CAR president refuses to quit

Updated 03 January 2013
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CAR president refuses to quit

BANGUI: African Republic President Francois Bozize will refuse to leave power during talks with rebels, his spokesman said yesterday, rejecting the insurgents’ main demand and raising the prospect of a return to fighting.
The Seleka rebel alliance, which has accused Bozize of reneging on a past peace deal, advanced to within striking distance of the mineral-rich nation’s capital this week before bowing to international pressure to start negotiations.
A week before those talks were due to start, a spokesman for Bozize’s ruling KNK party said the president’s departure would not be on the agenda.
“The question of President Bozize leaving ... will be rejected systematically if it is proposed,” Cyriac Gonda told Reuters.
“For us, the solution is to form a unity government with everyone,” he added, reiterating a previous offer by Bozize to give government posts to the rebels.
The spokesman for the CPSK, one of the rebel groups that form Seleka, said yesterday a peace deal would not be possible without Bozize’s unconditional exit.
The advance by Seleka, an alliance of five armed groups, was the latest in a series of revolts in a country at the heart of one of Africa’s most turbulent regions.
CAR remains plagued by poverty and underdevelopment despite its reserves of diamonds, gold and other minerals. Seleka fighters have swept aside regionally-backed government defenses to within 75 km (45 miles) of Bangui since launching their assault on Dec. 10.
African leaders are organizing peace negotiations in Gabon’s capital Libreville that are expected to take place on Jan. 10. The United States, France and the European Union have urged both sides to reach a political solution and spare civilians.
Martin Ziguele, a former prime minister and now a leading opposition figure in CAR, said yesterday Bozize’s departure should be considered during the Libreville talks.
“There will be no taboo subjects in Libreville, all options will be on the table,” he said.
Bozize came to power in a Chadian-backed rebellion in 2003 and has since relied on foreign military help to fend off a series of smaller insurgencies. He won elections in 2005 and 2011 despite opposition complaints of fraud.
Regional leaders have supplied Bozize with hundreds of troops — mostly from Chad but also from Congo, Gabon and Cameroon — to shore up the CAR army.
France, which used air strikes to defend Bozize in 2006, refused Bozize’s request for military help this time. Paris has 600 troops in the country to defend about 1,200 of its citizens living there.
Residents in the crumbling riverside capital Bangui said they were relieved that peace talks would take place — putting off a widely feared rebel assault on the city — but were worried the negotiations would ultimately fail.


Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

Updated 27 min ago
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Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

  • The victim was dining with his family when the suspect came and stabbed him without warning
  • Police say suspect is a felon who had been convicted for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse since the 1990s

LOS ANGELES: A homeless man who randomly stabbed a patron in a crowded Southern California restaurant to death as he was holding his daughter was reported just a few hours earlier for disruptive behavior, but police ultimately determined he was not a threat, authorities said Saturday.
Jamal Jackson, 49, is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of 35-year-old Anthony Mele. He was being held in Ventura County jail on a $1.5 million bail. It was unclear if Jackson, who is also a convicted felon, had an attorney to speak on his behalf.
Mele and his wife were eating dinner with their 5-year-old daughter Wednesday at Aloha Steakhouse in the seaside city of Ventura. The girl was sitting on her father’s lap when prosecutors say Jackson walked up and stabbed Mele in the neck.
Prosecutor Richard Simon said customers and a restaurant employee followed Jackson out of the restaurant, even though he still had the knife. They kept track of him until Ventura police arrived and arrested him.
Mele was taken to a hospital and died Thursday after being taken off life support.
“It’s horrible,” Simon said. “You don’t think you’re going to be killed when you go out to dinner at a nice restaurant with your family and you didn’t do anything.”
Simon said the two men had not interacted before the attack.
“He was just sitting there with his daughter in his lap,” Simon said. “You’re not supposed to die that way.”
Mele’s loved ones started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for a funeral and to support his wife and daughter.
Mele’s Facebook page was filled with photos of his daughter and said he was a manager at an AT&T store.
Police confirmed that a bystander reported a man — who turned out to be Jackson — for disruptive behavior several hours before the stabbing.
According to the bystander, a man was yelling on the promenade not far from the beachside restaurant about three hours before the attack.
Patrol officers were out on other calls so command center staff monitored the man via a pier security camera system for more than 20 minutes before deciding he didn’t seem to be a threat, police said.
Police are asking anyone who spoke with Jackson during that time to contact investigators in the city 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
Jackson also had half a dozen contacts with police in Ventura since the beginning of the year, including an arrest after a physical fight at a park, said Commander Tom Higgins.
He was also stopped on March 31 after a passer-by reported he was brandishing a knife. Police searched his bag and found a knife but there was no victim so no charge was filed, Higgins said.
Jackson has a lengthy rap sheet including charges in San Bernardino County, Higgins said, as well as convictions for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse dating back to the 1990s.
The killing prompted the Ventura City Council to increase police patrols in the area and add staff members to monitor security cameras, among other measures.
“We are extremely disheartened and infuriated by this criminal attack,” Mayor Neal Andrews said in a statement. “We will not tolerate this in our community. Nothing is more important than the safety of our visitors, residents and businesses.”
If convicted, Jackson faces up to 55 years in prison.