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Yusuf Alli – Cii News | 21 February 2014/20 Rabi Uthaanil 1435

News that made headlines on various newswires around the world.

MONDAY

The rand was trading close to its highest level in nearly four weeks after extending gains made late last week, as the dollar struggles and sentiment towards emerging markets improves.

The rand was at R10.85 to the dollar in line with its New York close on Friday, the second consecutive session that ended above the key R11 mark.

The dollar fell to six-week lows against a basket of major currencies today, dragged down by data released on Friday that showed US manufacturing output unexpectedly fell in January due to bad weather.

Rand Merchant Bank analyst John Cairns says The primary driver remains dollar weakness but what is ultimately much more important is the slow return of investor confidence in emerging markets.

—–

Cell C said that the decision by mobile operator MTN to take legal action on the regulator’s announcement of Mobile Termination Rates is a poor reflection on the industry.

ICASA, announced recently that MTRs in SA would be reduced to allow for more competition in the country.

MTRs which is the rate that operators charge each other, would be reduced for the larger operators – Vodacom and MTN – while allowing smaller players like Telkom Mobile and Cell C to be more aggressive on pricing.

MTN expressed its unhappiness with the new regulations indicating that it would sue ICASA over the issue which gives Cell C and Telkom Mobile more leverage to reduce mobile pricing in SA.

Cell C acting CEO Jose Dos Santos said it’s a very sad day for this country.

He said that consumers in SA are tired of being “ripped off” and the latest courtroom drama would not endear the operators to their customers.

—–

President Jacob Zuma has denied that his Nkandla home upgrades has cost the tax payer over r200 million, saying rather it is in the region of 50- 70 million.

The president added that he will abide by public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report – provided it is “accurate”.

Speaking on eNCA he said the government introduced security features after he and his family had already begun upgrading their two homesteads.

Madonsela earlier said an outstanding response from a respondent had delayed the release of the Nkandla report.

At the weekend, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told the SA National Editors’ Forum that the Nkandla debacle could have been handled better.

——

At least 90 people were killed in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state by suspected members of rebel group Boko Haram.

Witnesses said the fighters came into the village of Izghe, near the border with Cameroon, on Saturday night and killed the mostly Christian residents.

The attackers surrounded Izghe, spraying it with bullets, setting off explosions and burning down dozens of houses, as they shot dozens of villagers and slit the throats of others.

Lawal Tanko, Borno state police commissioner, confirmed the reports but said he had no details of casualties.

Lawan Madu, a witness, told Reuters news agency that hundreds of residents had fled following the attack.

Maina Ularamu, a local government official says they looted businesses and food stores and loaded all their spoils into vehicles owned by residents and fled into the bush.

—–

Egyptian authorities had closed the Rafah crossing for six days in a row.

Director General of Borders and Crossings in Gaza Maher, Abu Sabha called on Egypt to open the crossing permanently, to reduce the suffering of Palestinian people in Gaza.

Abu Sabha confirmed, in a statement, that he contacted the Egyptian side, demanding them to open the crossing for humanitarian cases.

Rafah crossing is considered the main crossing for 1.8 million Gazans.

There have been frequent closures of the Rafah terminal, in recent months, due to Egyptian coup.

—–

The Free Syrian Army fired Selim Idriss as its military chief, citing the “difficulties faced by the Syrian revolution” in its battle with the government.

In a video broadcast on the internet yesterady, the rebel coalition said its military council had decided to replace Idriss with Brigadier General Abdel al-Ilah al-Bachir.

The Western-backed rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) was once the country’s strongest armed opposition force is but now increasingly marginalised by rival groups.

It had been weakened by internal rifts and by competition from other anti government coalitions such as the Islamic Front, a powerful alliance formed last year that is now the largest rebel force with tens of thousands of fighters.

The FSA’s move comes after peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition ended without result, throwing the future of the negotiations to end the bloody conflict into doubt.

—–

A severe snowstorm sweeping across Japan had killed 19 people and left more than 1 600 injured, as the extreme weather sparked widespread transport chaos.

At least 19 people died in snow-related incidents after the reportedly record-breaking storm, with the blast now battering the northern island of Hokkaido.

More than 6,900 people were trapped in small communities cut off by snow-blocked roads and railway lines, while gasoline deliveries to some petrol stations were delayed due to impassible roads.

Despite around-the-clock clearing efforts, hundreds of cars remained stuck on some mountain roads, leaving drivers stranded.

The transportation ministry and municipal governments are delivering emergency aid to drivers of stuck cars, officials said.

Most snow in the capital has melted, but forecasters predict more snow again in the region around Tokyo later this week.

—–

The South African Weather Service has warned of “extremely hot conditions” in parts of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, after weekend temperatures rose to as much as 43°C in places.

The SA Weather Service warned that extremely high fire danger conditions are also expected in the Cape winelands and parts of the Karoo.

Extremely uncomfortable conditions were also expected along the coast of Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

Temperatures in Oudtshoorn, Ladismith and Prince Albert were expected to reach 41°C.

—–

Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano had asked Matteo Renzi, the mayor of Florence, to form a new government.

Enrico Letta resigned as prime minister on Friday, after he was ousted in a vote called by Renzi at a meeting of their centre-left Democratic Party.

Renzi, who was elected as MP, would have to come to a deal with Mr Letta’s former coalition partners.

Renzi would become Italy’s youngest ever prime minister, two months younger than Benito Mussolini when he came to power in 1922.

——

Pakistan could challenge Kashmiri separatist Afzal Guru’s execution in the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

The Ministry of Kashmir Affairs has asked the Foreign Office to take Guru’s case to the ICJ on grounds that he was not given a fair trial.

According to the Express Tribune, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Barjis Tahir formally asked the foreign affairs ministry to complete all the formalities to take up Guru’s execution to the international court, seeking justice for him even after his death.

Guru was executed in Tihar Jail in New Delhi on February 9, 2013, by the Indian government for allegedly masterminding the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001.

The execution had sparked criticism and raised many questions from across the world over the fair trial by the Indian authorities.

Tahir said the Indian courts convicted and subsequently hanged Guru without having ample evidence of his involvement in the attack on parliament.

—–

Ten illegal miners trapped in an abandoned mine in Benoni, on the East Rand, were rescued.

Rescue technician David Tshabalala said Tshabalala said it was unclear how many illegal miners were still underground because those who resurfaced could not provide them with numbers.

The illegal miners were found on Sunday while emergency services were conducting operations around illegal mining in the area. They heard screaming from the abandoned mine.

At least 200 more illegal miners were believed to be trapped underground.

Gauteng police said on Monday that 11 illegal miners who had already been rescued had been charged.

Rescue workers abandoned their rescue mission on Sunday evening after the remaining men refused to be brought to the surface.

—–

Nigerian police shut down a hotel in Anambra for reportedly serving dishes made out of human meat.

According to the International Business Times, the police recovered two human heads wrapped in cellophane sheets when they arrested 11 people from the restaurant.

A pastor who had eaten at the hotel said he went to the hotel early this year, and after eating, he was told that a lump of meat was being sold at 700 Naira, around 46 Rand.

He added that he didn’t know it was human meat that he ate at such expensive price.

One local vegetable seller told a Nigerian newspaper that he always noticed funny movements in and out of the hotel; dirty people with dirty characters always come into the hotel.

—-

Reports said mining giant Anglo American Platinum is losing about R100m a day because of a strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union which entered its fourth week on Monday.

Amplats spokesperson Mpumi Sithole said the company is losing 4000oz amounting to R100m in revenue daily

On Saturday Amplats said it was suing Amcu for damages and losses suffered over their work stoppage.

Amplats is seeking R591m but this could rise if damages continued.

The CCMA said talks between Amcu and platinum mining companies were due to resume on Monday.

Friday’s session was postponed as Amcu officials had to attend a funeral.

Members of the Amcu at Lonmin, Amplats, and Impala Platinum embarked on a strike on January 23, demanding a R12 500 basic salary for miners.

The CCMA has been mediating talks between the union and the platinum companies since January 24.

—–

The Gift of the Givers foundationsaid that some progress hadbeen made towards securing the release of a South African man kidnapped in Yemen.

However the foundations head Imtiaz Sooliman said he could not disclose details of the interventions aimed at freeing Korkie, as this could endanger lives and halt the progress.

News agency Agence France-Presse reported last Saturday that a mediator made contact with Korkie’s kidnappers.

The unnamed mediator reportedly said Korkie was still alive.

—–

According to reports Tens of thousands of Muslims were fleeing what the U.N. called a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic.

On Sunday, French and African forces provided a military escort to hundreds of people on a slow convoy toward the Western border with Cameroon.

Puplic Radio broadcaster NPR said some men joined the gang called anti-balaka, meaning “anti-machete, a Christian revenge militia, bent on driving out Muslims.

It said their campaign was also fueled by economic resentment of the Muslim minority that makes up most of the merchant class.

Even while demanding a Muslim expulsion, the Christian militias have blocked Muslims from escaping.

A convoy like this one led by African peacekeepers was attacked on the road Sunday, and least two people were killed.

—–

US Secretary of State John Kerry blamed the Syrian government for stonewalling peace talks, intended to bring the civil war to an end, saying they did nothing except continue to drop barrel bombs on their own people and continue to destroy their own country.

He added that they are doing so with increased support from Iran, from Hezbollah and from Russia.”

The United Nations Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, says the first two rounds of peace talks had not achieved much but that the two rival Syrian delegations had agreed on an agenda for a third round at an unspecified date.

Both sides blame each other for the lack of progress.

The Syrian conflict, which has lasted almost three years, has killed more than 130,000 people, displaced millions more and is destabilising the country’s neighbours.
—-

Peace talks between the Pakistani government and the Taliban have collapsed, after a faction of the armed group claimed it had executed 23 soldiers held hostage since June 2010.

A Pakistani government negotiator, Irfan Siddiqui, said there was no use in holding a scheduled meeting with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan after its Mohmand chapter said it had killed 23 members of the Frontier Corps.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the killings, which have not yet been confirmed by the armed group’s main spokesman.

The government’s absence from the negotiating table comes after local media reports saying that the Taliban shura council was expected to declare a temporary ceasefire.

Sharif announced the start of talks on January 29 to give peace another chance following seven years of violence that have claimed nearly 7,000 lives.

—–

TUESDAY

Ekurhuleni emergency services said they were hoping for another 10 to 15 illegal miners to voluntarily surface from inside an abandoned Gold One mine shaft in Benoni on the East Rand.

With the search for miners suspended, rescue technician David Tshabalala said rescue workers and the SA Police Service would meet to discuss what to do next.

The community of illegal miners was discovered on Sunday when Ekurhuleni metro police were patrolling the area and heard screaming from the abandoned mine.

A rival group threw boulders down the open mine shaft, trapping the miners underground

Eleven people were rescued at the time and arrested.

The miners appeared to be reluctant to surface, fearing they too will be arrested.

On Monday one of the 22 who had surfaced returned underground to talk to his colleagues to convince them to surface too.

—–

Former labour minister and former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni doused speculation that he could be appointed minister of finance, saying he wants to focus on his investment portfolio.

The Beeld reported that Mboweni resigned from his position as chairperson of AngloGold Ashanti on Monday, in a move which led to speculation that he could become a Cabinet minister

The Mail & Guardian reported last week that Mboweni, had been earmarked for the post as current Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is reaching retirement age.

Mboweni told Business Day that he resigned from his AngloGold Ashanti position because he wants to take care of his expanding portfolio of investments and responsibilities.

It reported that he didn’t want to speculate on Cabinet appointments, but would like to take care of his expanding portfolio of investments and responsibilities rather than return to politics.

—–

Syria’s state news agency reported Syrian government forces had recaptured a village in central Hama province.

State news agency SANA, quoting a military source on Monday, said army units have established total control over Maan, adding that 42 civilians had been killed by what the regime refers to as terrorists.

In central Hama province, activists on Monday said bombing by helicopter gunships took place in the town of Kafr Zeita.

Footage uploaded to the Internet by activist groups showed what they claimed was a missile attack on a tank by the Tawheed Brigade, who operate in and around Aleppo.

Shelling was also reported in the eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus, in the town of Mleiha.

In the Qalamun Mountains near Damascus, shelling resumed on key rebel bastion Yabrud.

According to AFP news agency In the northern Aleppo province, Alaa Jabbu, the head of the rebel Kurdish Front, was killed in army shelling.

——

One asylum seeker had been killed and nearly 80 others have been injured during “a riot” at an Australian immigration detention center on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says that the victim died from a head injury while being taken to hospital.

Thirteen of the 77 injured were in critical condition, including one who sustained gunshot wounds.

The Australian immigration minister claimed that the riot began when detainees forced their way out of the detention center, which keeps would-be refugees who tried to enter Australia by boat.

However, refugee advocates said detainees and staff members had told them that the violence erupted when local residents and police stormed the facility, attacking the asylum seekers.

This was the second incident at the detention facility in two days.

On Sunday night, 19 people were injured after 35 asylum seekers briefly escaped from the center.

—–

Rebel forces in South Sudan launched a major assault against the key town of Malakal, the government-controlled capital of the oil-rich Upper Nile state.

The fighting appeared to be the heaviest to take place since the government of President Salva Kiir and rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar signed a ceasefire agreement in neighbouring Ethiopia

The fighting in South Sudan had left thousands of people dead and displaced close to 900,000.

The humanitarian situation in and around Malakal, as in many other areas of the country, had already been described as desperate, which tens of thousands of residents having fled and moved to makeshift camps in the bush.

UN officials and rights groups have reported a wave of atrocities committed by both sides, including massacres, rape, child soldier recruitment and the looting of humanitarian aid supplies

——

A man stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death in Rothdene, Meyerton, before jumping in front of a truck and killing himself.

After stabbing 28 year old Madezelle Smit, Shaun Pretorius took her car and her dog and drove in the direction of Vereeniging.

He stopped on the R59, got out the car with the dog, and ran in front of a moving truck.

Smit’s body was found with multiple stab wounds and she died on the scene.

Police believe that the two had broken up a week or two ago but did not know what triggered Pretorius’s attack on her. Police have opened an inquest docket.

—–

Cousins Lindon Wagner and Robin Harwood were granted leave to appeal their sentences for the death of Kirsty Theologo.

The matter was transferred to the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

Last Wednesday the high court, sitting in Palm Ridge, sentenced the two to lengthy jail terms for Theologo’s death after an apparent satanic ritual in October 2011.

Wagner was jailed for life for murder and a further 18 years for the attempted murder of Theologo’s friend.

Harwood was jailed for 20 years for murder and another 20 years for the attempted murder.

During the sentencing, Judge Geraldine Borchers said Wagner played the more active role in the killing.

—–

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Muslim nations to remain united and counter the unprecedented threats that they face.

Addressing the opening session of the ninth meeting of the Islamic Inter-Parliamentary Union in Tehran, Rouhani said the Islamic world is currently under international pressure and threats.

He warned that the ‘multifaceted’ threats will in the long run affect all Muslims unless they deal with it promptly.

He noted that Iran has proposed a resolution on a global confrontation with violence and extremism, which has been approved in the United Nations General Assembly.

The Iranian president also referred to the plight of the Syrian refugees as well as the Israeli aggression against Palestinians, noting that the Muslim world needs unity and solidarity to tackle these challenges.

Rouhani further said that the Zionist regime of Israel benefits more than anyone else from the current crises in the Muslim world.

The Iranian president called on Muslim nations to adhere to and put into practice Islamic teachings in order to deal with the wide-scale problems they face.

—–

Ten car bombs in central Iraq, including five in Baghdad, killed at least 19 people after another series of blasts the day before.

The blasts in the Iraqi capital hit four different areas, killing at least 10 people.

AFP news agency reported that at least 30 people were wounded as a result of the attacks.

Bayaa in south Baghdad was hit by two car bombs which killed at least five people while another exploded in a nearby area, killing two.

Three more car bombs exploded in Hilla, south of Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 22, while one in Mussayib and another in Iskandiriyah killed a total of four people and wounded 32.

The attacks came a day after a series of explosions in the capital left at least 23 dead.

Attacks and clashes have reportedly killed more than 470 people so far this month and more than 1,450 since the start of the year.

—-

According to a report, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe may be leaving politics after this year’s elections.

According to Beeld, Motlanthe had not put his name on this year’s ANC elections list, leaving the door open for Cyril Ramaphosa to become South Africa’s deputy president.

The report also says that ANC veteran Ben Turok won’t be returning to parliament.

Meanwhile According to Business Day, Tito Mboweni dismissed reports that he will be making a comeback sayinghe would rather focus on his investment portfolio than enter into politics.

He told the newspaper that he was intellectually occupied and enjoying what he is doing.

—–

Police fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing protesters in clashes near Ukraine’s parliament, where a crucial session on constitutional reform is expected.

Protesters tried to get closer to the heavily fortified parliament building, leading police to retaliate with smoke bombs and rubber bullets.

About 20,000 protesters marched from Kiev’s Independence Square to parliament to demand a vote on reforms to strip President Viktor Yanukovich of key powers.

Tension remained high in Ukraine, despite the general prosecutor Viktor Pshonka’s announcement that criminal charges against activists will be dropped as part of an amnesty deal aimed at reducing friction between the government and its opponents.

The prosecutor’s announcement came after protesters agreed to their part of the deal, which was to vacate government occupied buildings and allow traffic to access areas leading to state buildings in Kiev.

——

EFF leader Julius Malema on Saturday called on white people to join the party to get their hands on land.

He said only two percent of whites own land and If they want land, they must join EFF.

Malema was addressing residents of Stofel Park in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, during the unveiling of the party’s election truck.

He said the Economic Freedom Fighters was not a non-whites party but a vanguard for the working class,  including the white workers.

Malema was mobbed by supporters when he arrived at the sports ground.

Supporters wearing red berets and T-shirts sang and danced with him.

—–

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said Sanral had been ordered to fix billing problems related to the Gauteng e-toll system.

Briefing Parliament’s transport portfolio committee, Peters conceded that there were teething problems with the electronic tolling system.

Sanral CEO Nazir Alli expanded on the teething problems. These included people making payments by electronic transfer via the internet, which posed a problem.

Earlier the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance spokesman John Clarke said Sanral’s claim that the number of complaints are a mere 0.3 percent of the total road users was comical

He said for e-tolling to be regarded as a success by international standards, Sanral needed to achieve compliance levels closer to 90 percent along with low administration costs.

Hundreds of thousands of road users are still not complying with the e-tolling system in Gauteng.

—–

WEDNESDAY

Police in the Ukrainian capital Kiev launched a fresh attack on anti-government protesters as the death toll in renewed clashes has climbed to 25.

The new attempt to uproot the protest stronghold came as President Yanukovych blamed opposition leaders for the worst violence in months of unrest.

After failed overnight talks, he urged them to distance themselves from radical forces.

Activists said the violence had been stoked by the authorities.

In a statement, the health ministry said the number of dead on both sides had risen to 25.

Nine of those killed were police. A journalist has also died.

Hundreds of people have been treated in hospital for injuries and there are fears the number of deaths could rise still further.

—–

Two teenage girls were found dead in Dobsonville, Soweto, on Wednesday morning, Gauteng police said.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela said the girls were dressed in their school uniforms, and they had cuts on their hands and necks.

Razors, candles and their school bags were found next them.

eNCA reported that the girls were found dead in a field off Braam Fischer Drive.

Neither of the girls, who were aged 15 and 16, had been reported missing.

—–

A German court sentenced a former Rwandan town mayor to 14 years in jail for aiding genocide in a church massacre of hundreds of people 20 years ago.

The defendant, Onesphore Rwabukombe the former mayor of the town of Muvumba in northeastern Rwanda, showed no visible reaction when he was found guilty.

Presiding judge Thomas Sa-gebiel said at least 400 Tutsi victims were killed in an extremely brutal manner” with machetes, axes and hoes in the 1994 attack.

The court found Rwa-bu-kombe had ordered the attack on the church grounds in the nearby town of Kiziguro and later organised taking away the bodies and dumping them in pits.

Rwabukombe had since 2002 lived in Germany, where he had applied for political asylum.

He was arrested in 2011 on an Interpol arrest warrant.

—–

At least two people were killed in a blast in the southern suburbs of Beirut near an Iranian cultural centre.

Security sources said the explosion hit the Bir Hassan neighbourhood, leaving 19 people injured.

The targeted area was meters away from the Kuwaiti embassy and also near the Iranian embassy, which was hit by a bomb attack in November.

There were no immediate details on the nature of the explosion, which sent a large plume of smoke over the area.

Lebanese television crews at the scene broadcasted footage of widespread destruction, with emergency teams carrying wounded people away from a charred street strewn with rubble.

Several vehicles could be seen ablaze and the air was still thick with smoke.

—–

Opposition party leaders yesterday took turns to lambast President Jacob Zuma’s administration, accusing it of being a far cry from those of former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

In an emotion-charged debate on Zuma’s State of the Nation address, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said Zuma had no standing when it came to the fight against corruption.

COPE president Moisuoa Lekota said the country was less happy than when Mbeki was still in office.

They also mocked Zuma’s narrative that South Africa had a good story to tell, with Mazibuko rephrasing it as a story of greed and Lekota saying good stories happened under Mandela and Mbeki.

IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi said the dignity that had been enjoyed by political leaders in the country had been eroded since Zuma assumed office.

Cabinet ministers Blade Nzimande , Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Lulu Xingwana defended Zuma by restating the government’s achievements of the last 20 years.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa also rejected the “good story to tell” narrative.

Zuma is scheduled to respond to the debate tomorrow.

—–

The bail application of a Mpumalanga man accused of hiring six men to rape his wife before raping her himself would be heard in the Bethal Magistrates Court.

The Beeld
newspaper reported that the man was arrested just over a week ago.

His alleged accomplices were on the run.

The Bethal school teacher has reportedly told police her husband hired six men to rape her on 3 February, which they allegedly did in front of him.

The case was only reported five days after the incident and it’s understood the woman has now gone to live with a friend with her two daughters.

The state was expected to oppose bail.

—–

A former US Army soldier, sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2006 rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of her parents and sister, had been found hanged in his cell.

The Los Angeles Times report, quoting prison officials, said the death of Steven Dale Green was being investigated as suicide.

28 year old Green, was convicted in 2009 of the rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the deaths of her father, mother and six-year-old sister in Mahmudiya, 32km south of Baghdad.

He was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, after a federal jury in Kentucky could not decide whether he should be executed.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed him as the ringleader of a gang of five soldiers that plotted to invade the home of the family of four to rape the girl, and later bragged about the crime.

Green, who was 19 when he committed the crime, was described as the triggerman in the group of soldiers, who donned black “ninja” outfits and raped the girl before killing her and her family.

—–

The abandoned Gold One mine shaft in Benoni on the East Rand was being monitored to see whether there were more illegal miners.

The Hawks said twenty-two of the 25 people rescued from the abandoned mine would appear in court on today.

Captain Paul Ramaloko said 11 miners, who were meant to appear in the Benoni Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, would now appear with 11 others on Wednesday, facing charges of illegal mining.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Nathi Mncube said that the accused were not brought to court, but also did not provide a reason.

In a separate incident two illegal miners died in a mine shaft, also in Benoni.

—–

Over R4 million worth of contraband cigarettes were seized in Crystal Park, Benoni.

Police followed up on information last night and made the find at the truck stop

Gauteng flying squad and commercial crimes seized tons of fake cigarettes worth an estimated R4.6 million after receiving a tip-off about a truck travelling from Zimbabwe last night.

The truck was pulling what appeared to be timber, but there were thousands of cigarette cartons stored inside it.

Two people aged between 24 and 53 were arrested for possession of illegal cigarettes and contravening the tobacco act.

—–

The United Nations warned that more than 850,000 people in Somalia were in dire need of food, stressing that they are in emergency conditions.

Director of the UN Humanitarian Operations John Ging said that another two million people in the African country are considered to be food insecure.

He said that the UN World Food Program’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit has said in a report this month that 857,000 people are in acute crisis conditions and need urgent humanitarian assistance.

The report also said that 75 percent of 857,000 Somalis who are in urgent need of food have been displaced from their homes following fighting, insecurity and lack of food.

The UN appealed for USD 933 million for the humanitarian crisis in the African country this year, but Ging said it has only received 36 million.

—–

Heavy fighting erupted near the airport in Central African Republic’s capital Bangui as Christian militia blocked an attempt to evacuate Muslims.

They also disrupted a visit by a top United Nations aid official.

The former French colony had been gripped by cycles of inter-religious killing despite the deployment of peacekeepers to halt violence that some diplomats say risked slipping into genocide.

Another U.N. official said the fighting had prevented Valerie Amos, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, from travelling to the north of the country where violence between Muslims and Christians has also scattered tens of thousands of civilians.

U.N. officials estimate that at least 2,000 people have been killed since the start of the crisis, but say the actual figure will be much higher as mass graves as unearthed and killings continue.

Around 1 million people had been displaced by the violence.

—–

EWN reports said education expert believes there would be no great improvement in the literacy and numeracy level of primary schools pupils in the near future.

Members of Parliament heard the country’s grade nine pupils are failing dismally in maths.

The Western Cape Education Department also announced only 14,3 percent of grade nine pupils in the province passed provincial testing on the subject in 2013.

Education expert Graeme Bloch says  the Western Cape needs to wake up and realise that progress is very slow.

Meanwhile, the government has come under fire over the deteriorating quality of education.

According to new data from the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit , 13 percent of grade five learners from rural schools are illiterate

——

Suspected Jewish extremists slashed the tyres of some 30 Palestinian cars and sprayed racist slogans in Hebrew in a neighbourhood of annexed east Jerusalem

The attack took place in Sharafat, a Palestinian neighbourhood in the southern sector of east Jerusalem, with the attackers spraying “No coexistence” and “Arabs = thieves” on walls.

A similar attack took place on February 10 when suspected Jewish extremists punctured the tyres of 19 vehicles in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ein Aluza just south of the Old City, and daubed the site with racist anti-Arab graffiti in Hebrew.

Both incidences of vandalism bore the hallmarks of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for hate crimes that generally target Palestinians.

Initially carried out in retaliation for state moves to dismantle unauthorised settler outposts, the attacks have become a much broader phenomenon targeting non-Jews and anyone seen as hostile to the settlers.

Earlier this month, three settlers were indicted for a November arson attack on two Palestinian vehicles, but in the vast majority of cases, the authorities have failed to catch and prosecute those involved, who are largely understood to be young Jewish extremists.

—-

The Collective for Democracy said it would lay criminal charges against the acting Chief Operations Officer of the SABC for fraudulent misrepresentation of his qualifications.

The grouping of opposition parties has warned decisive action needs to be taken against Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her findings into maladministration finding Motsoeneng cost the corporation millions while purging his enemies from the organisation.

The Collective for Democracy, which comprises six political parties, says it will lay the criminal charges against the acting COO at the Rosebank Police Station at 5pm today.

Meanwhile, Motsoeneng was expected to tell the public today why he should stay in his job following the Public Protector’s findings.

—-

THURSDAY

The University of the Free State made headlines again with reports of a racist incident at its main campus in Bloemfontein.

In an incident that mirrored a 2010 attack, on Monday two white students allegedly drove over a black student as he was walking on a pavement and then later beaten him.

UFS is the same university where four students made a racist video that captured the nation’s attention.

The attackers allegedly tried driving over three female black students before driving over Dumane Gwebu who was admitted to hospital after the incident.

Other students have also complained of similar incidents in the last few weeks.

The suspected attackers were arrested on Wednesday and will appear in court today.

——

The CEOs of South Africa’s three biggest platinum producers have issued an ultimatum to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union to end a month-long wage strike or face possible court action to have the work stoppage declared illegal.

On Wednseday, the top executives of Anglo American Platinum, Lonmin and Impala Platinum made a joint plea to Amcu members to return to work, saying they’ve been losing 2 percent of their wages each day they haven’t reported for duty.

A simultaneous strike at the three companies has never happened before, and the current action has hit over 40 percent of global supply.

Amcu is demanding a basic wage of R12,500 for all its members while the platinum companies have offered between 7.5% and 9% over three years.

The latest offer by the mine bosses would see Amcu’s demand be met over three years and the companies say their offer won’t change.

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According to officials and witnesses, Armed men from Nigeria’s Boko Haram group have attacked the northeastern town of Bama.

They reportedly opened fire on a school, shooting or burning to death 47 people and trashing the palace of a traditional ruler.

The death toll was confirmed by a police commissioner for Borno state, which lies at the heart of an insurgency that has killed thousands in the past four and half years.

He said the assailants had also partly burned down the palace of the traditional ruler of Borno, whose kingdom was one of West Africa’s oldest medieval Islamic caliphates.

According to official figures, Boko Haram killed 106 people in Ighze village on Sunday, making it one of their deadliest assaults so far.

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Ukraine’s president had offered a truce, talks with the opposition, and replaced the head of the army after a night of protests in the capital Kiev that left 26 dead and up to 200 people injured.

Viktor Yanukovich made the announcement before meetings with EU foreign ministers who were threatening to impose sanctions for the violence.

A statement on the presidential website announced an agreement for “the start to negotiations with the aim of ending bloodshed, and stabilising the situation in the state in the interests of social peace”.

A meeting of all 28 EU foreign ministers in Brussels will decide on targeted sanctions for Tuesday night’s violence.

However, the standoff between protesters and riot police continued.

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Facebook, the world’s biggest social-networking company, said it was buying the mobile messaging service WhatsApp in a deal worth $16bn.

The purchase would leave WhatsApp with its own independent board.

WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile app which allows users to exchange messages without having to pay telecom charges.

This is Facebook’s biggest acquisition and comes less than two years after Mark Zuckerberg’s firm raised $16bn in the richest technology-sector public stock offering.

The purchase includes $12bn in Facebook shares and $4bn cash.

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The police’s occult unit was investigating the murders of two schoolgirls, who were found in Dobsonville surrounded by candles and razors.

Friends of the girls believe they were murdered in a satanic ritual, and fear they could be next.

The friends told eNCA they believe three people at their school who are apparently involved in satanism are responsible.

The girls went missing after school on Tuesday, and they were found still in their school uniforms.

The Star reported that friends believed the girls were meant to join a satanic group, and were sacrificed when one of them refused to join.

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A young madrassa teacher from Surrey Estate has been left traumatised after he was allegedly assaulted in Grassy Park on Monday evening.

The twenty year old teacher at Masjidul Ishraq in Grassy Park, left for home after 5pm.

Three men apparently in their thirties, in a blue van stopped and hurled insults at him, calling him ‘Al Qaeda’ and ridiculed Muslims and Islam.

According to VOC, the men allegedly told him to say blasphemous remarks, which he refused to do.

The assailants then flung a glass bottle at his head, and one of them jumped out of the vehicle and accosted him.

He defended himself and punched the one attacker however a second occupant grabbed him and attacked him. They forced him into the van and drove away.

The suspects then continued to assault the teacher before fleeing the scene.

After the attack, the traumatized teacher managed to get a taxi to find his way home.

—–

Pakistani fighter jets have bombed suspected Taliban hideouts in a tribal area on the Afghan border, killing at least 15 people.

The strikes came after attempts to engage the group in peace negotiations collapsed this week.

Another security official said a cache of arms was destroyed in the strikes.

The administration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had been trying to engage the Taliban in talks.

But as the talks broke down this week, the air strikes may herald a broader military offensive in North Waziristan, a region where many armed groups are based.

The army publicly supports Sharif’s call for talks but, in private, senior officers have expressed frustration, giving rise to talk that the military was waiting for an excuse to mount an armed operation.

The air strikes, launched in the morning, also came just hours after Pakistan’s army said more than 100 soldiers had been killed by Taliban fighters in the past five months.

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A senior Taliban official says the United States has held indirect talks with the group over a possible prisoner exchange.

The AFP news agency said an official said the talks took place sometime in the past two months in a Middle East country.

The potential swap would see the possible transfer of five senior Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba in exchange for a US soldier captured nearly five years ago.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho was believed to be held in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pentagon officials said last month that they had obtained a new video of the soldier, the first evidence in nearly three years of him being alive.

The US State Department did not confirmthe meeting.

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Fierce clashes between police and protesters in Ukraine’s capital have erupted anew and news agencies are reporting their journalists have seen bodies laid out on the edge of the protest encampment.

A Ukraine police sniper had been seen shooting protesters near Independence Square in Kiev, as the death toll increases with violent clashes.

SkyNEWS reports that a police sniper shot live rounds at protesters as police was forced on the back foot by intensifying protests.

An Associated Press reporter has seen the bodies of several protesters at the edge of the protest encampment in downtown Kiev.

A medic for the protesters, Bohdan Soloviy, says eight protesters were killed by gunfire today as demonstrators tried to take control of a building near the encampment.

The violence came hours after the country’s embattled president and top opposition leaders met and called for a truce and negotiations.

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An Egyptian court was to try Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed for allegedly having links to what it called a “terrorist organisation” and spreading false news.

Since their arrest, journalists have staged protests worldwide demanding their release, and rejecting claims the three have links to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s former ruling party.

The case is one of many that have led to criticism of Egypt’s military-backed government, with rights groups pointing to growing intolerance for dissent in the Arab world’s most populous country.

In total, nine journalists from the Qatar-based media network are among a group of 20 facing charges related to the case.

Al Jazeera denies all the charges against its staff and has demanded their release.

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Eskom saidthe power system was severely constrained today due to the loss of additional generating units from its power station fleet, reduced imports, and the extensive use of emergency reserves.

Major industrial customers were urged to reduce electricity consumption by at least 10 percent on Thursday as Eskom declared a power emergency.

This forced Eskom to declare an emergency, in accordance with its regulatory protocols, to protect the national power grid.

Eskom published load shedding schedules for its direct customers on its website, but said these were only a precautionary measure.

The state of emergency will remain in place until 9pm, when the situation will be reviewed.

Residential customers were asked to switch off geysers, airconditioners, lights and non-essential appliances between 5pm and 9pm.

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The United States Congress is the latest front in the battle over boycotting Israel.

Two congressmen introduced a bill that would strip American academic institutions of federal funding if they choose to boycott Israel.

The move follows a growing international movement to protest the Israeli occupation and violations of Palestinian human rights.

The most recent to join the boycott is the American Studies Association,a group composed of about 5,000 academics and scholars dedicated to the study of American culture.

The ASA boycott is part of a larger movement called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, which wants to pressure Israel to change its policies in the occupied Palestinian territories by isolating the country.

Opponents of BDS say the movement – which calls for Palestinian refugees’ right to return – is an attempt to delegitimise Israel and dilute its majority-Jewish population.

The BDS played a role in the recent decision of Dutch pension fund PGGM, which oversees about $200bn in assets, to withdraw money from five Israeli banks.

Other organisations participating in the boycott include the Association for Asian-American Studies, the 100,000-member Federation of French-Speaking Belgian Students, and the Teachers Union of Ireland.

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More than 60 protesters were shot dead in the deadliest day of anti-government protests in Ukraine,

The opposition medics report comes as rival sides traded accusations of sniper attacks.

Opposition medics said more than 60 protesters had been shot dead by police on Thursday alone.

Kiev authorities, for their part, put the death toll from three days of violence at 75.

Meanwhile the European Union agreed to impose sanctions on Ukrainians with “blood on their hands”, though it left the door open to a political deal by naming no names.

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A mortar attack has struck a busy area in a mainly Shia town south of Iraq’s capital last night, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 50.

The five mortar rounds slammed into a busy market, a residential building and a parking lot, as people returned home from work and shopped in the town of Mussayab.

Police said it appeared the rounds came from the nearby Sunni-dominated town of Jurf al-Sakr, though it wasn’t immediately clear who fired them.

The officials gave the casualty toll and details of the incident on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release information to journalists.

Mussayab, about 60km south of Baghdad, is in an area that holds a mix of Sunnis and Shias and has been a flashpoint for some of the worst sectarian violence in recent years.

FRIDAY

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has announced early presidential elections and promised to form a coalition government in a bid to defuse a deep crisis in which scores have been killed and hundreds injured.

In a statement on his website, Yanukovych said he would start the process for early elections but gave no date.

He also promised constitutional reforms trimming presidential powers, a key demand of protesters.

The conflict is a battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West.

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The Young Communist League of SA condemned a reported racist attack on a black student at the University of Free State.

Its spokesperson Khaya Xaba said what happened at the university has the potential to divide our nation and also shows some sections of white people still consider blacks inferior.

He added that it is about time that the university council, the senior management, and the SRC confront the reality of racism in UFS and expel all racists.

Two students accused of assaulting another student appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

The matter was postponed to 9 April.

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British media reported that the Saudi Arabian authorities have Fresh plans up to erect a modern complex on the site believed to be the birth place of the final messenger Muhammad SAW.

It is part of a sweeping multi-billion-dollar redevelopment of Makkah that has already destroyed many sites and structures.

If approved the small library next to the Haram could be destroyed.

Initially a metro rail station was planned to be built but now it could be turned into an imam’s residence and an adjacent presidential palace.

According to the report in the Independent newspaper the Saudi royal family deny the Nabi Mohamed (SAW) was born in what is known as the House of Mawlid.

A number of other historical sites have been destroyed or removed to prevent shirq or bidah from developing.

—–

Reports have emerged on social network sites about Christian missionaries taking advantage of the situation Syrian refugees find themselves in.

A YouTube video posted by a user called alh Nusra shows a Syrian woman saying that missionaries came to them with books and said we should read them and memorise them in exchange for covering our rental costs and some allowances.

The woman appealed to Muslim scholars and the Muslim world to step in before the “exploitation” is successful.

She added that the book is the bible and they were told that they would come on a specified day to check that we have memorised it.

In November 2013, Turkish President Abdullah Gül called on Muslim countries to take more responsibility and offer “their own solutions” for the resolution of the ongoing crisis in Syria.

Muslim countries have so far not been able to offer definitive solutions for the crisis in Syria that has been continuing for more than two-and-a-half years.

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A delegation of leading Syrian Ulema has kicked off their tour of South Africa.

On Thursday the contingent including Sh salaah eddin al idlibi  and Sh Adnan as Saqqa visted Roshnee in the south of Gauteng.

The delegation is hosted by the Ma’had an nur al islami in South Africa.

The organisations Moulana Moosa Abdurahman explained the purpose of the visit to those attending the programme at the masjid un nur in Roshnee…

The Syrian sHEIK Sh Adnan as Saqqa thanked Osuth Africans for their hospitality and appealed for assistance to help them in their efforts regarding the maktab and taalimi activities amongst Syrians.

Tonight a programme will be held at the Laudium Civic entre after Esha salah.

—–

The National Prosecuting Authority on Friday denied leaking documents on paralympian Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial.

NPA spokesperson Medupi Simasiku said it was not leaked by them, and they don’t know how it got in their media houses hands.

The NPA said it had not yet filed its replying documents to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Simasiku was reacting to different reports by EWN and eNCA based on documents in their possession.

EWN reported that the State would rely on 13 facts to prove the blade runner was guilty of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria East home last year.

Pistorius said he thought she was an intruder.

—–

Eskom said the country’s power emergency had been lifted, but the grid remains vulnerable.

On Thurday, the power utility declared a power emergency after at least four of its generators tripped.

The utility issued an emergency warning to its customers and called on business and commercial customers to scale down as its reserves had been depleted.

Eskom’s Andrew Etzinger says the emergency was lifted at 9pm last night.

This is the second time since November that an emergency has been declared by the parastatal.

Last time, the utility said emergency maintenance work meant customers had to cut usage.

—–

Rebel group al-Shabab attacked the Somali presidential palace compound, blasting through a gate with a car bomb and engaging in a fierce gun battle with African Union soldiers.

Shabab said it carried out the attack on the heavily fortified compound in Mogadishu, known as Villa Somalia, but the Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was unharmed.

It was not immediately clear how many people were killed.

The battle reportedly took place at the house of Somalia’s top military commander, General Dahir Aden Indha Qarshe, located in the same compound and near the presidential palace building.

Hussein Farah, a senior police officer at the scene said The Shabab fighters who attacked the palace were about 10 men in military uniform and the red hats worn by the palace guards.

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Four people were shot dead and two were wounded in a shooting and knife attack at an American Indian tribal headquarters in California.

Alturas Police Chief Ken Barnes said 44-year-old Sherie Lash was taken into custody after allegedly opening fire at the Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Office and Community Center.

The police chief said one victim is the tribe’s leader.

Tribal members were meeting about evicting Lash, also known as Sherie Rhoades, and her son from the Rancheria which, according to its website, is a federally recognised tribe with 35 members

One person escaped the building, covered in victims’ blood, and ran to the police station to alert authorities, the station reported.

When officers arrived, Barnes said, the suspect was outside the building, running and holding a knife.

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Egyptian military apache helicopters this morning launched several air strikes at bedouin villages in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, near the Gaza Strip.

the Palestinian Al-Resalah newspaper reported activists in the Egyptian city of Rafah saying that the strikes targeted Al-Mahdiya, Rafi’a, Al-Midfana, Al-Moqata’a and Al-Hilwa.

These villages are located in the east and south of the city of Rafah and Shiekh Zowayid.

An Egyptian activists based in Sinai said the apache helicopters launched at least ten rockets at unidentified targets in Rafah and Sheikh Zowayid causing a state of fear among civilians.

He said that the two apaches continued flying in the skies of Egyptian Rafah and they fired gunshots towards houses from time to time.

Witnesses in Palestinian Rafah reported hearing explosions and gunfire.

They said the Egyptian military fired their AK-47s along the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian army has been carrying out massive military attacks against cities and villages in Sinai, imposing a complete media blackout and preventing human rights activist from accessing these areas since the coup that toppled President Mohamed Morsi in July 3, 2013.

—–

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union says it is willing to move from its R12,500 wage demand on condition that it negotiates directly with the CEOs of South Africa’s three biggest platinum producers.

Yesterday the union dashed any hopes of ending its month-long strike.

Talks facilitated by the CCMA stalled after the platinum firms made their final offer of increases of between 7.5% and 9% over three years.

The latest offer by the mine bosses would see Amcu’s demand be met over three years, with the companies saying their offer will not change.

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa had accused mine bosses of being ‘possessed’.

The firebrand union leader yesterday said this may be the only way the wage strike by more than 80,000 would come to an end.

Mathunjwa has also said the strike was no longer just about a wage settlement but was now a struggle for survival and the culmination of years of super exploitation by the mining industry.

All three companies have said they cannot afford Amcu’s demand and claim to be losing about R100 million a day in revenue.

Yesterday, the CEOs issued an ultimatum to Amcu to end the strike or face possible court action to have the work stoppage declared illegal.

The company is also suing the union for R591 million for losses it suffered due to the intimidation of non-striking employees.

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