TIME Somalia

Main Somali Hotel Hit by al-Shabab Truck Bomb, 9 Dead

Mogadishu Somalia Attack
Farah Abdi Warsameh—AP An African Union soldier walks past the scene of destruction following a suicide car bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on, July 26, 2015.

The attack was claimed by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group

(MOGADISHU, Somalia) —A suicide bomber rammed a truck rigged with explosives into the blast walls around one of Mogadishu’s most secure hotels, severely damaging the building and killing nine people including a Kenyan diplomat and a Chinese embassy guard, Somalian and Chinese officials said.

Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abdisalam Omer told The Associated Press by phone from Djibouti that 20 people also were injured in the attack.

The attack was claimed by the al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabab group. The walled, luxury Jazeera Hotel is considered the most secure in Somalia’s capital and is frequented by diplomats, foreigners and visiting heads of state. The blast killed one armed guard at the Chinese embassy inside the hotel, as well as three embassy staffers, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday in a statement online.

“This is really scary — destroying the Jazeera hotel like this means no blast walls can make anyone safe,” said bystander Yusuf Mohammed. The use of huge truck bombs is a relatively new phenomenon and throws into doubt whether any place in the capital is now adequately protected.

While blast destroyed at least eight rooms and stunned the residents of the Somali capital, it wasn’t as bad as it might have been because the truck, which contained a ton of explosives, was stopped at the blast walls outside the hotel.

“The damage is big but a lot less because the truck bomb couldn’t go beyond the walls that lay a few meters from the hotel’s perimeter walls,” said Mohammed Abdi, a police officer.

Nervous soldiers fired in the air to disperse a crowd who surged toward the hotel after the blast as medical workers transported wounded victims into awaiting ambulances.

The attack comes as Somali forces backed by troops from the African Union have launched an offensive, dubbed Operation Jubba Corridor, to push al-Shabab out of its last strongholds. The coalition already has driven the group out of the capital.

In a statement, Al-Shabab said the attack was in retaliation for the deaths of dozens of civilians at the hands of Ethiopian forces, which are part of the AU force, and that the hotel was targeted because it hosts “Western” embassies coordinating the offensive.

The attack came as President Barack Obama was leaving neighboring Kenya for Ethiopia. The president’s visit has included discussions about how to deal with the threat of al-Shabab.

On Sunday, the White House Press Office issued a statement condemning the attack and extending condolences to the families of the victims.

“Despite the very real progress Somalia has achieved in recent years, this attack is yet another reminder of the unconscionable atrocities that terrorist groups continue to perpetrate against the people of Somalia,” the statement read, adding that the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to work with Somalia to bring an end to such acts of terrorism.

TIME Somalia

Suicide Truck Bomber Kills 8 at Somali Hotel

Somalia Attack car bomb hotel
AP A Somali soldier observes the scene of a car bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on June 21, 2015.

The terrorist group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack

(MOGADISHU, Somalia)—A suicide bomber rammed a truck rigged with explosives into the blast walls around one of Mogadishu’s most secure hotels, severely damaging the building and killing eight people, said police Capt. Mohammed Hussein.

The attack was claimed by the al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabab group and also wounded 20 people. The walled, luxury Jazeera Hotel is considered the most secure in Somalia’s capital and is frequented by diplomats, foreigners and visiting heads of state.

“This is really scary — destroying the Jazeera hotel like this means no blast walls can make anyone safe,” said bystander Yusuf Mohammed. The use of huge truck bombs is a relatively new phenomenon and throws into doubt whether any place in the capital is now adequately protected.

While blast destroyed at least eight rooms and stunned the residents of the Somali capital, it wasn’t as bad as it might have been because the truck, which contained a ton of explosives, was stopped at the blast walls outside the hotel.

“The damage is big but a lot less because the truck bomb couldn’t go beyond the walls that lay a few meters from the hotel’s perimeter walls,” said Mohammed Abdi, a police officer.

Nervous soldiers fired in the air to disperse a crowd who surged toward the hotel after the blast as medical workers transported wounded victims into awaiting ambulances.

The attack comes as Somali forces backed by troops from the African Union have launched an offensive, dubbed Operation Jubba Corridor, to push al-Shabab out of its last strongholds. The coalition already has driven the group out of the capital.

In a statement, Al-Shabab said the attack was in retaliation for the deaths of dozens of civilians at the hands of Ethiopian forces, which are part of the AU force, and that the hotel was targeted because it hosts “Western” embassies coordinating the offensive.

The attack came as President Barack Obama was leaving neighboring Kenya for Ethiopia. The president’s visit has included discussions about how to deal with the threat of al-Shabab.

 

TIME Somalia

Somali Militant Leader Killed in U.S. Drone Strike

Several others were killed and wounded in the attack

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A senior commander and other members of the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in southwestern Somalia, Somali and U.S. officials and a militant commander said Thursday.

The attack Wednesday night near the rebel-held town of Bardhere was an operation planned by U.S. and African Union forces, according to a U.S. official who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. The joint force was moving toward the town when rebels advanced on them, he said. A U.S. drone fired on the rebels killing and wounding a number of them, he said.

One of those killed was al-Shabab commander Ismael Jabhad, a Somali intelligence official told The Associated Press. The official insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

An al-Shabab official named Abu Mohammed confirmed the attack but gave no details.

The U.S. has carried out many airstrikes in Somalia targeting leaders of al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida.

Al-Shabab is responsible for carrying out a series of deadly attacks on civilians, government troops and African Union forces across Somalia. The group has also carried out attacks in Kenya and Uganda, countries that have sent troops to Somalia as part of the African Union force protecting Somalia’s weak federal government.

Al-Shabab militants have been pushed out of much of the territory they once controlled across the Horn of Africa nation, including the capital, Mogadishu. But the rebels remain a lethal threat, frequently carrying out drive-by shootings, suicide bombings and other attacks.

___

AP writer Lolita Baldor contributed to this report from Washington.

TIME Kenya

Kenya Rolls Back Threat to Close Massive Refugee Camp

An overview of the part of the eastern sector of the IFO-2 camp in the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp, north of the Kenyan capital Nairobi seen on April 28, 2015.
Tony Karumba—AFP/Getty Images An overview of the part of the eastern sector of the IFO-2 camp in the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp, north of the Kenyan capital Nairobi seen on April 28, 2015.

The shift came after a visit from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said Wednesday that hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees in the Dadaab camp would not be forcefully repatriated, walking back a threat made last month after a deadly attack at a university by the militant group al-Shabaab.

In a statement issued by his office, according to the New York Times, citing news agencies, Kenyatta said his country “has been, and will continue, fulfilling its international obligations.” The new comments come after Kenyatta met with the United Nations’ top refugee official and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The government drew international condemnation after calling for the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp, one of the world’s largest and which houses some 350,000 Somalis, in the wake of the attack in Garissa that killed nearly 150 people, mostly students.

[New York Times]

TIME Kenya

Al-Shabaab Says Kenyan Cities Will Run ‘Red With Blood’

Attack on Kenya's Garissa University College
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Security forces guard after Al-Shabaab terrorists shot the students' way into Garissa University College, at least 147 students were killed and 79 injured, in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 2.

"No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety"

The Somali terror group behind Thursday’s deadly assault on a Kenyan college campus threatened a “long, gruesome war” against the country, according to a media report on Saturday.

Reuters reports that it received an emailed statement from al-Shabaab that said Kenya’s cities would run “red with blood.”

In a televised speech on Saturday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya would “do everything to defend our way of life,” and vowed not to allow al-Shabaab to create an Islamic caliphate in Kenya, according to Reuters. The President also declared three days of national mourning.

Early Thursday morning, assailants armed with guns and grenades attacked the Garissa University College Campus, targeting Christian students and killing at least 148 people, mostly students, with the death toll expected to rise. Kenyan officials said they found one survivor on the campus on Saturday.

The Somali-based al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, and in the statement to Reuters said it was in retribution for Kenya’s participation in the African Union-led fight against the group in Somalia and for mistreatment of Muslims in Kenya. The group was also responsible for the siege of an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi that left 67 people dead.

“No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath from occurring in your cities,” the group said, according to Reuters. “This will be a long, gruesome war of which you, the Kenyan public, are its first casualties.”

[Reuters]

TIME Kenya

Mourning Turns to Anger in Kenya After College Massacre

Kenya's National Assembly majority leader Aden Duale delivers a speech during a rally in Garissa, Kenya, on April 3, 2015. More than one thousand local residents attended the rally to emphasis security and condemn terrorist activities.
Sun RuiboXinhua/Landov Kenya's National Assembly majority leader Aden Duale delivers a speech during a rally in Garissa, Kenya, on April 3, 2015. More than one thousand local residents attended the rally to emphasis security and condemn terrorist activities.

The death toll is expected to rise

Hundreds joined a protest in the Kenyan town of Garissa against the Islamist group al-Shabaab on Friday, a day after the militants from neighboring Somalia stormed a nearby college campus and killed at least 147 people.

The assault has rocked the nation and also raised questions about security measures after multiple warnings of a potential terror attack were raised in the days prior.

“It’s because of laxity by the government that these things are happening. For something like this to happen when there are those rumors is unacceptable,” Mohamed Salat, a Somali Kenyan businessman, told Reuters.

Early Thursday, assailants armed with guns and grenades attacked the Garissa University College Campus, targeting Christian students and killing nearly 150 people, mostly students, with the death toll expected to rise.

The al-Shabaab terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, its latest in a series of assaults that it says are in retribution for Kenya’s participation in the African Union-led fight against the group in Somalia.

On Friday, President Barack Obama said he spoke with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and said he still plans to visit Kenya in July, a trip the White House announced earlier this week.

[Reuters]

TIME Kenya

Christians Hunted Down as al-Shabab Kill 147 in Kenya

Students evacuated from Garissa University listen to an address by Interior Minister for Security Joseph Ole Nkaissery before they are transported to their home regions from a holding area on April 3, 2015.
Carl de Souza—AFP/Getty Images Students evacuated from Garissa University College listen to an address by Interior Minister for Security Joseph Ole Nkaissery before they are transported to their home regions from a holding area on April 3, 2015.

“If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die”

At least 147 people have been killed and 79 wounded in the Thursday’s attack on a Kenya university, according to the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre. The centre says security forces have rescued more than 500 students from the Garissa University College campus but fighting is still going on.

For the past two weeks intelligence agencies in both Uganda and Kenya have issued warnings of possible terrorist attacks by the Islamist group al-Shabaab. The alerts urged caution about going to venues popular with westerners in Kampala, and vigilance around major infrastructure projects or universities in Kenya. Those warnings bore fruit just before dawn on Thursday as masked militants stormed a university dormitory complex in the Kenyan town of Garissa, launching grenades and firing guns.

President Uhuru Kenyatta released a statement urging Kenyans to “stay calm as we resolve this matter,” and extended his condolences “to the families of those who have perished.” He begged Kenyans to “provide the authorities with any information they may have in connection with any threats to our security” while announcing that the government had commenced the “appropriate deployment” of security forces. Reports from Garissa show that Kenyan tanks are heading to the sealed off university area, and that the militants have gathered on the roof, preparing for a violent showdown even as hostages huddle inside.

Earlier on Thursday, student Collins Wetangula told the Associated Press that when the militants stormed his dorm, he could hear them demanding if residents were Muslim or Christian. “If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”

“All I could hear were footsteps and gunshots nobody was screaming because they thought this would lead the gunmen to know where they are,” he said. “The gunmen were saying sisi ni al-Shabab (Swaihi for we are al-Shabaab).”

Al-Shabaab, which means “the Youth,” got its start in Somalia as the militant youth wing of an Islamist government that was defeated in 2006. With fighters numbering around 8,000, including several foreign recruits, it soon regained territory in southern Somalia. Al-Shabaab even held the capital, Mogadishu, until a U.N. backed national government forced it out in 2011 with the help of African Union forces. Reeling from a loss of terrain and resources, the group started launching raids and kidnappings across the border in Kenya in search of income. Kenya responded by sending troops, which engendered more retaliatory attacks. In 2012, al-Shabaab pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda, and the effectiveness of its attacks increased as a result.

Al Shabaab, which brutally enforces a strict interpretation of fundamentalist Islam, still controls large swaths in the rural south of Somalia where it promises security in exchange for protection from the lawlessness that has afflicted the country for more than two decades. But as African Union forces and U.N. peacekeepers squeeze al-Shabaab from territory it once claimed, the group has lashed out with increasingly sophisticated terror attacks. Neighbors Uganda and Kenya, whose governments contribute troops to the U.N. and African Union military missions in Somalia, have borne the brunt of their anger. The Garissa raid is but the latest in a string of devastating terror attacks that have rocked Kenya since the 2013 assault on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, which killed 67. Uganda, too, has been targeted: on Tuesday suspected al-Shabaab gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed the Ugandan prosecutor presiding over the trial of 13 men implicated in a 2010 twin suicide bombing claimed by al-Shabaab. After each major attack claimed by the group, a spokesman invariably states that the assaults are revenge for that country’s military adventures in Somalia. The Garissa attacks are unlikely to be any different.

TIME National Security

Al-Shabab Leader Killed in Drone Strike

Adan Garar is believed to have masterminded the 2013 Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi

An American drone strike has killed a leader of Somali militant group al-Shabab, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.

Adan Garar was hit by a drone missile near the town of Diinsoor, southern Somalia, on March 12, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Garar is believed to be behind the 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people.

The U.S. describes Garar as “a key operative” who was “responsible for coordinating al-Shabab’s external operations, which target U.S. persons and other Western interests.”

The Pentagon believes he “posed a major threat to the region and international community.”

Just hours before Garar’s death was confirmed, al-Shabab, a militant Islamist organization, attacked a shop in the Kenyan town of Wajir, killing four people.

TIME Somalia

Islamist Extremist Leader Surrenders in Somalia

Somalia Extremist Leader Surrenders
Farah Abdi Warsameh—AP In this Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 file photo, hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18km south of Mogadishu, in Somalia. A Somali intelligence official says Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi, a leader with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab who has a $3 million bounty on his head, has surrendered to police in Somalia.

Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi turned himself into Somali police, an intelligence official said

A leader from the Islamist extremist group al-Shabab has reportedly surrendered to Somali police.

Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi was one of eight leaders of the extremist group that has been on the Obama Administration’s wanted list since 2012, according to the Associated Press. A total of $33 million was offered in exchange for information that could lead to their capture. There was a $3 million bounty out on Hersi.

The leader’s surrender comes just days after an attack by al-Shabab Christmas Day on an African Union base in Mogadishu killed nine people, including three African Union soldiers. That attack was allegedly in retaliation for the killing of Ahmed Abdi Godane, al-Shabab’s former top leader.

An intelligence official told the AP that Hersi may have surrendered because he had fallen out with al-Shabab extremists loyal to Godane.

[AP]

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Dec. 5, 2014

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Andrew Quilty‘s work on Pakistani refugees in Afghanistan. Some 100,000 civilians fled the Pakistani military’s offensive against insurgents in North Waziristan this past summer by seeking shelter across the border in Afghanistan. More than 3,000 families ended up at the Gulan Refugee Camp in Gurbuz District in Khost, only to find out another danger was lurking underneath their feet. It turned out the camp is located above a decades old minefield from the time muhajideen were fighting the Russians. Quilty’s compelling photographs capture these unfortunate refugees haunted by weapons of an old war.


Andrew Quilty: Finding Refuge on a Mine Field (Foreign Policy)

William Daniels: Fighting Over the Spoils of War in Central African Republic (Al Jazeera America) These photographs show how natural riches play a part in the conflict often seen purely in ethnic terms | Part of a series of posts on Central African Republic.

Best Photos of the Year 2014 (Reuters)

War’s effect on peace is examined in new Tate show (Phaidon) Tate Modern curator Shoair Mavlian talks about the new exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography.

Elena Chernyshova (Verve Photo) The World Press Photo award-winning Russian photographer writes about one of her photographs from Norilsk.


Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

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