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story.lead_photo.caption In this image made from video on Friday, March 1, 2019, fire is seen from a pipeline explosion in Nembe, Nigeria. More than 50 people are missing after a leaking oil pipeline exploded and caused a stampede in southern Nigeria, a local official said Saturday. The blast early Friday caused massive oil spillage in the Nembe kingdom in Bayelsa state, the Nembe Chiefs Council spokesman, Chief Nengi James-Eriworio, told The Associated Press. (AP Photo)

50 Nigerians missing after oil-line blast

WARRI, Nigeria -- More than 50 people are missing after a leaking oil pipeline exploded and caused a stampede in southern Nigeria, an official said Saturday.

The blast early Friday triggered a huge oil spill in the Nembe kingdom in Bayelsa state, a spokesman for the chiefs council, Nengi James-Eriworio, said.

The Nembe trunk line is operated by the Port Harcourt-based Aiteo Group and carries crude to the Bonny export terminal. Aiteo had yet to comment on the explosion. It was not immediately clear if the pipeline had been shut down.

The Niger Delta is highly polluted. Nigerian oil companies usually assert that the majority of oil spills are caused by sabotage, theft and illegal refining.

Hundreds of people have died in similar accidents in recent years in Africa's largest oil producer as impoverished people risk their lives to collect fuel leaking from pipelines or trucks.

Anti-graft rallies roil Serbia, Montenegro

Thousands of protesters marched Saturday through Serbia's and Montenegro's capitals as demonstrators kept up pressure on the governments to curb corruption and allow more freedom in a region that hopes to integrate with the European Union.

In Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, several thousand people took part in a fourth weekend rally in a row over allegations of corrupt practices of President Milo Djukanovic, who has been the dominant politician in the smallest former Yugoslav republic for almost three decades. Meanwhile, in the biggest state of the former federation, more than 10,000 people took to the streets of Belgrade for a 13th protest against President Aleksandar Vucic and his administration.

"We will liberate this country from you," opposition lawmaker Marinika Tepic said in her speech at the rally in Serbia. "We will defeat you, we won't stop."

Rallies against ruling parties have intensified across southeast Europe. In Albania, protesters have sought to oust Premier Edi Rama, also over perceived corruption, which has led to riots and tear-gas tinged clashes with the police. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, activists have protested in the Bosnian Serb capital, Banja Luka, demanding a proper investigation into a high-profile murder case that is threatening to destabilize the government.

Most opposition parties in Serbia and in Montenegro boycott their parliaments, similarly saying that there's little room for debate under the dominance of the ruling coalitions. The EU has advised that all opposition groups return to the respective parliaments instead of boycotting sessions. Also Saturday, journalists in Croatia, another former Yugoslav republic, gathered in the capital, Zagreb, to protest against pressure on media.

Czechs nab suspect in contract killings

BELGRADE, Serbia -- A Serbian man reported to be a contract killer sought by authorities in three countries has been arrested in the Czech Republic, police said Saturday.

The man is suspected of using firearms to kill and is sought by authorities in the Netherlands, Hungary and Serbia, Czech police said.

A Serbian police statement said authorities are seeking to extradite the man, identified only by his initials D.C., born in 1980, from the Czech Republic. It says he was arrested Friday evening in a Prague hotel as part of cooperation among several countries.

The suspect had false documents, two guns and ammunition, as well as a wig and glasses when he was arrested, police said.

Serbia's Blic daily reported that the man is a well-known contract killer named Caba Der.

Serbian media outlets published footage in January alleging to show the suspect getting out of a car and shooting his victim in a Belgrade suburb in broad daylight after ordering the man to kneel.

He also reportedly shot a Croatian man in an Italian restaurant in Amsterdam in June, and was said to have killed a Hungarian businessman in Budapest in September.

Serbian media outlets reported that he was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2004 in Serbia for killing a man and that after release he became a contract killer with no specific ties to organized-crime groups.

Spain notes recent drop in illegal influx

MADRID -- Spain's government says that unauthorized immigration by sea has dropped in the past month, falling to 930 people arriving in February compared with more than 4,000 in January.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said while visiting Spain's northern African enclave of Melilla on Saturday that "the upward trend of recent months has been broken."

Spain became the leading entry point into Europe for illegal migration last year, when it received more than 57,000 people by sea compared with 21,000 in 2017.

Opposition parties have criticized the Socialist-led government for being soft on illegal migration. After taking a more welcoming position on migrants than other European Union nations like Italy, Spain has recently tried to reduce arrivals.

The issue is expected to be on the agenda in April's general elections.

A Section on 03/03/2019

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