Tourists wounded in deadly Afghanistan shooting stable — hospital 

Tourists wounded in deadly Afghanistan shooting stable — hospital 
People gather to check on missing relatives a day after a twin suicide bombs attack, which killed scores of people outside Kabul airport, at a hospital run by Italian NGO Emergency in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 27, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 May 2024
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Tourists wounded in deadly Afghanistan shooting stable — hospital 

Tourists wounded in deadly Afghanistan shooting stable — hospital 
  • Group of tourists was fired at while shopping in mountainous city of Bamiyan on Friday 
  • Attack first deadly assault on foreign tourists since Taliban’s return to power in 20221

KABUL: Tourists wounded in an attack in Afghanistan which left three Spaniards and three Afghans dead were in a stable condition, a hospital said Saturday, as a survivor described the horror of the shooting in an open market.
The group was fired on while shopping in the bazaar in the mountainous city of Bamiyan, around 180 kilometers (110 miles) from the capital Kabul, on Friday.
French tourist Anne-France Brill, one of the dozen foreign travelers on an organized tour, said a gunman on foot approached the group’s vehicles and opened fire.
“There was blood everywhere,” the 55-year-old told AFP from Dubai, where she landed Saturday after being evacuated from Kabul with two Americans.
“One thing is certain,” she said, the assailant “was there for the foreigners.”
Brill, who works in marketing and lives near Paris, said she helped collect the bloodied belongings of her wounded fellow travelers before a Taliban escort brought them to the capital, where they were taken in by a European Union delegation.
The attack is believed to be the first deadly assault on foreign tourists since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 in a country where few nations have a diplomatic presence.
The bodies of those killed were transported to Kabul overnight Friday, along with the wounded and survivors, after bad weather made an airlift impossible.
Italian NGO Emergency, which operates a hospital in Kabul, received the injured who it said were from Spain, Lithuania, Norway, Australia and Afghanistan.
“The wounded people arrived at our hospital at 3:00 am (2230 GMT Friday) this morning, about 10 hours after the incident took place,” said Dejan Panic, Emergency’s country director in Afghanistan, in a statement.
“The Afghan national was the most critically injured, but all patients are now stable,” he added.
Spain’s government on Friday announced that three of the dead were Spanish tourists.
Its foreign ministry said one of the wounded was also a Spanish woman, who had been seriously injured and underwent surgery in Kabul.
The dead included three Afghans — two civilians and a Taliban member, the government’s interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani said.
Local officials said the civilians were working with the tour group, while the Taliban security official had returned fire when the shooting broke out.
“Overwhelmed by the news of the murder of Spanish tourists in Afghanistan,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez posted on social media platform X.
The bodies of the dead would likely be brought back to Spain on Sunday, the country’s foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Spanish public television TVE.
Spanish diplomats were headed to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Qatar, where the Spanish ambassador to the country is currently based.
The Spanish embassy was evacuated in 2021, along with other Western missions, after the Taliban took back control of Kabul, ending a bloody decades-long insurgency against foreign forces.
Spanish authorities have also been coordinating with a European Union delegation in the capital.
Interior ministry spokesman Qani said seven suspects had been arrested, “of which one is wounded.”
“The investigation is still going on and the Islamic Emirate is seriously looking into the matter,” he added.
There has not yet been a claim of responsibility.
The EU condemned the attack “in the strongest terms.”
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, said it was “deeply shocked and appalled by the deadly terrorist attack” in Bamiyan, adding it had provided assistance after the incident.
The Taliban government has yet to be officially recognized by any foreign government.
It has, however, supported a fledgling tourism sector, with more than 5,000 foreign tourists visiting Afghanistan in 2023, according to official figures.
Western nations advise against all travel to the country, warning of kidnap and attack risks.
Alongside security concerns, the country has limited road infrastructure and a dilapidated health service.
Multiple foreign tourism companies offer guided package tours to Afghanistan, often including visits to highlights in cities such as Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamiyan.
Bamiyan is Afghanistan’s top tourist destination, once home to the giant Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban in 2001 during their previous rule.
The number of bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan has fallen dramatically since the Taliban authorities took power, and deadly attacks on foreigners are rare.
However, a number of armed groups, including Daesh, remain a threat.
The group has waged a campaign of attacks on foreign interests in a bid to weaken the Taliban government, targeting the Pakistani and Russian embassies as well as Chinese businessmen.


Republicans, in wake of Trump shooting, seek to pin political violence trend on Democrats

Republicans, in wake of Trump shooting, seek to pin political violence trend on Democrats
Updated 5 sec ago
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Republicans, in wake of Trump shooting, seek to pin political violence trend on Democrats

Republicans, in wake of Trump shooting, seek to pin political violence trend on Democrats
  • “For weeks Democrat leaders have been fueling ludicrous hysteria that Donald Trump winning re-election would be the end of democracy in America,” Republican Rep. Steve Scalize wrote on X
  • A researcher on political violence said it's Trump's right-wing supporters who had been deploying violent language, including threats aimed at election workers, judges and other officials
  • Trump previously had not ruled out the possibility of political violence if he loses November’s election. “If we don’t win, you know, it depends,” he told TIME magazine in April

WASHINGTON: Within hours of the assassination attempt on former US President Donald Trump, many of his supporters began laying blame on Democrats, seeking to flip the script on who has stoked America’s heated political rhetoric as cases of political violence reach historic heights.
From establishment Republicans to far-right conspiracy theorists, a consistent message emerged that President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders laid the groundwork for Saturday’s shooting by casting Trump as an autocrat who poses a grave threat to democracy.
A Reuters analysis of more than 200 incidents of politically motivated violence between 2021 and 2023, however, presented a different picture: In those years, fatal political violence more often emanated from the American right than from the left.
The US is embroiled in the most sustained spate of political violence since a decade of upheaval that began in the late 1960s, Reuters found in that report published last year. That violence has come from across the ideological spectrum, and includes extensive attacks on property during left-wing political demonstrations. But attacks on people — from beatings to killings — were perpetrated mostly by suspects acting in service of right-wing political beliefs and ideology.
Almost immediately after Saturday’s attack, right-wing websites were brimming with assertions that left-wing rhetoric motivated Trump’s assailant. Many commentators blamed the shooting on the Biden White House or pushed unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, including a claim that a shadowy “deep state” cabal within the government orchestrated it.
“Do not think this is going to be the last attempt to kill Trump. The Deep State really has no other choice now,” said a user on the pro-Trump website Patriots.Win. “It’s going to take borderline martial law to set the country right,” wrote another. One user called for a federal government purge. “It’s us or them.”
Trump’s Republican backers pointed specifically to a comment Biden made on July 8 as the president discussed his dismal debate performance in a meeting with donors.
“I have one job and that’s to beat Donald Trump,” Biden said, according to a transcript of the call that Biden’s campaign forwarded to reporters. “We’re done talking about the debate. It’s time to put Trump in the bullseye. He’s gotten away with doing nothing for the last 10 days except ride around in his golf cart.”
Some Republican officeholders seized on the “bullseye” comment as an example of Biden invoking violent imagery in describing November’s presidential election and criticized Biden and other Democrats for casting the former president as a threat to Democracy and to the nation.
“For weeks Democrat leaders have been fueling ludicrous hysteria that Donald Trump winning re-election would be the end of democracy in America,” US Representative Steve Scalize, a Louisiana Republican, wrote on X. “Clearly we’ve seen far left lunatics act on violent rhetoric in the past. This incendiary rhetoric must stop.”
Scalize himself was the victim of violence seven years ago, wounded by a left-wing gunman who opened fire during a practice of the congressional Republican baseball team.
Other Republican politicians added to the drumbeat.
“Joe Biden sent the orders,” US Representative Mike Collins, a Republican from Georgia, posted on X on Saturday. There is no evidence for that claim. “The Republican District Attorney in Butler County, PA, should immediately file charges against Joseph R. Biden for inciting an assassination.”

“False equivalence”
Kurt Braddock, an assistant professor of public communication at American University who researches political violence, said Biden’s criticisms of Trump as a threat to the nation aren’t the same as the violent language deployed by right-wing supporters of Trump. “It’s a little bit of a false equivalence,” Braddock said.
Trump supporters have led an increase in threats and harassing communications aimed at election workers, judges and other officials.
After Trump lost the 2020 election, Reuters documented hundreds of threats to local election officials by Trump supporters enraged by his false claims that the election was rigged. A Reuters investigation published in May found thatviolent threats against judgeshandling Trump’s various criminal and civil trials spiked after the former president criticized those judges in speeches or social-media posts.
Before the shooting, Trump had not ruled out the possibility of political violence if he loses November’s election. “If we don’t win, you know, it depends,” he said when asked by TIME magazine in April if he expected violence after the 2024 election. He’s also refused to unconditionally accept the results of the upcoming election and warned of a “bloodbath” if he loses.
A Reuters review of dozens of Trump’s campaign speeches – particularly those from 2020 and 2024 – found that violence was a recurring theme. He has exhorted rallygoers “to take back our country,” repeatedly praised the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters and compared himself to famed mobster Al Capone. While president, he encouraged police to be rough with people they were arresting and threatened to use the US military to quell protests.
Biden, who has repeatedly condemned political violence, offered another denunciation immediately after the attack on Trump.
“There is no place in America for this kind of violence or any violence for that matter. An assassination attempt is contrary to everything we stand for ... as a nation — everything,” Biden said in a televised address. “We’ll debate and we’ll disagree. That’s not going to change. But we’re not going to lose sight of who we are as Americans.”
Trump struck a defiant tone initially. In the moments after the shooting at his rally in Pennsylvania, he pumped his fist at the crowd and shouted, “Fight! Fight!” On Sunday, however, he called for national unity.
“In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand United,” Trump wrote in a post on his Truth Social network.
That message was reinforced by his campaign in memo to staff urging calm. “It is our fervent hope that this horrendous act will bring our team, and indeed the nation, together in unity and we must renew our commitment to safety and peace for our country,” said the internal campaign memo, seen by Reuters.
Some pro-Trump commentators predicted more violence ahead. “They will stop at nothing unless America stands up to them,” said a commentator on Rumble, a video-sharing site that attracts right-wing users, referring to Democrats. “Violence is going to happen. Here is the civil war.”
A senior member of the Proud Boys, the violent all-male extremist group that led the pro-Trump storming of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, said the group would show up at the Republican National Convention, which kicks off in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Monday. After the shooting of Trump, “you’ll see us at more events,” the Proud Boy told Reuters. “It’s going to be more active. It’s that simple.”
Megan McBride, an expert in domestic violent extremism, said US leaders have a brief window to cool partisan hatred before a retaliatory cycle emerges. Research shows that support for political violence increases when people believe the other side supports it, said McBride, a senior research scientist with the Institute for Public Research at CNA, a nonprofit that studies security issues.
“There’s nothing inevitable about a progression from the threat of violence to violence itself,” she said. “That’s a really fantastic opportunity for the country to kind of bring the temperature down a little bit.”
The shooter’s politics and motive remain unclear. The suspect, 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks, was killed at the scene by Secret Service agents. Crooks was a registered Republican who would have been eligible to cast his first presidential vote in the Nov. 5 election. His father, Matthew Crooks, 53, told CNN he was trying to learn what happened and would wait until he had talked to law enforcement before speaking about his son.


In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’

In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’
Updated 25 min 46 sec ago
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In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’

In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’
  • Political passions can run high but “we must never descend into violence,” he said
  • Saturday’s attack upended the Democratic counteroffensive on the cusp of the Republican convention

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden warned Sunday of the the risks of political violence in the US after Saturday’s attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, saying, “It’s time to cool it down.”
In a prime-time national address from the Oval Office, Biden said political passions can run high but “we must never descend into violence.”
“There is no place in America for this kind of violence — for any violence. Ever. Period. No exception. We can’t allow this violence to be normalized,” Biden said.
Biden spoke for about five minutes from the Oval Office. He noted that the Republican National Convention was opening in Milwaukee on Monday, while he himself would be traveling the country to campaign for reelection.
He said passions would run high on both sides and the stakes of the election were enormous.
“We can do this,” Biden implored, saying the nation was founded on a democracy that gave reason and balance a chance to prevail over brute force. “American democracy — where arguments are made in good faith. American democracy — where the rule of law is respected. Where decency, dignity, fair play aren’t just quaint notions, they’re living, breathing realities.”

Earlier Sunday, Biden condemned the attempted assassination of his predecessor, Trump, as “contrary to everything we stand for as a nation” and said he was ordering an independent security review of how such an attack could have happened.
He called for the country to “unite as one nation,” promised a “thorough and swift” review and asked the public not to “make assumptions” about the shooter’s motives or affiliations.
The president said he has also directed the US Secret Service to review all security measures for the RNC. Hours later, Audrey Gibson-Cicchino, the Secret Service’s coordinator for the convention, said the weekend attack against Trump did not prompt any changes to the agency’s security plan for the event and officials “are fully prepared.”
In his remarks, Biden called the attack on Trump “not who we are as a nation.”
“It’s not American. And we cannot allow this to happen,” he said. “Unity is the most elusive goal of all, but nothing is more important than that right now.”
The president said he and first lady Jill Biden were praying for the family of Corey Comperatore, a former fire chief who was shot and killed during the Trump rally Saturday night in Butler, Pennsylvania.
“He was protecting his family from the bullets,” Biden said. “God love him.”
The president also said he’d had a “short but good conversation” with Trump in the hours after the shootings and said he was “sincerely grateful” that the former president is “doing well and recovering.”
Trump, who has called for national resilience since the shooting, posted on his social media account after Biden’s remarks, “UNITE AMERICA!”
Actually achieving unity will be far more challenging, especially in the midst of a bitter presidential campaign. Biden’s team is grappling with how to calibrate the path forward after the weekend attack on the very person he is trying to defeat in November’s election.
Biden, who has set out to brand Trump as a dire threat to democracy and the nation’s very founding principles, put a temporary pause on such political messaging. Shortly after Saturday night’s attack, Biden’s reelection campaign froze “all outbound communications” and was working to pull down its television ads.
The president also postponed a planned trip to Texas on Monday, where he was to speak on the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library. An NBC News interview between Biden and anchor Lester Holt will now occur at the White House, instead of in Texas, as initially planned.
Biden’s campaign said that, after the NBC interview airs on Monday night, it and the Democratic National Committee “will continue drawing the contrast” with Trump over the course of the GOP convention — even though it remains unclear when ads would resume.
Biden also still plans to make a planned trip to Las Vegas, which will include a campaign event Wednesday. Vice President Kamala Harris postponed her planned campaign trip to Florida on Tuesday, where she had been set to meet with Republican women.
Trump, meanwhile, announced he was moving up plans to go to Milwaukee and the Republican convention, where criticism of Biden and the Democrats is sure to be searing.
The weekend developments were only the latest upheaval in a campaign that has been extraordinarily topsy-turvy in recent weeks.
Biden’s shaky debate performance on June 27 so spooked his own party that some top surrogates and donors turned on him, and nearly 20 Democratic members of Congress called on the president to leave the race outright. Facing mounting questions about whether he was fit for a second term, Biden and his top advisers have been scrambling to salvage his campaign by adding events around the country and more aggressively criticizing Trump.
Saturday’s attack upended — at least for now — that counteroffensive on the cusp of the Republican convention.
The campaign also hopes that Sunday’s Oval Office address lets Biden further drive home his point about unity while demonstrating leadership that could assuage nervous critics within his own party.
“We’ll debate and we’ll disagree, that’s not going to change,” Biden said in his afternoon remarks. “But we’ll not lose sight of who we are as Americans.”
Although investigators are still in the early stages of determining what occurred and why, some Biden critics are calling out the president for telling donors in a private call Monday that “it’s time to put Trump in the bullseye.”
A person familiar with those remarks said the president was trying to make the point that Trump had gotten away with a light public schedule after last month’s debate while the president himself faced intense scrutiny. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to more freely discuss private conversations.
In the donor call, Biden said: “I have one job and that’s to beat Donald Trump. ... I’m absolutely certain I’m the best person to be able to do that.”
He continued: “So, we’re done talking about the debate. It’s time to put Trump in the bullseye. He’s gotten away with doing nothing for the last 10 days except ride around in his golf cart, bragging about scores he didn’t score. … Anyway I won’t get into his golf game.”


BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad

BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad
Updated 41 min 54 sec ago
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BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad

BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad
  • Thomas Crooks graduated in 2022 from Bethel Park High School

Thomas Crooks, the suspect in Saturday’s attempted assassination of former US President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, briefly appeared in an advertisement for BlackRock, the company said on Sunday.
“In 2022, we ran an ad featuring a teacher from Bethel Park High School, in which several unpaid students briefly appeared in the background, including Thomas Matthew Crooks,” the world’s biggest asset manager said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Thomas Crooks graduated in 2022 from Bethel Park High School, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
BlackRock said it will make all video footage available to the appropriate authorities and has removed the video from circulation.
“The assassination attempt on former President Trump is abhorrent,” the company said.
BlackRock will release its second-quarter results on Monday.


UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall

UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall
Updated 55 min 19 sec ago
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UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall

UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall
  • “The latest trends demonstrate that many countries continue to miss far too many children,” UNICEF chief Catherine Russell said in a joint statement

GENEVA: Global childhood vaccination levels have stalled, leaving millions more children un- or under-vaccinated than before the pandemic, the UN said Monday, warning of dangerous coverage gaps enabling outbreaks of diseases like measles.
In 2023, 84 percent of children, or 108 million, received three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), with the third dose serving as a key marker for global immunization coverage, according to data published by the UN health and children’s agencies.
That was the same percentage as a year earlier, meaning that modest progress seen in 2022 after the steep drop during the Covid-19 crisis has “stalled,” the organizations warned. The rate was 86 percent in 2019 before the pandemic.
“The latest trends demonstrate that many countries continue to miss far too many children,” UNICEF chief Catherine Russell said in a joint statement.
In fact, 2.7 million additional children remained un- or under-vaccinated last year compared to the pre-pandemic levels in 2019, the organizations found.

“We are off track,” World Health Organization vaccine chief Kate O’Brien told reporters.
“Global immunization coverage has yet to fully recover from the historic backsliding that we saw during the course of the pandemic.”
Not only has progress stalled, but the number of so-called zero-dose children, who have not received a single jab, rose to 14.5 million last year from 13.9 million in 2022 and from 12.8 million in 2019, according to the data published Monday.
“This puts the lives of the most vulnerable children at risk,” O’Brien warned.
Even more concerning is that more than half of the world’s unvaccinated children live in 31 countries with fragile, conflict-affected settings, where they are especially vulnerable to contracting preventable diseases, due to lacking access to security, nutrition and health services.
Children in such countries are also far more likely to miss out on the necessary follow-up jabs.
A full 6.5 million children worldwide did not complete their third dose of the DTP vaccine, which is necessary to achieve disease protection in infancy and early childhood, Monday’s datasets showed.

The WHO and UNICEF voiced additional concern over lagging vaccination against measles — one of the world’s most infectious diseases — amid an exploding number of outbreaks around the world.
“Measles outbreaks are the canary in the coalmine, exposing and exploiting gaps in immunization and hitting the most vulnerable first,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.
In 2023, only 83 percent of children worldwide received their first dose of the measles vaccine through routine health services — the same level as in 2022 but down from 86 percent before the pandemic.
And only 74 percent received their second necessary dose, while 95-percent coverage is needed to prevent outbreaks, the organizations pointed out.
“This is still too low to prevent outbreaks and achieve elimination goals,” Ephrem Lemango, UNICEF immunization chief, told reporters.
He pointed out that more than 300,000 measles cases were confirmed in 2023 — nearly three times as many as a year earlier.
And a full 103 countries have suffered outbreaks in the past five years, with low vaccination coverage of 80 percent or lower seen as a major factor.
By contrast, 91 countries with strong measles vaccine coverage experienced no outbreaks.
“Alarmingly, nearly three in four infants live in places at the greatest risk of measles outbreaks,” Lemango said, pointing out that 10 crisis-wracked countries, including Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, account for more than half of children not vaccinated against measles.
On a more positive note, strong increases were seen in vaccination against the cervical cancer-causing HPV virus.
But that vaccine is still only reaching 56 percent of adolescent girls in high-income countries and 23 percent in lower-income countries — far below the 90-percent-target.
 

 


Powerful blast hits busy Mogadishu cafe during Euro final

Powerful blast hits busy Mogadishu cafe during Euro final
Updated 15 July 2024
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Powerful blast hits busy Mogadishu cafe during Euro final

Powerful blast hits busy Mogadishu cafe during Euro final
  • Several local media reports said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber or a car bomb but the information could not be verified

MOGADISHU: A powerful blast ripped through a popular cafe in the center of the Somali capital Mogadishu late Sunday, an AFP journalist said, with local media reporting the venue was packed with football fans watching the final of the Euro 2024 tournament.
It was not immediately known if there were casualties, but the journalist reported that firefighters, police and ambulances rushed to the scene of the explosion at the Top Coffee restaurant.
Police have cordoned off the area, which is close to the presidential palace compound known as Villa Somalia and was very busy at the time of the blast.
Images posted online showed a huge fireball and plumes of smoke billowing into the night sky over the city.
Several local media reports said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber or a car bomb but the information could not be verified.
The authorities have not yet made any public comment on the incident.
The Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab terrorist group has been waging a bloody insurgency against Somalia’s fragile federal government for more than 17 years and has carried out numerous bombings in Mogadishu and other parts of the country.
There had been a relative lull in attacks in recent months as the government presses on with an offensive against the Islamist militants.
But on Saturday, five inmates said to be Al-Shabab fighters were killed in a shootout with prison guards in an attempted jail break from the main prison in Mogadishu.
Three guards were also killed and 18 others wounded in the confrontation, prison officials said, after the prisoners managed to get hold of weapons.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has vowed “all-out” war against the terrorists and government troops have joined forces with local clan militias in a military campaign supported by an African Union force and US air strikes.
But the offensive has suffered setbacks, with Al-Shabab earlier this year claiming it had taken multiple locations in the center of the country.
Although driven out of the capital by AU forces in 2011, Al-Shabab still has a strong presence in rural Somalia.
It has carried out repeated attacks against political, security and civilian targets, mostly in Somalia but also in neighboring countries including Kenya.
Somalia last month called for the African Union to slow the planned withdrawal of its forces from the troubled country.
UN resolutions called for troop numbers in the AU peacekeeping mission, known as ATMIS, to be reduced to zero by December 31 with security handed over to the Somali army and police.
The third and penultimate phase was to see the departure of 4,000 soldiers out of a total 13,500 ATMIS troops by the end of June.
But, following a request from Somalia’s government to see only 2,000 troops leave in June and the remaining 2,000 in September, the AU Peace and Security Council said it “strongly supports... a phased approach” to the drawdown.