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.


Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

Updated 39 min 58 sec ago
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Indonesia palm oil growers threaten retaliation over EU ‘intimidation’

  • Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products
  • Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil

JAKARTA: Biofuel producers in Indonesia called on the Indonesian government and EU to find a “win-win solution” to a dispute over legislation that will phase out palm oil manufacturing in the region, risking jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.
Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products, including passengers jets, train coaches, and motor vehicles.
“We want a win-win solution. Retaliation is not a favorable option but, eventually, what else can we do? It could become necessary if we keep being intimidated,” said Master Parulian Tumanggor, chairman of the Indonesia’s Biodiesel Producers Association.
“If they stop biofuel, millions (of workers and farmers) will become unemployed. We don’t want that,” he added.
Pandjaitan said that with Indonesia’s aviation industry expected to expand threefold by 2034, the country will require about 2,500 aircraft in the next two decades — a big market for European companies.
Aircraft demand from Indonesia is worth more than $40 billion and it will create millions of jobs.
“It’s a matter of survival. If they treat us like this, we will retaliate strongly. We are not a poor country, we are a developing country and we have a big potential,” Pandjaitan said in a briefing with the EU ambassador to Indonesia, Vincent Guerend, and European investors.
Darmin Nasution, chief economic minister, said Indonesia is considering a challenge to the EU legislation via the World Trade Organization, and will seek support from the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi spoke with her Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, on the sidelines of Organization of Islamic Cooperation emergency meeting in Istanbul on Friday.
“We agreed to work together to fight against discrimination of palm oil in the EU,” she said via Twitter.
Nasution said palm oil contributed $17.89 billion to Indonesia’s economy in 2018 and almost 20 million workers depended on the plantations for their livelihood.
On March 13 the European Commission adopted new rules on biofuels based on sustainability criteria with a two-month scrutiny period. The EU said “best available scientific data” show palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation and climate change.
Palm oil plantations in Indonesia have resulted in massive deforestation on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Guerend acknowledged the importance of palm oil to Indonesia in terms of jobs, but said that there was some flexibility in the regulation.
“It will be further modified in a few years’ time. It’s not cast in stone forever as the industry is dynamic, expanding, and reforming, and we take that into account,” he said.
“Our invitation for everyone is to work on sustainability because it’s in everybody’s interest,” he added.