Page last updated at 21:26 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 22:26 UK

Arrests sought over Senegal ferry

The Joola capsizes off Senegal on 27 September 2002
More people died on the Joola than on the Titanic in 1912

A French judge has issued international arrest warrants for nine Senegalese officials over the 2002 sinking of a government-owned ferry.

One thousand eight hundred and sixty-three people died when the Joola sank in high seas on 26 September 2002.

Only 64 people survived the capsize, which was Africa's worst maritime disaster.

The ferry was seriously overloaded and there were questions as to whether it was seaworthy.

The Joola was sailing between southern Senegal and the capital, Dakar, in the north when it went down.

A Senegalese government report concluded that the vessel - operated by the navy - had breached safety standards in several areas.

The army had also delayed a rescue operation - one that the government said could have saved lives.

Senior officials named

Twenty-two French nationals died in the disaster and in April 2003 their relatives lodged a complaint with the French courts for manslaughter.

Idrissa Diallo, head of the victims' families association, congratulated France, adding that Senegalese officials closed the case in 2003.

"All I have to say is bravo to the French justice. All we want is that light is shed and that nobody is above the law," he told the AFP news agency.

Former Senegalese Prime Minister Mame Madior Boye is among those named in the warrants, as are former military chiefs.

But Senegal's Justice Minister Madicke Niang said the nine were not responsible and that Senegal would do what it could to have the warrants cancelled.

The Joola ferry disaster claimed more lives than the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, in which 1,563 people died.

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