2 suicide car bombs near UN offices kill 13 in Somalia

United Nations office guards and Somalian soldiers carry the dead body of their colleague who was killed in a suicide car bomb outside the UN's office in Mogadishu on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
Updated 26 July 2016

2 suicide car bombs near UN offices kill 13 in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia: Two suicide bombers detonated explosives-laden cars on Tuesday outside the offices of the UN’s mine clearing agency and a Somali army checkpoint in Mogadishu, killing 13 people, including seven guards, Somali police officials said.
The two blasts took place near the African Union base in the area of the Mogadishu airport, Somali police chief Gen. Mohamed Sheikh Hassan said at a press conference.
Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, Al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the bombings, according to the group’s Andalus radio station.
Unlike previous attacks by Al-Shabab, which is linked to Al-Qaeda, gunmen did not accompany the suicide bomber, said police Capt. Mohamed Hussein. The first suicide car bomber tried to speed through the barrier at the UN office but guards shot at the car, he said. The guards at the UN offices were from a private security firm, said a police official, who insisted on anonymity because he isn’t authorized to speak to the press.
A second suicide blast targeted a checkpoint manned by Somali security forces near the African Union base in Mogadishu, said Hussein. Casualties there remain unclear.
Al-Shabab is waging an insurgency against Somalia’s weak UN-backed government with the goal of establishing an Islamic emirate in Somalia, ruled by a strict form of Islam.
Earlier this month, eight soldiers were killed when an Al-Shabab suicide car bomber targeted a Somalia military training camp and attackers then entered the base on foot.
More than 22,000 troops and police serve in the African Union force, which also includes troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia. Al-Shabab opposes the presence of foreign troops in Somalia and has launched attacks in countries that have contributed to the AU force. Although Al-Shabab was ousted from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in 2011, it continues to wage a deadly guerrilla campaign that includes suicide bombings.


Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

Updated 9 min 21 sec ago

Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

  • Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown
  • China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage

HONG KONG: Thirteen prominent Hong Kong democracy activists appeared in court on Monday charged with holding an unauthorized gathering to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the latest in a string of prosecutions against protest leaders in the restless financial hub.
Last month tens of thousands of Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown against students pushing for democracy.
The annual vigil has been held in Hong Kong for the last three decades and usually attracts huge crowds. It has taken on particular significance in recent years as the semi-autonomous city chafes under Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
This year’s vigil was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures. At the time local transmission had largely been halted.
But thousands turned out to hold candles in their neighborhoods and in Victoria Park, the traditional site of the vigil.
Police later arrested 13 leading activists who appeared at the Victoria Park vigil.
All appeared in court on Monday to be formally charged with “inciting” an unlawful assembly, which carries up to five years in jail.
Among them are Jimmy Lai, the millionaire owner of the openly pro-democracy Apple newspaper, veteran democracy activists such as Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho as well as young campaigner Figo Chan.
When asked if he understood the charge, Lee invoked the hundreds who were killed by Chinese tanks and soldiers at Tiananmen.
“This is political persecution,” he said. “The real incitement is the massacre conducted by the Chinese Communist Party 31 years ago.”
Some of those charged on Monday — and many other leading democracy figures — face separate prosecutions related to last year’s huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.
China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage and portrayed the protests as a plot by foreigners to destabilize the motherland.
Earlier this month Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law aimed at stamping out the protests once and for all.
The law targets subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, with sentences including life in prison.
But its broad phrasing — such as a ban on encouraging hatred toward China’s government — has sent fear rippling through a city used to being able to speak its mind.
Police have arrested people for possessing pro-independence or autonomy material, libraries and schools have pulled books, political parties have disbanded and one prominent opposition politician has fled.
The law bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and its contents were kept secret until the moment it was enacted.
It empowered China’s security apparatus to set up shop openly in Hong Kong for the first time, while Beijing has also claimed jurisdiction for some serious national security cases — ending the legal firewall between the mainland the city’s independent judiciary.
China has also announced global jurisdiction to pursue national security crimes committed by anyone outside of Hong Kong and China, including foreigners.