
G Cleveland (1885-89 & 1893-97) - 346
H S Truman (1945-53) - 180
DD Eisenhower (1953-61) - 73
Most recent presidents:
Ronald Reagan (1981-89) - 39
George Bush (1989-93) - 29
Bill Clinton (1993-2001) - 36
George W Bush (2001-) - 1

Figures for regular vetoes only; pocket vetoes are not included.

His only previous veto came last year, when he refused to sign into law a controversial bill which would have lifted a ban on federal funding for new embryonic stem cell research.
In waiting until the fifth year of his presidency to do so, Mr Bush became the first president to complete four years in office without a veto since John Quincy Adams in the 1820s.
His predecessors at the White House have made far greater use of the measure.
The biggest veto-er in US history is Franklin D Roosevelt with 635, of which 372 were regular vetoes and 263 so-called pocket vetoes, whereby if Congress adjourns before meeting the president's objections, the bill does not become law.
Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th US president, comes second, having exercised his regular veto 304 times in his first term and 42 in his second.
Former President Bill Clinton used his power of regular veto 36 times, twice to impede bills passed by Congress to ban a late-term abortion procedure. Only two of his vetoes were over-turned by Congress.
The current president's father, George H W Bush, wielded the power of direct veto on 29 occasions and had 15 pocket vetoes.
Executive discipline
According to political analyst Larry Sabato, Mr Bush's reluctance to exercise his veto during six years of Republican-controlled Congress, before the Democrats gained sway last year, may have hurt him and his party.
"Other presidents have used the veto hundreds of times," says Mr Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
"This is one of the least impressive aspects of the Bush presidency - it suggests weakness and it has been a major mistake by Bush.
"His failure to veto bills during the periods of Republican-controlled Congress meant he allowed spending to get completely out of hand.
"They would have benefited from discipline. That is what the veto is - it's executive discipline applied to the Congress."
On the other hand, Mr Sabato believes Mr Bush's threat to veto the war funding bill played into the Democrats' hands because it allowed them to propose legislation that they knew could never be passed but which was popular with supporters.
There are likely to be more such legislative deadlocks before Mr Bush's presidency comes to an end.

The White House has warned troops will suffer hardship without funds.
John Sides, assistant professor of political science at George Washington University, says: "This is the beginning of a lot of conflict between the Congress and the president.
"He was able to work quite harmoniously with the Republican Congress in the first six years of his term in office, in some ways because the president's agenda was really leading the congressional agenda.
"Leaders in Congress were very conscious of being loyal to him. But when the president's approval rating starts to go down, people start jumping ship - or at least looking longingly overboard."
In the period following the 9/11 terror attacks, the president made broad use of executive powers and faced little opposition in Congress.
As the number of investigations into his administration's handling of affairs multiplies, however, Mr Bush may suffer from a perception that he has not been interested in involving Congress, Mr Sides says.
Once Mr Bush has used his veto, the pressure will be on both sides to reach agreement on a new bill before funding for US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan runs out in the summer.
"Ultimately there will be some effort to achieve a compromise of sorts and the question is, who will blink first?" says Mr Sides.
"There's a game of chicken going on and we will see who veers off first."



Liberia must join an international diamond-certification scheme. The United Nations Security Council has voted to lift a 2001 ban on the export of diamonds from Liberia.
The ban was meant to stop proceeds from the sale of so-called "blood diamonds" fuelling wars in West African nations.
Correspondents say the UN decided Liberia has made enough progress, but that it must certify diamonds for sale do not originate from conflict zones.
Two years ago Liberia elected its first democratic leader, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, since its civil war.
Employment hopes
The 15-nation Security Council unanimously passed the resolution, including a provision to review the decision after 90 days, council president, British ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, said.
Nearly half of the world's diamonds come from west, central and southern Africa.
But the lucrative trade fuelled conflicts in countries such as Angola, Congo, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as rebel groups fought for control of diamonds and found willing international buyers to finance their activities.
Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf had pressed for the ban to be lifted, arguing that funds were desperately needed to improve living standards in Liberia.
Unemployment is at 85% in the West African nation, and this is a chance to create much needed jobs and reinvigorate the country's economy, says the BBC's Laura Trevelyan at the UN.
Liberia must now sign up to the Kimberley Process, the UN says, to ensure it does not revert to exporting conflict diamonds.
The international diamond certification scheme, established in May 2000, tracks the origin of diamonds on the international market.
This is the council's second vote of confidence in Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf's presidency. In June it lifted an embargo on Liberian wood.
Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf, who took office in January 2006, was the first woman to be elected president of an African country.


Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter from Zimbabwe !

Dear Family and Friends,
Having spent three weeks in a civilized country south of Zimbabwe, I must admit that there were many things that made me not want to come home. Food was one thing - its existence, huge variety and consistent pricing. Money was another thing - coins that are actually worth something, bank notes that don't have expiry dates printed on them and money that keeps its value from one week to the next. Then there was the freedom of the media with abundant newspaper and radiostations with criticism and debate encouraged. There was the joy of petrol stations that always had fuel and of being able to travel freely without incessant road blocks and police checks. Even little things like public toilets that were fit for use by human beings, water that was safe to drink from a tap, street signs that haven't been stolen and dustbins being emptied - all were cause for stares of amazement.
For three weeks my eyes were open wide and slowly it began to sink in just how utterly shocking everything in Zimbabwe has become. We have all been so busy trying to survive the horrors that not only have we forgotten how a country should work but also how to demand that officials paid with our taxes do our bidding and not their own.
Crossing the border back into Zimbabwe there were just three people in the queue. On the other side of the counter at least 60 Zimbabweans were jostling to get out of the country. I knew I was home within minutes of leaving the border post. Deep potholes litter the highways; cows, donkeys and goats have right of way and there are no roadside fences. Road markings have worn away, cat's eyes in the tar have gone and sign posts have been stolen.
But it was good to be home and the scenery this time of year is exquisite. Baobab trees in full leaf, crowds of yellow flowers in the dry bush and eagles soaring in the skies. The names of dry, dusty places conjure up images that can only be of Zimbabwe: Bubye, Nuanetsi, Sosonye, Mwenezi and Mount Guhudza. In the middle of nowhere there are always bottle stores: The "Try Again Bottle Store" caught my eye - a shabby little building, surrounded by red dust, women trying to sell water melons and men sitting drinking beer in the middle of the morning. This for sure is home!
Breaking the journey at one stage and in the middle of nowhere, two young teenage girls appeared. "Hello," I called out, "How are you?" "Hello," they answered, " we are eating!" One girl opened her hand to reveal a dozen shiny black berries. "Take them" she said, "you are welcome." I thanked her and took two. She told me they were called Subvu and I gave her some peppermints in exchange. We all clapped our hands in thanks and the girls went away giggling. Instantly I was overcome with emotion and patriotism. In a land where hunger is rampant, in a country with the lowest life expectancy in the world, two young girls would offer me a mouthful of their food. Where else could I be except at home and this is the Zimbabwe that everyone knows and loves. Later I found that the berries are from the Mutsubvu tree and also called Chocolate berries.
The grim reality of being back home came soon. On the bottom of the electricity bill waiting for me when I got home were the words: "Tariff increased by 350% effective 1 April ." I thank the two young girls on the roadside for making me feel welcome , and my mum for writing her letter 'from the diaspora' these past three weeks and keeping the news current.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy

Copyright cathy buckle 28 April 2007http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books: "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available from:


Friday, April 27, 2007


The forgotten refugees of east Sudan.
By Karen Allen BBC News, eastern Sudan.

In eastern Sudan, some 20km from the border with Eritrea in an expanse of sand that stretches as far as the eye can see, is Wad Sharife camp.
It is home to some of the 130,000 refugees that have crammed into eastern Sudan over the decades.
Yet despite the raw beauty of the craggy Kassala Mountains that form a dramatic backdrop, this is possibly one of the loneliest places in the world.
What makes it even more tragic, is that many of the refugees who now call this part of the world "home," have languished here for more than 25 years, caught in a bureaucratic limbo and unable to work.
Many of the men, women and children have fled from regional conflicts in Eritrea and Ethiopia back in the 1980s.
A peace agreement in 2000 led to the repatriation of some 100,000 refugees but renewed clashes have meant that more than 8,000 asylum seekers fled to Sudan last year.
Many of them are young men trying to escape conscription into the Eritrean army, explaining that if they signed up, there is every chance they would be forced to serve indefinitely.
Bottom of the pile
The UN has now refined its policy, trying to integrate them into communities here. After all, many share the same ethnic identity. But it is a policy they are struggling to implement.
These refugees are hosted by a country emerging from more than two decades of a north-south civil war, and now wrapped up in a bitter conflict in Darfur. So they find themselves at the bottom of the pile.
Many have been waiting years for identification papers to confirm their status, allowing them to seek work, and they live in appalling conditions.

UN refugees commissioner Guterres has promised more aid. Visiting the camps at the end of his Sudanese tour, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres conceded the refugees had been "neglected" by the humanitarian community and pledged to address this urgently.
The hospitals in the camps are virtually bare and drugs are in short supply.
Medical assistant Ahmed Mohammed Ibrahim described how a lack of clean drinking water poses a huge health hazard.
"Because of the large population in the camp, there isn't enough water... so people go to the canal. And that creates problems - especially stomach problems."
Bleak prospects
One man who has endured these conditions for nearly 25 years is Haja Abdel Salam.
He is a tall proud man, dressed in white who as a peasant farmer fled from his native Eritrea during its bloody war with neighbouring Ethiopia.

Many refugees have been born in the camps. It was a choice of either becoming a refugee, he says, or facing execution.
The old man has fathered nine children since arriving at the camp back in the early 1980s, but no child has ever made it to college from this place, so his family's prospects look bleak.
"Even though there are difficulties in the camp we will not go back so long as there is injustice there, we will not go back, we are better off here," he said.
So who is to blame for these refugees' plight, or are they simply "victims of circumstance?"
Certainly the local Sudanese do not appear to object to their presence. What meagre facilities there are for the refugees are shared with the local community.
But the Sudanese authorities who run the camp and the UN refugee agency UNHCR who fund it, have overlooked these people's plight for many years - largely distracted by events in Darfur.
In a frank admission by Mr Guterres described the conditions he witnessed first-hand as "intolerable".
He has now pledged to channel more UN resources into eastern Sudan and draw the world's attention to the plight of the tens of thousands of "forgotten refugees".



The LRA's Joseph Kony is wanted by the ICC for war crimes. Uganda's government says it has agreed to rebel concessions to kick start stalled peace talks to end the 20 year civil war in the north of the country.
But the power to drop international war crimes charges against the Lord's Resistance Army leadership is beyond its power, a spokesman told the BBC.
A northern MP says the warrants are a stumbling block to a final peace deal.
The negotiations have reopened in Juba, southern Sudan, three months after the rebel negotiators walked out.
The chief mediator for the talks, south Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar says he is confident that things will be better this time.
"The leadership of the LRA recommitted his organisation to the peace process. The Ugandan government also committed itself for the peace talks so I think there is more optimism, there is seriousness in the current peace talks," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
Some 2m people have fled their homes and thousands of children have been abducted by the LRA during the civil conflict.
The talks were officially reopened by former Mozambican President Joacim Chissano on Thursday morning.
Ugandan minister for international relations says that concessions were made to the rebels as a "process of confidence building".
"The government of Uganda has decided to relent or support the process by accepting any conditions by the LRA that will create a amicable and confident atmosphere to proceed to peace talks," Henry Okello Oryem told the BBC.
Some of the concessions include:
The expansion of the mediation team to include Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique
Rebel fighters to gather at a single assembly point - Ri-Kwangba in south Sudan - by the end of June, instead of the two locations originally agreed
An allowance increase for the LRA negotiation team.
When the talks broke up in January both sides were on the brink of signing an agreement on the economic and social development of the north as well as the settlement of the region's thousands of displaced people.
The BBC's Sarah Grainger in Kampala says once these issues have been dealt with the difficult issue of reconciliation and accountability will be on the agenda.
LRA leader Joseph Kony and three of his top commanders are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Jimmy Akena, Ugandan MP for Lira, who has attended the talks told the BBC's Swahili Service these arrest warrants were the main stumbling block to peace.
But Uganda government spokesman Major Felix Kulayigye says this issue is something that cannot be dealt with now.
"My suggestion to the LRA leadership is to get on with the peace talks which will allow their fighters to return home," he told the BBC.
"Once agreement has been reached it will be easy for both parties to go home and under our traditional ways could find ways of convincing the international community and ICC to drop the charges."



Zimbabwe's once prosperous economy has been destroyed. Inflation in Zimbabwe reached a record 2,200% in March amid a deepening economic and political crisis in the southern African country.
Both food and non-food contributed to the year-on-year inflation rate, said central bank Governor Gideon Gono.
The March data had been due for release earlier this month but had been delayed, fanning fears of further crippling price rises.
Mr Gono said secured interest rates would rise to 600%, up from 500%.
He said the Zimbabwean currency would remain at the existing exchange rate of 250 to the US dollar but offered a new rate for central bank purchases of foreign currency to help build a new "drought stabilisation fund".
Exporters claim their businesses have been devastated by this skewed exchange rate.
Inflation hit 1,730% in February, the highest in the world.


Thursday, April 26, 2007


A top-ranking member of an Algerian terrorist group has been killed in clashes with the army, officials said.
Samir Saioud, also known as Samir Moussaab, was killed in fighting in Si Mustapha, east of the capital Algiers, security sources told APS news agency.
Saioud was believed to be the number-two of an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).
Saioud's body was identified by former members of his group, APS said.
His death has not yet been officially confirmed.
Car bombings
Earlier this month, the group claimed responsibility for a series of car bombings in the capital, Algiers, including one near the prime minister's office.
The blasts killed at least 23 people and injured more than 200.
Violent attacks have been increasing in Algeria since GSPC, the country's main Islamist rebel group, changed its name to the Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb in January.
Despite an amnesty announced two years ago, violence in Algeria has not completely died down since its height in the mid-1990s.



still roam free in Darfur
By Karen Allen BBC News, Chad-Sudan border.

Bleached by the sun and encrusted in sand, Kirinding camp, just outside El Geneina, is a bleak place, with straw fashioned into huts to offer shelter for the people here.

AU peacekeepers seem powerless to stop the Janjaweed.
It is home to some 30,000 people who have fled their homes in west Darfur.
The so-called sheikhs, the leadership of the camp, are remarkably frank when the UN's refugee chief, Antonio Guterres, comes to speak to them.
"The main security problem we are facing is that we are threatened by the Janjaweed [Arab militias]. Janjaweed keep us at home from 6 pm. to 6 am. We cannot leave our homes," says Jumar Zachira Omar.
He talks of the sound of gun fire ringing out after dark and of an African Union force that is too impotent to intervene. Seven AU peacekeepers have been killed in the past month alone and night patrols have been stopped.
Just an hour before, Mr Guterres had assurances from local dignitaries that 80% of west Darfur is safe.
As we withdraw to find a place to sleep for the night, men on pickup trucks with mounted guns on the back speed past.

"These are the Janjaweed," our driver tells us. While they are confined to riding on camels, these government-backed Arab militias are roaming free.
AU commanders tell us they're "not being arrested" despite intimidating the local population.
This and the presence of rival rebel groups in what's become a more deadly and complex conflict means areas like Sirba, just north of El Geneina, are virtual no-go areas for AU troops.
Mr Guterres is urging all sides to re-engage in peace a year since the cobbled together agreement signed in Abuja that admitted key rebel groups was dismissed as an abject failure.
People need to learn again to live together as they've done for centuries
Antonio Guterres UN refugee chief
Now Darfur is seeing the consequences of that dash to achieve peace in the rampant insecurity and the growing fragmentation among Arab militias and rebel groups.
"The government and the different rebel groups must understand the need to make peace," says Mr Guterres.
"With peace comes disarmed militia, with peace comes the capacity to fight banditry - to fight all forms of conflict... People need to learn again to live together as they've done for centuries in a rebuilt Darfur."
Deeply intertwined
The influx of refugees from neighbouring Chad is only fuelling a humanitarian crisis which has already seen more than two million people flee from their homes.

5,000 Chadians have sought refuge at the Um Shalaya camp.
Sixty-five kilometres from the border, at Um Shalaya camp, west Darfur, 5,000 people from Chad have sought refuge, caught up in the same conflict which like a festering wound is spreading across the region.
A further 20,000 Chadians are clustered on the border, hoping that soon they'll return home.
A little boy at Un Shalaya camp, who can't be older than about six, has made a model of a pickup truck with a mounted gun on the back. One can only imagine what this little boy has seen.
His teacher, Izak Omar, puts it into words: "There are a lot of problems up at the border with Chad. On a daily basis people are being killed - sometimes one a day, two in the day, or sometimes it goes to 15 men in a day."
The Sudanese government and its Chadian neighbour accuse each other of backing rebel movements. Two countries whose histories are deeply intertwined are now entangled in conflict.
The government in Khartoum accused of fomenting violence and fuelling ethnic hatred is under pressure to allow better equipped UN peacekeepers in.
Last week it finally caved in to pressure to admit 3,000 UN peacekeepers, a sixth of the deployment diplomats say is needed to help bring the violence under control.
Ultimately it will be a political solution, not a military one that seals Darfur's fate.



An Indian court has issued an arrest warrant for Hollywood actor Richard Gere after he kissed Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty in public.
Gere, 57, kissed Shetty, 31, several times on the cheek at an Aids awareness event in Delhi earlier this month.
The court in Jaipur in Rajasthan state called it "an obscene act", after a local lawyer filed a complaint.
It was not immediately clear how the warrant could affect Gere, who is a frequent visitor to India.
Shetty, who found fame outside India as the winner of Celebrity Big Brother in the UK, has also been asked to appear before the court.
Photographs of the clinch were splashed across front pages of newspapers in India.
Public displays of affection are still largely taboo in India, and protestors in Mumbai (Bombay) set fire to effigies of Gere following the incident.
Dance scene
Shetty has defended Gere saying that it was all done "in good humour".
"He especially told me to tell the media that he didn't want to hurt any Indian sensibilities," she said.
She said Gere had only been re-enacting a scene from his film Shall We Dance.
Under Indian law, a person convicted of public obscenity faces up to three months in prison, a fine or both.
Gere, star of films such as Chicago and Pretty Woman, is a Buddhist and travels to India frequently to visit the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in the north of the country.



Hawiye clan fighters and Islamists are battling the government. Ethiopian and government troops are in control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after nine days of battles, the prime minister says.
Ali Mohamed Ghedi said the worst of the fighting against Islamists and clan gunmen was now over.
Columns of tanks were deployed and reinforcements sent to Mogadishu from other parts of Somalia.
Earlier, a BBC correspondent in the city said the battles were the heaviest in recent days, spreading to new areas.
United Nations humanitarian relief co-ordinator John Holmes has described the situation in Somalia as critical.

We have to bite the bullet -Ismail Mohamoud HurreSomali education minister.

Minister on fighting
Clan divisions behind violence

He said up to 400,000 people had fled Mogadishu but aid was reaching just 60,000. A doctor who runs one of Mogadishu's hospitals estimates that two-thirds of the city's one million residents had left.
Some 300 people have been killed in the recent clashes, after 1,000 deaths last month, local human rights group say.
Mogadishu residents say government forces have taken control of some northern suburbs from the insurgents.
"We hope to completely conclude the war tomorrow, and government forces will secure the capital," Mr Ghedi said.
But some correspondents in Mogadishu have questioned Mr Ghedi's assessment - they say there are still reports of heavy fighting, and artillery and machine-gun fire can be heard across the city.
Somali Education Minister Ismail Mohamoud Hurre said the deaths and violence were a price worth paying to return normality to the country, which has not had a functioning national government for 16 years. "The Ethiopian forces are doing very well, stopping the Jihadist elements from causing instability," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
"We have to bite the bullet."
But a UK think-tank has strongly criticised last December's operation to oust an Islamist group which had taken control of Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia.
"Genuine multilateral concern to support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Somalia has been hijacked by unilateral actions of other international actors - especially Ethiopia and the United States - following their own foreign policy agendas," said the Chatham House report.
"Whatever the short-term future holds, the complex social forces behind the rise of the Islamic Courts will not go away," the authors said.
The Union of Islamic Courts controlled Mogadishu for six months last year - reuniting the capital for the first time since 1991.
The Islamist fighters have been joined by gunmen from the Hawiye clan, which does not back the government.
Donors and diplomats have accused the government of hindering the aid effort with bureaucratic obstacles.

Many of the casualties are civilians. The government says its checks on aid shipments are necessary to prevent insurgent attacks.
Somalia has not had a functional government since 1991.
Peace talks led to the formation of a transitional government in 2004, but it has so far failed to take full control of the country.
Ethiopian troops announced they had begun to withdraw, to be replaced by an African Union peacekeeping force, but only 1,200 of the 8,000 troops the AU says it needs have been deployed.



US handling of Iraqi detainees has been controversial from the start. The commander of a major US military prison in Iraq has been arrested for offences including aiding the enemy.
Lt Col William Steele is accused of giving detainees free use of a mobile phone at Camp Cropper and fraternising with the daughter of a detainee.
It is the latest of several scandals involving US jails in Iraq, the worst being the 2003 Abu Ghraib abuse case.
Col Steele is also accused of improper behaviour with his Iraqi interpreter and holding unauthorised information.
There are four overall charges against Col Steele and nine specific alleged offences. He was arrested last month and is being detained in Kuwait, a US military spokeswoman said.

Providing unmonitored mobile phone to detainees
Mishandling classified information
Fraternising with detainee's daughter
Inappropriate relationship with interpreter and providing her special privileges
Failing to obey a lawful order
Possessing pornographic videos
Failing obligations as approving authority for expenditure.
Others offences include dereliction in the performance of his duties, failing to obey an order and wrongfully possessing pornographic videos.

The alleged offences took place between October 2005 and February 2007, a US statement said. Col Steele was arrested in March.
"His current status is that he is in confinement and waiting for his Article 32 hearing," the spokeswoman said.
The hearing would conducted by a panel of military officers who are to decide whether the suspect should face charges.
Camp Cropper, in the west of the Iraqi capital close to Baghdad International Airport, is believed to hold about 3,300 Iraqi prisoners.
It is the second largest US military jail in Iraq, the other being Camp Bucca, near Umm Qasr in the south of the country, which holds an estimated 15,000 detainees.
Executed former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein spent time there, including for medical treatment, although the US military says he was never under Col Steele's responsibility.
US detention facilities in Iraq have been the target of sustained criticism for holding detainees without charge and for widespread abuse of prisoners.
The worst controversy was in the first year of the US occupation of Iraq, when it was revealed that guards abused prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad.



China wants the games to be its showcase to the world. The official route of the Olympic torch for the 2008 Beijing games is due to be revealed later on Thursday.
The flame will be carried to Beijing by a relay of athletes from the site of the ancient Olympics in Greece.
However, speculation about the route has thrown the spotlight on two politically sensitive issues.
Beijing is expected to announce the torch will be carried through Taiwan and Tibet - both of which have controversial ties with China.
The highlight of Beijing's planned relay is to take the torch to the summit of Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain, straddling the border with Tibet and Nepal.
Four US activists were arrested on Everest on Wednesday after unfurling a banner calling for Tibet's independence as Chinese climbers were carrying out relay assessments.
They were still believed to be in detention on Thursday. China said it was investigating the incident and warned foreign citizens against engaging in "activities concerning the sovereignty and unity of China".
While many in self-governed Taiwan are said to be keen to see the torch come to the island, there have reportedly been lengthy negotiations over the details of its delivery.
Some fear that if the torch enters and leaves via Beijing, it will appear to endorse China's view that Taiwan is part of its territory.
The Everest protest highlights some political concerns over the games
"That would undermine Taiwan as a sovereign country," Wang Shu-hui, a Taiwanese MP, said.
Correspondents say the likely compromise will be that the torch arrives in Taiwan from a different country, such as Japan or South Korea and leaves for Hong Kong.
As with previous Olympics, the flame will be lit in Athens several months before the games begins and carried by a series of athletes, celebrities and specially-chosen members of the public to Beijing.
The International Olympic Committee said on Thursday it had approved the route, which will be revealed by Chinese organisers later.



An Ethiopian separatist movement has warned the government that any attempt to rescue the seven Chinese civilians it is holding could put them in danger.
The Ethiopian government said it will send a mission to free the Chinese.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front attacked a Chinese oil installation in eastern Ethiopia on Tuesday in which nine Chinese and 65 Ethiopians died.
The ONLF said the seven were being well cared for and would be handed over to the Red Cross at the first opportunity.
It is "a very delicate operation, because Ogaden is a battle zone," said ONLF spokesman Abdirahman Mahdi.
China has strongly condemned the rebel attack against its interests.
The Ethiopian leader denounced the attack as "cold-blooded murder".
Ethiopia has accused neighbouring Eritrea of sponsoring the ONLF, an ethnic Somali rebel group.
We have warned the Chinese government and the Ethiopian government that... they don't have a right to drill there
ONLF's Abdirahman Mahdi
Eritrea has denied the accusation, saying Ethiopia is trying to trigger a war.
Beijing urged the government in Addis Ababa to ensure the safety of Chinese expatriates after the "atrocious" act.
It says the attack will not stop it from investing in Africa, but it plans to boost security measures.
The clashes took place at an oil field in Abole, a small town about 120km (75 miles) from the regional capital, Jijiga.
"It is an outrage," Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zenawi said at a news conference.
"I can assure you that those responsible for this act will pay in full for what they did."
Fire fight
The ONLF has been waging a low-level insurgency with the aim of breaking away from Ethiopia.


Want Somali-speaking region to break away from Ethiopia
Founded in 1984
Has been accused of bomb attacks in Somali region and the capital, Addis Ababa
Fought major battles with Ethiopian government in 2006.

ONLF statement
Q&A: ONLF rebels

The ONLF has in the past made threats against foreign companies working with the Ethiopian government to exploit the region's natural resources.
A Chinese oil worker said about 200 gunmen attacked the field, where the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau is searching for oil.
Gunmen briefly took control of the field after a 50-minute fire fight with soldiers protecting it, Xu Shuang, a manager for the oil group, said.
China has been working to increase its influence and investment in Africa in recent years as it looks to secure energy supplies for the future.



Mauritanians question the 'fat' look
By Pascale Harter BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents.

As Mauritanian nomads drift to the city, modern life is beginning to challenge one of their most cherished traditions - the force-feeding of young girls.

Mauritanian women work hard to fatten up their daughtersUnder a patchwork tent in Kiffa, on the western edge of the Sahara desert, a nomadic woman called Braika crossed two sticks around my ankles and squeezed the ends together with rope until I yelped in pain.
She was showing me how she forced her daughters to swallow litres of milk and mountains of couscous for days on end until they developed wings of fat hanging from their arms and their skin was traced with silvery stretch-marks - attributes considered the height of feminine beauty in Mauritania.
"They eat and eat, and drink and drink, and when they can't eat anymore we pinch them and sometimes they vomit," Braika said.
"When they vomit on purpose, we make them eat the vomit to teach them not to do it again."
A thin girl will never find a husband -Braika.
Braika proudly wobbled her flabby arms and showed off her own stretch-marks.
She did not feel guilty about force-feeding her daughter.
She assured me that once the ordeal was over the girls were grateful, because nicely fattened up they could take their pick of husbands.
"A thin girl could be blown away in the wind, people think she is a stick and she will never find a husband," she said.
Nomads believe a fat girl is a healthy girl.
But in reality, obesity has reached epidemic proportions among Mauritanian women and it is killing them.
Barely into their 40s, fattened women are dying from obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and heart failure.
Government warnings

Mounina has worked to warn women of the dangers of obesity.
Mounina Mint Abdalla is a health consultant who worked for years with the government trying to stamp out force-feeding.
But she acknowledged that government radio sketches warning women of the dangers of obesity have had little effect on a society where fatness is revered as a symbol of nobility and good breeding.
Nonetheless, force-feeding and the nomadic way of life is fast disappearing, said Mounina.
"The country has been hit by years of drought and we simply don't have that kind of quantity of milk now, or the time it takes," she added.
Zeid, a nomad in the market town of Aleg, said he was thinking of trading his last remaining goats and camels for a passage to the city.
"We are in deep crisis," he said.
"The price of the food is becoming so high, that we can't afford to feed ourselves, and for this reason we cannot feed the animals.
"The only thing we can do is move to the city."

Women come to the market to buy steroids for their daughters. In the market in the capital Nouakchott, Mounina pointed to all the women working in the stalls selling everything from brightly coloured veils to fake Chanel sunglasses.
"Just 15 years ago, women didn't work at all but now all these women are working because life in the city is very expensive," she said.
But despite this, women are still finding ways of fattening themselves up.
A pill-seller said he could not count the number of women who buy steroids meant for cattle.
"Some come and buy 20 boxes in one go," he said.
But if force-feeding creates problems for women in later life, the cattle steroids can be an instant killer.
Side-effects include renal failure and heart attacks.
Dr Maagouiya, the general surgeon at Nouakchott's main hospital said that without autopsies - which are not permitted in Mauritania - he cannot be sure how many lives the steroids have claimed but he believes the figure is high.
They tell me that if they lose weight their husbands will leave them
Dr Maagouiya, general surgeon

Yet mothers still come to him to request pills for their daughters, believing that thin girls are shameful because they look "sick".
To be "sick" is often a euphemism for having HIV/Aids in Africa.
The message is getting through to some Mauritanian women, like Mounina's nieces who have started exercising around the stadium as the sun goes down.
But they seemed to be doing it reluctantly and said they were trying to lose weight purely for health reasons, not because it would make them more attractive.
Dr Mougiya said he encounters the same attitude when he holds seminars trying to persuade obese women to slim down.
"They tell me that if they lose weight their husbands will leave them because everyone knows that in Mauritania men prefer a fat woman."
Global influences
One thing is finally beginning to shake up popular attitudes to fatness - the explosion of Arab satellite channels obliterating the monopoly held until recently by the state channel.

Mounina's daughters are inspired by the slim stars of satellite television
It was a big moment in Mounina's house when I visited - it was the final of Star Academy, the talent music show by the Lebanese music channel LBC.
Mounina's teenage daughters told me they do not want to be fat like their cousins who are only a few years older then them.
They said they want to be "a normal size" like the Lebanese pop stars.
"Now Mauritanian men are looking at Lebanese singers and starting to compare them with us," said 19-year-old Aicha.
"They look at their wives and say 'why aren't you like those singers?' There are some who've got divorced because of those Lebanese singers.
"The men say to their wives 'why are you fat, why aren't you like Britney Spears?"
The lifestyle in Mauritania is changing fast - donkey carts and fruit stalls in Nouakchott are giving way to fast-food restaurants.
In "Burger Hot" I met a group of men who were not sure that Mauritania's love affair with thin men and fat women is completely over.
"If you're an overweight man, women make jokes about you. They say that you look like a woman.
"But if you tell them to lose weight they don't believe you.
"They say you are out of your mind, that you are trying to trick them because they know men here don't like thin ladies."
But another man said that no matter how many images of slimmer women are beamed into Mauritanian living rooms, former nomads are too set in their ways to ever fully accept a foreign standard of beauty.
BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 26 April 2007 at 1102 BST.
It will be repeated on Monday, 30 April 2007 at 2030 BST.



Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Amputee athlete aims for Olympics.
By Orla Guerin BBC Africa correspondent.

Pistorius made his international debut at the 2004 Paralympics. Three years ago Oscar Pistorius had never stepped onto a track, let alone run a race.
Today he is an athletics sensation - holder of world records in the 100m, 200m and 400m events.
His coach, Ampie Louw, says Oscar is "a natural champion - born that way".
The 20-year-old South African is one of a handful of runners around the globe who could make the Olympic qualifying time. He is less than a second away.
But Oscar's Olympic bid is like no other - he is a double amputee.
'Blade runner'
At birth he was missing bones below the knee.
After his legs were removed, at the age of one, he learnt to walk on prosthetics, and he believes this pushed him to excel.

Pistorius will compete at next month's Paralympic World Cup.
He has done everything from quad biking to water skiing. He took up athletics as rehabilitation for a rugby injury.
On the track, they call him "blade runner" - thanks to his carbon fibre prosthetics, custom-made in Iceland.
He and his blades, called Cheetahs, have run into sporting history, and into controversy.
He has been dogged by claims that the blades give him an extra long stride - something he denies.
The manufacturers, Ossur, say the blades are "passive devices", which lag way behind what biological legs can do.
They insist the Cheetahs are not performance-enhancing, but simply give amputee athletes a fighting chance.
Winning ingredient
Oscar says he is the winning ingredient, not the blades.

400m times (in secs): 46.56 - Pistorius world record 47.8 - 1928 Olympic gold 44.00 - 2004 Olympic gold
200m times: 21.58 - Pistorius world record 22.0 - 1920 Olympic gold 19.79 - 2004 Olympic gold
100m times: 10.91 - Pistorius world record 11.2 - 1906 Olympic gold 9.85 - 2004 Olympic gold

He is outrunning single amputees using the Cheetahs.
"I train harder than any of the other guys do," he says. "I put in more hours. I eat better. I sleep better. I rest better and, overall, I am more diligent."
He has just shown what he can do against able-bodied athletes.
In South Africa's National Championships in Durban last month, he came in second.
"I don't see myself as disabled, and I think it's the guy that wants to win the hardest that's gets it," he explains.
Oscar's next challenge is the Visa Paralympic World Cup in Manchester next month, but he is looking ahead to Beijing in 2008.
Olympic hopes
One of Britain's sporting heroes, former world record holder Colin Jackson, says he should be given the chance.

There's never been a disabled athlete running in the Olympics - there's fear of change
Oscar Pistorius
"I think it's a great idea, if he makes it as the first paralympian," he told BBC News.
"He's one of these guys who is a genuine athlete. And he's young enough to not only make 2008, but to compete also in 2012, which would be really sensational."
But the world body governing athletics, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), has already moved to block him from the Olympics, with a new ruling banning "technical aids".
Senior officials have "suspicions" about his performance on the Cheetahs.
Oscar says his critics are only looking at the advantages of the blades - "if there are any" - and not the disadvantages.
"There's never been a disabled athlete running in the Olympics," he says.
"There's a fear of change."
Oscar believes some people just do not like the competition, but he says he will keep chasing his dream.



China boom 'threatens minorities'.
By Jill McGivering BBC News.

Many ethnic minorities are seeing their traditions eroded. Some of China's biggest minority groups are failing to benefit from China's rapid economic development, a new report has found.
The report also said greater contact with the rest of China is threatening indigenous cultures and languages.
The findings have been published by the Minority Rights Group International and Human Rights in China.
They assessed the situation of three main ethnic minority groups, the Uighurs, Mongols and Tibetans.
Not only are they becoming increasingly alienated, they are largely missing out on China's economic boom, the report said.
Where their regions are seeing development, the impact is often damaging.
In many cases, the large-scale building of roads and railways is not boosting local economies, but just facilitating the extraction of raw materials - resources to feed growth in other parts of China.
In regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet, it says, the increased access is leading to a greater military presence - and a general diluting of local culture.
"You can adapt to the world and retain your language and culture, and speak a national language as well. You don't need just to speak one language," Clive Baldwin, of the Minority Rights Group International, said.
"But in China, the model that's being imposed at the moment is very much one of one state, one language, one culture and anyone against this is being seen as deviant, "splitist", and we'd say that is entirely inappropriate."
China's leaders are struggling at the moment to address the imbalances in the country's development.
They are well aware of the vast gap between the booming coastal provinces and the much less developed west of the country - and are eager to stifle discontent.
The authors of this report suggest that where minorities are concerned, the policies could be having the opposite effect - stoking feelings of resentment amongst communities who see their own culture and way of life coming under growing threat.



Families of Japan's missing have long called for answers. Japanese police have raided the offices of a pro-North Korean group in Tokyo in connection with the alleged kidnapping of two children in the 1970s.
Police moved in on two offices linked to the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, Chongryon, and the house of a 55-year-old woman.
They suspect the woman played a key role in the abduction of two children aged three and six in 1974.
North Korea has admitted abducting Japanese citizens in the 70s and 80s.
But it says that of the 13 people its agents seized, five have been released and eight are dead.
Tokyo has always suspected more citizens were kidnapped, and has refused full-scale economic assistance or the establishment of diplomatic ties with the North until the issue is resolved.
Angry scenes
The Japanese authorities said the raids were part of an investigation into the 1974 abduction of two children born to a Japanese woman and a Korean man.
Police sources said they suspected the 55-year-old woman of helping a North Korean agent - who left Japan in the late 70s - to kidnap the children, Kyodo news agency reports.


Snatched in the 70s and 80s
Used as cultural trainers for N Korean spies
Five allowed home in 2002
Five children now freed from N Korea
Eight said to be dead, others missing

Heartbreak over Japan's missing

Three top Chongryon officials are also wanted for questioning over the case, the sources said.
There were angry scenes as police moved in on one of the Chongryon offices, Kyodo news agency reports.
Chongryon staff and supporters clashed with police and one man was reportedly arrested for trying to block the search.
Chongryon described the raid as a "political crackdown" by the Japanese authorities ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the US.
Mr Abe, who has always taken a strong line on the issue of abductions, is expected to raise the issue when he meets US President George W Bush later this week.
The two children are not thought to be on the government list of Japanese citizens Tokyo believes were spirited away by the North to train its spies in Japanese language and culture.



Monks and elephants walked in searing heat to the parliament. Hundreds of Thai monks have led nine elephants in a march on parliament calling for Buddhism to be enshrined as the country's official religion.
They were joined by more than 1,000 supporters who also want Buddhism to be declared the national religion in the new post-coup constitution.
The leaders behind last September's coup have indicated they may be willing to bow to the monks' demands.
Critics fear it could inflame tensions in the Muslim-majority deep south.
In the south a three-year Islamic insurgency - in a country where 95% of the population are Buddhist - has killed more than 2,000 people.
Constitution 'review'
Correspondents described a colourful procession as monks dressed in saffron-robes walked alongside the nine elephants 30km (18 miles) from Bangkok's western suburbs to parliament.
Police had asked the protesters not to bring the elephants for fear the scorching heat would make them difficult to control, but they relented as the march continued into the city.
"Our only demand is to have the clause 'Buddhism is Thailand's national religion' included in the new constitution. It's the opinion of the majority of Thais," protest spokesman Tongkhao Phuangrodpang told the AFP news agency.
Coup leader and army commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said he expected the committee drafting the constitution to "review its decision on this issue".
"If a stipulation in the charter to this effect leads to peace in the country, then it is better that it is included," he was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying.
"Those who say there is no need for such a stipulation don't take the issue that seriously."
He recommended adding a clause, saying the government will "take care of other religions, including Christianity and Islam".
A draft of the new constitution, released last week, keeps the same wording as previous constitutions - that the state will protect all faiths, with no mention of Buddhism as the national religion.



The attack is the heaviest US ground loss for more than a year. Nine US soldiers have been killed in a suicide bomb attack on a base north of Baghdad, military officials have said.
Some 20 troops and an Iraqi civilian were injured in the attack, which happened in the volatile province of Diyala, to the north-east of Baghdad.
There has been fierce fighting in Diyala recently, pitting US and Iraqi forces against Sunni and Shia militias.
It is thought to be the worst single US loss on the ground since late 2005, when 10 marines died near Falluja.
In January 2007, 12 US soldiers died when a Black Hawk military helicopter crashed near Baghdad.
More than 3,300 US troops have been killed and some 24,300 have been injured in Iraq since the conflict began.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, two car bombs exploded on Tuesday morning near the Iranian embassy, police and witnesses said. At least four people were reported hurt in the blasts.
Two blasts in the same area on Monday left one person dead.
Rare attack
In a brief statement released early on Tuesday, the US military said a suicide car bomber attacked a patrol base near Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province, on Monday.

2 Nov 03: Chinook helicopter downed near Falluja, killing 16
15 Nov 03: Two Black Hawk helicopters collide avoiding ground fire in Mosul, killing 17
21 Dec 04: Suicide bomb at military base in Mosul kills 19
26 Jan 05: CH-53E helicopter crashes in West Iraq, killing 31
3 Aug 05: Roadside blast near Haditha kills 14 marines
1 Dec 05: Ten marines killed by roadside bomb near Falluja
20 Jan 07: Black Hawk crashes near Tal Afar, killing 12
24 Apr 07: Suicide bombing of base near Baqouba kills nine

Fifteen of the wounded soldiers were later able to return to work, the statement said.
American troops in the province come under frequent mortar and small arms attack, but a frontal assault like this on a base is rare, says the BBC's Andrew North in Baghdad.
Most are now too well defended for suicide attackers to get close. But the base that was attacked is a smaller installation and so may have been more vulnerable, our correspondent adds.
The US military also announced the death on Monday of another soldier in a separate roadside bombing in Diyala.
'Critical months'
The suicide bombing at the US base came at the end of a day of attacks across Iraq that left more than 40 people dead.

Car blasts in the town of Ramadi killed 20 people and injured many more. Three car bombs exploded in quick succession near a restaurant and market in Ramadi's western district of al-Taamim.
Earlier in the day, at least 20 people died in separate car bombings in Baqouba and Mosul.
Another attack took place on the edge of Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, close to where the new US envoy, Ryan Crocker, was giving his first briefing in Baghdad.
In a news conference, Ambassador Crocker said the next few months would be critical in the effort to reconcile Iraq's warring communities and urged the government to make use of a US-led security plan in the capital.
It is in no-one's intention that this (the wall) is going to be a permanent state of affairs
Ryan Crocker

Profile: Ryan Crocker
Iraq violence, in figures

He also defended the thinking behind a controversial wall being built around the flashpoint Adhamiya area, a Sunni enclave on the mainly Shia east bank of the Tigris.
On Sunday Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said he had ordered a halt to the project after it drew strong criticism from residents and Sunni leaders.
The latest US deaths also came as Democratic Party lawmakers in the US Congress agreed to merge House and Senate versions of a spending bill for Iraq, which include a timeline for the withdrawal of US troops.
The bill calls for a withdrawal to start no later than 1 October 2007, with a non-binding deadline of 31 March for a total pullout.
On Tuesday, US President George W Bush repeated his promise to veto the bill.



Reporting risks leave Gaza neglected
By Martin Patience BBC News, Erez Crossing.

Palestinian journalists have called for security to be improved in Gaza. About a hundred foreign journalists gathered at the Erez crossing - the gateway from Israel to Gaza - to show solidarity with the kidnapped BBC correspondent, Alan Johnston.
Holding placards and pictures of the kidnapped correspondent, the journalists rallied in a dusty car park in front of the crossing's new, gleaming terminal building.
"Alan is the only foreign correspondent living full time in the Gaza Strip," said the chairman of the Foreign Press Association, Simon McGregor-Wood.
"In doing so for three years he showed his personal commitment and that of the BBC to report the story of Gaza and its people in a fair and balanced way," he added.
The BBC's deputy head of Newsgathering, Jonathan Baker, also on the Israeli side of Erez crossing, said he was making a direct plea to those who are holding Mr Johnston to release him immediately.
"His only offence has been to expose himself to personal danger because of his strong desire to bring the story of Gaza to the outside world," he said.
Four hundred metres away - through the labyrinth of tunnels, turnstiles and X-ray machines that separate Israel from the Gaza Strip - a group of 40 Palestinian journalists marched up to the crossing.
"Free Alan, Free Alan," they chanted, kicking up the dust on the road as they walked.
He was incredibly plugged to all that was happening in the territory and would always be willing to help you out
Donald MacintyreForeign correspondent
Back on the Israeli side, Donald Macintyre, a foreign journalist who knows Alan Johnston well, praised him for his journalistic commitment.
"You'd see him in the Al-Deera [a hotel in Gaza] and he would always cheer you up," the correspondent for the Independent newspaper said.
"He had always discovered a bizarre aspect about life in Gaza that made you laugh.
"He was incredibly plugged into all that was happening in the territory and would always be willing to help you out."
Since Alan Johnston's kidnapping, very few foreign journalists have ventured into the territory.
'Trust is gone'
The Foreign Press Association recently issued a statement saying Gaza had become a "no-go zone" for its several hundred members.

Most of the foreign journalists that have entered the territory in recent weeks have been accompanied by security forces provided by the Palestinian president's office.
But many foreign journalists covering Palestinian issues are nervous about returning to the Gaza Strip, which they once visited freely.
"I'd be very slow to go back to Gaza," said Ed O'Loughlin, a correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
"Up until now there has always been the assumption that there will be protection from the Palestinian authority or from Arabic and Islamic customs on treating guests. Now that trust is gone."
"But if the story was worth it, I'd go back. The days, however, of routine visits are over."
Instead, international organisations have been relying almost entirely on their local staff to gather information for reports.
Many Palestinian journalists are also concerned by the increasing risk and have been calling on the Palestinian Authority to vastly improve the law and order situation in the territory.
In terms of news, they also fear that Gaza could be neglected by the wider world.
"It only serves to limit the coverage in the Gaza Strip, if foreign journalists stop going," said Walid Batrawi, a Palestinian correspondent for the Arabic satellite TV station, Al-Jazeera.
"The human stories of the people of Gaza will not be told."




Gen Muhammadu Buhari won 18% of Saturday's vote. Nigeria's opposition parties are meeting to agree on a common strategy to fight the outcome of last Saturday's flawed presidential elections.
Major opposition candidates Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari rejected the results and called for protests.
They have also urged parliament to annul the polls and call for a re-run.
But the powerful Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria has advised against any mass protests, saying it is best to head for the law courts.
Two evils never make a right
Archbishop Alaba George
Many local and international observers say the election which was won by the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was flawed.
But the BBC's Senan Murray in Abuja says that having failed to present a common front during the poll, it is not clear how the opposition can now challenge its outcome in a unified way.
Although the bishops say Nigerians' votes had been "abused, traumatised and brutalised", they also say the answer does not lie in violent protests.

Monitors slam poll "charade"
A monitor's election experience

"Two evils never make a right. To cause chaos; to cause people to lose their lives and property is definitely wrong," Archbishop Alaba George told the BBC.
Fearing a possible outbreak of violence in the volatile Kaduna State, a ban on street demonstrations has just been announced in the north-western state.
But further north in the conservative Muslim-dominated Kano State, some women heeded opposition calls and took to the streets to protest the outcome of last Saturday's parliamentary poll.
In addition to his election troubles, Nigeria's Code of Conduct Tribunal is expected to decide whether it could try Mr Abubakar for graft despite his constitutional immunity against criminal prosecution.
Mr Yar'Adua gained 24.6m votes, against 6.6m for his closest challenger, Mr Buhari and 2.6m for vice-president turned opposition candidate Mr Abubakar.
Outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo has defended the organisation of the vote.
"No elections in the world will ever be regarded as perfect... You cannot use European standards to judge the situation in a developing country," he told the BBC.
The presidential poll was held alongside elections for the National Assembly and Senate.
Nigeria - one of the world's biggest oil producers - is of key strategic interest to both the West and the growing economies of the East.
But despite the country's huge oil wealth, much of the population lives on less than $1 a day.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007


This is the first time Hamas has fired rockets into Israel in five months. The armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement has said it is ending its five-month truce with Israel.
Earlier in the day the group launched a sustained barrage of rockets and mortars into Israel, the first such attack since November.
The group, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said the attacks were in revenge for recent killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
The ending of the truce has not been confirmed by Hamas political leaders.
The Palestinian prime minister, Hamas's Ismail Haniya, whilst not confirming that the ceasefire was over, said the Palestinians had tried hard to observe the truce, but this had been undermined by what he called Israeli aggression.
No casualties
An Israeli spokesman said only a small number of rockets landed in Israeli. There were no reports of casualties.
The attacks came as Israel celebrated the 59th anniversary of its establishment as a modern independent state.
There is no truce between us and the occupation, the occupation destroyed the truce from the moment it started, we did not trust the intentions of the occupation from the beginning
Izzedine al-Qassam statement
Hamas's military wing said the attack, of nearly 100 rockets and mortars, was a response to the killing of nine Palestinians, five of them believed to be militants, during Israeli military operations in the West Bank.
Israel helicopter gunships fired machine guns near the border fence in southern Gaza soon after the rocket fire, Palestinian witnesses reported.
Hamas, which won parliamentary elections last year and is the leading faction in the Palestinian Authority, agreed to a ceasefire in November.
But it reserved the right to respond to the killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
A spokesman for the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades told the BBC that the idea of a truce had become an illusion.
A spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, Abu Ubeida, said: "There is no truce between us and the occupation, the occupation destroyed the truce from the moment it started, we did not trust the intentions of the occupation from the beginning."
The truce had been largely observed since November, despite some violations on both sides.
BBC Middle East correspondent Katya Adler says there has been tension within Hamas over how far the ceasefire should hold.
An Israeli government official said there have been rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel at least every two days.
There is speculation in Israel that it might taken more concerted military action into Gaza.
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said: "Israel is not interested in escalation, but we hope that cooler heads among the Palestinians prevail. We however reserve the right to protect and defend our civilians."



Inside Tokyo's hostess clubs
By Chris Hogg BBC News, Tokyo.

A Japanese businessman has been acquitted of raping and killing British bar hostess Lucie Blackman in 2000. But he was convicted of killing an Australian hostess, Carita Ridgway. Carita and Lucie were among thousands of foreign women who have been lured to work in one of Japan's hostess clubs.
A woman working as a hostess in a Japanese bar has to concentrate on just one task, keeping the customer happy.
Happy customers stay longer. They drink more of the bars' expensive drinks.
That means more commissions for the hostess and more profits for the bar.
There are thousands of hostess bars in Tokyo. Club Lounge Monina is one of the more respectable establishments.
Paid to entertain
The foreign women working there told me they were not prostitutes but entertainers - but they were not keen to give their real names for fear of what their friends and families back home might think of them.
'Karen', who is from the Philippines, said: "Our job is just to talk to people who come in to drink, to sing along with them on the karaoke machine, to make them laugh and to try to listen to them."

Lucie Blackman was killed while working as a hostess.
She works five nights a week from Monday to Friday at the club. She says she earns 2,500 yen (£10) an hour.
But that is just the beginning. Hostess bars have complicated systems of rewards and bonuses.
"We get tips as well as the commissions for the drinks and if we invite customers to the bar we get money for that too," said Karen.
Hostesses can also go on dinner dates with customers, known as dohan. They get their dinner paid for and then bring the customer to the club.
The night we were at Club Lounge Monina one of the customers was giving out gifts to a couple of the women he was sitting with.
The women who work there insisted they did not offer any sexual services to the customers.
Maybe some girls work as prostitutes, I don't know what goes on in other places, but not here
'Vivienne', who is from Brazil, said she was worried before she started but she said: "I was so tired of working in a convenience store. I thought to myself, I will give it a try. That was two-and-a-half years ago. I'm still here, I think it is OK.
"Maybe some girls work as prostitutes, I don't know what goes on in other places, but not here."
The bar we visited is owned and run by Monina.
At 34, she is unusually young to be a hostess boss or mama-san.
"The best hostesses are good looking for sure, but then it also depends on how they attract customers. It's not easy if you're not smart," she said.
Stricter controls
Currently most of the women she employs are from Asia.
"I used to have many girls, from Cameroon, Senegal, Europeans, Americans, every country but the government's become much stricter and also the economy's not so good. Before it was easier to give higher wages, but now it's not," she said.
The authorities do seem to be tightening up the immigration rules. In the past many women worked in the entertainment districts illegally on tourist visas.
That is not so easy these days.
The immigration department says it has introduced more rigorous checks on young women arriving from certain countries where they suspect significant numbers of illegal workers are coming from.
Since 2005 new measures to combat human trafficking have also been introduced.
Monina said there was only so much a mama-san can do to ensure the safety of the girls who work for her.
"It's really the girl's responsibility. There are certain rules that you teach the girls, how to tell who is a good, who is a bad customer for instance, but you cannot control what they do out of hours. After the club closes it's up to them to decide how far they want to go with the customer," she said.
Hostess bars are part of the mainstream of Japanese culture. Business deals are done there and clients entertained. Wives know they are part of life for "salarymen".

After the club closes it's up to them to decide how far they want to go with the customer -Monina
But when you sit there and watch the young women cuddling up to the older customers, or so drunk they can barely keep standing to finish their song on the karaoke machine, you wonder whether it really is that innocent.
Of course there are establishments far more sleazy than the one we visited.
As Japanese journalist Kentaro Katayama points out, if a salaryman is looking for sex a hostess club is not necessarily the best place to find it.
He said: "If you really want to have sex with somebody it's much easier to go to a prostitute.
"Going to a hostess club would cost you more than meeting a prostitute in Tokyo. It is very expensive, and yet still people like to go."



Bunni is one of Syria's best known opposition activists. A Syrian human rights activist has been jailed for five years for spreading hostile information and joining an illegal political group, lawyers say.
Anwar al-Bunni, a prominent advocate for democratic reform in Syria, has been in detention since May 2006.
Correspondents say the heavy sentence sends a strong warning to the opposition and shows Syria has turned its back on Western pressure to reform.
Bunni was also ordered to pay a fine of about £1,000 ($2,000).
The court convicted him of spreading false or exaggerated news that could weaken national morale, affiliating with an unlicensed political association with an international nature, discrediting state institutions and contacting a foreign country, his lawyer Khalil Matouk said.
Bunni told the court he was proud of what he was doing.
"I didn't commit any crime. This sentence is to shut me up and to stop the effort to expose human rights violations in Syria," he said, according to Reuters.
There has been no confirmation of the sentence from the Syrian authorities, who usually do not comment on trials related to political or national security issues.
'Flagrant violation'
Bunni was arrested after signing an appeal for radical reform in relations between Syria and Lebanon in May 2006.
The Beirut-Damascus Declaration, calling on Syria to recognise Lebanon as a fully independent country, was signed by nearly 300 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals.
Two prominent fellow signatories, Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa, have also been charged over the same petition.
Mr Matouk, said he would appeal against Bunni's conviction within 30 days.
He called the trial politically motivated and "a flagrant violation of freedom of opinion and expression and an attempt to intimidate Syrian society".
Bunni, 48, sometimes defended members of his family in court, many of whom are political dissidents. His two brothers have already spent 30 years in jail between them.
He had used EU funding to start a human rights training centre in Syria.
In the past two years the authorities have stepped up their crackdown on dissidents, and international human rights organisations say the situation is deteriorating, says the BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut.
The conviction was announced as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in Damascus for tough talks with President Bashar al-Assad on two Lebanese issues.
Mr Ban wants Syria to support an international court to try the suspected killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and to prevent arms smuggling to the Hezbollah militant group.



Polls indicate Mexicans are split on the abortion issue. Mexico City's legislative assembly is to vote on whether to legalise abortion in the city, the capital of the world's second-largest Roman Catholic country.
If passed as expected, abortions would be limited to pregnancies in the first trimester, only in Mexico City.
Mexico City currently allows abortion in cases of rape, if the woman's life is at risk or if there are signs of severe defects in the foetus.
Catholic bishops in Mexico have spoken out against the proposed law.
Mexico City's legislature is dominated by the leftist PRD, the party of the mayor, Marcelo Ebrard.
He has ordered riot police to deploy around the assembly's buildings after abortion opponents promised big protests if the law is passed.
Court challenge
Opinion polls in Mexico, which is 90% Catholic, indicate people are evenly split on the issue.
The assembly has courted controversy in Mexico before, recently allowing same-sex civil unions. It is currently considering legalising euthanasia.
Opponents of the abortion law have promised to challenge it in the courts if it is passed.
The authors of the draft law argue that at least 1,500 women have died in Mexico over the last decade as a result of illegal abortions performed in unhygienic backstreet clinics.
Many victims of rape are denied access to legal abortion, Human Rights Watch said in a report last year.



China acknowledges it faces climate change problems. China could overtake the US this year as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, a leading international energy group has said.
The International Energy Agency had predicted China's carbon dioxide emissions would pass the US by 2010.
But IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said the rate of China's economic growth this year defied expectations.
His comments come days after a Chinese government report warned of the impact of climate change on the country.
The report, compiled by several government bodies, said that higher temperatures would lead to worsening droughts, spreading deserts and reduced water supplies.
But it stopped short of recommending cuts in greenhouse gas output and risking the country's economic growth.
Coal reliance
Mr Birol, of the Paris-based IEA, which advises governments on energy policy, said: "China's economic growth and use of coal production over the last few months has surprised us all.
"If they continue to surprise us in terms of very high economic growth and corresponding coal production, China will overtake the US much earlier than 2009 - more like this year or the next."
Though that gap could widen considerably in the coming years, he said per capita emissions from China still remained well below those of the US and other developed countries.
But he warned that both China and India - another fast-developing nation - needed to be involved in global efforts to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, otherwise there would be "no chance the climate change fight can be won".
He also said slowing China's growth was not the answer to curbing high greenhouse gas emissions - rather it needed a change of approach to energy production.
"China is a developing country and it needs growth," he said. "The question is what kind of energy and policies will be used in order to get that high level of economic growth.
"If they were to use much more sustainable policies and energy efficiency it would be good both for China's economy and for the climate change issue."
China is heavily reliant on highly polluting coal for its energy, and mines far more coal than any other country.
While the Chinese government has pledged to try to develop alternative energy sources, it says wealthy nations are the most to blame for high gas emissions.



Saturday's election was "a charade" said EU observers. Nigerians must resist the "wholescale fraud" of Saturday's presidential elections, an opposition alliance says.
"We have seen revolutions around the world, from Ukraine to the Philippines. We must replicate that," Pat Utomi told the BBC, on behalf of 25 parties.
Outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo has admitted the polls were flawed but says they should not be re-run.
Ruling party candidate Umaru Yar'Adua won by a landslide, according to official results.
Police were on high alert as the results were announced in the capital, Abuja.
Thousands of opposition supporters protested in the streets of the biggest northern city, Kano, but they were soon dispersed by police firing tear gas.
There are no reports of any protests on Tuesday.
Mr Utomi stressed that the protests should be peaceful and within the law.
'No legal challenge'
European Union observers say the elections were a "charade" and any administration that resulted would not have any legitimacy.
One Nigerian newspaper on Tuesday said their country had become a laughing stock.
"This is not the kind of Nigeria we dreamed of," said the independent daily, The Nation. The EU says at least 200 people have died since campaigning began.

Northern Muslim, from Katsina State
Little known until named PDP candidate last year
Set to be Nigeria's first university educated leader
Profile: Umaru Yar'Adua

A monitor's election experience

Opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari has told the BBC that he did not think Mr Yar'Adua would be sworn in as scheduled on 29 May but he did not give details of how this would be prevented.
"You have to be patient and see whether it will happen on the 29th of next month. But I very much doubt it," he said.
This should be the first time Africa's most populous nation replaces one elected civilian head with another.
Mr Buhari has, however, reportedly ruled out a legal challenge.
It took more than two years for his case, disputing the official results of the 2003 elections, to be finally rejected in court.
Mr Yar'Adua gained 24.6m votes, against 6.6m for his closest challenger, Muhammadu Buhari and 2.6m for vice-president turned opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar.
Mr Obasanjo defended the organisation of the vote.
"No elections in the world will ever be regarded as perfect... You cannot use European standards to judge the situation in a developing country," he told the BBC.

Monitors slam poll "charade"

Press unease over polls

Nigeria's biggest election monitoring group has said the presidential poll was so flawed that it should be scrapped and held again.
"In many parts of the country elections did not start on time or did not start at all," said Transition Monitoring Group chief Innocent Chukwuma.
Turnout was approximately 58%.
The US says it is "deeply troubled" by the weekend polls which it said were "flawed". A spokesman at the State Department said Washington hoped the political parties would resolve any differences over the election through peaceful, constitutional means.
Voter Donaman Atezan, 25, told the BBC News website that election material was delivered late to his polling station in the central Benue State, after most people had gone home.
"Thugs were then left alone to vote and each one of them voted for the PDP over and over as many times as the ballot papers were available," he said.
He said he tried to vote for an opposition candidate but the ballot paper was ripped from his hand.
Officials had struggled to deliver some of the 60m ballot papers to stations in time for the vote. They only arrived in the country on Friday evening.
The presidential poll was running alongside elections for the National Assembly and Senate.
Nigeria - one of the world's biggest oil producers - is of key strategic interest to both the West and the growing economies of the East.
But despite the country's huge oil wealth, tens of millions live in poverty.



Unidentified gunmen have killed at least 74 people in an attack on an oil field in Ethiopia's remote Ogaden region, officials say.
Nine Chinese oil workers and 65 Ethiopians were killed in the incident early on Tuesday, Chinese and Ethiopian officials said.
The attack took place at an oil field in Abole, a small town about 120km from the state capital, Jijiga.
A Chinese oil worker said about 200 gunmen attacked the field.
Xu Shuang, acting manager of the Chinese company involved, said another seven Chinese workers had been abducted.
The numbers of dead were confirmed by a spokesman for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
"It is a cold blood killing, a massacre. It is a terrorist act," the spokesman, Berekat Simon, told AFP news agency.
Fire fight
The workers were employed by the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, part of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, China's Xinhua news agency reported.
Gunmen briefly took control of the field after a 50-minute fire fight with soldiers protecting it, Mr Xu told the agency.
In recent years, China has been working to increase its influence and investment in Africa as it looks to secure energy supplies for the future.
No group has yet said it carried out the attack but the area is known for its often violent clan politics, the BBC's Amber Henshaw reports from Addis Ababa.
A separatist group - the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) - has in the past made threats against foreign companies working with the Ethiopian government to exploit the region's natural resources.
The ONLF has been waging a low-level insurgency with the aim of breaking away from Ethiopia.
The incident will also step up tensions in the region which borders Somalia - where there are often clashes between Ethiopian troops and Islamists, our correspondent adds.


Monday, April 23, 2007


Anger at Iran dress restrictions.
By Frances Harrison BBC News, Tehran

The crackdown is more serious than in past years. Two thousand young men in Iran have protested against new clothing curbs, reports say, amid growing discontent about a crackdown on un-Islamic dress.
Shiraz university students were angry about new rules banning sleeveless T-shirts, even inside all-male dorms.
The protest came as the judiciary head warned police that an excessively ferocious campaign could backfire.
Police say they stopped more than 1,300 women for dressing immodestly on the first day of the campaign in Tehran.
More than 100 women were arrested on Saturday; half of them had to sign statements promising to improve their clothing, the other half are being referred to court.
The focus of the new campaign is to stop women wearing tight overcoats that reveal the shape of their bodies or showing too much hair from beneath their headscarves.
However, young men have also been arrested for sporting wild hair styles or T-shirts considered immodest.
Local news agency reports say the protesting Shiraz students on Sunday night were calling for the resignation of the university chancellor.
Serious crackdown
There is always a crackdown at the start of summer as women start wearing more skimpy clothes because of the hot weather.

Women are banned from wearing short, figure-hugging outfitsIn past years the pressure quickly relaxed - headscarves become perched on the back of heads, while fashionable women in affluent north Tehran wear open-toed sandals, three-quarter length trousers and short skin-hugging overcoats.
The police complain that some young women strut the streets looking like fashion models - and it is not a bad description.
But this year the crackdown seems more serious.
Iranian television has broadcast nightly programmes warning women and young men with sleeveless T-shirts and spiky hair to be more careful about their dress.
The newspapers are full of pictures of women being arrested for their un-Islamic clothing, but foreign journalists have been prevented from filming it.
The head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Shahrudi, has warned that a severe crackdown on un-Islamic dress could have the reverse effect.
Meanwhile, an MP has asked why the police should spend so much time arresting young people and filing court cases against them instead of fighting drug addiction and poverty.
Already taxi drivers say there are fewer women on the streets and it is clear most are dressing more conservatively.
It is not just the young and very fashionable who are being harassed this year, middle aged women and even foreign tourists are being cautioned.
One foreign journalist was stopped and the police complained the photograph in her press card was indecent, even though it was taken by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance.



Security was tight as the results were announced. Nigeria's ruling party candidate Umaru Yar'Adua has won controversial presidential elections by a landslide, according to official results.
He gained 70% of the vote but European Union observers say the elections were a "charade" and any administration that resulted would not have any legitimacy.
The EU says at least 200 people have died in poll violence in the past week.
The two main opposition candidates have told their supporters to reject the results and want a re-run.
Mr Yar'Adua gained 24.6m votes, against 6.6m for his closest challenger, Muhammadu Buhari.
Vice-president turned opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar came third with 2.6m votes.

Northern Muslim, from Katsina State
Little known until named PDP candidate last year
Set to be Nigeria's first university educated leader
Both men accuse the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP) of rigging the elections.
This should be the first time Africa's most populous nation replaces one elected civilian head with another.
"I felt greatly humbled by the events of today and this mandate," Mr Yar'Adua, 56, told state television.
Mr Buhari had earlier threatened to call his supporters onto the streets if Mr Yar'Adua was declared the winner and there was tight security outside the election commission headquarters in the capital, Abuja.
Independent National Election Commission (Inec) head Maurice Iwu refused to take any questions from the large crowd of journalists waiting for the results. He only read out the results.
'Deeply troubled'
Shortly before the announcement was made, outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo made a surprise televised address to the nation.

Press unease over polls
He admitted that the poll had not been perfect but said the next elections would be better.
"It is my fervent wish that Nigerians will consider this experience as a necessary step in our journey as a people towards consolidating our democracy," he said.
Nigeria's biggest election monitoring group said the presidential poll was so flawed that it should be scrapped and held again.
"In many parts of the country elections did not start on time or did not start at all," said Transition Monitoring Group chief Innocent Chukwuma.
The US says it is "deeply troubled" by the weekend polls which it said were "flawed".
A spokesman at the State Department said Washington hoped the political parties would resolve any differences over the election through peaceful, constitutional means.
Voter Donaman Atezan, 25, told the BBC News website that election material was delivered late to his polling station in the central Benue Sate, after most people had gone home.
"Thugs were then left alone to vote and each one of them voted for the PDP over and over as many times as the ballot papers were available," he said.
He said he tried to vote for an opposition candidate but the ballot paper was ripped from his hand.
Petrol tanker
Officials had struggled to deliver some of the 60m ballot papers to stations in time for the vote. They only arrived in the country on Friday evening.

[It is] a necessary step in our journey as a people towards consolidating our democracy
Outgoing President Obasanjo

Obasanjo on the polls

The boldest of several attempts to disrupt polling was in the hours before voting was due to start when a petrol tanker laden with gas cylinders was used in an attack on the electoral commission's headquarters in Abuja.
The attackers tried to roll the unmanned tanker into the building, but the vehicle missed its target and came to a halt.
The presidential poll was running alongside elections for the National Assembly and Senate.
The new government is scheduled to take power on 29 May.
Nigeria - one of the world's biggest oil producers - is of key strategic interest to both the West and the growing economies of the East.
But despite the country's huge oil wealth, tens of millions live in poverty.