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French troops free five aid workers kidnapped in Mali

By Cheick Dioura and Jean-Baptiste Vey GAO/PARIS (Reuters) - French troops in Mali on Thursday freed five local aid workers kidnapped in February, the French and Malian governments said, killing about a dozen of their captors in the process.

Child miners pay the price in Burkina Faso's gold rush

Perched on the edge of a mine shaft, Joel Sawadogo, 13, readies the fragile plastic lamp strapped to his forehead with an elastic band as he prepares to lower himself into the darkness. He is one of hundreds of children and young people working at the Nobsin mines, about an hour's drive from Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, who every day risk their lives in the search for gold in the impoverished west African nation.

West African funk band mounts stunning comeback

They were huge in the early 1970s, playing alongside some of the greatest names in African music, then faded into obscurity after a communist revolution destroyed nightlife in their homeland. Many in the tiny west African country of Benin even thought most of the members had died but the Orchestre Polyrythmo de Cotonou is enjoying a remarkable comeback. The band's renaissance has been compared to the Buena Vista Social Club, the veteran Cuban musicians rediscovered in the 1990s who were the subject of a hit documentary film and successful album.

West African funk band mounts stunning comeback

They were huge in the early 1970s, playing alongside some of the greatest names in African music, then faded into obscurity after a communist revolution destroyed nightlife in their homeland. Many in the tiny west African country of Benin even thought most of the members had died but the Orchestre Polyrythmo de Cotonou is enjoying a remarkable comeback. The band's renaissance has been compared to the Buena Vista Social Club, the veteran Cuban musicians rediscovered in the 1990s who were the subject of a hit documentary film and successful album.

Senegal failing on pledge to halt abuse in Koranic schools: HRW

By Misha Hussain DAKAR, March 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A year after a fire killed eight children when it ripped through a Koranic school in Senegal, the government has failed to prosecute those responsible and to halt the abuse of young boys in Islamic education, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. In the wake of the fire in the Medina district of Dakar, President Macky Sall pledged to impose state regulation on the Koranic school system, which involves 30,000 boys in the Senegalese capital alone.

Urgent action needed on forced child begging in Senegal

Senegal is failing to protect thousands of boys in Islamic boarding schools from forced begging and torture at the hands of their teachers, a global human rights organisation said in a report released on Wednesday. At least 50,000 boys known as talibes -- the vast majority aged between four and 12 -- are forced to beg in Senegal's streets most of the day, every day, by often brutally abusive Koranic teachers known as marabouts, according to campaigners.

Urgent action needed on forced child begging in Senegal

Senegal is failing to protect thousands of boys in Islamic boarding schools from forced begging and torture at the hands of their teachers, a global human rights organisation said in a report released on Wednesday. At least 50,000 boys known as talibes -- the vast majority aged between four and 12 -- are forced to beg in Senegal's streets most of the day, every day, by often brutally abusive Koranic teachers known as marabouts, according to campaigners.

Jihadists claim to have kidnapped Red Cross team in Mali

One of Mali's top jihadist groups on Tuesday claimed the kidnapping of a team of Red Cross workers who had been reported missing in the country's north. A leader for the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), a splinter group of Al-Qaeda's regional franchise, told AFP the five Malians "are alive and in good health". "Thanks to God we seized a 4X4 (vehicle) of the enemies of Islam with their accomplices," MUJAO's Yoro Abdoulsalam said, contacted by telephone from Bamako.

Former Burkina leader warns of 'social explosion' over elections

Burkina Faso's former head of state Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo has warned of a "possible social explosion" as debate rages over who will be the country's next president. Blaise Compaore, who has been president since 1987, has hinted he may stand for office again in 2015, extending his mandate by another five years, even though this is forbidden by the constitution. Growing anger over this prospect has already sparked massive protests in the capital of the landlocked west African country.

Former Burkina leader warns of 'social explosion' over elections

Burkina Faso's former head of state Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo has warned of a "possible social explosion" as debate rages over who will be the country's next president. Blaise Compaore, who has been president since 1987, has hinted he may stand for office again in 2015, extending his mandate by another five years, even though this is forbidden by the constitution. Growing anger over this prospect has already sparked massive protests in the capital of the landlocked west African country.
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