17 dead, dozens wounded in Somalia car bomb attack

A boy walks past the site of a car bomb attack near a security checkpoint in the Somali capital, not far from the presidential palace in Mogadishu. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 July 2019

17 dead, dozens wounded in Somalia car bomb attack

  • Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other

MOGADISHU: At least 17 people were killed and 28 others wounded when a bomb went off outside a hotel near the international airport in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Monday, medical officials said.
Al-Shabab, which is trying to topple Somalia’s weak UN-backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The city’s Medina Hospital received 17 bodies and 28 people with injuries, 12 of them in a critical condition, said Mohammed Yusuf, the hospital’s director.
The blast went off at the first checkpoint on the road that leads to Mogadishu airport, said Farah Hussein, a shopkeeper who witnessed the attack.
Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.
The explosion near a checkpoint outside the Afrik Hotel reverberated throughout the city, and sent a massive plume of black smoke into the air.
Abdullahi Ahmed, a security officer who witnessed the blast, said at least five people were killed in the attack, which appeared to be targeting the hotel.
“The area was relatively dense with bystanders and some were killed and wounded in the blast, but we don’t have the exact number of casualties.”
Other witnesses describing being knocked to the ground by the force of the blast, which damaged nearby buildings.
“I was not very far away from where the blast occurred, and I could see several people lying (on the ground), some of them dead with a pool of blood,” said one, Abdikarim Mohamed.
“The blast was huge. It did damage to several nearby buildings.” Suado Ali was walking out of a travel agency when the shockwave knocked her flat.

BACKGROUND

Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.

“I was forced to the ground by the shockwave. I saw nearly 10 people lying on the ground, some motionless and others screaming for help,” he told AFP.
The attack comes just over a week after 26 people were killed and 56 injured in a 12-hour attack by Al-Shabab on a popular hotel in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo.
A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into the Medina Hotel on Friday before several heavily armed gunmen forced their way inside, shooting as they went.
That attack was the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by Al-Shabab, which has fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government.
The militant group emerged from the Islamic Courts Union that once controlled central and southern Somalia and is variously estimated to number between 5,000 and 9,000 men. In 2010, the Al-Shabaab declared their allegiance to Al-Qaeda. In 2011, they fled positions they once held in the capital Mogadishu, and have since lost many strongholds.
But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities.


EU warns of slim window to avoid repeat of prior virus peak

Updated 20 min 22 sec ago

EU warns of slim window to avoid repeat of prior virus peak

BRUSSELS: European Union officials urged member nations Thursday to move quickly to slow the latest wave of COVID-19 infections to avoid a repeat of the broad lockdowns that paralyzed the continent’s economy in the spring.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the most recent risk assessment showed that some countries are reporting more cases now than they did during the earlier pandemic’s peak in Europe.
“We are at a decisive moment. All member states must be ready to roll out control measures, immediately and at the right time, at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks,” Kyriakides said. “This might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring.”
More than 3 million cases have been reported in Europe since the beginning of the year, including 187,509 deaths, according to figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
To control the virus’s rebound, several EU nations have imposed localized lockdowns, limited public and private gatherings again, and restricted the operation of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues.
European Center for Disease Prevention and Control director Andrea Ammon, noting the social impact of such moves, noted the need to maintain basic precautions such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing.
“Until there is a safe and effective vaccine available, rapid identification, testing, and quarantine of high-risk contacts are some of the most effective measures to reduce transmission,” Ammon said.
Her agency said in its latest evaluation of the pandemic that the level of immunity in the European population remains low, estimating it is under 15% in most of the EU and the UK
“Most of the people can still be infected,” Ammon said.
The ECDC said EU countries should emphasize curbing the spread of the virus among children and adults under age 50, making sure the public is aware that people in those categories can become seriously ill from COVID-19 as well as expose more vulnerable populations to the virus.
While some EU members have shortened their mandatory quarantine periods, the ECDC continues to recommended 14-day quarantines for people who had contact with infected individuals.
“The pandemic is far from over and we must not drop our guard,” Ammon said.