17 dead, dozens wounded in Somalia car bomb attack

A boy walks past the site of a car bomb attack near a security checkpoint in the Somali capital, not far from the presidential palace in Mogadishu. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 July 2019
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17 dead, dozens wounded in Somalia car bomb attack

  • Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other

MOGADISHU: At least 17 people were killed and 28 others wounded when a bomb went off outside a hotel near the international airport in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Monday, medical officials said.
Al-Shabab, which is trying to topple Somalia’s weak UN-backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The city’s Medina Hospital received 17 bodies and 28 people with injuries, 12 of them in a critical condition, said Mohammed Yusuf, the hospital’s director.
The blast went off at the first checkpoint on the road that leads to Mogadishu airport, said Farah Hussein, a shopkeeper who witnessed the attack.
Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.
The explosion near a checkpoint outside the Afrik Hotel reverberated throughout the city, and sent a massive plume of black smoke into the air.
Abdullahi Ahmed, a security officer who witnessed the blast, said at least five people were killed in the attack, which appeared to be targeting the hotel.
“The area was relatively dense with bystanders and some were killed and wounded in the blast, but we don’t have the exact number of casualties.”
Other witnesses describing being knocked to the ground by the force of the blast, which damaged nearby buildings.
“I was not very far away from where the blast occurred, and I could see several people lying (on the ground), some of them dead with a pool of blood,” said one, Abdikarim Mohamed.
“The blast was huge. It did damage to several nearby buildings.” Suado Ali was walking out of a travel agency when the shockwave knocked her flat.

BACKGROUND

Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.

“I was forced to the ground by the shockwave. I saw nearly 10 people lying on the ground, some motionless and others screaming for help,” he told AFP.
The attack comes just over a week after 26 people were killed and 56 injured in a 12-hour attack by Al-Shabab on a popular hotel in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo.
A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into the Medina Hotel on Friday before several heavily armed gunmen forced their way inside, shooting as they went.
That attack was the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by Al-Shabab, which has fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government.
The militant group emerged from the Islamic Courts Union that once controlled central and southern Somalia and is variously estimated to number between 5,000 and 9,000 men. In 2010, the Al-Shabaab declared their allegiance to Al-Qaeda. In 2011, they fled positions they once held in the capital Mogadishu, and have since lost many strongholds.
But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 5 sec ago
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Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.