More than 30 killed in twin attacks in Somalia

More than 30 killed in twin attacks in Somalia
The body of lawmaker Amina Mohamed Abdi arrives at Aden Adde International Airport from Beledweyne, Mogadishu, Somalia, Mar. 24, 2022. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 25 March 2022

More than 30 killed in twin attacks in Somalia

More than 30 killed in twin attacks in Somalia
  • The first attack in Beledweyne district was carried out by a suicide bomber, and killed two local lawmakers including Amina Mohamed Abdi
  • Minutes later, a car bomb exploded outside Beledweyne’s main hospital where the injured were being taken for treatment

MOGADISHU: The death toll from twin attacks in central Somalia on Wednesday night has climbed above 30, the Beledweyne district police chief told AFP on Thursday, with the Al-Shabab insurgent group saying it was targeting politicians ahead of elections.

The first attack in Beledweyne district was carried out by a suicide bomber, and killed two local lawmakers including Amina Mohamed Abdi and several of her guards as she campaigned for re-election.

Minutes later, a car bomb exploded outside Beledweyne’s main hospital where the injured were being taken for treatment, killing dozens and leaving vehicles in charred, twisted ruins.

“The terrorists carried out the first attack using a suicide bomber and readied a car loaded with explosives in front of a hospital to cause more casualties,” said Col. Isak Ali Abdulle.

“We are still trying to establish the overall number of casualties, but so far we have confirmed that more than 30 people were killed in the second blast alone,” he said.

“These were devastating simultaneous attacks which damaged property as well as causing mass civilian casualties.”

The bombings occurred the same day as three people were killed in a separate attack near Mogadishu’s airport that was also claimed by Al-Shabab.

The Al-Qaeda-linked militants frequently target civilian, military and government targets in Somalia’s capital and outside.

Witnesses described carnage outside the hospital in Beledweyne.

“The second blast was very huge, it occurred in front of the hospital and my brother and one of our neighbors were among the dead,” said Mahad Yare, a Beledweyne resident.

Al-Shabab said it carried out the attacks to target politicians contesting ongoing elections.

The British ambassador to Somalia, Katie Foster, shared her condolences on Twitter, saying: “We strongly condemn the use of violence to intimidate and disrupt the elections.”

The European Union’s ambassador to the country, Tiina Intelmann, also offered condolences, writing on Twitter: “Violence is not a way forward for #Somalia. #EU condemns terrorism and politically motivated killings.”

Earlier on Wednesday, security forces shot dead two gunmen who attempted to storm a heavily fortified area of the Somali capital Mogadishu near the city’s main airport.

The airport complex houses the United Nations, aid agencies, foreign missions and contractors, and the headquarters of the African Union military mission, AMISOM.

Three people were killed in that attack — a policeman, an AMISOM soldier and a civilian.

Al-Shabab has been seeking to overthrow the country’s fragile government for over a decade.

The Horn of Africa nation has seen a spate of attacks in recent weeks as it hobbles through a long-delayed election process.

Somalia’s key foreign backer, the United States, has already imposed travel sanctions on key political figures for undermining the electoral process.

The lower house election is now due to be completed on March 31, paving the way for lawmakers to pick a president.

Somalia’s international backers have warned the election delays distract from the fight against Al-Shabab.

The extremists controlled Mogadishu until 2011 when they were pushed out by AMISOM troops, but still hold territory in the countryside.


Indian writers celebrate first International Booker Prize for Hindi novel

Indian writers celebrate first International Booker Prize for Hindi novel
Updated 24 min 5 sec ago

Indian writers celebrate first International Booker Prize for Hindi novel

Indian writers celebrate first International Booker Prize for Hindi novel
  • Geetanjali Shree’s ‘Tomb of Sand,’ translated by Daisy Rockwell, won this year’s prize on Thursday

NEW DELHI: India’s literary world celebrated on Friday as Geetanjali Shree’s “Tomb of Sand” became the first book written in an Indian language to win the prestigious International Booker Prize.

The prize is awarded annually to a book that has been translated into English and published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  

Shree wrote “Tomb of Sand” (Hindi title “Ret Samadhi”) in 2018. It is a family saga set in the shadow of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, when British India was split into two independent states — India and Pakistan — triggering one of the largest migrations in history, with around 15 million people forced to swap countries in a political upheaval that cost more than a million lives.

The novel follows an 80-year-old Indian woman who travels to Pakistan following the death of her husband to confront the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of partition and, while doing so, reevaluates what it means to be a mother, daughter, and woman.

The book was translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, who shares the prize with Shree. It was the first Hindi-language novel to secure a nomination for the prize.

In her acceptance speech in London on Thursday night, Shree said that behind her was a “rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and in other South Asian languages.”

“World literature will be the richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages. The vocabulary of life will increase from such an interaction,” she said.

Writers in India welcomed Shree’s recognition with the same hope.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful achievement,” Arundhati Roy, one of India’s most renowned writers, told Arab News.

Namita Gokhale, director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, India’s largest literary event, said the award will bring a “much-needed understanding of Hindi literature, one of the great world literatures.”

She continued: “It will lead to more and more translation (of Hindi works). There are so many wonderful translations out there, but certainly many, many more need to be done, because there is wonderful writing happening at all levels of contemporary Hindi literature.”

For Hindi novelist Bhagwandass Morwal, Shree’s win was a “matter of great pride.”

“After the Nobel Prize, the Booker is the most recognized award for literature,” he said. “This is one Booker prize. It is the beginning. In the future we will see more.”

“Tomb of Sand” beat out five other shortlisted titles for the prize, including “The Books of Jacob” by Nobel Prize-winning Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk and “Heaven” by Mieko Kawakami, the Japanese author best known for “Breasts and Eggs.”


Hilton to open 59 more hotels in Saudi Arabia in the next 10 years

Hilton to open 59 more hotels in Saudi Arabia in the next 10 years
Updated 9 min 51 sec ago

Hilton to open 59 more hotels in Saudi Arabia in the next 10 years

Hilton to open 59 more hotels in Saudi Arabia in the next 10 years
  • Hilton's top exec for MENA says Saudi Arabia has enormous potential for growth in the hospitality sector
  • Assures that the hospitality chain will work closely with the Saudi Tourism Authority

RIYADH: Hilton Hotels & Resorts will add 59 more hotels across various asset classes in Saudi Arabia in the next five to 10 years. The hospitality group currently has 16 in the region.

In an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit, Hilton’s managing director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amir Lababedi, said that Hilton will reach 75 hotels within the next five to 10 years and probably exceed that number as well.

“We will surpass 75 hotels in the next five to 10 years because of all the Kingdom’s efforts. These hotels will be spread across a range of asset classes and brands, serving a broad range of demographics,” said Lababedi

He further added that the Kingdom has enormous potential for growth in the hospitality sector thanks to the wholehearted support offered by the government, including the Tourism Development Fund and the Public Investment Fund.

“The Hilton in Jeddah, Makkah and Medina are properties that are part of the fabric of the tourism industry, right from the start of domestic and international tourism,” Lababedi said.

As a result of Vision 2030, the market has changed in the last few years with regard to tourism and economic development, and Lababedi said that the company would fully support the goals and initiatives of the Ministry of Tourism.

He added that the hospitality chain works closely with the Saudi Tourism Authority to bring its performance engine to support the industry’s growth.

Hilton’s goal is to infuse a sense of local culture into all of its brands.

“We are looking to infuse the Diriyah property with the essence of its history, bringing the story of this unique location to life,” Lababedi added. “And we call these properties the heroes, and it’s part of a shared principle of brand sharing,” he said.

When it comes to hiring Saudis, he said the company needs to hire locals not just because of regulations and Saudization quotas but also because guests appreciate the gesture when a company can bring a local culture into their hotels.

 “We work very closely with the authorities in training and developing Saudis to find a career in hospitality, get them ready for a work-life, and provide them with the basic life skills to go out into the workforce and prepare them for that,” said Lababedi.


Saudi digital artist merges famous figures with KSA’s landscapes

Titan from Japanese anime ‘Attack on Titan’ behind mountains of Al-Shafa road, Taif. (Supplied)
Titan from Japanese anime ‘Attack on Titan’ behind mountains of Al-Shafa road, Taif. (Supplied)
Updated 28 May 2022

Saudi digital artist merges famous figures with KSA’s landscapes

Titan from Japanese anime ‘Attack on Titan’ behind mountains of Al-Shafa road, Taif. (Supplied)
  • One of his preferred locations is Jeddah’s historical quarter, but the graphic designer said that he can let his imagination run wild in any location he explores

JEDDAH: Imagine seeing Disney’s Princess Aurora in historic Jeddah, one of the titans from the Japanese anime “Attack on Titan” lurking behind the mountains of Taif’s famous Al-Shafa road, or international figures appearing in old alleyways. These are just some of the products of Hazem Al-Ahdal’s wild imagination.

I took a picture of the view in front of me, and merged characters and turned them into reality, says Hazem Al-Ahdal

The 26-year-old photographer and graphic designer draws inspiration from both visual art and cinematography, merging images of global figures and cartoon characters into landscape photographs and then using his graphic design skills to create realistic artworks.

HIGHLIGHT

Historic Jeddah, the Jeddah waterfront, and cities such as Madinah, Taif, NEOM and Tabuk have all been used by Al-Ahdal as locations for his images, while natural landscapes, abandoned places and random streets also feature in the final works.

Historic Jeddah, the Jeddah waterfront, and cities such as Madinah, Taif, NEOM and Tabuk have all been used by Al-Ahdal as locations for his images, while natural landscapes, abandoned places and random streets also feature in the final works.

Russian Countess Anastasia de Torby, left, in an old market in Tabuk. Princess Diana at an open Maq’ad in Historic Jeddah.

Al-Ahdal said that he has been interested in the visual arts since childhood.

“Because of this passion, I decided to start my own art world and realize it,” he told Arab News.

His personal favorite artwork imagines Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna de Torby, elder daughter of Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia, in an old market in Tabuk.

“This is my favorite because of the integration of Western and Arab civilization in one work. Because of this work, other ideas began to come,” said Al-Ahdal.

“I love anything vintage or related to history. I loved her classical attire and thought it would suit the vision I had for the photograph,” he said, referring to the 20th-century Russian countess.

Al-Ahdal said that he chooses characters from a host of international figures or cartoons based on the site of the photograph, “and so the integration process begins.”

One of his preferred locations is Jeddah’s historical quarter, but the graphic designer said that he can let his imagination run wild in any location he explores.

“Of course, there are stories with many works of art, including when I was drinking coffee in one of the cafes and I was in front of an empty chair. My fantasies began with characters who may be sitting in front of me,” he said.

“I took a picture of the view in front of me, and merged characters and turned them into reality.”

Al-Ahdal converts his digital art into posters and even fashion items.

“I have no limits in art. I participated in many exhibitions with realistic works and paintings, I even participated in the field of fashion and I’m planning on participating in more projects,” he said

Al-Ahdal said that he loves ’90s movies for their content. “The best old classic works from the ’90s and before — these films contain stories and lessons in life,” he said.

“One of my favorite TV shows is the sitcom ‘Friends’ and one of my favorite distinctive films is the Italian film La vita e bella (Life is Beautiful),” he added.


Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz roll into last 16 at French Open

Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz roll into last 16 at French Open
Updated 28 May 2022

Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz roll into last 16 at French Open

Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz roll into last 16 at French Open
  • The 35-year-old Serb is aiming to become the oldest men’s singles champion in Paris in the Open era as he chases a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam title
  • The Spanish teenage star is the youngest man in the Roland Garros fourth round since Djokovic 16 years ago

PARIS: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal closed in Friday on a blockbuster clash at the French Open as both reached the last 16, while 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest man to make the second week in Paris since 2006.

Reigning champion Djokovic and 13-time winner Nadal are on course to meet in the quarterfinals, with the Spaniard seeded outside the top four at Roland Garros for just the second time.

World No. 1 Djokovic strolled to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene and Nadal eased past Dutch 26th seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

“I’m always very motivated when I get on the court, with the desire to produce my best level each time. It’s not always possible to do it, but today it was very good,” said Djokovic.

The 35-year-old Serb is aiming to become the oldest men’s singles champion in Paris in the Open era as he chases a record-equalling 21st Grand Slam title.

Next up for Djokovic, who was also French Open champion in 2016, is a matchup with Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, the 15th seed.

Nadal, the 21-time major champion, improved his record at Roland Garros to 108-3 after seeing off 2021 US Open quarter-finalist Van de Zandschulp.

He has now reached at least the fourth round in 17 of 18 visits to Roland Garros, with the exception of 2016 when he withdrew in the third round with a wrist injury.

“Today has been a very good test and very positive test, because I was able to play my best match of the tournament so far, without any doubt,” said Nadal.

The Spaniard had a break point for 5-0 in the third set, but Van de Zandschulp refused to roll over, winning four of the next five games before Nadal put away his second match point, having saved a break point in between the two.

“You always feel a little bit the nerves to finish the match, so I’m happy to be through in straight sets,” said Nadal, who plays Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime for a place in the last eight.

In a twist to that clash, Toni Nadal, the uncle and former coach of the Spaniard, is now working with Auger-Aliassime.

Alcaraz gained revenge against the only man to beat him on clay this year, defeating US 27th seed Sebastian Korda 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in the evening session.

The Spanish teenage star is the youngest man in the Roland Garros fourth round since Djokovic 16 years ago.

“I’m trying to have fun out there. I just enjoy every single second. I love playing tennis,” said Alcaraz, who saved a match point against countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the previous round.

He has won 20 of 21 matches on clay this season and next faces 21st seed Karen Khachanov. The Russian knocked out Cameron Norrie in four sets as the 10th-seeded Briton became the highest-ranked player to fall.

Alexander Zverev, the third seed and 2021 semifinalist, ended the run of American Brandon Nakashima, winning 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).

The German Olympic champion, who also saved a match point in round two, next takes on Bernabe Zapata Miralles, the 131st-ranked Spaniard who downed John Isner in five sets.

Amanda Anisimova, the 27th seed and a 2019 semifinalist, advanced to the last 16 as injury-plagued Karolina Muchova retired down 6-7 (7/9), 6-2, 3-0 after falling and twisting her ankle midway through the second set.

Last year’s US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich defeated three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).

Coco Gauff, the youngest player left in the French Open, made the last 16 with a straight-sets win over Kaia Kanepi, the oldest woman in the tournament at 36.

Sloane Stephens, runner-up in 2018, ended the run of French teenager Diane Parry in straight sets, while Swiss 23rd seed Jil Teichmann overcame two-time former Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10/5).


AlUla attracts 250,000 visitors over the last 12 months

John Northen Executive director — head of hotels  and resorts at RCU
John Northen Executive director — head of hotels and resorts at RCU
Updated 28 May 2022

AlUla attracts 250,000 visitors over the last 12 months

John Northen Executive director — head of hotels  and resorts at RCU
  • The RCU is also developing AlUla’s old town, where they will inaugurate the 30-room Boutique Hotel in October

RIYADH: The historic city of AlUla received more than 250,000 visitors in the past 12 months, far exceeding its forecast, said a senior government official.

The city developers had already covered huge ground, considering it had envisaged attracting one million visitors by 2025.

“The plan is to keep it preserve the nature. We don’t want to create a destination and then destroy it by bringing too many people,” John Northen, executive director – head of hotels and resorts at the Royal Commission of AlUla, or RCU, told Arab News.

“So, we are providing an experience that is very carefully created and managed for visitors,” Northen said.

One such labor of love is the Banyan Tree Hotel, a sprawling destination with 79 villas slated to open in October this year.

The plan is to keep it preserve the nature ... We are providing an experience that is very carefully created and managed for visitors.

John Northen, Executive director — head of hotels and resorts at RCU

The hotel is also a worthy neighbor of Maraya Hall, the largest mirrored building in the world and a centerpiece of the city’s growing cultural landscape.

The RCU is also developing AlUla’s old town, where they will inaugurate the 30-room Boutique Hotel in October.

“It’s going to be completely different; you will feel like you traveled back in time and experienced something very unusual,” he said.

The city has also regenerated its 2,000 square kilometers of vast Sharaan Nature Reserve, a sanctuary to the Arabian leopards.

“Here, we are developing two exciting hotels, one designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, which will be crafted inside the mountain,” Northen said.

The destination is also home to international fine dining restaurants

“Food and beverage are already a great strength for AlUla,” he added.

Most of the restaurants in the city have been seasonal based on the tourism traffic. However, RCU will operate them throughout the year starting from next year.

Part of the RCU’s strategy is to engage the local community and offer training programs.

“The population of AlUla is 42,000 people. We are trying to hire as many as we can and give educational opportunities,” said Northen, adding that they have already opened a language school and will soon be setting up a hotel management school.