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Italy begins rescue operation for 1,000 migrants at sea

The Italian coast guard has launched a major rescue operation for more than 1,000 migrants in difficulty in the sea between Europe and North Africa.

Italy's coast guard said on Sunday that more the migrants were located between the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Libyan coast.

"More than 1,000 migrants" are involved in the rescue operation, a spokesman for the coast guard in Rome told the Reuters news agency.

The coast guard said it had rescued more than 130 people from two rubber boats about 180km south of Lampedusa so far, and was working to save eight more vessels.

Improved weather has encouraged migrants to make the perilous journey from North Africa.

Since the beginning of 2014, more than 150,000 migrants have arrived in Italy on unseaworthy boats, many refugees of war and conflict.

About 3,500 people died last year attempting to reach Italy by boat from North Africa.

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Female suicide bomber kills ten in Nigeria’s Damaturu

A female suicide bomber has killed at least ten people at a bus station in the northeast Nigerian city of Damaturu, the latest in a spate of similar attacks blamed on Boko Haram, police have said.

"There has been an attack on the Damaturu Central Motor Park by a female suicide bomber," Marcos Danladi, the police commissioner of Yobe State, said on Sunday.

"So far, seven people have been confirmed dead and 32 others injured,"

Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reporting from Abuja, the capital, said that while the area had come under attack numerous times in the past, this attack had targeted a large amount of people as Sunday was market day.

Witnesses said the assailant entered the motor park in a vehicle, got out and walked towards a small grocery store at the end of the terminal.

She then positioned herself amid the crowd outside the store and blew herself up, said one shopowner at the terminal, who requested anonymity.

Another shop owner in Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, told the AFP news agency that an angry mob prevented emergency workers from evacuating the remains of the bomber.

"They gathered the pieces [body parts] and set them on fire," he said.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Several dozen people suspected of having links to Boko Haram have been arrested in southern Niger since
the start of cross-border attacks by the armed group a week ago, a local governor said late on Saturday.

"In the region of Zinder, we have a few dozen people whom we arrested for checking. They are suspects," Kalla Moutari told AFP, adding that they were citizens of Niger.

"The [Nigerian] military has been engaging Boko Haram. They claim to have captured hundreds of Boko Haram fighters from Niger," Idris said.

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Boko Haram launches fierce attack on Nigerian city

Heavily armed Boko Haram fighters have attacked the northeastern Nigerian city of Gombe, fleeing residents and a security source said.

Explosions and gunfire could be heard after the fighters overwhelmed a checkpoint at the edge of the city on Saturday, witnesses said.

Saturday's attack comes a day after the armed group killed at least 10 people in their first assault in neighbouring Chad.

Gombe has been bombed before but has never had the fighters attempt to take it over.

Witness Abdul Hassan said soldiers ran away after the checkpoint was overwhelmed. The fighters then burned down a police station on the outskirts of the town, he said.

"I crossed a river and ran into the hills," he said. "I'm still there and I can hear the fighting."

Others were staying indoors. Witness Hussaina Maji said she was unable to leave her house for fear of being caught in cross fire.

A Nigerian fighter jet encircled the city but made no attempt to attack the fighters, another witness named Kabiru Na-Gwandu said.

He said the residents had been warned to evacuate Gombe.

Gravest threat

The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Boko Haram's struggle for an Islamic state has become the gravest security threat to Africa's biggest economy and top oil producer, killing thousands, kidnapping hundreds and increasingly threatening neighbours Cameroon, Chad and Niger - all of which are now also battling the fighters.

Nigeria has postponed a presidential election that had been due on Saturday, for six weeks, citing the security threat from the armed group.

In May 2013, the government declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe provinces, but that has failed to curb the deadly violence.

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South Sudan extends President Kiir’s term for two years

South Sudan's cabinet postponed elections and extended President Salva Kiir's term in office for two years, the country's information minister said, apparently sinking a peace agreement aimed to end 14 months of war.

"We have passed a resolution extending the tenure of the president and the parliament, including all elected positions," Information Minister Michael Makuei told AFP news agency on Friday.

The announcement came after the decision was taken by the government's council of ministers to postpone elections until July 9, 2017.

The decision goes against a deal struck between Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar earlier this month, in which they agreed to set up a transitional unity government in the bitterly divided nation to run for 30 months from July 9.

Makeui said the term extension "would give us a chance to negotiate without pressure".

With the latest ceasefire in tatters, diplomats say frustration is mounting that neither side is taking the peace efforts seriously to end a war in which tens of thousands have been slaughtered.

The resolution must still be passed by parliament, but that now comprises almost entirely of politicians loyal to Kiir, with those loyal to Machar fighting or in exile.

Elections in the bitterly divided nation had been due before July 9 - the end of the parliament and president's mandate under a provisional constitution - but they were opposed by international donors and civil society groups who said it would be impossible to hold the vote in a nation riven by war.

Kiir and members of parliament were elected in April 2010, one year before the country split from former civil war enemies in north Sudan.

Elections have never been held in South Sudan as an independent country.

Fighting broke out in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings across the country.

Over half the country's 12 million people need aid, according to the UN, which is also sheltering some 100,000 civilians trapped inside camps ringed with barbed wire, too terrified to venture out for fear of being killed.

The United Nations warn that 2.5 million people are on the brink of famine.

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South Africa to have nuclear power by 2023

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Samsung hands over digital village in Gabon

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Nigeria opposition leader condemns country’s ‘failures’

Nigeria's main opposition candidate has told Al Jazeera that the "government has failed in its principle duty of protecting life or property of all beings inside its territory".

Leader of Nigeria's All Progressives Congress, former General Muhammadu Buhari spoke to Al Jazeera exclusively on Sunday - a day after the government announced a six-week postponement of the nationwide vote.

The official line is that the government needs more time to ensure security and safety in northeastern regions blighted by a violent campaign by Boko Haram.

Members of the opposition, however, say President Goodluck Jonathan is trying to buy time in the election campaign.


Muhammadu Buhari: Nigeria 'reduced to a failed state'


"It is extremely disappointing," Buhhari said, of the delay.

"The is no reason for it. The Independent Nigerian Electoral Commission gave a detailed brief of activities from the last general election in 2011 to now and they have clearly said that they are ready to hold the election."

Buhari said the government had not been taking the fight against Boko Haram seriously and described the inability to secure 14 local governments in the northeast as "extremely embarrassing".

"There is no need for it [the delay]," he said.

"If the same military can not secure 14 local governorates out of 774 in six years, how can they be sure they can secure those 14 in six weeks?"

"We cannot fight it because it is supported by the constitution. This is the limit.

"We will ask our supporters to remain calm and be prepared to participate in the elections on the 28th of March."

Buhari, who attended college in the United States, previously ruled Nigeria for nearly two years after staging a military coup in 1984.

During his rule, there were allegations of secret tribunals, curtailment of civil liberties, and executions for crimes not punishable by death.


INTERACTIVE: Boko Haram's bloody legacy


He also unsuccessfully ran for office in 2003, 2007 and 2011. The former general served as governor in the country's northeast - the area now dominated by Boko Haram. and has pledged to make security a priority in the region.

"The government is not prepared to fight Boko Haram," he said.

"[It] is not serious about curbing the insurgency in the northeast. If the troops deployed in Ekiti State to rig votes in favour of the government, had been effectively deployed in the north east, he end of the insurgency could have been met."

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Somalia lawmaker shot dead in Mogadishu

Somalia's al-Shabab fighters have shot dead a lawmaker in the capital Mogadishu, the latest in a string of assassinations of politicians in the war-torn country.

"Abdulahi Qayad Barre was shot dead, men killed him as he left his house to go to parliament," fellow MP Abdukarim Hajji said on Monday.

At least five MPs were killed last year, but Barre was the first to have been assassinated in 2015.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab rebels are fighting to overthrow the country's internationally-backed government.

The fighters say they are targeting MPs as they allowed the deployment of foreign troops on Somali soil.

Uganda, Burundi, Djibout, Kenya and Ethiopia have contributed troops to the African Union's peacekeeping mission called AMISOM.

"Shebab commandoes shot and killed Barre, and all the so-called MPs are a legitimate target subject to be killed or captured, to face the justice of Allah," al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Abdul Aziz Abu Musab told AFP news agency.

"This [is] the fate of all non believers."

Al-Shabab attacks in Somalia have targeted key government and security sites in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities and African Union troops that they are winning the war.

Somalia's parliament is also riven by political infighting, prompting repeated warnings by international donors that the power struggles were stalling progress.

The attack came amid tight security as lawmakers gathered to vote on whether to approve a new cabinet, after parliament rejected the new prime minister's last list of candidates.

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was named prime minister in December.

The Horn of Africa nation is due to vote on a new constitution next year ahead of elections in 2016, but al-Shabab remains a major threat and stages regular attacks.

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