Wave of attacks kills at least 17 in Iraq

Updated 17 January 2013
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Wave of attacks kills at least 17 in Iraq

KIRKUK, Iraq: A wave of attacks in Baghdad and north of the capital on Wednesday left at least 17 people dead a day after a member of Parliament was killed in a suicide bombing, amid a worsening political crisis engulfing Iraq.
The latest violence, the deadliest of which targeted Kurdish political party offices, comes with Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki facing several protests hardening opposition against his rule and calls for his ouster from many of his erstwhile government partners.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, the deadliest of which struck in the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad. A car bomb detonated by a suicide attacker killed at least 10 people and wounded 140 others, according to provincial health chief Sadiq Omar Rasul.
The blast appeared to target a compound housing local offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani.
Another suicide car bombing in the town of Tuz Khurmatu killed two people and wounded 26 others. The attack struck near the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
In Baghdad, three separate attacks left five people dead, officials said.
The latest attacks come a day after the killing of MP Ayfan Al-Essawi’s in a suicide attack west of Baghdad. His funeral is expected to be held in Fallujah later on Wednesday.
Essawi was a former leader of the Sahwa, a collection of Sunni tribal militias that turned against Al-Qaeda and sided with the US military from late 2006, helping turn the tide of Iraq’s bloody insurgency.
Sahwa fighters are regularly targeted for attacks by Sunni militants who view them as traitors.
The violence comes amid a political crisis that has pitted Maliki against several of his ministers just months ahead of key provincial elections.
Weeks of anti-government demonstrations in Sunni Arab majority areas, supported by several parties that are members of Maliki’s unity cabinet, have hardened opposition against Maliki, a Shiite.
The demonstrations have decried alleged misuse of anti-terror laws to detain members of the minority community, and claim Sunnis are being targeted by the Shiite-led authorities.
The crisis comes with barely three months to go before provincial elections, a key barometer of support for Maliki and his opponents ahead of a general election next year.
Violence is down across Iraq since the country’s brutal sectarian war, but attacks remain common, especially in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu.


Cyclone Mekunu heads for popular Omani resort after pummeling UNESCO-protected Socotra island

Updated 21 min 44 sec ago
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Cyclone Mekunu heads for popular Omani resort after pummeling UNESCO-protected Socotra island

  • Cyclone Mekunu hit the Yemeni island of Socotra Wednesday night, causing severe flooding and damage to houses
  • Six boats lost, at least 11 people missing as cyclone Mekunu heads towards Oman

DUBAI: Oman’s popular tourist destination Salalah could be pounded by winds of up to 165 kilometers per hour if Cyclone Mekunu continues on its current path, a weather expert has told Arab News.

The cyclone – which has already pummeled Yemen’s UNESCO-protected Socotra island – has intensified to category 2 with winds reaching speeds of up to 170kph.

The Omani meteorology center issued a statement on Friday morning stating that the tropical cyclone was around 200km away from the southern city of Salalah.

Strong gale winds and heavy rainfall are expected to hit the costal areas of Dhofar on Friday the statement read, with warnings of flooding.

Salalah Port has been evacuated and will remain closed for the next 72 hours. While maximum wave height has been predicted to go as high as 12 meters with expected rising sea level.

Director of Meteology at the UAE weather center, Mohamad Al-Ebri, said on Thursday that if the cyclone continues on its current path, it could reach Salalah on Saturday morning.

“If this happens and the cyclone is still a category 2, then Salalah could be hit by the full force of the storm,” Al-Ebri explained.

Salalah International Airport will close for a duration of 24 hours from midnight on Thursday due to the cyclone. 

‘Disaster area’

Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes after the Cyclone hit the Yemeni island of Socotra on Wednesday night, causing severe flooding and damage to houses, officials said.

The governement declared the island a “disaster area”, calling for urgent assistance to those affected by the floods.

There were also reports of six boats which sank – four at sea and two in the port – as the cyclone passed.
There are at least 17 people missing, with conflicting reports of fatalities.


Another official said 150 families had been evacuated and moved to government facilities after downpours caused houses and streets to flood, trapping people in their homes.
Some residents carrying children tried to escape through the flooded streets, an AFP correspondent said.

Mohammed Saeed Hameed Assistant of the Under Secretary of the National Center of Meteorology of Yemen (NCMY), told Arab News there had been a number of warnings sent out in the last week.But he said not everyone had been aware of the cyclone as it approached.

“We have notified people, however the problem is the information does not always reach everyone, like those who were out at sea…. Two boats have sunk and 11 people are missing,” Hameed told Arab News.


“There is a lot of false information being shared on social media,” Hameed warned. “People must get the correct information from officials such as ourselves.” 

He said already the northeast and east sections of Socotra was the worst affected. 

He said they expected the storm to reach the coastal cities of Yemen in Mahrah, Hadramaut and then on towards Salalah. 

“We urge local officials in coastal towns to warn people of the cyclone. They must alert schools, mosques, hospitals and local community centers.” 

Oman prepares for the worst, hopes for the best

In neighboring Oman, authorities announced through the official news agency they were taking “necessary precautions” in case the cyclone hits the Gulf sultanate.

Rainfall had already been reported on Thursday afternoon in the province of Dhofar, southern Oman.

 

 James Hewitson, general manager of the five-star hotel Al-Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, told Arab News they were expecting the situation to worsen over the coming days.

“The wind has picked up since this morning.”

He said the hotel staff were preparing for the worst outcome, ensuring there was enough fuel to power the generators, should the main electricity supply be cut.

“We have taken all precautions in terms of securing all areas of the building to keep our guests safe,” Hewitson explained.

He said the hotel was well stocked for food and water and that at least one of the restaurants would remain open.

“We have about 50 guests staying with us at the moment,” Hewitson told Arab News. “Some are leaving tonight, some have chosen to leave and we are offering to compensate them with our sister hotels across Oman”

“At the end of today I expect I will have something between 40 to 50 guests staying… We have 250 staff members.” 

He explained that representatives from the Ministry of Tourism had visited in the morning.

“We have already taken down our outdoors furniture, and anything that is not bolted down has been put away so that the winds don’t blow them into anyone and hurt people like glass tables or umbrellas.” 

And he added that Muscat civil defense had sent a team to support in Salalah.

“We have taken all precautions in terms of securing all areas of the building to keep our guests safe.”

An image grab taken from an AFPTV video shows people walking through flood water as they evacuate a flooded area during a cyclone in the Yemeni island of Socotra.

“Calm before the storm”
People were advised to avoid going out to sea following warnings off Oman’s southern and south coast of rough conditions with waves reaching heights of between five to eight meters.

Speaking to Arab News from Salalah, event organizer Abdulaziz Ahmed Yousuf Al-Amri said people were preparing for the worst.

“There are some parts of Salalah that have heavy rain… The weather is okay at the moment - but it feels like this is the calm before the storm.”

“We are praying that it will not be bad and will pass without any major impact.”

“But everyone is worried about what might happen, so they are getting ready,” Al-Amri added.“They are stocking up on water and food, just in case something bad does happen… They are putting gas in their cars.”

(Additional reporting by Peter Harrison, Rommer M. Balaba and AFP)

FACTOID

Rare, but it's happened before

In June 2016, a cyclone codenamed ‘02A’ developed in the Arabian Sea with winds reaching speeds of up to 35 knots – that’s 62 kilometers per hour. It was initially feared to hit Oman. The cyclone, which is rare in the region, eventually weakened to a tropical depression with maximum wind speeds dropping to 30 knots before dissipating in the Arabian Sea.