Extremists issue threat as Somalia elections loom

Extremists issue threat as Somalia elections loom
Residents buy sacrificial animals ahead of Eid al-Adha in Mogadishu, Somalia whose Al-Shabaab extremists warned on Monday politicians against taking part in elections this month after months of deadlock and delays. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 July 2021

Extremists issue threat as Somalia elections loom

Extremists issue threat as Somalia elections loom
  • Al-Shabaab leader’s threat underscores the security challenges facing the election process in deeply unstable Somalia
  • Indirect parliamentary and presidential polls are due to open on July 25

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s Al-Shabab extremists have warned politicians against taking part in elections due to kick off this month after months of deadlock and delays.
The threat, in an audio message purportedly recorded by Al-Shabab leader Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, underscores the security challenges facing the election process in the deeply unstable Horn of Africa country.
Indirect parliamentary and presidential polls are due to open on July 25 with four days of voting for the upper house by state delegates.
“We are sending... a warning to the (voting) delegations,” Ubaidah said in a rare message issued Monday to mark the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha that was circulated on pro-Shabab websites.
“Don’t get fooled by the empty promises... including the provision of money, and the promise that the voting will be secret.
“Learn from those before you,” he said, in an apparent reference to traditional elders who took part in the last elections in 2016, some of whom were targeted and assassinated by Al-Shabab fighters in the ensuing years.
Ubaidah’s whereabouts are not known, and it was not clear when the message was recorded. AFP could not independently confirm the identity of the voice.
The Al-Qaeda-linked group has been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and frequently attacks government, security and civilian targets.
Somalia’s political leaders finally agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate that turned violent at times.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and the leaders of Somalia’s five states had been unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February, triggering an unprecedented constitutional crisis.
The political impasse exploded into violence in April when negotiations collapsed and the lower house extended the president’s mandate by two years, sparking gunbattles on the streets of Mogadishu.
Under pressure the president, commonly known as Farmajo, reversed the extension and ordered his prime minister to reconvene with the state leaders to chart a fresh roadmap toward elections.
The ballots follow a complex indirect model whereby special delegates chosen by the country’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.
Successive leaders have promised a direct vote but political infighting, logistical problems and the Al-Shabab insurgency has prevented such an exercise.
The upper house vote will be followed by elections for the lower house from September 12-October 2, according to an updated timetable issued last week.
According to a statement issued in June, both assemblies were due to convene to vote for the president on October 10, but no date for this election was given in the updated timeline.
Somalia has not held a direct one-person, one-vote election since 1969, the year dictator Siad Barre led a coup and went on to rule for two decades.
Barre’s military regime collapsed in 1991 and Somalia sank into anarchy.


Somalia’s president, prime minister agree to speed up election

Somalia’s president, prime minister agree to speed up election
Updated 58 min 50 sec ago

Somalia’s president, prime minister agree to speed up election

Somalia’s president, prime minister agree to speed up election
  • Somalia was meant to choose a new president this month
  • Somalia has had only limited central rule since a dictator was toppled 30 years ago

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s president and prime minister resolved a dispute over appointments to security bodies, allowing a stalled process to elect a new parliament and president to go ahead, the government spokesman said late on Thursday.
Somalia was meant to choose a new president this month, culminating a complicated indirect election process that would also select a parliament.
But that was halted during a dispute between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble over who would head the National Intelligence Service Agency.
The president and the prime minister had each appointed a different candidate to replace the head of the agency, who was suspended last month after an agent went missing.
Under the agreement, the president’s appointee will now take up the post in an acting capacity, while the man chosen by the prime minister will be given a different role as a state minister. A separate disagreement over who would head the internal security ministry was also resolved, the spokesman said.
Somalia has had only limited central rule since a dictator was toppled 30 years ago, and has never conducted a free election.
Under the indirect electoral process, regional councils are meant to choose a senate, which could be completed this week. Clan elders will then pick members of a lower house of parliament, now set to take place next month. The parliament will pick a new president at a date that has not yet been set.
Roble and Mohamed clashed in April when the president unilaterally extended his four-year term by two years, prompting army factions loyal to each man to seize rival positions in the capital, Mogadishu.
The confrontation was resolved when the president put Roble in charge of security and organizing the delayed elections. 


Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back

Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back
Updated 22 October 2021

Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back

Mumbai cinemas reopen after 18 months as life swings back
  • Theaters opened to half capacity, following the guidelines released last month
  • Mumbai city has been one of the country’s worst-affected by the pandemic

MUMBAI, India: Movie theaters in India’s entertainment capital Mumbai reopened on Friday after more than 18 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the last of the many virus restrictions to go amid a decline in infections.
Theaters opened to half capacity, following the guidelines released last month, but struggled to lure the public back and mostly re-released earlier hits. Many shows were running with fewer audiences, movie ticketing portal BookMyShow showed.
To minimize the danger of the virus, only those with COVID-19 vaccination certificates or with a “safe status” on the state-run health app will be allowed to enter the theaters. Masks and temperature checks are mandatory and no food or beverages will be allowed inside.
Theaters elsewhere in the country are already running shows.
Mumbai city has been one of the country’s worst-affected by the pandemic but has gradually reopened following a decline in both COVID-19 cases and deaths. Cinemas there, however, are among the last public places to reopen — a hugely symbolic move in the country’s financial capital also known for its Bollywood film industry.
Every year, the $2.8 billion industry produces more than 2,000 films. Bollywood’s success over the years has embedded moviegoing into India’s contemporary culture and been a boon for the economy.
The restrictions imposed on movie theaters to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have hurt operators. But the industry is expected to rebound. Indian filmmakers have lined up major big-ticket releases ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, when sales peak and audiences flock to theaters.
The return to cinemas in Mumbai comes a day after India celebrated its one billionth COVID-19 vaccine dose. About half of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people have received at least one dose while around 20 percent are fully immunized, according to Our World in Data.
India witnessed a crushing coronavirus surge earlier this year but life has swung back to normal. Markets buzz with activity, foreign tourists are allowed again and the country is gearing up to celebrate Diwali.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said India’s vaccine drive is an example of what it can achieve if the citizens and the government come together with a common goal. He said the milestone has silenced India’s critics.
“Injecting 1 billion doses is not a mere figure but a reflection of the country’s determination. India has scripted a new chapter in its history. The world will now take India more seriously after this landmark,” Modi said in a speech that was televised live across the country.
Modi also exhorted people to buy Indian-made goods to boost the economy, which is expected to gain from the festival season purchases.
“There are some among us who only trust foreign brands even for everyday necessities. The success of Made in India vaccines is a paradigm shift,” he said.


Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack
Updated 22 October 2021

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack

Seven killed in Rohingya refugee camp attack
  • The attackers shot dead some victims and stabbed others with knives

BALUKHALI, Bangladesh: Attackers killed at least seven people in an assault Friday on an Islamic seminary in a Rohingya refugee camp on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, police said.
The attackers shot dead some victims and stabbed others with knives, a regional police chief told AFP. The killings came amid mounting tensions after a Rohingya community leader was shot dead outside his office in the camps three weeks ago.


4 killed in Washington state shooting

4 killed in Washington state shooting
Updated 22 October 2021

4 killed in Washington state shooting

4 killed in Washington state shooting

TACOMA, Washington: Four people were killed in a shooting in Tacoma on Thursday afternoon, police said.
The Tacoma Police Department said on Twitter at about 5:30 p.m. that two females and one male had died at the scene and that a male was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.
At about 6:30 p.m., police said on Twitter that the person taken to a hospital had died from his injuries. The victims appeared to be adults, police told The News Tribune.
Police said the shooting happened on the 4200 block of Everett Street, near the city’s Eastside neighborhood.
Police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow told the newspaper that the shootings happened in an alley behind a residence and that at least one victim was found in the street in front of the residence.
Police called it an active scene and asked people to stay away from the area. Detectives and crime scene technicians were at the scene.
No further information was immediately available.


Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins

Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins
Updated 22 October 2021

Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins

Eswatini bans protests as African mediation begins
  • At least 30 health workers were treated for gunshot injuries, the nurses’ union said
  • At least 30 people have died since June in some of the worst unrest in the southern African country’s history

MANZINI, Eswatini: Africa’s last absolute monarchy Eswatini on Thursday banned protests as regional mediators landed in the kingdom amid rumbling pro-democracy demonstrations.
A demonstrator died in hospital on Thursday from gunshot wounds suffered the day before when security forces opened fire on a protest, according to unions.
At least 30 health workers were treated for gunshot injuries, the nurses’ union said.
Railways workers led new protests on Thursday in the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland.
“Due to the spate of violent cases during protests, I have stopped all city and town municipals from issuing permits to hold protests,” Public Works Minister Prince Simelane told a news conference.
Internet access was limited, with Facebook completely shut off for a second day.
“Images that are coming from Eswatini are very disturbing indeed, and we can see that the political temperature is very hot,” Jeff Radebe, head of the mediators sent to the country by the 16-nation Southern African Development Community, told South Africa’s public broadcaster.
The Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union said in a statement that nurses and other workers who had converged on a public park in Mbabane, “were met with unprecedented show of force by the police and the army.”
“They were brutally dispersed and scattered all over the capital. As they were running, they were shot with live ammunition.”
The 30 injured were among more than 80 reported hurt on Wednesday in pro-democracy protests that have flared nationwide.
Radebe said the kingdom’s “issues are very complex,” and the team was “going there with an open mind, ensuring that we hear all views, so that at the end of the day the people of Eswatini... come up with a lasting solution.”
The latest flare-up in demonstrations has run for more than two weeks, spearheaded by students, civil servants and transport workers.
King Mswati III is Africa’s last absolute monarch, who enjoys flaunting his wealth and showering his 15 wives with lavish gifts.
Yet he rules over one of the poorest countries in the world, where nearly two-thirds of the population lives in poverty and a quarter of adults have HIV.

In a statement, the Communist Party of Swaziland said the situation at the largest government hospital in Mbabane on Wednesday resembled a “war zone.”
Hospital floors were “drenched in blood,” said the party, adding that police “invaded the hospital, shooting even nurses as they attended to the injured, worsening the situation.”
The nurse’s union said security forces kept shooting at nurses into the evening, even as they were traveling to work night shifts at hospitals.
“Clearly these blood-thirsty imbeciles, brood of vipers are hell-bent to kill nurses and the nation in defense of an ailing government,” the union said, calling on members not to treat any injured soldiers or police.
Five high-school students arrested during protests were arraigned on terrorism charges on Thursday for their role in the democracy push. Prosecutors accused them of burning down a police post.
At least 30 people have died since June in some of the worst unrest in the southern African country’s history.