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.


Brexit talks close in on tentative deal before summit

Updated 6 min 23 sec ago

Brexit talks close in on tentative deal before summit

  • Hopes were increasingly turning toward getting a broad political commitment, with the full legal details hammered out later
  • Even if a provisional deal is inked this week, moves in the British parliament could still mean another delay to Britain’s departure, currently due to take place on Oct. 31

BRUSSELS: French President Emmanuel Macron said he hopes the European Union and Britain were on the cusp of concluding a tentative Brexit deal that leaders would seek to complete at a summit Thursday.
The French leader said Wednesday that “I want to believe that a deal is being finalized and that we can approve it tomorrow,” when EU leaders are meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Brussels.
Hopes were increasingly turning toward getting a broad political commitment, with the full legal details hammered out later. Negotiators were locked in EU headquarters with few details leaking out. Wild movements in the British pound on Wednesday underscored the uncertainty over what, if anything, might be decided.
Meetings between EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and key EU legislators as well as with ambassadors of the member nations were rescheduled for the evening — an indication there was still momentum in the ongoing talks among technical teams from both sides.
“It looks like things are moving,” said an EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were still ongoing.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, echoed that, saying there is still “a chance of securing a good deal” at the summit, even though a number of issues remain.
The thorniest among them is how goods and people will flow across the land border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK
But Northern Ireland is not the only issue. An eventual withdrawal agreement would be a legal treaty laying out the terms of Britain’s departure and setting up a transition period in which relations would remain as they are now at least until the end of 2020, to give people and businesses time to adjust to new rules. It will guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain, and British nationals living elsewhere in the EU, to continue with their lives.
But it leaves many questions about the future unanswered, and Britain’s departure is sure to be followed by years of negotiations on trade and other issues.
Even if a provisional deal is inked this week, moves in the British parliament could still mean another delay to Britain’s departure, currently due to take place on Oct. 31. It also raises the prospect that the EU needs to hold another Brexit summit before the end of the month.
“The 31st of October is still a few weeks away, and there is a possibility of another summit before that if we need one,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in Dublin.
Adding to the pressure and uncertainty is that any deal must be approved by the British Parliament, which has already rejected agreements three times and has also issued an order that Johnson’s government must seek to delay the departure if a deal isn’t in place by Saturday.
The British government continues to insist the UK will leave on Oct. 31 — but also promises to obey Parliament’s order.
With the need to get Parliament’s approval looming over negotiations, EU leaders are seeking reassurances from Johnson during this week’s summit that he has the political weight to push any new deal through the House of Commons, which is due to meet on Saturday for its first weekend session in almost 40 years. 
The Brexit talks plodded ahead Wednesday, further delaying preparations for the EU summit. Since the weekend, negotiators have been locked in long sessions on how to deal with detailed customs, value-added tax and regulatory issues under British proposals to keep goods and people flowing freely across the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“Talks have been constructive, but there still remains a number of significant issues to resolve,” EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said after being briefed by EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
Johnson is eager to strike a deal at Thursday’s summit that will let the UK leave the bloc in good order on Oct. 31, fulfilling his promise to get Brexit done. But he has also vowed to leave the bloc deal or no deal.
UK lawmakers, however, are determined to push for another Brexit delay rather than risk a chaotic no-deal Brexit that economists say could hurt the economies of both the UK and the E.U.
Beyond the questions of disrupting to daily life, an open Irish border underpins both the local economy and the 1998 peace accord that ended decades of Catholic-Protestant violence in Northern Ireland. But once Britain exits, that border will turn into an external EU frontier that the bloc wants to keep secure.
The big question is how far Johnson’s government is prepared to budge on its insistence that the UK, including Northern Ireland, must leave the EU’s customs union — something that would require checks on goods passing between the UK and the EU.
The alternative is to have checks in the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland. But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, the party that props up Johnson’s minority Conservative government, strongly opposes any measures that could loosen the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
Pro-Brexit Conservative British lawmaker David Davis says success in passing a Brexit deal rests on the stance of the DUP.
“If the DUP says ‘This is intolerable to us’ that will be quite important,” he said.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said the party had not yet consented to a deal. She tweeted: “Discussions continue. Needs to be a sensible deal which unionists and nationalists can support.”