Mogadishu restricts movement of trucks, tankers after attacks

Civilians assist a man, injured from a suicide car bomb explosion, in Mogadishu on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 30 October 2017

Mogadishu restricts movement of trucks, tankers after attacks

MOGADISHU: Somali authorities imposed a daytime ban on Monday on the movement of large trucks and road tankers inside the capital Mogadishu in an attempt to improve security following a wave of devastating attacks by militants.
The move followed twin truck bombings on Oct. 15 that killed more than 350 people in the city, in the deadliest attack in the history of the Horn of Africa nation.
Though the militant group Al-Shabab did not claim responsibility for that attack, the method is one it has often used.
“Trucks and tankers cannot pass... from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. This is to ensure security and (to offer) a solution to the complaints of the public,” Tabid Abdi, the capital’s mayor, said in a statement.
“Any truck or tanker driver who does not comply will be fined $1,000.”
Further underlining the Somali capital’s security woes, at least 29 people were killed on Sunday during a 12-hour siege at a Mogadishu hotel, in an attack claimed by Al-Shabab. The government sacked two top security officials.
“They had the uniforms of security forces, even though they did not have ID cards,” Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman told Reuters.
Al-Shabab said 40 people had been killed, including three of its fighters who stormed the hotel.
Al-Shabab aims to topple the government in Mogadishu and impose its own strict interpretation of Islam. The country has been at war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.
Though it has lost large swathes of territory to African Union peacekeepers, the group’s attacks have grown in frequency and size, as a 22,000-strong peacekeeping force prepares to begin withdrawing.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said the latest attack was meant to instill fear in the thousands of Somalis who marched through Mogadishu in defiance of Al-Shabab after the earlier bombing.
Since that blast, the president has visited countries in the region to seek more support for the fight against Al-Shabab, vowing a “state of war.” He also faces the challenge of pulling together regional powers inside his long-fractured country, where the federal government is trying to assert itself beyond Mogadishu and other major cities.
The US military also has stepped up military efforts against Al-Shabab this year in Somalia, carrying out nearly 20 drone strikes.
The 22,000-member multinational African Union (AU) force in Somalia is expected to withdraw and hand over security to the Somali military by the end of 2020. US military officials and others in recent months have expressed concern that Somali forces are not ready to take over.
The defense minister and army chief of staff resigned early this month amid reports of rivalry between the two and after Al-Shabab stepped up its attacks on army bases.

US targets two individuals, three entities in Hezbollah-related sanctions program

Updated 51 min 29 sec ago

US targets two individuals, three entities in Hezbollah-related sanctions program

  • Targeted for sanctions under US regulations aimed at suspected terrorists or those who support them
  • Comes at a time of growing US concern about role of Hezbollah in Lebanese government

WASHINGTON: The U.S. Treasury, moving to boost pressure on Hezbollah, imposed sanctions on Wednesday against two people and three firms that Washington accuses of being involved in schemes to help the armed Shi'ite group backed by Iran evade American sanctions.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it was targeting Belgium-based Wael Bazzi because he acted on behalf of his father Mohammad Bazzi, a Hezbollah financier.

OFAC also took action against two Belgian companies and a British-based firm controlled by Bazzi.

In addition, the US Treasury designated Lebanon-based Hassan Tabaja, who it said had acted on behalf of his brother Adham Tabajha, also a Hezbollah financier. The U.S. action freezes their assets and property and prevents U.S. citizens and businesses from dealing with them.

The two men and three businesses were targeted for sanctions under US regulations aimed at suspected terrorists or those who support them, the Treasury said in a statement. Hezbollah is considered a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.

"Treasury is relentlessly pursuing Hezbollah's financial facilitators by dismantling two of Hezbollah's most important financial networks," Treasury Undersecretary Sigal Mandelker said in a statement.

"By targeting Hassan Tabaja and Wael Bazzi and their European-based companies, this administration is continuing to disrupt all avenues of financial support relied upon by Hezbollah," he said.

The US State Department earlier this week offered a reward of up to $10 million for information that could help disrupt Hezbollah's financing.

The move to boost pressure on the group comes at a time of growing US concern about its role in the Lebanese government. Hezbollah's regional clout has expanded as it has sent fighters to Middle East conflicts, including the war in Syria, where it supported President Bashar al-Assad.