Suicide blast on Mogadishu mayor’s office meant for UN envoy, says al-Shabab group

1 / 2
Relatives lay down on July 25, 2019 the dead body of one of Mogadishu district commissioners who was killed in a suicide bomb attack on July 24. (AFP / Abdirazak Hussein Farah)
2 / 2
Relatives carry on July 25, 2019 the dead body of one of Mogadishu district commissioners who was killed in a suicide bomb attack on July 24. (AFP / Abdirazak Hussein Farah)
Updated 26 July 2019

Suicide blast on Mogadishu mayor’s office meant for UN envoy, says al-Shabab group

  • Wednesday’s attack killed seven and seriously wounded Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman
  • Al-Shabab’s military spokesman told local media that UN envoy James Swan was the intended target

MOGADISHU, Somalia: A rare female suicide bomber used in the deadly Al-Shabab attack in the office of Mogadishu’s mayor was aiming for the American who is the new UN envoy to Somalia and had left the office just minutes earlier, the extremist group and officials said.
The death toll in Wednesday’s attack rose to seven and the seriously wounded Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman was in a coma Thursday. He and other officials were expected to be airlifted to Qatar for treatment, said Mohamed Ahmed, a government official at the Mogadishu hospital treating the mayor.
The new UN envoy, James Swan, was the bomber’s intended target, Abdiaziz Abu Musab, Al-Shabab’s military spokesman, told local media.
Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior police officer, said the female bomber walked into a security meeting and blew herself up a few yards away from the mayor. It was just the fourth time the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab had been known to use a female suicide bomber.
Swan had paid the Somali capital’s mayor a brief visit and left the compound less than an hour before the bombing, an official at the mayor’s office told The Associated Press.
In a statement, Swan condemned “this heinous attack, which not only demonstrates a violent disregard for the sanctity of human life, but also targets Somalis working to improve the lives of their fellow Somalis.” The US ambassador to Somalia, Donald Yamamoto, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that “any threats against any UN personnel anywhere in the world are a matter of grave concern for the secretary-general” and the UN reviews its security after such attacks.
“We want to make sure that all of our personnel everywhere are protected and able to go about their work free of any hindrance and free of any threats,” Haq said, adding that Guterres will be writing to Swan and the UN staff in Somalia to express “solidarity with their work and our concern for their safety.”
It was not clear how the bomber managed to enter the mayor’s office, as visitors are required to pass through at least four metal detectors. Some security officials said the attacker might have bribed corrupt officials.
Al-Shabab often targets government buildings such as the presidential palace and other high-profile parts of Mogadishu with bombings. The Somalia-based group was chased out of Mogadishu years ago but still controls parts of the Horn of Africa nation’s south and central regions and is a frequent target of US airstrikes.
The security officials said Wednesday’s attack appeared to be a shift in tactics, as the extremists in the past had rarely managed to infiltrate heavily fortified government buildings without first detonating one or more vehicle bombs.


Empty classrooms as some schools re-open in Indian Kashmir

Updated 15 min 59 sec ago

Empty classrooms as some schools re-open in Indian Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Some Kashmir schools re-opened on Monday but were largely empty following weekend clashes in Srinagar, two-weeks after India removed the restive region’s autonomy and imposed a lockdown.
The authorities said they were re-opening 190 primary schools in the city yet few children could be seen at half a dozen places visited by AFP.
Pakistan meanwhile said Indian fire across their de-facto border on Sunday killed two civilians and seriously injured a child, a day after New Delhi said Pakistani fire killed an Indian soldier.
India on August 5 ended the special constitutional status of Muslim-majority Kashmir, where a 30-year-old uprising against Indian rule has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.
Hours before its move, India severely curtailed movement and shut down phones and the Internet, bringing in tens of thousands of troops to turn the main city of Srinagar into a fortress.
Some 120,000 extra soldiers have been deployed, a security source told AFP, joining around 500,000 already in the northern Himalayan region divided with Pakistan since 1947.
At least 4,000 people have also been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows imprisonment for up to two years without charge or trial, government sources said.
“Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” a local magistrate told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Authorities have declined to comment on the numbers of people behind bars. Those picked up include local politicians, activists, business leaders and lawyers.
Officials said only that the “few preventive detentions” were made to avoid a “breach of the peace,” and that there was “no centralized figure” for the total number.


On Sunday family members held a wake for timber trader Sidiq Khan, 62, who relatives said had died after suffocating from tear gas fired by security forces in Srinagar.
A senior government official told AFP that a man in his mid-60s had died, and that a post-mortem “has not revealed any external or internal marks of injury.”
After some easing in previous days, authorities on Sunday reinforced heavy restrictions after eight people were injured during protests.
The Press Trust of India news agency cited unnamed officials saying there had been clashes in a dozen locations around Srinagar on Saturday.
Around 20 percent of landlines were working on Monday, an AFP reporter said. But mobile phones and the Internet were still cut off.


In Srinagar on Monday most main streets and markets were deserted, although some roads looked busier than in recent days.
Some teachers and administrative staff made it to schools but many others didn’t. PTI also reported that only a handful of children had come.
“We didn’t receive an official notification for re-opening the school from the local government but opened it after watching the news yesterday,” a senior official at Srinagar’s Burn Hall School told AFP.
Many schools stayed shut, with guards at the gate turning away any teachers or administrative staff who turned up.
“I don’t think parents will send their children to school if they can’t communicate and check on them whenever required,” a resident of the Rajbagh area of Srinagar told AFP outside the Presentation Convent School.
“I came here after watching the news yesterday but it doesn’t look like any students have come to school today. There are many other teachers who stay farther away and haven’t made it here,” one of the teachers at a local school told AFP.