Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Nigeria's Buhari wins historic election landslide <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Three decades after seizing power in a military coup, Muhammadu Buhari became the first Nigerian to oust a president through the ballot box, putting him in charge of Africa&#39;s biggest&nbsp;<a href="" rel="nofollow">economy</a>&nbsp;and one of its most turbulent democracies.</p><p>As the scale of this weekend&#39;s electoral landslide became clear, President Goodluck Jonathan called Buhari on Tuesday to concede defeat to the opposition leader, Buhari&#39;s camp said, an unprecedented step that should help to defuse anger among Jonathan&#39;s supporters.</p><p>In the religiously mixed northern city of Kaduna, where 800 people were killed in violence after the last elections in 2011, Buhari supporters streamed onto the streets, waving flags, dancing and singing in celebration.</p><p>There was no word from Jonathan himself. But supporters in the Niger Delta, the defeated president&#39;s home area and the heart of Africa&#39;s biggest oil and gas industry, were despondent.</p><p>&quot;Goodluck is a stupid man for conceding, a disappointment for Nigeria,&quot; one waitress in the oil city of Port Harcourt said, throwing a beer bottle top at a fridge.</p><p>Jonathan&#39;s People&#39;s Democratic Party (PDP) has been in charge since the end of army rule in 1999 but had been losing popularity due to a string of corruption scandals and the rise of Boko Haram&#39;s Islamist insurgency in the northeast.</p><p>&quot;At about 5 minutes to 5, President Jonathan called General Muhammadu Buhari, the winner of the elections, to congratulate him,&quot; Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for Buhari&#39;s All Progressives Congress (APC), told reporters at the party&#39;s headquarters in the capital, Abuja.</p><p>&quot;There had always been this fear that he might not want to concede but he will remain a hero for this move,&quot; he added. &quot;The tension will go down dramatically.&quot;</p><p>Around him, women in brightly coloured dresses danced and sang, ululating in celebration.</p><p>A final tally of the results compiled by Reuters gave the sandal-wearing and ascetic Buhari 15.4 million votes against 13.3 million for Jonathan, a margin of victory that is likely to render any legal challenges irrelevant.</p><p><strong>SMOOTH RUNNING</strong></p><p>Despite some technical glitches and the killing of more than a dozen voters by Boko Haram gunmen, the election has been the smoothest and most orderly in Nigeria&#39;s history.</p><p>&quot;There are probably lots of reasons why the PDP might have lost but I think the key one is that the elections just haven&#39;t been rigged,&quot; said Antony Goldman, a business consultant with high-level contacts in Nigeria.</p><p>As the results trickled in, Buhari, dressed in a white khaftan and prayer cap, sat calmly in a front a television at a house in the capital.</p><p>Buhari seized power in a 1983 coup only to be ousted 18 months later by another general. Since then Buhari has declared himself a convert to democracy, running and losing several elections but always coming back for more on a ticket of cleaning up Nigeria&#39;s dirty politics.</p><p>Before Jonathan conceded defeat, Buhari received a tacit endorsement from Washington, with a U.S. official acknowledging his role in building a &quot;new&quot; Nigeria, a pillar of a rapidly modernising and growing continent.</p><p>&quot;His leadership of the opposition over these years has demonstrated a commitment to democracy that would seem to suggest he is participating in Nigeria&#39;s new era that began in 1999,&quot; the U.S. official said.</p><p><strong>&quot;NEW DIRECTION&quot;</strong></p><p>Buhari&#39;s inner circle acknowledged the hard work ahead in building bridges in a country of 170 million people split along ethnic, religious and regional lines.</p><p>He must also deal with the fallout from a dive in global oil prices in the last eight months which has hammered the&nbsp;economy, squeezed state revenues and forced two de facto devaluations of the currency, the naira.</p><p>&quot;We should all work together to redirect the country. A lot of sacrifices will have to be made,&quot; Kwara state senator and senior APC official Bukola Saraki said.</p><p>In a sign of the simmering PDP passions, Godsday Orubebe, a former Niger Delta minister, grabbed a microphone at the headquarters of the election commission to lambaste its chief.</p><p>&quot;Mr. Chairman, we have lost confidence in what you are doing,&quot; he shouted, as nervous security guards stood around, wondering what to do. &quot;You are being very, very selective. You are partial.&quot;</p><p><strong>VIOLENCE LOWER</strong></p><p>At least 15 people were shot dead during polling, most of them in the northeast where Boko Haram has declared war on democracy in its fight to revive a mediaeval caliphate in the southern Sahara.</p><p>However, the chaos was significantly less than in previous elections, a reality that pushed the stock market up more than 2 percent towards a three-month high. The naira also held steady at 218 against the dollar on the black market.</p><p>Although the&nbsp;economy&nbsp;has been growing at 7 percent or more, scandals over billions of dollars in missing oil funds and the rise of Boko Haram hit Jonathan hard in the polls.</p><p>His perceived slow reaction to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls last April caused widespread anger, and fuelled a public appetite for decisive military action against Boko Haram from a strongman such as Buhari.</p><p>The war has turned in Jonathan&#39;s favour in the past six weeks with external intervention by troops from neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, but the victories appear to have been too late for Jonathan at the ballot box.</p> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:25:00 +0000 Reuters 2447182 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/03/31/501010/nigeria_03-31-15.jpg Prosecutor dies of wounds after Istanbul hostage shootout <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>An Istanbul prosecutor died from his wounds after security forces stormed the office where members of a far-left Turkish group took him hostage on Thursday, killing his two captors.</p><p>The Revolutionary People&#39;s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) had published a picture of the prosecutor with a gun to his head and said it would kill him unless its demands were met.</p><p>Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Mehmet Selim Kiraz had been shot three times in the head and twice in the body. He died despite being rushed to hospital for emergency surgery.</p><p>Six hours after the standoff in a courthouse in central Istanbul began, explosions and gunfire could be heard coming from the building and smoke billowed from a window, a Reuters witness said.</p><p>A few minutes later, two ambulances, sirens wailing, raced away from the scene.</p><p>Police chief Selami Altinok said authorities had established lines of communications with the hostage-takers, but had been forced to act when shots were heard from inside the room where Kiraz was being held.</p><p>Kiraz was leading an investigation into the death last March of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who died after nine months in a coma from a head wound sustained in anti-government protests.</p><p>The DHKP-C said on its website it wanted the police officer it blames for Elvan&#39;s death to confess on television, the officers involved to be tried in &quot;people&#39;s courts&quot;, and charges against those who attended protests for Elvan to be dropped.</p><div id="relatedNews"><p><span style="font-size: 1em; line-height: 1.5em;">During the firefight, both captors were killed, Altinok said at a media conference shortly after the operation had finished.</span></p></div><p>&quot;Our forces have worked with patience and endurance for six hours and took all necessary security measures,&quot; he said.</p><p>Speaking at the scene, Erdogan praised the police and said the siege had begun when two gunmen, disguised as lawyers, had entered the courthouse.</p><p>&quot;We cannot underestimate the seriousness of this incident,&quot; he said, noting that security at courthouses would be reviewed.</p><p>Witnesses said they heard gunshots as the hostage-takers entered the building.</p><p>&quot;We were on the sixth floor. A black-haired man wearing a suit entered the prosecutor&rsquo;s room and fired a gun three times,&quot; Mehmet Hasan Kaplan, who works in the building, told Reuters. The attackers also claimed to have explosives, he said.</p><p>In a brief video message on a widely followed Twitter account describing itself as that of Elvan&#39;s family, the boy&#39;s father had seemed to call on the group not to harm Kiraz.</p><p>&quot;We want justice. We don&#39;t want anyone to shed even a drop of blood. We don&#39;t want other mothers to cry,&quot; Sami Elvan said.</p><p>Television footage earlier in the day had shown special forces officers entering the courthouse and officials being escorted out.</p><p>The United States, European Union and&nbsp;<a href="" title="Full coverage of Turkey">Turkey</a>&nbsp;list the DHKP-C as a terrorist organisation. It was behind a suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy in 2013. In 2001, two policemen and an Australian tourist died in a DHKP-C attack in central Istanbul.</p> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:11:00 +0000 Reuters 2447181 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/03/31/499612/turkey_hostage_seige.jpg Libya fears its treasures are now in jihadist sights <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Libyan antiquities officials looked on with horror at Internet video footage that showed Islamist extremists wielding sledgehammers and power tools to grind ancient Iraqi treasures into dust.</p><p>They fear the Islamic State group jihadist movement&#39;s growing influence means the fate that befell these priceless Assyrian and Akkadian artefacts now awaits their own rich heritage dating back millennia.</p><p>Footage of the cultural atrocity showed militants smashing exhibits at the museum in Mosul, Iraq&#39;s second city and the main IS stronghold since its capture in a lighting June offensive last year.</p><p>The jihadists say the antiquities are anti-Islamic, promote paganism and must therefore be destroyed.</p><p>Libya, another country rich in archaeological heritage, has been in turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising.</p><p>And IS influence in the North African country is growing.</p><p>Iraqi Officials believe around 90 objects were destroyed or damaged in Mosul, most of them originals. The rampage was compared to the Taliban&#39;s destruction in 2001 of the famed towering Bamiyan buddhas in Afghanistan.</p><p>The militants also ransacked Mosul&#39;s library, burning thousands of rare books and manuscripts spanning centuries of human learning.</p><p>It was a desecration UNESCO described as &quot;cultural cleansing&quot;.</p><p>Since then the jihadist movement&#39;s tentacles have spread to Libya, where local Islamist groups are pledging allegiance to IS.</p><p><strong>- World Heritage sites -</strong></p><p>Libya has had two governments and parliaments since the Islamist-backed Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) coalition seized Tripoli last year. The internationally recognised government and parliament fled to the east.</p><p>The country is awash with weapons and heavily armed militias are battling to control its cities and oil wealth.</p><p>A senior Libyan official said that since Kadhafi&#39;s fall there has already been looting of cultural treasures and damage to ancient sites.</p><p>&quot;We fear that the hands of the extremists will extend to our heritage, like in Iraq,&quot; antiquities chief Ahmed Hassan told AFP.</p><p>Libya has five sites on UNESCO&#39;s World Heritage List, and none can be considered safe.</p><p>In the west, IS has a presence some 320 kilometres (200 miles) from the fabled ancient city of Leptis Magna, which UNESCO says was &quot;one of the most beautiful cities of the Roman Empire&quot;.</p><p>In the east, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the IS stronghold of Derna, is the ancient Greek city of Cyrene, once dubbed the Athens of Africa.</p><p>Also vulnerable are the Phoenician trading port of Sabratha and Tadrart Acacus, with its thousands of cave paintings dating back 12,000 years, officials say.</p><p>&quot;We are working with foreign partners and other stakeholders to preserve this archaeological heritage,&quot; Hassan said.</p><p>Mohammed al-Shelmani, head of the archaeological department in Benghazi, said the growing power of IS in Libya has meant officials are now actively working to avert &quot;an Iraqi-type scenario&quot;.</p><p><strong>- Iconic &#39;gazelle&#39; nude -</strong></p><p>He is determined to help save Libya&#39;s cultural heritage, even if this means sending artefacts abroad for safekeeping.</p><p>&quot;We have to remove all of our artefacts -- document and store them in a safe location as well as asking UNESCO for help in preserving our history,&quot; Shelmani said.</p><p>According to Libyan archaeology expert Fadl al-Hassi, at least 15 sites have been looted or destroyed since 2011.</p><p>Tripoli&#39;s iconic colonial-era statue of a nude woman stroking a gazelle disappeared overnight last November, in an act the culture ministry said demonstrated &quot;a total absence of culture on the part of the assailants&quot;.</p><p>Antiquities department spokesman Fathallah Kammesh detailed dozen of cases of missing antiquities from Kadhafi&#39;s home town Sirte, 450 kilometres west of Tripoli, and from others to the east.</p><p>In 2011, a collection of nearly 8,000 gold, silver and bronze coins, dating back to Alexander the Great, disappeared from a Benghazi bank.</p><p>In Tobruk, just west of Libya&#39;s border with Egypt, a former Islamic palace from the Fatimid period was turned into a barn for animals.</p><p>Most archaeological sites in Libya are open to the public with no restrictions. Only museums were closed for fear of looting, such as central Tripoli&#39;s Al-Saraya Al-Hamra (Red Castle).</p><p>Last year UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova called for Libya?s unique cultural heritage to be protected.</p><p>&quot;Libyan heritage is the expression of a shared memory of the country, and its respect represents a corner stone for long lasting national reconciliation,&quot; she said in a statement.</p><p>&quot;I therefore urge all parties, as well as the Libyan population, to commit to and act for its safeguarding.&quot;</p><p>For now, unarmed civilians mobilised by the antiquities department are the only line of defence standing between looters and IS jihadists and thousands of years of accumulated history.</p> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:01:00 +0000 AFP 2447179 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/03/31/499612/a_view_of_the_ruins_of_the_ancient_greek_city_of_cyrene_located_in_the_suburbs_of_the_libyan_eastern_town_of_shahat.jpg PM: Iraqi forces drive Islamic State out of central Tikrit <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Iraqi troops aided by Shi&#39;ite paramilitaries have driven Islamic State out of central Tikrit, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said on Tuesday, but the fight to retake all of Saddam Hussein&#39;s home town continued.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Government forces have been in a month-long fight for the city, which became a bastion for the Sunni jihadists who are at war with Baghdad and have been targeted by US-led air strikes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hundreds of insurgents ready to fight to the death are still holed up in Salahuddin province&#39;s capital city and at least three neighborhoods remain under Islamic State control, along with a palace complex in the city&#39;s north.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The further Iraqi forces push into the city, the greater the risk of ambushes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Our security forces have reached the center of Tikrit and they have liberated the southern and western sides and they are moving towards the control of the whole city,&quot; Abadi said in a statement.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In their push from southern Tikrit, security forces and paramilitary fighters retook the governor&#39;s headquarters and the main hospital which had been occupied by Islamic State.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Reuters journalists traveling with the police passed houses scarred by bullets, mortars and rockets as well as five or six corpses that security officers said were Islamic State fighters, adding that they might be rigged with explosives.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Iraqi officials suspect the militants have planted scores of bombs and are using snipers and a network of underground tunnels and bunkers to slow the government advance.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Tuesday saw Shi&#39;ite militia groups return to the battle after suspending operations last Thursday when US.-led air strikes were requested by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Iranian-backed armed factions had opposed US-led strikes, insisting that their paramilitary forces could retake Tikrit, seized last June by Islamic State militants as they raced across northern Iraq.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Anti-American groups Kata&#39;ib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq said they had joined federal police and army forces in going deeper into the city on Tuesday after Abadi, a moderate Shi&#39;ite Islamist who became prime minister last year, agreed to halt US air strikes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>They said air strikes in the city on Tuesday were being carried out only by the Iraqi military. A federal police officer made a similar claim.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the prime minister&#39;s office said no such order had been issued and US officials said they were not aware of any military freeze.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The US government, which deeply mistrusts the pro-Iranian Shi&#39;ite militias, has sought ways to participate in the Tikrit battle without acknowledging working with forces backed by Tehran.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>US. officials have insisted on an Iraqi government military command for the fight, even as Shi&#39;ite militia forces remain the strongest presence on the ground.</div><div>&nbsp;</div> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:00:00 +0000 Reuters 2447174 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/03/31/484151/2015-03-31t151209z_1_lynxmpeb2u0r6_rtroptp_2_midest-crisis-iraq-tikrit-gains.jpg