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Kenya says all gunmen killed in hotel attack; 14 victims

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s security forces have killed the Islamic extremist gunmen whose assault on a luxury hotel and shopping complex took 14 “innocent lives,” the country’s president said Wednesday.

“All the terrorists have been eliminated,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in announcing an end to the overnight operation to secure the complex in the capital, Nairobi.

In a televised address, Kenyatta did not say how many attackers were involved. He said more than 700 people were evacuated during the security operation and urged Kenyans to “go back to work without fear,” saying the East African country is safe.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard while scores of people were rescued at daybreak during what police called a “mopping-up” exercise. A new blast was heard in the afternoon as witnesses said security forces were making a sweep of the complex for any explosives.

Surveillance video showed the attack that began Tuesday afternoon involved at least four armed men.

Al-Shabab — the extremist group allied to al-Qaida and based in neighbouring Somalia — claimed responsibility for the carnage at the DusitD2 hotel complex, which includes bars, restaurants, offices and banks and is in Nairobi’s well-to-do Westlands neighbourhood with many foreign expatriates. Al-Shabab carried out the 2013 attack at the nearby Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people.

Most of the victims were Kenyans, a mortuary attendant said. The U.S. State Department confirmed that an American citizen was among the dead, and the company I-DEV International confirmed that its co-founder, Jason Spindler, had been killed. The British high commissioner in Kenya said at least one British national had been killed, without giving details.

Two local victims had been working on a fund to “bring peace and prosperity to Somalia through more than 100 local community initiatives,” the London-based Adam Smith International said of its employees.

Kenyan authorities sent special forces into the hotel to flush out the gunmen. Scores of people were rushed to safety in the early morning hours as explosions and gunfire continued.

“To God be the Glory. We have been rescued. Over 50 people in my group. No injuries,” tweeted a Kenyan businesswoman, Aggie Asiimwe Konde.

Describing the ordeal, Lucy Wanjiru said she had been trying to flee when she saw a woman on the ground floor get shot. She ended up in a washroom with several other scared people. Her friend Cynthia Kibe stayed in contact with her by phone overnight.

“I think I panicked when she told me that the gunshots are next to her,” Kibe said. “I had to keep telling her ‘Just wait, help is on the way, they are almost there, they are almost there.’ And then at one point she was like, ‘Please tell me I am getting out of here alive’ and then it was just like my breaking point.”

Mourning families and friends gathered at a nearby mortuary.

“I am a Muslim and I am Somali, I am Kenyan living here, and in that way I can assure you if al-Shabab found me today they call us what they call ‘Mortad’ (apostates), that is, someone who works against them and they wouldn’t differentiate me from yourself,” said Mohamed Yasin Jama, a friend of two colleagues killed.

The co-ordinated assault began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank, and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby that severely wounded a number of guests, said Kenya’s national police chief, Joseph Boinnet.

Kenyan hospitals appealed for blood donations even as the number of wounded remained unclear.

Associated Press video from inside the hotel showed Kenyan security officers searching the building and scared workers emerging from hiding while gunfire could be heard. Some climbed out a window by ladder. One man got up from the floor where he appeared to be trying to hide under a piece of wood paneling, then showed his ID.

Like the attack at the Westgate Mall, this one appeared aimed at wealthy Kenyans and foreigners. It came a day after a magistrate ruled that three men must stand trial in connection with the Westgate Mall siege.

Al-Shabab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight it since 2011. Tuesday’s violence came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.

The group has killed hundreds of people in Kenya. In the deadliest attack, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that killed 147 people, mostly students.

The latest carnage demonstrated al-Shabab’s continued ability to carry out spectacular acts of bloodshed despite a dramatic increase in U.S. airstrikes against it under President Donald Trump.

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Associated Press writer Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg contributed.

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Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa

Ben Curtis, The Associated Press












































































































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First-time novelist Ian Williams wins $100K Scotiabank Giller Prize

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TORONTO — First-time novelist Ian Williams singled out a special member of the audience as he accepted the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize — Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood.

Williams choked back tears as he took to the stage to receive the honour at a glitzy Toronto gala on Monday night for his debut novel, “Reproduction.”

“I’ve got notes here for people I need to thank, but maybe I’ll just start with my heart first,” Williams said. “Margaret Atwood over there is the first book I bought with my own money at a bookstore in Brampton.”

“Reproduction” traces the ties that bind a cross-cultural chosen family in Williams’ hometown of Brampton, Ont.

The tale begins when a sober-minded teenager from a small island nation and the listless heir to a German family fortune meet in the hospital room where their mothers lay dying.

From there, Williams unspools a narrative so entangled it strains against novelistic convention.

Jury members praised the Vancouver-based writer for his “masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography.”

“Reproduction,” published by Random House Canada, was a finalist for this year’s Amazon First Novel Award.

Williams’ short-fiction collection, “Not Anyone’s Anything” won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award in 2012, and he’s been a rising star in poetry circles. His 2013 collection, “Personals,” was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award.

Williams was the 2014-2015 writer-in-residence in the University of Calgary’s distinguished writers program, and has held numerous other fellowships and residencies.

He is currently a Griffin Poetry Prize trustee and associate professor of poetry in University of British Columbia’s creative writing program.

Williams beat out titles by David Bezmozgis, Michael Crummey, Megan Gail Coles, Alix Ohlin and Steven Price.

Before the Giller winner was announced, a who’s who of Canada’s cultural scene walked the Giller red carpet at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.

Giller executive director Elana Rabinovitch said this year’s short list was distinct not only because there were six finalists instead of the usual five, but for the range of time periods, styles and geography the books represent.

“(The finalists) come from everywhere and these voices are strong and powerful and resonant,” Rabinovitch said.

Atwood said she chose to celebrate her 80th birthday at the literary bash at Rabinovitch’s behest.

“Elana made me do it,” Atwood told reporters with a laugh.

As her global book tour for “The Testaments” winds down, Atwood said she’s hoping to catch up on the latest Canadian reads.

“There’s some interesting non-fiction books as well, and I would say quite a lot of fiction,” Atwood said. “I haven’t ploughed my way through it, but I will.”

Singer-songwriter and actress Jann Arden, who hosted the televised night’s festivities, serenaded Atwood with a birthday tune.

“Happy birthday to you. You write such good books,” Arden crooned. “Now Canada’s famous for more than just maple syrup.”

The six finalists were chosen from 117 submissions by a jury consisting of Canadian writers Donna Bailey Nurse, Randy Boyagoda and Jose Teodoro, Scottish-Sierra Leonean author Aminatta Forna and Bosnian-American author Aleksandar (Sasha) Hemon.

The Giller awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists.

Last year’s winner was Esi Edugyan for “Washington Black.”

This report by The Canadian Press was originally published Nov. 18, 2019.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press








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Alberta government firing election commissioner who was investigating leadership

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s United Conservative government is firing the province’s election commissioner, but says it’s not because he is investigating the party and has fined it more than $200,000.

Finance Minister Travis Toews says the decision to end Lorne Gibson’s contract is strictly about saving money.

“This restructuring is about finding efficiencies and ensuring that we have the most defensible process and structure going forward,” Toews said Monday.

“This structural change will not affect ongoing investigations. We believe that it’s critical to protect the integrity of democracy in this province.”

Toews replied “absolutely not” when asked if Gibson’s investigation into the UCP and the party’s 2017 leadership campaign played any role in the decision to fire him.

Gibson’s firing as election watchdog is contained in an omnibus bill introduced in the house Monday that is aimed at reducing spending and duplication across government.

If the bill passes, Gibson’s contract — which currently runs to 2023 — will be terminated as soon as it is proclaimed into law. His job and five staff positions are then to be transferred to current chief electoral officer Glen Resler at an expected saving of $1 million over five years.

Resler would be responsible for hiring a new election commissioner.

Toews said it would be the decision of that office whether to proceed with existing investigations, which would include the ongoing one into the United Conservatives.

“The chief electoral officer will have full ability to rehire the existing commissioner (if he so chooses),” Toews said.

“We will have absolutely no input into that.”

Resler is in overall charge of running Alberta’s elections, but in early 2018 the former NDP government created a separate arm’s-length election commissioner to specifically investigate violations in fundraising and advertising.

The New Democrats then hired Gibson. He was making $195,000 a year.

Gibson’s highest profile investigation has been into the 2017 United Conservative leadership race won by Jason Kenney. Kenney became premier when the UCP was voted into power earlier this year.

The investigation focuses on the campaign of leadership candidate Jeff Callaway. Internal documents have revealed that Kenney’s campaign team worked in lockstep with Callaway’s campaign as Callaway attacked Kenney’s main rival, Brian Jean. Callaway dropped out of the race late to throw his support to Kenney.

Documents show Kenney’s team shared talking points and a time for Callaway to drop out, but Kenney has said that is normal communication among campaign teams.

Gibson has issued more than $200,000 in fines tied to fundraising violations in the Callaway campaign. Some donors to Callaway’s campaign broke the law by donating money provided to them by someone else.

The RCMP has been conducting a separate investigation into whether voter ID fraud was committed in the leadership race.

Gibson has a fractious history with Alberta’s conservative governments. He served as the chief electoral officer from 2006 to 2009. His contract was not renewed by the Progressive Conservative government of the time after he spotlighted problems with the electoral process, including that the PCs were appointing officials who monitored ballot boxes at voting stations.

Gibson sued unsuccessfully for wrongful dismissal.

In the spring of 2018, the then-Opposition UCP, tried to filibuster Gibson’s appointment as the election commissioner. It questioned whether the role was needed and, if so, whether Gibson, given his testy relations with past governments, was the right person to fill it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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