Drone strike in Somalia kills ‘several militants’

Residents walk at the scene of a blast on October 29, 2017, a day after two car bombs exploded in Mogadishu. On Thursday, a US drone strike killed “several" Al-Shabab militants in Somalia on Thursday afternoon, the US Africa Command said on Friday. (AFP / Mohamed Abdiwahab/File photo)
Updated 10 November 2017

Drone strike in Somalia kills ‘several militants’

MOGADISHU: A US drone strike killed “several militants” with Al-Shabab in Somalia, the military said, as the Trump administration increasingly targets what has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.
The strike was carried out Thursday afternoon in the Bay Region, about 160 km west of the capital, Mogadishu, according to a statement by the US Africa Command. A spokeswoman told The Associated Press that no civilians were anywhere near the strike.
The US military says it has carried out 22 airstrikes this year against the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab and the smaller Daesh presence in Somalia after the Trump administration approved expanded military efforts.
The US says the latest airstrike, like others, occurred in cooperation with Somalia’s government.
Earlier this month the US military carried out its first airstrikes in Somalia against Daesh, which is a small but growing presence in the northern part of the Horn of Africa nation. Many of its fighters are reported to be former Al-Shabab members who switched allegiances.
The Somalia-based Al-Shabab has been blamed for the massive truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 350 people in the country’s worst-ever attack. The extremist group often targets high-profile areas such as hotels in the capital.
While Somalia’s president has vowed a “state of war” in response to last month’s attack, concern is growing about the gradual security handover that has begun from a 22,000-strong African Union force to Somali national forces.
The AU this week announced the beginning of its withdrawal from the long-chaotic and still heavily fractured nation, saying it will cut 1,000 troops by the end of the year.
The AU pullout is set to be complete by the end of 2020.


Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

Updated 25 min 21 sec ago

Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

  • Basra saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field

BAGHDAD: Anti-government demonstrators in southern Iraq shut roads to two major ports and a key oil field Wednesday, port officials and AFP correspondents said, leading to a brief operational halt.
Correspondent in oil-rich Basra province saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field.
Trucks waiting to load up goods from the ports could be seen waiting empty behind crowds of demonstrators.
Khor Al-Zubair is used for some heavy crude exports but also to import fuel products like benzene, while Umm Qasr is the main entry point for food and medicine into Iraq.
“Export and import activities have stopped because trucks cannot enter Khor Al-Zubair or Umm Qasr ports,” one official at Basra’s port authority said.
A second official later said the route to Khor Al-Zubair had been reopened but Umm Qasr remained shut.
Sit-ins have become a go-to tactic for Iraqis demonstrating against their government since early October.
Protesters have shut the road to Umm Qasr several times, causing a delay in offloading operations that on one occasion forced around a dozen ships to unload their cargo in another country.
Road closures have also impacted heavy crude from the Qayyarah field in northern Iraq from reaching Khor Al-Zubair since earlier this month.
The prime minister’s office has warned security forces “will not allow” protesters near key infrastructure, and riot police have forced roads open in deadly crackdowns.
More than 330 people have been killed since rallies erupted on October 1 in Baghdad and across the south.
In the capital’s main protest camp of Tahrir (Liberation) Square, thousands gathered Wednesday to express their ongoing frustration.
Top leaders and political parties have focused their efforts on hiring drives, more welfare and a new electoral law as immediate measures.
Parliament met late Tuesday to discuss a draft voting law that proposes downsizing the house from 329 seats to 251, shrinking districts and distributing votes according to a complex hybrid system.
But the United Nations mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said the draft law needed more work.
“The draft electoral legislation — currently under review by the Council of Representatives — requires improvements to meet public demands,” it said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
UNAMI chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert urged lawmakers to pass legislation that “will reflect the public appetite for a new and different way of conducting politics.”
Protesters have so far been unimpressed by the government’s proposals and large crowds — most of them students — turned out on Wednesday.
“Last night’s session serves their own interests, not those of the people,” said Younes, a 28-year-old protester.
Crowds have spilled over from Tahrir onto three main bridges that lead to the western bank of the Tigris, where key government buildings and embassies are based.
On Tuesday night, they tried to cross two of the bridges to reach the so-called Green Zone but security forces deployed on the bridges fired tear gas to keep them back, a security source told AFP.