Somalia floods kill 29, displace 300,000 people

Somalia floods kill 29, displace 300,000 people
1 / 4
Internally displaced Somali children wade through flood waters outside their makeshift shelters following heavy rains at the Al Hidaya camp for the internally displaced people on the outskirts of Mogadishu, on Nov. 6, 2023. (Reuters)
Somalia floods kill 29, displace 300,000 people
2 / 4
A woman disembarks from a rickshaw taxi in the flooded KM5 street following heavy rains in Mogadishu, on Nov. 8, 2023 (Reuters)
Somalia floods kill 29, displace 300,000 people
3 / 4
A child is assisted as he disembarks from a rickshaw taxi in the flooded KM5 street following heavy rains in Mogadishu, on Nov. 8, 2023 (Reuters)
Somalia floods kill 29, displace 300,000 people
4 / 4
An internally displaced Somali woman stands near makeshift shelters destroyed following heavy rains at the Al Hidaya camp for the internally displaced people on the outskirts of Mogadishu, on Nov. 6, 2023. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 08 November 2023
Follow

Somalia floods kill 29, displace 300,000 people

Somalia floods kill 29, displace 300,000 people
  • Since the beginning of the month, ferocious rainstorms have hit Somalia and its neighbors Kenya and Ethiopia
  • The flooding comes after Somalia and parts of Ethiopia and Kenya suffered the region’s worst drought in four decades

MOGADISHU: Flash flooding in southwestern Somalia has claimed the lives of more than two dozen people and displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes, an official said, as El Nino downpours lash East Africa.
Since the beginning of the month, ferocious rainstorms have hit Somalia and its neighbors Kenya and Ethiopia, triggering landslides and submerging villages and farms.
The flooding comes after Somalia and parts of Ethiopia and Kenya suffered the region’s worst drought in four decades.
“We warned earlier about these rains and predicted this situation was coming,” Mohamed Moalim Abdullahi, chairman of Somalia Disaster Management Agency, said late Tuesday.
At least 29 people have died and about 850,000 others have been affected, Abdullahi said, including over 300,000 who have been uprooted from their homes.
The most affected regions were in the southwest of the strife-weary nation of 17 million people.
The UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, on Wednesday said rescue efforts were being delayed because roads had been cut.
“Inaccessible roads and stuck vehicles are just some of the challenges aid workers in Somalia are grappling with,” it said on X, formerly Twitter.
A joint effort by aid agencies is “racing against time” to rescue 2,400 people trapped by rising flood waters in the town of Luuq, on the road linking the Somalia-Ethiopia border with Baidoa, OCHA added.
Somalia, as much as the Horn of Africa, is considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change but is particularly ill-equipped to cope with the crisis as it battles a deadly Islamist insurgency.
El Nino, which triggers higher global temperatures, is expected to last until at least April 2024, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
The World Meteorological Organization highlighted that the phenomenon was occurring in the context of rapid climate change.
Already, at least 15 people have been killed in Kenya due to flash flooding, while more than 20 people have died and over 12,000 been forced from their homes in Ethiopia’s Somali region.
Between October 1997 and January 1998, devastating floods caused by El Nino led to more than 6,000 deaths in five countries in the Horn of Africa.
At least 1,800 people died in Somalia where the Juba River burst its banks.
From October to November 2006, flooding caused by unseasonal rains left more than 140 people dead in Somalia, with many drowned but others killed by crocodiles or succumbing to a malaria epidemic.


White House slams ‘cheapfake’ clips portraying Biden ‘freezing’

White House slams ‘cheapfake’ clips portraying Biden ‘freezing’
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

White House slams ‘cheapfake’ clips portraying Biden ‘freezing’

White House slams ‘cheapfake’ clips portraying Biden ‘freezing’
  • In one video, an apparently disoriented Biden appears to wander away from fellow world leaders while watching a skydiving display during a G7 summit in Italy last week

WASHINGTON: The White House on Monday criticized Republicans for spreading videos purported to show President Joe Biden’s mental and physical decline, saying the images had been deceptively cut and manipulated.
“It tells you everything that we need to know about how desperate Republicans are here,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, branding the clips as “cheapfake” videos.
Outlets including the New York Post and an official Republican social media account have shared several seemingly damning short videos in recent days of the 81-year-old president.
In one video, an apparently disoriented Biden appears to wander away from fellow world leaders while watching a skydiving display during a G7 summit in Italy last week.
But Jean-Pierre said the footage was misleadingly edited, and Biden instead was moving to give a thumbs up to the parachutists.
“This was widely fact checked ... including by conservative media,” she said at a media briefing, adding “if you run that tape a little bit longer than you’d see ... what was happening.”
Earlier in the week NBC also debunked the claim, posting footage caught by its own cameras from another angle online which showed Biden interacting with the parachutists just a few feet away.
Another widely-shared clip was a close-up shot of Biden standing still as world leaders danced close to him during a concert at the White House — which opponents said showed a state of confusion.
“The president stood there listening to the music, and he didn’t dance. Excuse me. I did not know not dancing was (...) a health issue,” Jean-Pierre said of the video.
And on the weekend, the New York Post again shared a video appearing to show Biden getting lost on stage during a fundraising event in California, before being pointed to an exit by former president Barack Obama.
Andrew Bates, another White House spokesman, said on X that Biden was instead waiting on the stage to appreciate the applause from his supporters.
And Eric Schultz, a senior Obama adviser, posted a link to the Post article on X, writing: “this did not happen.”
Biden’s main rival in the November election, Republican Donald Trump, has made Biden’s advancing age one of his main campaign rallying points, trying to position himself as an energetic alternative — despite being, at 78, just three years younger.
Whoever wins the vote will set a new age record.
Biden is already the oldest man to hold the office and would continue to be so, while if Trump wins, he would become the oldest ever at an inauguration.
 

 


Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard

Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard

Greece says BBC report does not prove coast guard threw migrants overboard
  • Greece has long been accused of carrying out illegal operations to force back migrants

ATHENS: Greece rejected Monday a BBC investigation that alleged its coast guard caused the deaths of dozens of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe, denying accusations it had broken international law.
In an investigation published on its website on Monday, the BBC counted 43 migrants it said had died in the Aegean Sea after being turned back by Greek coast guards between May 2020 and May 2023.
Nine of the dead were deliberately thrown overboard, the publicly funded British broadcaster added.
Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis denied the claims.
“We monitor every publication, every investigation, but I repeat: what has been reported is in no way proven,” he said, adding the coast guard “saves dozens of human lives each day.”
Greece has long been accused of carrying out illegal operations to force back migrants braving the perilous crossing from Turkiye’s western coast in the hope of reaching the European Union.
Though Athens has always denied the practice, numerous investigations by international media and rights groups have documented its existence, often with video evidence.
The BBC said its investigation examined 15 such pushback operations over a three-year period.
As well as basing its reporting on local media, NGOs and the Turkish coast guard, the BBC was able to interview eyewitnesses.
They include a Cameroonian national who said he and two other migrants were arrested after landing on the island of Samos in September 2021.
He said the police forced them onto a Greek coast guard boat, beating them as they went, before throwing them out into the water.
He was the only one to survive, with the bodies of his two companions — an Ivorian and another Cameroonian — washing up on the Turkish coast.
The eyewitness’s lawyers are calling for the Greek authorities to open a double murder case into the incident.
The EU said it was aware of the “terrible allegations.”
“Greek authorities, as in all EU member states, must fully respect obligations under the asylum and international law,” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told journalists in Brussels.
Tens of thousands of migrants, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have entered Greece in recent years from the sea and land borders with Turkiye.
The International Organization for Migration has declared the Mediterranean passage the world’s most perilous migration route.
In 2023, a migrant trawler with hundreds of people on board sank off the Greek coast, killing more than 600 people in one of Europe’s deadliest shipwrecks.
The survivors have filed a criminal complaint against the Greek coast guard.
They allege that the coast guard took hours to mount a response to the sinking ship, despite warnings from EU border agency Frontex and the NGO Alarm Phone.


Reclusive Taliban leader warns Afghans against earning money or gaining ‘worldly honor’

Reclusive Taliban leader warns Afghans against earning money or gaining ‘worldly honor’
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Reclusive Taliban leader warns Afghans against earning money or gaining ‘worldly honor’

Reclusive Taliban leader warns Afghans against earning money or gaining ‘worldly honor’
  • UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the invitation to the Doha meeting at the end of June does not imply recognition of the Taliban

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban’s reclusive supreme leader on Monday warned Afghans against earning money or gaining worldly honor at a time when the country is in the grip of humanitarian crises and isolated on the global stage.
Hibatullah Akhundzada gave his warning in a sermon to mark the festival of Eid Al-Adha at a mosque in southern Kandahar province, weeks before a Taliban delegation goes to Doha, Qatar for UN-hosted talks on Afghanistan.
This is the first round of talks the Taliban will attend since they seized power in August 2021. They weren’t invited to the conference of foreign special envoys to Afghanistan in the first round, and they snubbed the second round because they wanted to be treated as the country’s official representatives.
No government recognizes the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, whose aid-dependent economy was plunged into turmoil following their takeover.
UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the invitation to the Doha meeting at the end of June does not imply recognition of the Taliban.
Akhundzada reminded Afghans of their duties as Muslims and made repeated calls for unity in his 23-minute sermon.
Messages by him and another influential Taliban figure, Sirajuddin Haqqani, to mark a religious festival in April showed tensions between hard-liners and more moderate elements who want to scrap harsher policies and attract more outside support.
In Monday’s message, Akhundzada said he wanted brotherhood among Muslims and that he was unhappy about differences between citizens and Taliban officials. Public dissent over Taliban edicts is rare, and protests are swiftly and sometimes violently quashed.
He said he would willingly accept any decision to remove him as supreme leader, as long as there was unity and agreement on his ouster. But he was unhappy about differences and disagreement between people.
“We were created to worship Allah and not to earn money or gain worldly honor,” Akhundzada said. “Our Islamic system is God’s system and we should stand by it. We have promised God that we will bring justice and Islamic law (to Afghanistan) but we cannot do this if we are not united. The benefit of your disunity reaches the enemy; the enemy takes advantage of it.”
The Taliban have used their interpretation of Islamic law to bar girls from education beyond the age of 11, ban women from public spaces, exclude them from many jobs, and enforce dress codes and male guardianship requirements.
Akhundzada told Taliban officials to listen to the advice of religious scholars and entrust them with authority. He said officials shouldn’t be arrogant, boast, or deny the truth about Islamic law.
Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid, who has written several books about Afghanistan and the Taliban, said Akhundzada’s appeals for unity were a sign of desperation because he refused to spell out the real issues facing Afghans such as unemployment, economic development, and building a consensus for social reform.
“I would not be convinced that this was a meaningful speech if I were the Taliban,” said Rashid.
Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute, said Akhundzada’s focus on unity may also be preemptive and meant to nip in the bud any possibility that rifts could flare up again.
He also questioned if the audience being targeted went beyond Afghans to focus on the global Muslim community.
“Operationally speaking, the Taliban don’t have transnational goals. But the supreme leader looks to command respect beyond Afghanistan’s borders,” said Kugelman.

 


Russian official says Ukraine pouring troops into contested Kharkiv region

Russian official says Ukraine pouring troops into contested Kharkiv region
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Russian official says Ukraine pouring troops into contested Kharkiv region

Russian official says Ukraine pouring troops into contested Kharkiv region
  • “There is fighting still going on in the Kharkiv sector. The fiercest clashes are in Vovchansk and near Lyptsy,” Ganchev told Russian news agencies

A Russian official said on Monday that fighting was gripping parts of Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region which Moscow has been trying to seize and added that Ukraine’s military was pouring men and equipment into the contested area.
Ukrainian President Voldodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv’s forces were gradually pushing Russian troops out of the contested area. His top commander predicted that Moscow would try to press forward pending the arrival in Ukraine of sophisticated Western equipment, including U.S-made F-16 fighter jets.
Russian forces crossed into parts of Kharkiv region last month and officials say they have seized about a dozen villages.
Vitaly Ganchev, Russia-appointed governor of the areas of Kharkiv region controlled by Moscow, said Russian forces were beating back Ukraine’s latest counter-attacks in areas near Vovchansk, five kilometers (three miles) inside the border.
“There is fighting still going on in the Kharkiv sector. The fiercest clashes are in Vovchansk and near Lyptsy,” Ganchev told Russian news agencies.
“The enemy is sending reserves and trying to counter-attack but is meeting a fierce response from our armed forces.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the incursion sought to create a “buffer zone” to prevent Ukraine from shelling border areas, including Belgorod region, opposite Kharkiv.
Over the past week, Ukrainian officials have said the Russian advance is firmly under control.
Zelensky, in his nightly video address, said Ukrainian troops were “gradually pushing the occupiers out of the Kharkiv region.” The military’s General Staff reported 10 Russian attacks were repelled near Vovchansk and Lyptsi.
Ukraine’s top military commander, Oleksander Syrskyi, said on Telegram that Moscow’s commanders “were building intensity and expanding the geography of military activity.
“The enemy clearly understands that the gradual arrival of weapons and equipment from our partners, the arrival of the first F-16s, strengthens our air defenses,” he wrote. “Time is one our side and their chances of success will diminish.”
Ukrainian military bloggers said Kyiv’s forces were holding positions around Vovchansk and trying to break through Russian lines to consolidate units around the town.
Russian forces seized much of Kharkiv region in the early weeks of the February 2022 invasion, but Ukraine recaptured large swathes of territory later that year.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, 30 km (18 miles) from the border, stayed out of Russian hands, and months of Russian attacks have eased, Ukrainian officials say, thanks to the arrival of new weaponry.


France to cut military presence in West, Central Africa to 600 troops

France to cut military presence in West, Central Africa to 600 troops
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

France to cut military presence in West, Central Africa to 600 troops

France to cut military presence in West, Central Africa to 600 troops
  • Army not ruling out ‘pooling’ its bases with Americans or European partners, says chief of staff Gen. Thierry Burkhard

PARIS: France is planning to reduce its military presence in West and Central Africa to around 600 troops, which is in line with President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to limit the French military footprint in the region, three sources said.

In February 2023, Macron announced a “noticeable reduction” of French troop presence in Africa, as anti-French sentiment is running high in some former colonies, and countries like Russia are vying for greater influence.
According to a plan currently under discussion with African partners, France plans to reduce its so-called “pre-positioned” forces in Africa drastically.
According to two sources close to the government and a military source, France will keep only around 100 troops in Gabon in Central Africa, down from 350 today and around 100 in Senegal, in West Africa, down from 350.

FASTFACT

In February, President Emmanuel Macron tasked former Minister Jean-Marie Bockel with working out the new modalities of the French military presence with African partners.

Paris plans to keep around 100 troops in Ivory Coast on the southern coast of West Africa — down from 600 troops today — and around 300 personnel in Chad in north-central Africa, down from 1,000 now.
The three sources said the reduced presence could be periodically expanded based on the needs of local partners.  The French General Staff declined to comment.
Until two years ago, in addition to around 1,600 forces pre-deployed in West Africa and Gabon, France had over 5,000 troops in the Sahel region of Africa as part of the Barkhane anti-jihadist operation.
But it has been gradually pushed out by the juntas that came to power in Mali in 2021, in Burkina Faso in 2022 and Niger in 2023.
All three countries have now concluded security agreements with Russia, which has been seeking to expand its footprint on the continent.
Chad, ruled by Mahamat Idriss Deby, the son of Idriss Deby Itno, who was president for over 30 years, is the last Sahel country to host French soldiers.
Landlocked Chad is surrounded by the Central African Republic, Sudan, Libya, and Niger, host Russian paramilitary forces resulting from the reorganization of the Wagner group, whose founder Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a mysterious plane crash last August.
In February, Macron tasked former Minister Jean-Marie Bockel with working out the new modalities of the French military presence with African partners.
His conclusions are expected in July.
In May, Bockel told the Senate that France wanted to “reduce its visible presence, but maintain logistical, human and material access to these countries while reinforcing our action in response to their aspirations.”
The French army plans to set up a Paris-based command dedicated to Africa this summer, two sources close to the matter said.
The French army is not ruling out “pooling” its bases with Americans or European partners, the chief of staff of France’s armed forces, General Thierry Burkhard, has said.
According to Burkhard, the tighter new structure will make it possible to maintain relations with local military authorities, “gather intelligence,” and “pursue operational partnerships,” among other tasks.
Instead of combat missions, French soldiers will provide training and capabilities to partner countries at their request.