Eight items from over the past day:
The body of a Sudan newspaper editor who had been accused of insulting Islam was recovered Wednesday, a day after he was kidnaped by gunmen, officials said.
Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, the editor-in-chief of the independent daily Al-Wifaq, was kidnapped from his home in east Khartoum late Tuesday by a group of masked gunmen, police said.
His body was found Wednesday in another part of the city, an Interior Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The cause of death wasn't immediately clear.
Police Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nagib al-Tayeb said that several suspects were arrested for alleged involvement, but declined to elaborate.
In May 2005, scores of Sudanese gathered in front of the capital's courthouse demanding a death sentence for Ahmed for insulting Islam, by republishing an article from the Internet that questioned the parentage of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Al-Wifaq daily was fined $3,200, and was temporarily suspended by the government for the article, which angered Muslims of different sects.
Ahmed denied the blasphemy charges and apologized in a letter to the press, saying he did not intend to insult the prophet.
Rehab Taha Mohammed Ahmed, the brother of the slain journalist, said that he was awaiting the arrival of his brother's body at the city morgue in order to identify it.
Blasphemy and insulting Islam are crimes that can carry a death penalty in Sudan, which has been governed by strict Islamic Shariah law since 1983.
The media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders condemned the kidnapping and killing.
``We express our solidarity with our colleagues in Khartoum, for whom this cowardly murder is a harsh ordeal,'' said the Paris-based organization in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. It urged Sudanese authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. [see below]
The decapitated body of the kidnapped editor-in-chief of a pro-Islamist newspaper was found in the capital, Khartoum, on Wednesday, security sources said.
Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, chief editor of the daily Al-Wifaq, was abducted by armed men on Tuesday evening from his home in north Khartoum, the sources said.
Khartoum police chief Major General Mohamed Naguib al-Tayeb said a number of suspects had been arrested.
An investigation has been launched to determine a motive and the identities of his killers, the security sources said.
Ahmed, considered to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood, had strained relations with the government of President Omar al-Beshir, who came to power with the backing of Islamists.
He escaped an assassination attempt in 2000 after writing an article hostile to the ruling National Congress Party.
The journalist was arrested last year after being accused of writing an article on the family of the Prophet Mohammed, and publication of his newspaper was suspended by the authorities.
In his defence, Ahmed said it had been a misunderstanding and he was released, despite street demonstrations and radical Islamist groups demanding he be put to death.
Ahmed had also angered rebels in Darfur after articles harshly criticising them were published in his newspaper.
The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores the kidnapping and beheading in Sudan of a newspaper editor. Masked gunmen bundled Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, editor-in-chief of the private daily Al-Wifaq, into a car outside his home in east Khartoum late Tuesday. Police found his severed head next to his body today in the south of the capital. His hands and feet were bound, according to a CPJ source and news reports.
Mohammed Taha had previously angered Islamists by running an article about the Prophet Muhammad. He had also written critically about the political opposition and armed groups in Sudan’s western Darfur region, according to press reports. No group has claimed responsibility for the killing, Reuters reported.
Mohammed Taha, 50, was an Islamist and former member of the National Islamic Front. But in May last year, he was detained for several days, his paper was closed for three months, and fined 8 million Sudanese pounds (US$3,200), after he offended the country’s powerful Islamists by republishing an article from the Internet that questioned the ancestry of the Prophet Muhammad. Demonstrators outside the courthouse demanded he be sentenced to death for blasphemy. Sudan is religiously conservative and penalizes blasphemy and insulting Islam with the death penalty.
Six-months ago, unidentified assailants set fire to the offices of Al-Wifaq, badly damaging the building. The perpetrators were never identified, a CPJ source said.
“We condemn the brutal murder of Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on the Sudanese authorities to find those responsible for the heinous act and bring them to justice.”
Several Sudanese journalists gathered at the Khartoum morgue to protest the murder and demand government protection for the press.
The Arabic-language satellite news channel Al-Jazeera said Mohammed Taha had fought many battles with the government and the opposition parties over his writings and made many political enemies. Because of the article about the Prophet he had received telephone threats from militant Islamic groups in Sudan.
Over the past month, freedom of the press in Sudan has been heavily curtailed. On August 30, Khartoum police beat Ibrahim Muhammad, a cameraman for the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, and seized his camera during a banned demonstration against rises in fuel and sugar prices, Reuters reported. On August 26, a court in El-Fasher charged Paul Salopek, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune, along with his Chadian interpreter and driver, with espionage, illegally disseminating information, and writing “false news.”
Tomo Kriznar, a Slovenian freelance photographer was detained in Darfur on July 19 and sentenced on August 14 to two years in prison on what CPJ considers a spurious charge of espionage.
Officials in Sudan say the editor of an independent newspaper has been found dead, one day after he was kidnapped from his home.
Police say Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed was found decapitated on a Khartoum street Wednesday, a day after a group of armed men grabbed him and sped away in a car.
Ahmed was editor of the Khartoum newspaper al-Wifaq. Last year, Islamic radicals called for him to be killed after he published articles that questioned the parentage of the Prophet Muhammad.
A media rights group expressed horror at the murder and urged the government to find the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, a U.S. governor from the southwestern state of New Mexico said he will travel to Sudan on Thursday to seek the release of an American journalist who was arrested last month and charged with espionage.
Bill Richardson's office said in a statement that he will meet personally with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to press for release of journalist Paul Salopek.
Salopek and his wife live in New Mexico when he is not on assignment.
Salopek is a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He was on assignment for National Geographic magazine in the troubled Darfur region when he was arrested with his Chadian driver and interpreter last month.
Richardson's office said he has had a "long-term relationship" with the Sudanese president. In 1996, Richardson successfully negotiated the release of New Mexican pilot John Early, and two Red Cross workers after they were held by Sudanese rebels for 38 days.
SHRO condemns the murder of the Islamist journalist Mohamed Taha. The Sudanese journalist Mohamed Taha had been kidnapped and then murdered by unknown kidnappers this morning [Wednesday] in Khartoum. The journalist’s body was abandoned in a remote place south of Khartoum; his head was chopped off his body. The victim’s family, which reported the kidnapping to the ministry of interior yesterday, and a large number of citizens, has been waiting at the Khartoum Mortuary to receive his remains.
The murder of journalist Taha is closely related by many reporters to his criticisms in Al-Wifaq Journal regarding the policies of the ruling party, the NIF/Congress, in general, and the most recent sugar and petrol price rise that in his view “has largely devastated the life of people.”
Taha open criticisms of the ruling regime came about in the light of escalated tensions between the opposition and the state managers of the ruling party. Recently, deep divisions have been increased by the government’s handling of the Darfur crisis, non-cooperation with the International Community, and the non-implementation of the Naivasha Peace Agreements.
The Sudan Human Rights Organization Cairo Office condemns in the strongest terms possible the murder of the Islamist journalist Mohamed Taha, which uncovers the savagery, ruthlessness, and chaotic violence, as well as the non-democratic confrontational climates that the NIF/Congress-led Government continues to develop for political purposes in Darfur, Eastern Sudan, and the Manasir area, in addition to the ongoing suppression of the peaceful demonstrations of the opposition in the [national capital,] Khartoum.
The Organization asks the government to carry out a judicial investigation on the murder of journalist Mohamed Taha, which has been related by his family and other sources to documented confrontations between the murdered journalist and identifiable senior government officials in the NIF/Congress ruling party and the State Security Department.
SHRO-Cairo asks the government to respect the right of people to protest government policies in accordance with the provisions of the Interim Constitution that clearly guarantee the full enjoyment of people to the exercise of human rights and public freedoms without discrimination.
From the BBC...
The beheaded body of a Sudanese newspaper editor has been found on the outskirts of the capital, Khartoum.
Mohammed Taha ran the al-Wifaq paper and was taken from his home on Tuesday night by an unknown group of armed men.
Last year, he was put on trial for blasphemy after his pro-government paper reprinted an article questioning the parentage of the prophet Muhammad.
The charges were later dropped but if convicted of blasphemy under Sharia law, he could have been put to death.
The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Khartoum says no-one has claimed responsibility but suspicion will immediately turn to Sudan's hardline Islamic groups.
In May last year, thousands of people demonstrated outside a courtroom in central Khartoum calling for Mr Taha to be put to death.
After several emotionally charged days the case was adjourned and later quietly dropped.
Our correspondent says the killing of Mr Taha, an ally of Khartoum's Islamist government, will raise fears that extremist groups are once again active in Sudan.
Sudan provided a home for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and the country is still on the United States' list of states sponsoring terrorism.
Khartoum has been governed by strict Islamic Sharia law since 1983 - but our correspondent says that in recent years courts have shown a degree of flexibility in their interpretations of Islamic law.
A Sudanese newspaper editor who was kidnapped by unknown armed men was found beheaded on Wednesday, a day after he was reported snatched from outside his home in the capital Khartoum, an Interior Ministry source said.
A photograph showed Mohamed Taha's body bound at the feet and hands with his severed head next to his body, a Reuters witness said.
He was found on a dirt street in a middle-class residential district of southern Khartoum.
No one has claimed responsibility for the killing.
Kidnapping of civilians is common in Sudan's war-torn western region Darfur and was a feature in the south during large-scale conflict there, but is very rare in the capital.
"This is very dangerous. It is the start of something terrible. It is an attack on freedom of the press but it will not succeed," said journalist Maysaun Abdel Rahman, who works for a newspaper aligned with Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi.
Taha was arrested last year and his al-Wifaq paper closed for three months after it published a series of articles questioning the roots of the Prophet Mohammed, which were condemned by Sudan's powerful Islamists.
Local papers quoted Taha's family as saying a group of men bundled him into a car outside his home in north Khartoum and sped off towards central Khartoum on Tuesday.
"His family filed a report saying he was kidnapped last night by unknown armed men," an Interior Ministry official said.
Dozens of Sudanese journalists gathered at the Khartoum morgue, some sobbing and others with lowered heads. The morgue was guarded by heavily armed police, and the reporters said they feared for the future of journalism in Sudan.
Another journalist, Aziza Abdel Rahman, working for the country's armed forces magazine said: "The Sudanese press will not be intimidated. We will write our views even more. This will not stop us."
Taha was an ally of the government, which took power in a military coup in 1989. The government in northern Sudan follows strict Sharia law but has been opposed by some Islamist organisations.
One source in the Islamic community in Khartoum told Reuters that while Taha was in jail last year, he was protected by government soldiers who feared for his life.
Reporters Without Borders expressed horror at the murder on 6 September 2006, of Mohamed Taha, editor of the privately-owned Sudanese daily al-Wifaq, who was snatched from his home east of Khartoum by masked men the previous evening.
Police recovered his decapitated body in Kalakala district about 25 kms south of the capital. His family had immediately reported his abduction to the police after he was bundled into a Japanese make of car and driven away.
Taha was tried for “blasphemy” in 2005, on the basis of a complaint by a fundamentalist group, Ansar al-Sunnah. The article that offended them related to a more than five-centuries-old Islamic manuscript entitled “the unknown in the life of the prophet” and which cast doubt on the prophet’s ancestry.
Major demonstrations were organised by the imams of Khartoum demanding that the journalist, himself a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, be killed. The paper was suspended for two months.
The manuscript was apparently originally written by Al-Maqrizi, a Muslim historian, and it told that the father of Mohammed was not called Abdallah but Abdel Lat, or "slave of Lat", a pre-Islamic idol.
“We express our solidarity with our colleagues in Khartoum, for whom this cowardly murder is a harsh ordeal. The reforms introduced to restore peace and justice to Sudan will be put at risk if nothing is done to punish this crime,” said Reporters Without Borders. “The Sudanese authorities must do their utmost to see that light is shed on this tragedy, so that both the perpetrators and those who instigated it are brought to trial,” the organisation added.