Deadly siege in Somalia’s capital ends, attackers killed

Cars burn after car bombs in Mogadishu, Somalia, Thursday Feb. 28, 2019. (AP)
Updated 02 March 2019

Deadly siege in Somalia’s capital ends, attackers killed

  • Somali special forces battling out to dislodge insurgents holed up in a building
  • Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack

NAIROBI, Kenya: A nearly day-long siege in the heart of Somalia’s capital ended with all of the Al-Shabab extremist attackers killed, police said Friday, as the death toll was at 24 and expected to climb.
Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press that an operation to clear the besieged buildings had begun, with bodies found. Two of the dead were soldiers, he said.
The overnight attack began with a pair of car bombs exploding in a popular area of Mogadishu where Somalis were relaxing at restaurants and hotels Thursday evening. One went off near the home of appeals court chief Judge Abshir Omar, and security forces fought off gunmen who tried to force their way inside, Hussein said.
“We heard a huge blast, a devastating blast that affected all the buildings,” said Mohamed Ibrahim Mo’alim, the secretary general of the national union of Somali journalists.
At least four gunmen then opened fire at nearby buildings and businesses, sparking clashes with hotel guards, he said. Dozens of cars caught fire along busy Maka Almukarramah Road.
The extremists then holed up inside buildings, exchanging gunfire with security forces who worked well into Friday to free trapped civilians. More than 35 people were rescued, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said late Friday after visiting the area of shattered buildings.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, claimed responsibility for the attack and said its target had been the nearby Maka Almukarramah hotel, which is patronized by government officials. The extremist group has targeted it multiple times, killing scores of people.
Police said the death toll could rise. Many victims had horrific injuries — some had lost limbs, nurse Sadiya Yusuf at Daru Shifa hospital said — and hospitals were said to be struggling to cope with the number of causalities.
Doctors at Erdogan Hospital in Mogadishu said they had received 55 wounded people, with three succumbing to injuries. Many were in critical condition and 15 had undergone surgeries, said Dr. Ismail Yamas, the hospital manager.
The style of the attack echoed previous ones by Al-Shabab in Mogadishu as well as the attack in January at a luxury hotel complex in the capital of neighboring Kenya that killed 21 people.
The United Nations mission in Somalia and others in the international community quickly condemned the attack, one of the worst in Mogadishu in months.
It came after the US military carried out a number of deadly airstrikes in recent days against Al-Shabab, considered the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa. Al-Shabab opposes Somalia’s federal government and wants to impose sharia law.
The US has dramatically increased such airstrikes since President Donald Trump took office. The US military command for the African continent reported carrying out 50 strikes in Somalia in 2018.
This year, the airstrikes have come at an even faster pace, with 24 so far. The US military command for Africa reported a new one that killed 26 Al-Shabab fighters on Thursday in central Somalia, where two strikes earlier this week killed 55.


EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

Updated 18 October 2019

EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

  • Under a proposal prepared by Finland, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU GNI, a measure of output
  • After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders discussed a new budget plan on Friday that could allow the EU to spend up to 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) in the 2021-2027 period, but deep divisions among governments may block a deal for months.
Under a proposal prepared by Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU gross national income (GNI), a measure of output.
That would allow the EU to spend 1 trillion to 1.1 trillion euros for seven years in its first budget after the departure of Britain, one of the top contributors to EU coffers.
After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult.
The Finnish document, seen by Reuters, is less ambitious than proposals put forward by the European Commission, the EU executive, which is seeking a budget worth 1.1% of GNI. The EU parliament called for an even bigger budget, 1.3% of GNI.
But the Finnish proposal moves beyond a 1% cap set by Germany, the largest EU economy. And it has displeased most of the 27 EU states, EU officials said, suggesting long negotiations before a compromise can be reached.
Talks on budgets are usually among the most divisive in an EU increasingly prone to quarrels. The member states are deeply split over economic policies, financial reforms and how to handle migrants.

DEEP SPLIT
The Finnish proposal, which cuts spending on farmers and poorer regions, has managed to unite the divided EU leaders in their criticism.
“The text has caused nearly unanimous dissatisfaction,” a diplomat involved in the talks said.
New, expensive policies, such as protecting its borders and increasing social security, have been enacted, but states are reluctant to pay more.
Germany and other Nordic supporters of a smaller budget argue that because of Brexit, they would pay more into the EU even with a 1% cap because they would need to compensate for the loss of Britain.
Eastern and southern states, who benefit from EU funds on poorer regions and agriculture, want a bigger budget and are not happy with Finland’s proposed cuts on these sectors.
Under the proposal, subsidies to poor regions would drop to less than 30% of the budget from 34% now. Aid to farmers would fall to slightly more than 30% from over 35% of the total.
To complicate matters, the new budget should also include rules that would suspend funding to member states with rule-of-law shortcomings, such as limits on media freedom or curbs on the independence of judges.
This is irking states like Poland and Hungary, which Brussels has accused of breaches in the rule of law after judiciary and media reforms adopted by their right-wing governments.
Friday’s meeting was not supposed to find a compromise, but divisions are so deep that many officials fear a deal may not be reached by a self-imposed December deadline. A later deal would delay the launch of spending programs.
The Finns remained confident, however, and insist their suggested spending range would eventually be backed by EU states. “The fact that almost everybody is against our text shows we have put forward a fair proposal,” one diplomat said.