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Wednesday November 21st, 2018 5:41AM

The Latest: Head of Mukwege Foundation welcomes peace prize

By The Associated Press
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OSLO, Norway (AP) — The Latest on the awarding of the Nobel Prizes (all times local):

12:50 p.m.

A Dutch-based foundation named for Dr. Denis Mukwege has welcomed the announcement that he has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a statement, The Mukwege Foundation says the award granted Friday to the Congolese gynecological surgeon and to Yazidi activist Nadia Murad sends "a clear message that sexual violence in wars is unacceptable and must stop."

Mukwege is a special advisor to the foundation that works to end sexual violence in wars. 

The foundation says it will "continue to work with Dr. Mukwege and his team, as well as Nadia Murad, towards a world in which sexual violence as a method of warfare is abolished and survivors receive the care they need."

Praise also poured in from other colleagues and supporters of Mukwege.

"Well deserved and long awaited," said the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Ken Roth.

"It is 10 years since I first proposed heroic Mukwege for Nobel Prize," tweeted Jan Egeland, a former U.N. official who now leads the Norwegian Refugee Council.

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12:45 p.m.

Congo's government is congratulating surgeon Denis Mukwege on his Nobel Peace Prize, while acknowledging that relations have been strained over the years.

Spokesman Lambert Mende tells The Associated Press that Mukwege has done "remarkable work" treating victims of sexual violence during years of conflict in the country's east.

Mukwege in the past has criticized the Congolese government and accused its troops of having a culture of sexual violence.

Congo's government spokesman says "we have not always been in agreement" and says Mukwege has had a tendency to "politicize" his humanitarian work. However, "we salute that a compatriot is recognized."

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12:35 p.m.

Congo, the sprawling central African nation where 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege works, has been called "the rape capital of the world," by the U.N. secretary-general's special representative on sexual violence in conflict.

Eastern Congo has seen more than two decades of bloody conflict among armed groups that either sought to unseat presidents or simply grab control of a piece of the country's trillions of dollars in mineral wealth. Rape has been used as a vicious weapon of war.

Millions of people have been killed over the years and millions more have fled. Dozens of armed groups still roam the region and some now are disrupting attempts to fight a new Ebola outbreak in Congo's northeast, causing alarm among health workers.

Armed men tried to kill Mukwege in 2012, forcing him to temporarily leave the country.

He won the peace prize Friday with Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who became a global spokeswoman for victims after being raped and tortured by Islamic State militants.

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12:15 p.m.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad was captured by Islamic State militants at 19 and raped, beaten and tortured daily before managing to escape.

Following treatment in Germany, Murad became a global spokeswoman for Yazidi women, telling their ordeal to the U.N. Security Council and being named a U.N. special ambassador.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis escaped to Mount Sinjar in Iraq in 2014, where they were surrounded and besieged by Islamic State militants. The U.S., Iraq, Britain, France and Australia flew in water and supplies until Kurdish fighters opened a corridor to allow them to flee.

The U.N. has called the IS assault a genocide, saying the Yazidis' "400,000-strong community had all been displaced, captured or killed." Of the thousands captured by IS, boys were forced to fight for the extremists, many of the men were executed and women and girls were sold into slavery.

Germany's Yazidi community reached out, and the state of Baden Wuerttemberg established a program to bring women abused by IS to Germany, including Murad.

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12:10 p.m.

The head of the foundation behind the award known as the "alternative Nobel" says giving the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Congolese surgeon Denis Mukwege "is a fantastic choice," because he "not only helps mend (women) physically but also restores their human dignity."

Ole von Uexkull, head of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, says the 2018 award "must be a clarion call to putting an end to violence against women everywhere around the world."

He said Friday Mukwege was given the Right Livelihood Award in 2013 for "his courageous work healing women survivors of wartime sexual violence and speaking up about its root causes".

The Norwegian Nobel Committee jointly awarded the peace prize to Mukwege and to Nadia Murad, a Yazidi who was a captive of the Islamic State group.

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12:05 p.m.

The Congolese gynecological surgeon who has won the Nobel Peace Prize for treating victims of sexual violence has previously called gender inequality a disgrace to society.

Dr. Denis Mukwege made the comments last year to an international assembly of the Lutheran church in Namibia. He said churches must speak out against sexual abuse, and he condemned what he called the "inhumanity" that some men show toward women.

Mukwege has treated thousands of women in Congo, many of whom were victims of gang rape in different conflicts. Armed men tried to kill him in 2012, forcing him to temporarily leave the country.

Mukwege won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday along with Nadia Murad, a spokeswoman for Yazidi women abused by the Islamic State group.

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11:40 a.m.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee says that Denis Mukwege is "the foremost, most unifying symbol, both nationally and internationally, of the struggle to end sexual violence in war and armed conflicts."

Mukwege and his team have treated thousands of patients who have been raped or sexually abused in Congo's long civil war.

"The importance of Dr. Mukwege's enduring, dedicated and selfless efforts in this field cannot be overstated. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticized the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war," the committee said in its citation Friday.

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11:35 a.m.

Nadia Murad, one of the two winners of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, has become a spokeswoman for Yazidi women abused by the Islamic State group.

In December 2015, she told the U.N. Security Council how she and thousands of other Yazidi women and girls were abducted, held in captivity and repeatedly raped after the Iraqi area of Sinjar fell to IS militants in August 2014. She escaped after three months in captivity.

A year after most IS-held areas were retaken by Iraqi security forces, around 3,000 Yazidi women and girls are still missing, most presumed dead.

At the age of 23, Murad was named the U.N.'s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

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11:30 a.m.

The head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee says this year's Nobel Peace winners were chosen to draw attention to the fact that "women are ... actually used as weapons of war."

Berit Reiss-Andersen said after announcing the prize Friday that both laureates, Denis Mukwege of Congo and ethnic Yazidi Nadia Murad, had put their personal security at stake as activists on the issue.

Oyvind Sternersen, a Nobel historian, said "This is a Nobel bullseye; recognizing victims of war has a long history in the peace prize."

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11 a.m.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad "for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict."

The winners were named Friday by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Congolese doctor Mukwege has been a critic of the Congolese government and has treated victims of sexual violence. Murad is a Yazidi who was a captive of the Islamic State group.

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6 a.m.

The Nobel Peace Prize is always widely anticipated and sometimes controversial.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which will announce this year's prize on Friday, has received nominations for 216 individuals and 115 organizations. But only a few dozen of them are known — the committee keeps the list of nominations secret for 50 years, although some candidates are revealed by their nominators.

Among those put forward this year are the Syrian civilian aid group White Helmets, Russia's Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Edward Snowden and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Last year's winner was the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The 2018 prize is worth 9 million Swedish kronor ($1.01 million). Past winners who came under criticism include former U.S. President Barack Obama, who won in 2009 after less than a year in office.

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