US drones ‘wiping out’ Al-Shabab in Somalia: AU mission head

Al-Shabaab terrorists have been trying since 2007 to overthrow Somalia's government. (FIle/Reuters)
Updated 27 January 2018

US drones ‘wiping out’ Al-Shabab in Somalia: AU mission head

ADDIS ABABA: Drone strikes by the US military are “wiping out” Shabab militants in Somalia, the head of the African Union mission in the country said in an interview.
The US has stepped up its operations in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, targeting the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab, which has fought for the last decade to topple Somalia’s internationally backed government, and a separate self-proclaimed branch of Daesh.
“These drone attacks and others are wiping out Al-Shabab in good numbers. And that is good to finish with the terrorism,” said Francisco Madeira, the chief of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on the sidelines of the AU’s summit in the Ethiopian capital.
In recent months, US special forces and the Somali national army have killed scores in air strikes and ground assaults targeting Shabab, including a Christmas Eve strike that left 13 dead.
The surge in activity comes after President Donald Trump last year loosened constraints on the US military in Somalia, allowing commanders to take action against suspected terrorists when they judge it is needed, without seeking specific White House approval.
The US Africa Command has had to defend itself against allegations that its forces have killed civilians, issuing a statement in November that said no civilians died in a raid three months prior despite media reports to the contrary.
Madeira said only that if soldiers were accused of unlawfully killing civilians they would be taken to court. He said that when deaths did occur AMISOM did not have the money to pay reparations to bereaved families.
“We do not have money to pay for this. We have been sharing this with a number of partners, but so far the response has been very, very, very minimal, almost non-existent,” he said.
While AMISOM is scheduled to depart Somalia by December 2020, Madeira said an extension of the force’s mandate was not out of the question.
“The formation of a fully-fledged, functioning... Somali National Army, it might take a bit longer than that. But we can already have some critical mass of forces that can do the work,” he said.
The once 22,000-strong AMISOM force began pulling troops out of Somalia at the end of last year, and Madeira has previously highlighted the need for more support to enable the national army to take over.
Currently, the bloated and largely ineffective Somali army is more a collection of clan militias, with various international militaries providing poorly-coordinated training to different units.
The Al-Shabab lost its foothold in Mogadishu in 2011, but has continued its fight, and was blamed for the country’s worst ever attack in which a truck bombing left over 500 dead in October last year.


UAE airports screen passengers from China amid coronavirus outbreak

Updated 26 January 2020

UAE airports screen passengers from China amid coronavirus outbreak

  • Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports confirmed thermal screening had begun for people on direct flight from China
  • The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 56 on Sunday morning, with the number of infected people also rising to almost 2000

DUBAI: Major airports in the UAE started screening passengers arriving from China over the weekend, as countries continued to step up precautions against the spread of the viral outbreak.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports confirmed thermal screening had begun following directives from the UAE’s Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Health.

“All passengers arriving on direct flights from the People’s Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival and be provided with informational leaflets,” the Dubai Airports said in a statement.

The check-ups will be held at “secured, closed gates” by airport medical teams and the Dubai Health Authority, according to Dubai Airports, assuring it “will continue to provide medical teams with any and all support that may be required.”

The Abu Dhabi International Airport also released a six-point list of “preventive tips” for people travelling to China.

UAE officials earlier confirmed there were no cases of coronavirus in the country, adding it was “in constant touch with the World Health Organization (WHO) to find out latest updates, recommendations and procedures taken in this matter.”

“The health situation poses no grounds for concern and the ministry is closely following up on the situation to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” said the National Committee for International Health Regulations and the Control of Pandemics in a statement.

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 56 on Sunday morning, with the number of infected people also rising to almost 2000, according to Chinese authorities.

The contagion remained centered on the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan, but more than a dozen other cities in the province have been locked down in fears of further spreading.

The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.