16 killed in Somalia blasts near presidential palace

The checkpoint is also about 400 meters away from the president’s residence. (File/AP)
Updated 22 December 2018
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16 killed in Somalia blasts near presidential palace

  • The explosion took place near the presidential palace
  • Two explosions were reported

MOGADISHU: At least 16 people were killed and 20 wounded in a car bomb attack claimed by Al-Shabab close to the president’s residence in the Somali capital Mogadishu, police said on Saturday.

Police had earlier said the first car bomb at the checkpoint killed 13, mostly soldiers and that the death toll was likely to rise.

“The security forces have cordoned off the area and an investigation is ongoing,” local police spokesman Ibrahim Mohamed said.

Among those killed were a journalist, two security personnel and a driver working for local station Universal TV, whose car was passing the checkpoint at which the first blast went off, another reporter working for the station said.

Somalia’s London-based Universal TV said three of its staff were among the fatalities, naming one as Somali and British dual national Awil Dahir.

The first explosion happened at a checkpoint outside the national theater, some 500 meters from the palace. The second blast, more powerful according to witnesses, came minutes later at a nearby crossroads. “The second blast was very big,” Idil Hassan, who witnessed it, told AFP.

“I saw the dead bodies of several people, including members of the security forces.”

“My colleague Awil Dahir Salad died in the blast together with the driver and two security guards. They were killed by the first blast as they drove. May Allah rest their souls,” journalist Abdiasis Ibrahim who also works for Universal TV, told Reuters. Another witness, Osman Fahiye, said a leading official from Banadir, a region which surrounds Mogadishu, was hurt in the second blast.

“He was lightly wounded but several of his security guards were killed in the blast,” said Fahiye.

Al-Shabab, in comments broadcast on its Radio Andalus, claimed responsibility for both blasts and said the second was also a car bomb.

The group’s “martyrdom operation” had targeted “a security checkpoint that used to protect the presidential palace,” an Al-Shabab statement said. Ahmed Abdi, another police officer, said the car bomb exploded at a checkpoint some 400 meters from the president’s residence.

Al-Shabab carries out frequent attacks in Mogadishu. Its members want to dislodge the government and impose its rule.

The group was forced from Mogadishu in 2011 and has lost many of its strongholds but maintains a foothold in some regions. It has killed thousands of Somalis and hundreds of civilians across East Africa in a decade-long insurgency. 

 But it retains control of large rural swathes of the country and continues to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities. The group has vowed to topple the internationally backed government. 

The worst carnage to date in Somalia occurred on Oct. 14 last year when 512 people were killed in Hodan, a busy commercial district in the capital.

Nobody claimed responsibility but the authorities believe Al-Shabab were behind it.


Trump-Xi meeting at G20 raises hope for trade truce

Updated 19 June 2019
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Trump-Xi meeting at G20 raises hope for trade truce

  • Chinese president said the problems between US and China won’t benefit either sides
  • US and China raised tariffs on some of each other’s goods and companies

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have agreed to meet at the G20 summit in Japan next week, raising hopes for a truce in the bruising trade war between the world’s top two economies.
The two leaders spoke on the phone on Tuesday, weeks after negotiations broke down when Trump accused Beijing of reneging on its commitments, hiked tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods and then blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
The US president took a conciliatory approach this time.
“Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan,” Trump said on Twitter.
“Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting,” he said ahead of the June 28-29 summit.
Xi noted that bilateral relations had encountered difficulties that were “not in the interest of either side” but he warned that dialogue must be conducted on “an equal footing.”
“China and the US will both gain by cooperating and lose by fighting,” Xi told Trump, according to state media.
Global shares were buoyed by the announcement, with Wall Street rallying on Tuesday and Asian stock markets surging on Wednesday.
The White House readout of the call said the leaders “discussed the importance of leveling the playing field for US farmers, workers, and businesses through a fair and reciprocal economic relationship.”
“I think we have a chance. China wants a deal. They don’t like the tariffs,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I have a very good relationship with president Xi. We’ll see what happens.”
The White House repeated that the focus of the talks will be to address “structural barriers to trade with China and achieving meaningful reforms that are enforceable and verifiable.”
The United States and China seemed close to an agreement when talks collapsed last month.
Beijing retaliated to Trump’s tariffs and moves against Huawei by increasing custom taxes on $60 billion in US goods, creating its own list of “unreliable” companies and individuals and threatening to ban exports of rare earths to the United States.
Xi told Trump that the two countries must “accommodate each other’s legitimate concerns” and that “China hopes the US side can treat Chinese firms in a fair manner,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Trump had requested the call between the two leaders, according to Xinhua.
A week before the G20, Xi will visit North Korea on Thursday and Friday, his first trip there as president.
China is North Korea’s sole major ally, and analysts say Xi could use any leverage Beijing may have in the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang as a “bargaining chip” in his talks with Trump.
Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned that there are “no guarantees” of any resolution in Osaka, Japan.
“Our position continues to be (that) we want structural changes,” Kudlow told reporters.
“They’ll have a good conversation. The fact that they’re meeting is a good thing.”
In an editorial, the state-run China Daily said Communist Party decision-makers, like White House counter-parts, “want to evade a full-blown trade war.”
“Since neither side appears ready to really slam the door shut on further negotiations, they should refrain from escalating tensions, and engage each other in a more constructive manner,” the daily said.
Global markets are concerned about Trump’s threat to impose more steep tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports, which could hurt the already slowing Chinese economy and spread the gloom worldwide.
Trump last week threatened to “immediately” jack up tariffs should Xi fail to show up at the meeting. The United States already has 25 percent duties on more than $250 billion of imports from China.