China’s aircraft carrier sails by Taiwan as tensions rise

The aircraft carrier Liaoning — a second-hand Soviet-built ship — caused a stir in Taiwan when it first entered the strait in January last year in what was seen as a show of strength by Beijing. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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China’s aircraft carrier sails by Taiwan as tensions rise

TAIPEI: China’s sole aircraft carrier has passed through the Taiwan Strait, the island’s defense ministry said Wednesday, as Beijing warned against any move to “separate the country.”
The Liaoning and accompanying vessels entered Taiwan’s air defense zone on Tuesday and left around noon Wednesday, the ministry said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a blistering nationalist speech on Tuesday, warning against what he called any attempts to split China.
“All acts and tricks to separate the country are doomed to fail and will be condemned by the people and punished by history,” Xi said in an address ending the annual session of the National People’s Congress.
China still sees Taiwan as its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war and have been ruled separately ever since.
Ties have turned frosty since Taiwan’s Beijing-skeptic President Tsai Ing-wen came to power. Her government refuses to acknowledge that the island is part of “one China.”
Tsai has warned against what she called China’s military expansion — the increase in air and naval drills around the island since she took office in May 2016.
The aircraft carrier — a second-hand Soviet-built ship — caused a stir in Taiwan when it first entered the strait in January last year in what was seen as a show of strength by Beijing.
It returned in January this year.
“We are monitoring the whole process of the Liaoning’s cross-region drill,” Defense Minister Yeh De-fa told parliament Wednesday when asked to comment on its latest moves.
The defense ministry said in a statement that it sent aircraft and vessels to conduct surveillance. “No unusual activities have been spotted and we urge the public to rest assured,” it said.


Al-Shabaab captures strategic town in Somalia’s Puntland

Displaced Somali children and teenagers attend a class to learn alphabets and numbers at a makeshift school at the Badbado IDP camp in Mogadishu. (AFP)
Updated 52 min 18 sec ago
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Al-Shabaab captures strategic town in Somalia’s Puntland

  • Puntland forces ran away as we advanced to the town because they know we had taught them tough lessons before
  • Somalia has been gripped by violence and lawlessness since the toppling of Mohamed Siad Barre in the early 1990s

BOSASO: Somalia’s militant group Al-Shabaab has captured a small but strategic town 100 km (60 miles) south of Bosaso city in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, a military officer, Al-Shabaab and residents said on Friday.
Residents in Af Urur told Reuters that the town is now controlled by Al-Shabaab.
“When we woke up this morning, we saw many Al- Shabaab fighters controlling the town. The (Puntland military) forces had left yesterday,” Ahmed Nur told Reuters from Af Urur by phone on Friday.
Al-Shabaab wants to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government, expel the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force AMISOM and establish a government based on its own strict interpretation of the Shariah.
Af Urur’s position is important because the main road that links the cities of Garowe, Bosaso and Mogadishu passes nearby.
Puntland forces and Al-Shabaab have fought in the town, which has ditch defenses, several times in the past.
Mohamed Abdi, a Puntland military officer, told Reuters Al-Shabaab had taken Af Urur town by Friday morning, adding without elaborating that only a few Puntland military forces had been in the town on Thursday evening. “We were supposed to be replaced by other forces,” Abdi said. “We shall recapture the town from Al-Shabaab.”
Al-Shabaab confirmed that they had control of the town.
“Puntland forces ran away as we advanced to the town because they know we had taught them tough lessons before,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters on Friday. “We now peacefully control Af Urur town.”
Somalia has been gripped by violence and lawlessness since the toppling of Mohamed Siad Barre in the early 1990s.
Puntland is bordered by Somaliland to its west, the Gulf of Aden in the north, the Guardafui Channel in the east, the central Galmudug region in the south and Ethiopia in the southwest.
It has a long coastline, which is abundant with fish and other natural marine resources. Puntland has the lowest rate of poverty in Somalia.