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 22 July 2018
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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.


French police prepare for fifth wave of yellow vest protests

Updated 14 December 2018
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French police prepare for fifth wave of yellow vest protests

PARIS: France will deploy tens of thousands of police nationwide and around 8,000 in Paris on Saturday to handle a fifth weekend of ‘yellow vest’ protests, although the movement appears to be losing steam after concessions by President Emmanuel Macron.
The chief of police in Paris said concerns remained about violent groups infiltrating the protests. Anti-riot officers will protect landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe and prevent people getting close to the presidential palace.
“We need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios,” police chief Michel Delpuech told RTL radio.
He expected businesses in the capital to be less affected this weekend after heavy disruption over the past three weeks when major stores shut, hotels suffered cancelations and tourists stayed away during the usually busy run-up to Christmas.
Nicknamed “Acte V” of the protests, the yellow vest demonstrators will take to the streets this weekend as France recovers from an unrelated attack on a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg on Tuesday, when a gunman shot and killed three people and wounded several others.
Hundreds of police officers were redeployed to Strasbourg to search for the gunman, who was shot dead in an exchange of fire on Thursday evening.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said it was time for the yellow vests to scale down their protests and accept they had achieved their aims. Police officers also deserved a break, he added.
“I’d rather have the police force doing their real job, chasing criminals and combating the terrorism threat, instead of securing roundabouts where a few thousand people keep a lot of police busy,” he said.
TOLL ON THE ECONOMY
Attractions such as the Louvre museum and Opera Garnier will be open this weekend, as will luxury department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. Last Saturday they were closed as thousands of sometimes violent protesters tore through the city. The previous weekend the Arc de Triomphe was vandalized, cars were overturned and torched and businesses smashed up.
The protests have taken a toll on the economy, with output in the last quarter of the year set to be half initial projections, while Macron’s concessions are likely to push the budget deficit above an EU agreed limit.
The yellow vest movement, which began as a protest against fuel taxes and then grew into an anti-Macron alliance, appears to have calmed since the president announced a series of measures to help the working poor.
However, many people wearing the high-visibility motorists’ safety jackets which are the symbol of the protests were manning barricades outside cities on Friday.
After heavy criticism for not being seen to respond to the protesters’ complaints, Macron made a TV address this week during which he said he understood their concerns and acknowledged the need for a different approach.
As well canceling fuel tax increases that were due to kick in next month, Macron said he would increase the minimum wage by 100 euros a month from January and reduce taxes for poorer pensioners, among other measures.
Since the first yellow vest protests on Nov. 17, supporters have kept up a steady stream of dissent, although the numbers joining marches have steadily fallen. ($1 = 0.8857 euros)