World briefs – March 4

Soldiers backing Ivory Coast’s defiant leader mowed down women protesting his refusal to leave power in a hail of gunfire Thursday, killing at least six and shocking a nation where women’s marches have historically been used as a last resort against an unrestrained army.

Women killed as army opens fire on women’s march in Ivory Coast

Soldiers backing Ivory Coast’s defiant leader mowed down women protesting his refusal to leave power in a hail of gunfire Thursday, killing at least six and shocking a nation where women’s marches have historically been used as a last resort against an unrestrained army.

Because the president’s security force has shown almost no reserve in opening fire on unarmed civilians, the women decided this week to organize the march in the nation’s commercial capital, assuming soldiers would be too ashamed to open fire.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council said it is “deeply concerned” about the escalation of violence in Ivory Coast and that it could lead to a resurgence of civil war there.

Nearly 400 people have been killed in the west African country, including 32 in the last 24 hours, almost all of them men who had voted for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, according to U.N. figures and combined with deaths confirmed by The Associated Press.

Bomb explodes near party rally in Nigeria, killing 3, wounding 21

LAGOS, Nigeria — A bomb exploded near a Nigerian ruling-party rally for a northern governor, killing three people and wounding 21 others as a decisive April election looms for the oil-rich nation.

Attackers threw the explosive from a speeding vehicle as it passed the rally on Thursday in Niger state, federal police spokesman Olusola Amore said. Amore said the bomb landed at the feet of women who set up a market to sell goods to those attending the rally for Babangida Aliyu, the gubernatorial candidate for the People’s Democratic Party.

“The explosive affected some innocent Nigerians who were selling vegetables,” Niger state police spokesman Richard Oguche said.

Oguche said police had no immediate suspects, though they were investigating what kind of explosive was used in the attack. However, a statement later issued on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan claimed one person was in police custody Thursday night.

People flee after killings in Sudan

JUBA, Sudan — Southern Sudanese officials have blamed the north’s military for attacks that killed more than 100 people this week around a disputed town between north and south Sudan.

Women and children fled en masse from the town of Abyei, a region that has long been seen as the major sticking point between north and south. Southern Sudan voted in January to secede from the north and is on course to become the world’s newest country in July.

“Now all the women and children have evacuated the town. They have moved south because they expect more fighting in the town,” said Father Peter Suleiman, a Catholic priest who spoke to The Associated Press by phone from Abyei town on Thursday.

Col. Philip Aguer, the spokesman for Southern Sudan’s military, said more than 70 people were killed in fighting between Sunday and Tuesday.

Madagascar officials say bomb explodes near coup leader’s car

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — A bomb exploded under a Madagascar’s coup leader’s car Thursday, but he was still able to drive home, say officials.

Andry Rajoelina’s motorcade was able to reach his house safely after the blast, said top aide Col. Fidimalala Rafaliarison.

Prime Minister Gen. Camille Vital said “given the context, it could have been a political attack” meant to intimidate.

He said an investigation was under way.

Rajoelina took power in Madagascar with military backing in 2009 after democratically elected president Marc Ravalomanana lost crucial support among top military leaders after his forces fired on anti-government protesters, killing at least 25.

Rajoelina has been shunned by the international community and has so far rejected attempts by South Africa and other neighbours to mediate a solution that would restore democracy to this desperately poor Indian Ocean island nation.

Political violence has flared periodically since his takeover.

Last month, Ravalomanana staged a bid to return from exile in South Africa but was turned back from an airport in the country after aviation authorities in Madagascar wrote to South African airline officials to say he was not welcome.

South Africa, the region’s main power broker, had cautioned Ravalomanana against taking “unilateral measures,” saying negotiations were continuing.

Ravalomanana later pledged to work with regional mediators.

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