Somalia’s Deadliest Bombing Kills more than 300

More than 300 people have been killed by a massive truck bomb that tore through a busy shopping district of Mogadishu, the government said Monday, making it the deadliest attack ever to hit Somalia.

The explosion occurred on Saturday afternoon at a junction in Hodan, a bustling commercial district which has many shops, hotels and businesses in the city’s northwest.

The devastation caused was widespread. Muhidin Ali, a Mogadishu resident who was close by at the time said it was, “the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area.”

Desperate residents of the capital searched for news of missing relatives and friends after the monster explosion destroyed several nearby buildings, leaving victims burned beyond recognition.

“We have confirmed 300 people died in the blast. The death toll will still be higher because some people are still missing,” Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of the city’s ambulance service, told Reuters on Monday.

But the country’s ministry of information confirmed that 276 people were killed in the blast and 300 wounded were admitted at the different hospitals in Mogadishu.

“There is still a national rescue operation” under way, the ministry said in a statement, adding that there would be “national mourning and prayers for the victims” in the coming days.

Police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP that many of the victims were “burned beyond recognition” in what he described as “the deadliest attack ever.”

The government statement said an emergency center had been set up in the capital for people to seek information abut their loved ones.

“It has been more than 24 hours now and we don’t have any traces or information about the sister of my friend, we can assume she is dead with her flesh somewhere amongst the horribly burned dead bodies,” said Abdulahi Nuradin, who was helping in the search.

“We went to several hospitals to seek any information but no to avail, the family is now 99 percent convinced she is dead, I saw so many severed pieces of human flesh at the hospitals, you cannot even look at them,” he added.

Some of those seriously injured in Saturday’s bombing were moved by ambulance to the airport on Monday morning to be flown to Turkey for further treatment, Aden Nur, a doctor at the city’s Madina hospital, said.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Shabaab, a militant group aligned with Al-Qaeda, carries out regular suicide bombings in Mogadishu in its bid to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government.

Saturday’s blast, the worst in Somalia’s history, came six years after Shabaab militants were pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union and Somali troops.

While they were also pushed out of major towns across southern Somalia the militants still control rural areas and launch attacks on military, government and civilian targets in Somalia, as well as terrorist raids in neighboring Kenya.

Deadly Shabaab Attack on Somali Army Base

Shabaab militants killed at least 15 soldiers in an attack on a Somali military base near the capital Mogadishu, the group and officials said on Friday.

The militants used guns and car bombs to take control of the Somali National Army military camp and a nearby town, Barire, 50 km southwest of Mogadishu, in an early-morning attack.

The fighters also took 11 pickup trucks mounted with machine guns, known as “technicals”, said Abdiasis Abu Musab, Shabaab’s military operation spokesman.

“The other soldiers ran helter-skelter into the woods. We now control the base and the village,” he said.

A Somali military officer put the number of dead at 15; Shabaab said 21 were killed.

“There was a battalion of soldiers but it was a fierce fighting; twin suicide car bombs and hand-to-hand fighting,” Captain Osman Ali told Reuters.

“The attacked soldiers were Somali military and the special forces trained by the US called Danab. There were neither AMISOM nor other foreigners there,” Ali added, referring to African Union peacekeeping troops.

Reinforcements were being sent, he said.

Residents said the attack left bodies of government soldiers scattered on the ground while Shabaab fighters looted the base.

“There were dead bodies around the military camp and I counted about eight of them from the Somali military but it could be more than that,” said Abdulahi Muktar.

King Salman Receives Somali President

Jeddah– Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz discussed regional issues at al-Salam Palace with visiting President of Somalia Mohammed Abdullah Farmajo.

During the meeting, King Salman and Farmajo reviewed relations between the two countries and various fields of cooperation and discussed latest developments in the region.

The talks were attended by Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Governor of Makkah Region Prince Khaled al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Member of the Cabinet and Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Minister of the State Prince Mansour bin Meteb bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State Ibrahim Abdulaziz al-Assaf, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Minister of Finance Mohammed bin Abdallah al-Jadaan, and Saudi Ambassador to Kenya Mohammed Abdulghani Khayat, Somali Foreign Minister Yousef Garaad Omar, Somali Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dahir Mohamed Geelem, and President of Somalia’s Adviser Bilal Othman Mohammed.

Earlier, King Salman held a luncheon in honor of the visiting president and his accompanying delegation.

In other news, King Salman received at al-Salam Palace UK Member of Parliament of the Conservative Party Leo Docherty accompanied by a number of members of the Parliament.

During the meeting, they reviewed the relations between the two countries and prospects of bilateral cooperation, especially in the parliamentary field.

The audience was attended by Speaker of the Shura Council Abdullah bin Mohammed Al al-Sheikh, Minister of State and Cabinet Member Musaed bin Mohammed al-Aiban, Minister of State and Cabinet Member Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz al-Assaf, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir, and British Ambassador to the Kingdom Simon Collis.

Crown Prince Meets with Somali President

Jeddah- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, met in Jeddah on Wednesday with Somali President Mohammed Abdullah Farmajo.

During the meeting, they reviewed aspects of cooperation between the two countries in various fields, and opportunities for its development, in addition to discussing the latest developments in the region.

Also Wednesday, the Crown Prince, who is the General Supervisor of the Camel Club, directed holding King Abdulaziz Festival for Camels for this year during the period from January 1 to February 1, 2018.

Somali Forces Clashes with Shabaab Leave 17 Dead in Border Town

Shabaab

At least 17 people were killed on Monday in clashes between Somali government forces and al-Shabaab militants in a town on the Kenyan border, the military said, adding that the forces managed to recapture the area.

The forces regained control of a military base in Balad Hawo early on the morning after a Shabaab car suicide bombing earlier during the day.

“We were awoken by a suicide car bomb this morning and then fierce battle followed,” Major Mohamed Abdullahi told Reuters from the town.

“We chased al Shabaab out of the town,” he said.

Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said the group’s fighters left the town after releasing 35 prisoners from the local jail. At least 30 soldiers were killed, he said.

According to the military official, at least 10 soldiers and seven al-Shabaab extremists were killed, though the death toll on both sides could still rise.

Residents confirmed fighting had ended and that the extremists had left the town.

“Now Balad Hawo is calm and government forces fully control it,” Ahmed Hassan, a resident of the town told Reuters.

Hassan said he saw 13 bodies collected from the military base.

Formed in 2006, al-Shabaab wants to topple the Western-backed government and impose its own rule. Somalia has been at war since 1991 when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

Al-Shabaab carry out frequent attacks on security and government targets, but also on civilians. They also target African Union peacekeeping troops.

On Sunday, a Somali police officer said a suicide bomber blew himself up near a government office in a central Somali town, killing at least four people.

Colonel Sabrie Ahmed said the bomber apparently intended to enter the regional administration’s headquarters in Beledweyne, the provincial capital of Hiran province, but instead detonated an explosive belt strapped around his waist in a teashop outside the offices.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. However, Somalia’s extremist insurgents, al-Shabaab, often carry out such attacks.

Shabaab Claims 26 Soldiers Killed in Attack in Southern Somalia

Shabaab

The number of casualties was unclear after al-Shabaab militants attacked a military base in southern Somalia, an army officer announced on Sunday.

He did not disclose the exact number of casualties, but the militant group said that 26 soldiers were killed in the incident in the southern port city of Kismayu.

Sources could not confirm the claim.

“We understand al-Shabaab attacked the base and fierce fighting and a blast occurred, but still we have no details,” Mohamed Isa, a military officer, told Reuters from Kismayu.

The attack was on a base in the village of Bala Gudud, near Kismayu.

State radio also reported the base had been attacked but said casualties were not yet known. The base is jointly operated by the Somali national army and forces from the semi-autonomous Jubbaland region of southern Somalia, it reported.

Residents in Bala Gudud said a blast was heard and an exchange of gunfire broke out shortly in the morning.

Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab’s military spokesman, told Reuters: “This morning, we stormed the Jubaland base near Bula Gudud. We killed 26 soldiers and burnt two cars.”

The militants left the base after taking weapons, ammunition and several vehicles, he added.

On Friday, a US statement announced that a US military strike killed a Shabaab fighter and wounded another near Barawe town in southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region.

The strike took place on Thursday, the US Africa Command said.

At least one missile struck a location outside Barawe that the extremists often use to launch attacks on the government-held town, a Somali intelligence official said. He declined to give further details.

The US military has carried out several airstrikes against fighters with the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa nation since President Donald Trump approved expanded military operations against the group.

That includes more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.

Djibouti Hosts First Chinese Overseas Mission

China

China officially opened on Tuesday its first overseas mission, the same day as the country’s army marked its 90th anniversary, state media said.

China is building the military base in the Horn of Africa’s Djibouti.

Chinese military personnel, officials and guests attended a flag-raising ceremony and military parade to mark the occasion, the official Xinhua news agency reported. State radio said more than 300 people attended the ceremony, including deputy Chinese naval commander Tian Zhong and Djibouti’s defense minister.

The logistics base is the first of its kind for Beijing, which will use it to support “naval escorts in Africa and southwest Asia, (United Nations) peacekeeping and for humanitarian support,” according to a previous China defense ministry statement.

China began construction of the “defensive” logistics base in Djibouti last year. It will be used to resupply navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

The Chinese navy has long assisted anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, as well as UN peacekeeping efforts throughout Africa.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing an ambitious military modernization program, including developing capabilities for China’s forces to operate far from home.

Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worry in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Djibouti is at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also hosts US, Japanese and French bases.

Ships carrying personnel for the Djibouti base left China last month.

There has been persistent speculation in diplomatic circles that China would build other such bases, in Pakistan for example, but the government has dismissed this.

Beijing has made extensive infrastructure investments throughout the African continent as it seeks to gain access to natural resources and new markets.

Chinese banks have been major funders of at least 14 such projects in Djibouti, valued at 14.4 billion dollars in total, including a railway line that will halve transit times from Djibouti to Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa.

Somalia: Car Explosion Injures Nine in Port City of Kismayo

A car bomb explosion in the southern Somali town of Kismayo wounded at least 10 people on Tuesday, police said.

“We believe it was a car bomb parked here in this busy street. So far we know 10 civilians were injured,” said Mohamud, a police officer who gave his first name only.

Residents gave a larger number of casualties, saying up to 20 may have been injured.

Two days ago, another car bomb in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Sunday killed six and wounded 20 others and the death toll was likely to rise, a police officer said.

The bomb went off on the busy Maka al Mukaram road, police said, while a Reuters witness said the blast was followed by big clouds of smoke visible in sky.

“So far we know six civilians died and 20 others were injured. They were mostly pedestrians while others were shopping,” the police officer said. “Death toll may rise. Most of the injured ones are very serious,” Major Mohamed Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters.

Earlier, a Reuters reporter at the scene of the blast had counted four bodies lying on the ground. Photographs taken by Reuters showed three destroyed cars on the road, with two still burning.

It was not clear who was responsible for the blast.

KSrelief Repatriates 316 Stranded Somalis

Yemen

Aden- King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSrelief) has continued to repatriate stranded Somalis to their country, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The 11th batch, representing 316 stranded Somalis, left Yemen on Wednesday heading for Somalia, under a direct supervision of the International Organization for Migration and the Somali Consulate in Yemen, SPA said.

The agency also said Wednesday that KSrelief has distributed 45 tons of medicines, medical supplies and equipment to government hospitals in Aden, Taiz, Marib, Jouf and Sayoun in the presence of Yemeni Minister of Public Health and Population Dr. Nasser Baoum.

Dr. Baoum said in a press statement that the medical assistance will contribute to the rehabilitation of government hospitals and support medical efforts in the eradication of cholera in Yemen, praising the great role being played by King Salman Center in supporting the health sector.

For his part, the director of the office of KSrelief in Aden said that the distribution of medical and therapeutic assistance consisting of medical equipment and supplies to the government hospitals will improve medical and health conditions in these hospitals.

It is noteworthy that in the holy month of Ramadan, the Center provided 550 tons of medicines and medical supplies for cholera control, while allocating $8 million for the same purpose and $66.7 million under the directive of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, to support efforts for combating cholera in Yemen.

US Backing Negotiations between Mogadishu and Somali al-Shabab Leader

In this file photo from Thursday, October 21, 2010, Al-Shabaab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh-FILE)

Washington- US media reports have said that a top member of extremist group al-Shabab in Somalia is secreting negotiating with the new Somali government for a truce and that Washington is playing a role in it.

The Associated Press said last week that the Trump administration has quietly rescinded a reward of up to $5 million for information about Sheikh Mukhtar Robow.

Robow was removed from the “most wanted list” of terrorist suspects run by the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” program in recent days, a US official said Friday.

The official, who was not authorized to speak to the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Robow’s removal followed consultations with the Somali government but had no additional information about the step.

The official said Robow remains subject to US sanctions imposed against him in 2008 when he was identified as a “specially designated global terrorist,” but is no longer a Rewards for Justice target.

A cached version of the program’s website identifies Robow as an al-Shabab spokesman, military commander and spiritual leader who planned and executed deadly attacks on Somali government troops and African Union peacekeeping forces.

The removal follows reports that the Somali government is in talks with Robow, who fell out with the former al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. The fallout forced Robow to abandon rebel-held areas to escape an internal purge by Godane in attempt to finish off his rivals in the group. Pro-Godane fighters have since killed several senior militants, including the American-born Omar Hammami and Ibrahim Afghani, one of the group’s highest ranking leaders.

Robow, estimated to be in his 50s, is one of al-Shabab’s most experienced leaders, having traveled to Afghanistan and trained alongside al-Qaeda around 2000.

Al-Shabab last year became the deadliest extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

The extremist group has vowed to step up attacks after the recently elected government launched a new military offensive against it. The group also faces a new military push from the United States after President Donald Trump approved expanded operations, including airstrikes. Al-Shabab still controls parts of rural Somalia.