The Indian navy announced Dec. 13 it had captured 23 Somali and Yemeni pirates while coming to the defense of an Ethiopian-flagged merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden. Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking before a Bahrain conference sponsored by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies, called for international action against the pirates.
Islamist al-Shabaab insurgents seized two districts in central Somalia without violence Dec. 7, including the stronghold of a Sufi group that traditionally abjures violence. Residents in Galgadud region reported that fighters aboard armed trucks peacefully entered the provincial capital Dhusamareb. "The local clan militias withdrew before they came," one resident told the independent Radio Garowe. Shabaab fighters also took control of Mataban district to the south, with clan militias similarly offering no resistance. The Shabaab faction already controls key regions in southern Somalia, including the port towns of Kismayo and Marka.
Thousands of people from an informal settlement 20 kilometers south of Khartoum are now living in makeshift shelters after their homes were razed by Sudan's government. Local officials said 4,000 homes were destroyed under a plan to reorganize the "Mandela" settlement, established by war refugees from the south in the '90s, to make it more habitable. Another 6,000 are slated to be demolished. "When this is over, people will move back, build and live in peace," said Madut Wek, secretary to the local government-backed Mandela Popular Committee. But speaking to the UN news agency IRIN, many evicted residents denied Wek's claims. "We were living just fine there," elderly Idriss Karama said as he watched bulldozers ploughing through the rubble of what used to be his home a few hundred yards away. "They brought us here. We don't know anything."
A federal jury in San Francisco Dec. 1 cleared Chevron Corp. of responsibility in the 1998 shooting of Nigerian villagers by military forces during a protest at an offshore oil platform. Survivors of the incident, under the name "Concerned Ilaje Citizens," argued that the oil company should be held accountable for paying police and soldiers, and transporting them by helicopter to the oil platform, where they shot and killed two unarmed protesters and wounded two others.
The army is patrolling the streets of Jos, in central Nigeria, after four days of violence between Muslims and Christians left hundreds dead. A Muslim charity says it has collected more than 300 bodies that had been brought to local mosques, and fatalities are also expected among Christians. Homes, churches and mosques were put to the torch before troops restored order and imposed a curfew. The Nigerian Red Cross says at least 10,000 people have fled their homes. The violence broke out following contested elections in Plateau state Nov. 26, in which the Christian-backed ruling People's Democratic Party was declared to have won. The result was challenged by the opposition All Nigeria People's Party, which has wide support from Muslims. (AlJazeera, Nov. 30; BBC News, Nov. 29)
Somali pirates who hijacked a Saudi supertanker moved the vessel from its location at the port city of Harardhere, in the autonomous Puntland region, after Islamist militias threatened to attack them and rescue the ship. Both the exiled Islamic Courts Union and the Shabaab insurgent group issued threats to attack the pirates if they don't free the ship. "Saudi is a Muslim country and it is very big crime to hold Muslim property," the Shabaab's Sheikh Abdulaahi Osman said. "I warned again and again those who hold the ship must free it unconditionally or armed conflict should be the solution. If they don't free the ship, we will rescue it by force." The ICU called seizing the ship a "major crime."
British naval forces killed two Somali pirates in a dhow who they said were attempting to hijack a Danish cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, the Defense Ministry in London said on Nov. 12. British sailors found a third man, thought to be a Yemeni, dead on the vessel. The Royal Navy was joined by the frigate Neustrashimy (Fearless) from Russia's Baltic Sea Fleet. British and Russian helicopters were also involved in the brief battle. (Reuters, Nov. 13)
Miriam Makeba, the South African singer who became a world symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle, died Nov. 10 after performing at an anti-Mafia concert in southern Italy. The 76-year-old singer died after being brought to the hospital at Castelvolturno at the end of a concert in support of Roberto Saviano, an Italian journalist threatened with death by the Naples crime machine following of his exposure of the mob in his bestselling book.