Somali forces end 30-hour hotel siege, 106 hostages freed

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Security forces patrol near the Hayat Hotel after an attack by Al-Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu on August 20, 2022. (AFP)
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Al-Shabab fighters were driven out of the capital in 2011 by an African Union force, but the group still controls swathes of countryside. (AFP/File)
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Updated 21 August 2022
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Somali forces end 30-hour hotel siege, 106 hostages freed

  • At least 12 people, mostly civilians, were killed as Somalia’s elite armed forces battled Al-Qaeda-linked militants
  • Dozens of hostages were freed during the course of the siege

MOGADISHU: Somali forces have ended a siege at a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, police and the military said on Sunday, adding that they had rescued 106 hostages including women and children.
At least 12 people, mostly civilians, were killed as Somalia’s elite armed forces battled Al-Qaeda-linked militants for 30 hours after they blasted and shot their way into the Hayat Hotel on Friday evening.
Dozens of hostages were freed during the course of the siege, a senior police commander told Reuters, without providing more details.
Another official had earlier told Reuters that mop-up operations were still going on at the building, which suffered extensive damage.
“We are still investigating the explosions of many plastic bags that have been scattered around the hotel,” said Mohamed Ali, a military officer at the scene.
The French news agency Agence France-Presse earlier reported that all the gunmen had been killed, citing a security commander.
Friday’s attack was the first such major incident since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Al Shabab has been fighting to topple the Somali government for more than a decade. It wants to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The Hayat is a hotel popular with lawmakers and other government officials. 


South Korea restarts blaring propaganda broadcasts after Pyongyang flies trash balloons anew

Updated 3 sec ago
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South Korea restarts blaring propaganda broadcasts after Pyongyang flies trash balloons anew

SEOUL: South Korea said Friday it has restarted blasting propaganda broadcasts into North Korea to retaliate against the North’s latest round of trash-carrying balloon launches, a resumption of Cold War-style tactics that are raising animosities between the rivals.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it used front-line loudspeakers to blare anti-Pyongyang broadcasts over the border between Thursday evening and Friday morning. It said the South Korean military turned on loudspeakers again later Friday as it found out the North was preparing to fly more balloons.
The broadcasts were the first of their kind in about 40 days. The contents of the broadcasts were not immediately known, but previous ones last month reportedly included K-pop songs, weather forecasts and news on Samsung, the biggest South Korean company, as well as outside criticism of the North’s missile program and its crackdown on foreign video.
The South Korean broadcasts could trigger an angry response from North Korea because it is extremely sensitive to any outside attempt to undermine its political system. In 2015, when South Korea restarted loudspeaker broadcasts for the first time in 11 years, North Korea fired artillery rounds across the border, prompting the South to return fire, according to South Korean officials. No casualties were reported.
South Korea’s military said North Korea must be blamed for heightened tensions because it ignored South Korea’s repeated warnings and continued its “despicable” balloon campaigns. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the South Korean military will conduct loudspeaker broadcasts in a fuller manner and other stronger steps if North Korea continues provocations like balloon launches.
South Korea’s military earlier said North Korea’s launch on Thursday afternoon was its eighth balloon campaign since late May. About 200 North Korean balloons were found on South Korean soil as of Friday morning, and they mostly carried waste papers, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Previous North Korean-flown balloons carried scraps of cloth, cigarette butts, waste batteries and even manure, though they caused no major damages in South Korea. North Korea said they were sent in response to South Korean activists sending political leaflets to the North via their own balloons.
South Korea responded by suspending a 2018 tension-reduction deal with North Korea, conducting propaganda broadcasts for two hours on June 9 and front-line live-fire military drills at border areas.
Earlier this week, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hinted at flying rubbish-carrying balloons again or launching new countermeasures, saying South Korean balloons have been found again at border and other areas in North Korea. In her statement Tuesday, Kim Yo Jong warned that South Korean “scum” must be ready to pay “a gruesome and dear price.” That raised concerns that North Korea could stage physical provocations, rather than balloon launches.
South Korea’s military said Wednesday it has boosted its readiness to brace for any provocation by North Korea. It said North Korea may fire at incoming South Korean balloons across the border or floating mines downriver.
It wasn’t immediately known whether groups in South Korea have recently scattered leaflets in North Korea. For years, activist groups led by North Korean defectors have used helium-filled balloons to drop anti-North Korean leaflets, USB sticks containing K-pop music and South Korean dramas and US dollar bills in the North.
North Korea views such activities as a serious security threat and challenge to its ban on foreign news for most of its 26 million people. In 2020, North Korea destroyed an unoccupied South Korean-built liaison office on its territory in a furious response to South Korean civilian leafleting campaigns. In 2014, North Korea fired at balloons flying toward its territory and South Korea returned fire, though there were no casualties.
Tensions between the Koreas have heightened in recent years because of North Korea’s missile tests and the expansion of U.S-South Korean military drills that North Korea calls invasion rehearsals. Experts say North Korea’s expanding ties with Russia could embolden Kim Jong Un to stage bigger provocations, particularly ahead of the US presidential election in November.
North Korea’s state media said Friday that Kim met a visiting Russian delegation led by Vice Defense Minister Aleksey Krivoruchko. During the meeting, Kim stressed the need for the two countries’ armies to unite more firmly to defend international peace and justice, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
In June, Kim met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang and signed a deal requiring each country to provide aid to the other if it is attacked and vowed to boost other cooperation. Analysts say the accord represents the strongest connection between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.

Widespread technology outage disrupts flights, banks, media outlets and companies around world

Updated 12 min 33 sec ago
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Widespread technology outage disrupts flights, banks, media outlets and companies around world

  • DownDectector, which tracks user-reported disruptions, recorded growing outages in Visa, ADT security and Amazon
  • News outlets in Australia, including the ABC and Sky News, were unable to broadcast on their TV and radio channels

WELLINGTON: A widespread Microsoft outage was disrupting flights, banks, media outlets and companies around the world on Friday.
Escalating disruptions continued hours after the technology company said it was gradually fixing an issue affecting access to Microsoft 365 apps and services.
The website DownDectector, which tracks user-reported internet outages, recorded growing outages in services at Visa, ADT security and Amazon, and airlines including American Airlines and Delta.
News outlets in Australia reported that airlines, telecommunications providers and banks, and media broadcasters were disrupted as they lost access to computer systems. Some New Zealand banks said they were also offline.
Microsoft 365 posted on X that the company was “working on rerouting the impacted traffic to alternate systems to alleviate impact in a more expedient fashion” and that they were “observing a positive trend in service availability.”
The company did not respond to a request for comment. It did not explain the cause of the outage further.
Meanwhile, major disruptions reported by airlines and airports grew.
In the U.S., the FAA said the airlines United, American, Delta and Allegiant had all been grounded.
Airlines, railways and television stations in the United Kingdom were being disrupted by the computer issues. The budget airline Ryanair, train operators TransPennine Express and Govia Thameslink Railway, as well as broadcaster Sky News are among those affected.
“We’re currently experiencing disruption across the network due to a global third party IT outage which is out of our control,’’ Ryanair said. “We advise all passengers to arrive at the airport at least three hours before their scheduled departure time.”
Widespread problems were reported at Australian airports, where lines grew and some passengers were stranded as online check-in services and self-service booths were disabled. Passengers in Melbourne queued for more than an hour to check in.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport said on its website that the outage was having a “major impact on flights” to and from the busy European hub. The outage came on one of the busiest days of the year for the airport, at the start of many people’s summer vacations.
In Germany, Berlin Airport said Friday morning that “due to a technical fault, there will be delays in check-in.” It said that flights were suspended until 10 a.m. (0800GMT), without giving details, German news agency dpa reported.
At Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport, some US-bound flights had posted delays, while others were unaffected.
Australian outages reported on the site included the banks NAB, Commonwealth and Bendigo, and the airlines Virgin Australia and Qantas, as well as internet and phone providers such as Telstra.
News outlets in Australia — including the ABC and Sky News — were unable to broadcast on their TV and radio channels, and reported sudden shutdowns of Windows-based computers. Some news anchors broadcast live online from dark offices, in front of computers showing “blue screens of death.”
Shoppers were unable to pay at some supermarkets and stores due to payment system outages.
The New Zealand banks ASB and Kiwibank said their services were down.
An X user posted a screenshot of an alert from the company Crowdstrike that said the company was aware of “reports of crashes on Windows hosts” related to its Falcon Sensor platform. The alert was posted on a password-protected Crowdstrike site and could not be verified. Crowdstrike did not respond to a request for comment.


Indian soldiers kill two suspected militants in Kashmir

Updated 19 July 2024
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Indian soldiers kill two suspected militants in Kashmir

  • Kashmir has seen a string of battles between insurgents and Indian security forces in the past two months
  • Five Indian security personnel were killed on Monday during a firefight with gunmen in Doda forest

SRINAGAR, India: Two suspected militants were killed in a firefight with soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir, the defense ministry said Friday, following a spate of attacks in the disputed territory.
The two men were killed on Thursday while trying to cross the de facto frontier that divides the Himalayan region between Pakistan and India.
Troops saw the pair crossing over from the Pakistani side through thick foliage, a defense spokesman said in a statement.
“The infiltrating terrorists were challenged, following which they opened fire leading to an intense firefight,” he said.
Kashmir, particularly its southern Hindu-majority region Jammu, has seen a string of battles between insurgents and Indian security forces in the past two months.
Five Indian security personnel were killed on Monday during a firefight with gunmen in Doda forest.
Last month, nine Indian Hindu pilgrims were killed and dozens more wounded when a gunman opened fire on a bus carrying them from a shrine in Reasi district.
Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947, and each side claims it in full.
Rebel groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence or merger with Pakistan, in fighting that has killed tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels.
New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of stoking militancy and espionage to undermine each other, and the nuclear-armed rivals have fought multiple conflicts for control of the region.


Major airlines grounded over IT outage, affecting thousands of passengers

Updated 1 min 33 sec ago
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Major airlines grounded over IT outage, affecting thousands of passengers

  • ‘Large-scale technical outage’ caused by an issue with a ‘third-party software platform’
  • Airport operator Aena also reported a computer systems ‘incident’ at all Spanish airports

WASHINGTON: Air passengers around the world faced delays, cancellations and problems checking in as airports and airlines were caught up in a massive IT outage that also affected industries ranging from banks to media companies.

The travel industry was among the hardest hit with airports around the world, including Tokyo, Amsterdam, Berlin and several Spanish airports reporting problems with their systems and delays.
International airlines, including Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers, warned of problems with their booking systems and other disruptions.

According to an alert sent by Crowdstrike to its clients and reviewed by Reuters, the company’s “Falcon Sensor” software is causing Microsoft Windows to crash and display a blue screen, known informally as the “Blue Screen of Death”.
The alert, which was sent at 0530 GMT on Friday, also shared a manual workaround to rectify the issue.
A Crowdstrike spokesperson did not respond to emails or calls requesting comment.
There was no information to suggest the outage was a cyber security incident, the office of Australia's National Cyber Security Coordinator Michelle McGuinness said in a post on X.
The outages rippled far and wide, wreaking havoc on global computer systems. Microsoft users worldwide, including banks and airlines, reported widespread outages, hours after the technology company said it was gradually fixing an issue affecting access to Microsoft 365 apps and services.

The cause, exact nature and scale of the outage was unclear. Microsoft appeared to suggest in its X posts that the situation was improving but escalating outages were still being reported around the world hours later.

The UAE foreign ministry said the global cyber outage has affected all its electronic systems and it advised users to avoid any transactions till the issue has been resolved. It urged citizens abroad to contact their airlines before heading to the airports to avoid delays.

The UAE’s Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority issued a statement, warning Crowdstrike users of a “technical issue” with the “software update.”

“We advise users of the program to hold off on any updates or downloads of CrowdStrike software until the issue is resolved.”

 

Major US air carriers including Delta, United and American Airlines grounded all flights early on Friday over a communication issue, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“All... flights regardless of destination” were grounded due to the “communication issues,” the FAA said in a notice to airlines.

However, The global outage is not being treated as a malicious act, a UK government security source said.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said security experts were not treating it as a cyber-related security issue.

Similarly, France’s cybersecurity agency said there is no evidence that a global IT outage affecting airlines, banks, media and other business was caused by a cyberattack.
“The teams are fully mobilised to identify and support the affected entities in France and to understand... the origin of this outage,” the national cybersecurity agency (ANSSI) said, adding “There is no evidence to suggest that this outage is the result of a cyberattack.”

Major disruptions

The UK’s largest rail franchise is facing “widespread IT issues”, its four train lines said, warning of possible cancellations.
“We are currently experiencing widespread IT issues across our entire network”, the four lines operated by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) posted on X.

Other transport systems across the UK faced similar IT issues, with Ryanair experiencing disruption due to “a global third party IT outage”.

British airports including London Luton and Edinburgh warned of longer waiting times for passengers because of the glitch, while Sky News television was temporarily off air.

Passengers at Britain’s Edinburgh Airport were unable to use automated boarding pass scanners, and monitors at security displayed a message saying “server offline”, a Reuters witness reported.

Edinburgh Airport was checking boarding passes manually, the witness said.

A health booking system used by doctors in England was also offline, medical officials said on X on Friday.

Similarly, passengers at Dusseldorf airport are facing disruptions to Eurowings’ check-in and boarding processes due to the malfunction.

Hong Kong Airport Authority said airlines affected by a Microsoft outage have switched to manual check-in and flight operations have not been affected.

Three Indian airlines announced disruptions to their booking systems on Friday, matching widespread technical problems reported by flight operators around the world.

“Our systems are currently impacted by a Microsoft outage,” budget carrier IndiGo said in a post on social media platform X, with airlines Akasa Air and SpiceJet also reporting technical issues.

Air France says it also suffered IT disruption, but not at Paris airports.

Spanish airport operator Aena on Friday also reported a computer systems “incident” at all Spanish airports which may cause flight delays.

“We are working to solve it as soon as possible. Meanwhile, operations are continuing with manual systems,” the airport operator said in a post on X platform.

In Berlin, airport authorities have halted all flights until 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) due to a technical fault, a spokesperson said.

Earlier on Friday, airport operator BER said in a post on social media platform X that check-ins were delayed due to the error.

The spokesperson did not give details about the nature of the problem, which comes amid reports of technical outages affecting some companies around the globe.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, one of Europe’s busiest hubs, is being affected by a global cyber outage, a spokesperson said .

“The outage has an impact on flights flying from and to Schiphol,” he said, adding that it was not yet clear how many flights were affected.

A large-scale outage wrought havoc on IT systems across Australia on Friday, with the country’s national broadcaster, its largest international airport, and a major telecommunications company reporting issues.

Australia’s National Cyber Security Coordinator said the “large-scale technical outage” was caused by an issue with a “third-party software platform.”

National broadcaster ABC said its systems had been crippled by a “major” glitch.

Photos posted online showed large queues forming at Sydney Airport, which said some airline operations and terminal services had been affected.

Some self-checkout terminals at one of the country’s largest supermarket chains displayed error messages.

Telecommunications firm Telstra also said some of its systems had been disrupted.

Major companies report outage

The website DownDectector, which tracks user-reported Internet outages, recorded growing outages in services at Visa, ADT security and Amazon, and airlines including American Airlines and Delta.

Microsoft 365 posted on X that the company was “working on rerouting the impacted traffic to alternate systems to alleviate impact in a more expedient fashion” and that they were “observing a positive trend in service availability.”

The company did not respond to a request for comment. It did not explain the cause of the outage further.

Australian outages reported on the site included the banks NAB, Commonwealth and Bendigo, and the airlines Virgin Australia and Qantas, as well as Internet and phone providers such as Telstra.

News outlets in Australia — including the ABC and Sky News — were unable to broadcast on their TV and radio channels, and reported sudden shutdowns of Windows-based computers.

An X user posted a screenshot of an alert from the company Crowdstrike that said the company was aware of “reports of crashes on Windows hosts” related to its Falcon Sensor platform. The alert was posted on a password-protected Crowdstrike site and could not be verified. Crowdstrike did not respond to a request for comment.


Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued

Updated 19 July 2024
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Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued

  • Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port

SINGAPORE: Two large oil tankers were on fire in waters near Singapore, the authorities said on Friday, raising concerns about the environment as well as the impact on operations at the world’s biggest refueling port.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was alerted to a fire on Friday at 6:15 a.m. (2215 GMT) onboard both a Singapore-flagged tanker, Hafnia Nile, and a Sao Tome and Principe-flagged tanker, Ceres I.
A helicopter had evacuated two crew members to Singapore General Hospital, it said, without elaborating.
In a statement on social media, Singapore Navy said the frigate RSS Supreme had rescued the crews from the vessels and was providing medical assistance. It did not immediately give details.
The vessels were about 55km (34 miles) northeast of the Singaporean island of Pedra Branca on the eastern approach to the Singapore Straits. Photographs released by the Navy showed thick black smoke billowing from one tanker.
The cause of the fires was not immediately clear.
The 74,000 deadweight-tons capacity Panamax tanker Hafnia Nile (IMO 9766217) was carrying about 300,000 barrels of naphtha, according to ship-tracking data from Kpler and LSEG.
It was not immediately clear what fuel Ceres I (IMO 9229439) was carrying. The tanker is a very-large-crude-carrier (VLCC) of 300,000 deadweight-tons capacity and was last marked as carrying Iranian crude between March to April, ship-tracking data showed.
Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port and surrounding waters are vital trade waterways between Asia and Europe and the Middle East.