Four die in Al-Shabab suicide car bomb

Paramedics at the Madina hospital assist an unidentified man injured in an explosion in Afgoye, as he arrives for medical attention in Mogadishu, Somalia January 18, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 January 2020

Four die in Al-Shabab suicide car bomb

  • Six Turkish nationals were among the wounded, with two in serious condition, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said
  • The Turkish construction workers appeared to be the bomber's target, Somali police Col. Abdi Abdullahi said

JEDDAH: At least four people were killed and up to 20 injured in a suicide car-bomb attack on Saturday by Al-Shabab militants in Somalia.

The attack targeted Turkish engineers working on a road near the capital, Mogadishu, and Somali police officers protecting them. “A speeding suicide car bomb rammed into a place where the Turkish engineers and Somali police were having lunch,” a police spokesman said.

The bomb struck near the town of Afgoye, about 30 km west of the capital. “The blast was huge, it destroyed a container used by the Turkish engineers who work on the Afgoye road construction,” one witness said.

FASTFACT

Turkey is a major source of aid to Somalia, and Turkish engineers are helping with road construction.

“There were police who were guarding the Turkish engineers and several other people gathering near the checkpoint,” another said. “I saw several dead bodies, and Turkish workers who were wounded.”

Local residents described a huge explosion followed by clouds of smoke. “Before the blast, several Turkish engineers and a well-armed convoy of Somali police were at the scene,” shopkeeper Farah Abdullahi said. “We see casualties being carried but we cannot make out if they are dead or injured.”

Al-Shabab has carried out a series of attacks in recent weeks including a massive car bombing at a checkpoint in Mogadishu in late December that killed at least 90 people.

Turkey is a major source of aid to Somalia, and Turkish engineers are helping with road construction. “We curse and condemn in the strongest terms the bomb terror attack that targeted innocent civilians in Somalia,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said.


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 26 May 2020

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.