Medical aid rushed to stricken Somalia after bombing

US Airmen from the 449th Air Expeditionary Group load pallets of medical and humanitarian aid supplies, to be delivered to the Somali people, onto a US C-130J Super Hercules at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. (AP)
Updated 17 October 2017
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Medical aid rushed to stricken Somalia after bombing

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s allies sent planes carrying medical supplies and doctors Tuesday, while the diaspora rallied to donate blood to help the country cope with the crushing aftermath of its worst ever bombing.
At least 276 people were killed and 300 injured on Saturday when a truck packed with explosives blew up in a busy commercial district, according to the government, however medical sources suggest the death toll could be over 300.
The disaster quickly overwhelmed the fragile health system of a country which has experienced nearly three decades of civil war and anarchy and is heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Planes from the US, Kenya and Qatar landed in Mogadishu on Tuesday.
“We have received today three aircrafts carrying medical supplies from the USA, Qatar and Kenya and apart from the one from USA government, the other two will carry back wounded people, about 35 victims,” said Mogadishu Mayor Tabid Abdi Mohammed.
On Monday, Turkey — a leading donor and investor in Somalia — ferried 35 wounded people to Ankara after its Health Minister Ahmet Demircan accompanied a plane carrying supplies, medics and disaster experts to the country.
Djibouti’s Health Minister Djama Elmi Okieh accompanied a team of specialist doctors and paramedics in a military aircraft to assist the wounded, according to state media.
On Tuesday, Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohammed announced that the country would evacuate 31 injured Somalis for specialized treatment in Nairobi, and send 11 tons of medicine to the neighboring country.
In addition the Kenyan Red Cross launched a fundraising drive for victims of the attack.
“This is a very good sign, for the fact that we are getting medical assistance because we cannot handle such a massive disaster,” said Dr. Abdukadir Hajji Adem who runs Mogadishu’s only free ambulance service AMIN.
According to his count the death toll stood at 302. Death tolls are notoriously difficult to establish in Mogadishu, with families often quickly taking victims away to be buried.
“When the tragedy happened, the telephone network was down and our coordination was very bad because we don’t have walkie talkies, our equipment is insufficient to deal with a terrible incident like the one,” he said.
A GoFundMe page started by a Somali living in Sweden has raised €15,000 ($17,000) for the ambulance service — which operates a fleet of 10 second-hand vehicles — in only two days.
Somalia’s years of conflict, which began when Siad Barre’s military regime collapsed in 1991, has created a diaspora of about two million people.
The largest population of Somalis abroad is in Kenya, where hundreds lined up Wednesday in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood — often dubbed Little Mogadishu — to donate blood to be airlifted to their countrymen.
“Quite a number of the casualties what they need at the moment is blood ... the turnout is massive, we have a lot of donors, we are really overwhelmed,” said Abdi Nasir Dahir of Kenya’s national blood transfusion services.
The blast occurred in Hodan, destroying some 20 buildings in a bustling commercial district, leaving scores of victims burned beyond recognition.
Several experts said the truck was probably carrying at least 500 kg of explosives.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Al-Shabab, a militant group aligned with Al-Qaeda, carries out regular suicide bombings in Mogadishu in its bid to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government.
The group has a history of not claiming attacks whose scale provokes massive public outrage.
Already more than 100 unidentified people have been buried who were burned beyond recognition.
“The government exhausted every effort to identify these dead bodies ... but it became so difficult that it decided to bury them all together,” said local government official Muhidin Ali.
The devastating attack is a blow to Somalia’s fledgling government, coming eight months after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohammed was elected to great fanfare in a limited voting process that was nevertheless seen as the most democratic yet in the notorious failed state.
He came into office declaring war on Al-Shabab, which has carried out regular attacks on Mogadishu since African Union and Somali troops drove them out of the capital in 2011.
According to the Nairobi-based Sahan thinktank, at least 723 people were killed and over 1,000 injured in bomb attacks in 2016 in Somalia.


White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king

Keeping spirits alive Palestinian youths play with rollerblades by walls covered with graffiti at the sea port in Gaza City on Tuesday. AFP
Updated 20 June 2018
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White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king

  • The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas
  • Jared Kushner’s team plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them

AMMAN: President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, kicked off a swing through the Middle East on Tuesday, meeting with Jordan’s king as part of a broader effort to lay the groundwork for an expected Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Kushner and White House envoy Jason Greenblatt held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah, a key US ally.
A White House statement said the talks focused on US-Jordan cooperation, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the US efforts “to “facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
US officials have said their peace plan is near completion and could be released this summer. But it faces resistance from the Palestinians, who have cut off ties since Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and moved the US Embassy in Israel to the holy city last month. The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, accuse the US of siding with Israel in the most sensitive issue of their decades-long conflict.
Kushner’s team also plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip for an independent state. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas militants seized control of the territory two years later.
The US has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas. The US, Israel and Western allies shun Hamas as a terrorist group. Details of the plan have not been released, but Palestinians fear they will get little more than a symbolic foothold in Jerusalem. They also fear that aid to Gaza will help strengthen Hamas’ control over the territory.
Jordan also has a stake in east Jerusalem, serving as the custodian of major Muslim and Christian shrines there. Jerusalem’s walled Old City, captured and annexed by Israel in 1967, is home to Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.
Abdullah has also rejected Trump’s moves in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to relinquish any part of the city.
Netanyahu traveled to Amman on Monday for a surprise meeting with Abdullah, telling the king that Israel remains committed to the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Abdullah told Netanyahu that the fate of Jerusalem must be determined in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and that a solution should be based on establishing a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, on lands Israel captured in 1967.
Palestinian officials fear the Trump administration plan will leave them with a mini-state in the Gaza Strip, parts of the West Bank and a foothold in Jerusalem. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he will reject any plan being floated by the Trump team, arguing that the US has forfeited its role as mediator because of decisions seen as pro-Israel.