MOGADISHU — A bomb blast killed at least seven people at a soccer stadium in Somalia's capital yesterday, just moments after the prime minister had addressed hundreds of supporters, officials and witnesses said. Prime Minister Ali Gedi, who told reporters in Mogadishu shortly after the blast that he was in shock, and his entourage escaped unhurt. The attack underlined the huge difficulties facing Gedi's new government in trying to put an end to 14 years of chaos and bloodshed in the lawless Horn of Africa country, carved up into fiefdoms run by rival warlords. Gedi's political adviser put the death toll at seven. But witnesses said two others died on their way to the hospital and another was killed by a vehicle escaping the scene. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, just four days after Gedi's arrival in Mogadishu on a trip to mend a rift over which city the fledgling government should initially call home.
S.A. to Benefit From Spin-Off
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's economy will enjoy valuable spin-off benefits if a bid by Britain's Barclays for a majority stake in the country's leading retail bank Absa is successful, analysts say. Meagre inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) may gather momentum as investors digest the vote of confidence from a top global bank, while the deal itself may boost South Africa's foreign exchange reserves to an optimal level. The entry of a major foreign player into a banking system dominated by four local institutions could also shake up the sector, improving efficiency and lowering costs for consumers – which are among the highest in the world, analysts maintain. But if the long-awaited deal falls through – as Barclays has warned it might – disappointment is likely to hit the volatile rand, which has been buoyed by anticipation of a capital inflow of more than 30 billion rand ($4.9 billion). That would be the biggest influx of FDI in South Africa's history, and economists say it is likely to be absorbed into the central bank's gold and forex reserves, taking them to $20 billion – a level seen as appropriate for the country.
53 Journalist Killed In 2004
PARIS — Journalism is becoming an increasingly dangerous profession, claiming 53 victims last year compared with 40 killed in the line of work in 2003, the media watchdog Reporters without Borders (RsF) said yesterday. In a report for World Press Freedom Day, the Paris-based body said last year's death toll was the highest since 1995. "It may never have been as dangerous to inform people," RsF said in a statement. "Freedom of the press is far from being assured around the world." Reporters without Borders listed Iraq as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists: "Nineteen were killed in 2004 and more than 15 were taken hostage." A total of 56 journalists and their assistants have been killed in two years in Iraq, making it more dangerous than the 1991-1995 fighting in former Yugoslavia, during which 49 journalists were killed, it said. Separately, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said there had been an alarming erosion of civil liberties and freedom of expression in Europe and the United States since the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. "An atmosphere of fear and uncertainty is being created and civil liberties are being torn to shreds, even in states with a reputation for tolerance and pluralism," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White in a statement released in Brussels.
Oil Eases On High Crude Supply
LONDON — Oil prices dipped yesterday, after rebounding from a 10-week-low, but concerns over rising crude inventories in the United States and a softening Western economy weighed on the market. US light crude dropped 74 cents to $50.18 a barrel, paring a gain of $1.20 on Monday. Prices have recovered from a low of $49.03 on Monday, but were still 14% below the record high of $58.28 struck on April 4. Brent crude gained 7 cents to $51.16 a barrel. Trading on the International Petroleum Exchange in London was closed on Monday for a public holiday. More selling pressure is expected with crude oil stocks in the United States, the world's top economy, registering the highest levels in nearly three years, traders said.
Attacks Fail to Shake Bourse
CAIRO — Egypt's bourse yesterday largely shrugged off two attacks on tourists with traders saying a slight rise in the benchmark index showed the fundamental strength of big-cap stocks. But Orascom Hotels and Development (OPTD) dipped over concerns the two attacks in Cairo on Saturday, which wounded four foreign tourists, might damage the tourism industry. OPTD shares dipped 2.8% to 37.83 Egyptian pounds ($6.53). "It was affected in a minimal way," said Yasser Hassanein of Dynamic Securities. The benchmark Hermes index ended 0.1 percent higher at 36,290.35 points. The broader CIBC index slipped 0.4 percent to 142.17 points. "The market has absorbed the news. It's strong enough to absorb this kind of hiccup," Hassanein said. An April 7 bomb attack in Cairo, which killed three foreigners, sent the stock market down 3.7 percent. But the market has climbed since that attack.
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