Roadside bomb kills 16 Yemeni soldiers; Sudanese troops arrive

Updated 10 November 2015
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Roadside bomb kills 16 Yemeni soldiers; Sudanese troops arrive

CAIRO: At least 16 Yemeni government soldiers have been killed by a roadside bomb in the province of Marib east of the capital Sanaa, military sources told Reuters late on Sunday.
The sources said the bomb, which also wounded six soldiers, appeared aimed at a patrol near an army camp in Marib. They said it was not clear who was behind the attack.
At least 5,600 people have been killed in seven months of war in Yemen, the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula.
Meanwhile, a 400-strong Sudanese force arrived in Aden Monday in support of pro-government forces preparing to confront a possible new offensive by rebels on the country’s south.
Yemen’s loyalist forces, backed by Saudi-led coalition strikes, supplies and troops, pushed the rebels out of Aden as part of an operation launched in July to take back southern territories lost to renegade forces.
Four other southern provinces — Lahj, Daleh, Abyan and Shabwa — were also retaken by the forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
But the Iran-backed rebels this weekend retook several positions in the south.
“More than 400 Sudanese soldiers landed in Aden” as part of the coalition battling the rebels since March, said a commander of Yemeni forces loyal to Hadi.
These will join 500 Sudanese soldiers who arrived in Aden on Oct. 19, part of whom were deployed in the main southern city and the strategic Al-Anad airbase in adjacent Lahj province, the source told AFP.
“General mobilization was been declared in Daleh,” where the rebels recaptured the province’s second-city, Damt, on Saturday, a local official said.
A similar call was made in the coastal city of Dhubab, near the Bab Al-Mandab strait, where the rebels achieved a “limited advance” during the weekend, a military source said.
The rebels seized a military base in Dhubab on Saturday following deadly clashes with pro-government troops, according to military sources.
Pro-government troops seized Dhubab early last month, giving them effective control of Bab Al-Mandab, through which much of the world’s maritime traffic passes.


Iraq online shutdown cost ‘$40m a day'

Updated 17 July 2018
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Iraq online shutdown cost ‘$40m a day'

  • The banking sector, airlines, businesses and mobile phone companies faced severe disruptions
  • Internet partially restored but social media sites remain blocked

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi government ban on online access to curb growing protests is costing the country tens of millions of dollars a day and ramping up anger toward the authorities.

Internet access was blocked in much of Iraq from Friday as protests in southern provinces spread from the main oil hub of Basra. 

The government hopes to limit communication between thousands of demonstrators protesting at a lack of basic services and official corruption. The tactic is similar to that used by regimes during Arab Spring protests in 2011.

On Monday, the government partially reactivated Internet services, but kept restrictions on prominent social media platforms, including WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.

The banking sector, airlines, businesses and mobile phone companies faced severe disruptions because of the shutdown, online experts said. 

The restrictions left hundreds of international and local media outlets paralyzed, banking transactions all but halted, and airlines facing flight cancelations and passenger chaos for at least three days.

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READ MORE: How political forces fueled the spread of Iraq protests

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Government departments relying on the Internet, including security services, and those dealing with residency, passports and intelligence were disrupted, security officials told Arab News.

A study by NetBlocks, an independent group monitoring online shutdowns, suggested that the restrictions could cost Iraq’s struggling economy $40 million per day in “lost business, sales and opportunities.”

“The Iraqi government has made a big mistake. A lot of business transactions are conducted via the Internet,” Bassim Antwan, an Iraqi economic expert, said.

“The blocking of sites… has caused great losses (for Iraq). While the government believes that it has succeeded in something, it has lost much of its revenues and the revenues of the private sector.”

Massive demonstrations engulfed Iraq’s southern provinces in protest at electricity cuts, a shortage of drinking water, and the high rates of unemployment and poverty. Protests began in Basra on July 8 with the blocking of roads to the oil fields.

Iraqi security forces were placed on high alert after public facilities, including local government buildings, Najaf airport and oil sites were stormed by demonstrators.

The block on social media sites has prompted Iraqis to sign up to applications and programs that use VPNs to break the ban.

Iraq’s government has previously used Internet restrictions as part of security measures to prevent protests. It has also resorted to the tactic to prevent students from circulating exam questions and to reduce the circulation of security information.

But the latest block is the longest and most comprehensive of the past decade. 

Most Iraqis view the shutdown as an attempt to suppress the protests and avoid scrutiny of the security services’ response.

Ahmed Saadawi, an internationally renowned Iraqi novelist, said he was using a proxy Internet server to avoid the ban and communicate with those outside Iraq.

“We are imprisoned because of government measures that have blocked social media sites, disrupted people’s interests, deprived protesters of the right to express opinions, and denied others the right to get information,” Saadawi wrote on hisFacebook page.

“I condemned the arbitrary measures being taken by the corrupt parties that want to continue to share power and profits without any objection to their work.”

Eight people have been killed and hundreds wounded in demonstrations which entered their 10th day on Tuesday.

Major campaigns were launched by security services in the past three days to arrest the organizers, advocates and journalists in Baghdad and the south “on charges of inciting people to sabotage the public institutions,” lawyers and security officials said. 

Dozens of Iraqis who live abroad and in unaffected provinces have shared instructions on how to break the social media block and use applications to publish news, pictures and videos of the demonstrations.

Iraqis have also resorted to their well-tested humor in times of crisis by poking fun at the authorities.

“Thanks to the government Internet ban, I found out that my kid’s age is 6 not 4,” Hisham Ali wrote on Facebook. “Not just this, I found out that my family members are nice people and can be tolerated. I am happy.”