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Italy to send 470 troops to Niger to tackle traffickers

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Italy aims to deploy up to 470 troops to Niger to help tackle traffickers, the military General Staff said.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Dec. 24 that some of the 1,400 Italian troops now stationed in Iraq could be transferred to the Sahel region in West Africa, which includes Niger, after victories against Islamist militants in Iraq.

Gentiloni said the redeployed troops could also help to combat terrorism in the Sahel.

The military said in a statement that a reconnaissance mission was underway in Niger to help decide the scale of the assistance, which the African country’s government has requested but which still needs to be approved by Italy’s parliament.

The general staff said if the necessary approval is given, Italy would aim to gradually send up to 470 troops, probably posting an average of 250 over the course of a year.

“The aim of the mission is to increase the operational capacity of the Niger forces and put them in a position to guarantee stability in the area and fight illegal trafficking of migrants,” the military added.

Italy’s president dissolved parliament on Thursday ahead of an election due in March, but lawmakers will continue to meet, and could approve Gentiloni’s request to transfer the personnel.

Italy is especially keen to help tackle the people-smuggling gangs because it has borne the brunt of seaborne illegal migration to Europe from Africa.

No fewer than 600,000 people have made the perilous journey across the central Mediterranean from Libya in the past four years.

Arrivals have fallen sharply since officials working for the UN-backed government in Tripoli persuaded smugglers to stop boats leaving and the Libyan coastguard stepped up interceptions at sea.

Motherland News

Families Identify Church Collapse Victims in Anguish

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Tears and anguish characterized the atmosphere as the grieving families of 13 worshipers killed in a church collapse arrived at the Richards Bay mortuary to identify the bodies of their loved ones.

The worshipers died when a wall collapsed at the Pentecostal Holiness Church near Empangeni in northern KwaZulu-Natal last Thursday night.

The KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department co-ordinated with various departments including health, home affairs and the police, to assist in speeding up the body identification process.

Six worshippers were from Ulundi, four from eSikhawini and three from Maqwakazi in uMlalazi.

Describing the collapse, Phumelele Simelane from eSikhawini said worshippers had just had their evening meal and were preparing to sleep when the wall caved in.

Simelane was with her 6-year-old son, who is recovering in hospital. She said she came to the mortuary to support congregants whose relatives died.

The Mthembu family, who lost grandmother Thembi Mthabela, 54, and Andiswa Mthembu, 10, in the tragedy were overcome with grief.

“Thembi loved going to church and she always took Andiswa with her. Andiswa was doing Grade 3 at Nyathini Primary School. As a family, we are very traumatised and it is hard for us,” said a relative, who did not wanted to be named.

Buhle Mzila, whose sister Samke, 33, died, said the family had lost a breadwinner.

Samke, who worked at the Ulundi Municipality, was with her 9-year-old daughter during the incident.

Buhle said her niece, who was in hospital, was in a state of shock about her mother’s death.

“Samke loved the church, she always made sure she attended every service. She played a big role in terms of assisting the family. We are still going to feel her absence,” said Buhle.

A sobbing Mbongeni Langa said his mother had died in a “place she loved”.

The memorial service will be held tomorrow

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Motherland News

CAF Sidelines Nigerian Centre Referees for 2019 AFCON

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Out of the Twenty-seven centre referees penciled down for the 2019 African Cup of Nations, countries like Burundi, Mali, Zambia and Sudan are represented on the list, but no Nigerian referee was selected for the big occasions.

However, only one assistant referee from Nigeria named Baba Adel was listed among the twenty-nine assistant referees selected by the African Football Governing Body.

The competition will be held from 21 June to 19 July 2019, as per the decision of the CAF Executive Committee on 20 July 2017.

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