Daily Archives: March 23, 2019

Fulani Herders Killed in Malian Violence

BAMAKO, MALI Gunmen killed at least 134 Fulani herders in central Mali on Saturday, a local mayor said, the deadliest such attack of recent times in a region reeling from worsening ethnic and jihadist violence.

The assaults on the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara took place as a U.N. Security Council mission visited Mali seeking solutions to violence that killed hundreds of civilians last year and is spreading across West Africa’s Sahel region.

Moulaye Guindo, mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, said armed men, dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, encircled and attacked Ogossagou about 4 a.m. (0400 GMT).

“We are provisionally at 134 bodies recovered by the gendarmes,” Guindo told Reuters by telephone from Ogossagou. He said another nearby Fulani village, Welingara, had also been attacked, causing “a number” of deaths, but he did not yet know how many.

Security sources said the dead included pregnant women, children and elderly people.

One Ogossagou resident, who asked not to be identified, said the attack appeared to be in retaliation for an al-Qaida affiliate’s claim of responsibility on Friday for a raid last week that killed 23 soldiers.

That group said that raid was payback for violence by Mali’s army and militiamen against the Fulani.

Ethnic rivalries exploited

Jihadist groups linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years to boost recruitment and render vast swaths of territory virtually ungovernable.

French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance from the desert north, but the militants have since regrouped and expanded their presence into central Mali and the neighboring countries.

Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali. The United States also has hundreds of troops in the region.

Security Council ambassadors met with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other government officials on Friday evening to discuss the violence and the slow implementation of a 2015 peace agreement with non-Islamist armed groups.

“Clear sense of frustration among many Security Council members at pace of implementation of Mali Peace Agreement,” Britain’s representative on the mission, Stephen Hickey, wrote on Twitter. “Security Council prepared to impose sanctions on those who impede its implementation.”

Source: Voice of America

Al-Shabab Attack in Somali Capital Kills at Least 10

Militants stormed Somali government offices in Mogadishu on Saturday after setting off a car bomb, and officials said at least 10 people were killed, including a deputy minister. Authorities of Mogadishu’s only free ambulance service said they had collected nearly 10 other wounded civilians.

According to eyewitnesses, the attack began when the suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car at the front gate of the compound that houses the Labor and Public Works and Reconstruction ministries.

“A car bomb hit the main gate of one of the compounds and then extremists armed with assault rifles stormed to the buildings, engaging a fierce battle with security forces,” Ahmed Mohamed Iman, director general of Somalia’s Ministry of Public Works and Reconstruction, who was present during the attack, told VOA Somalia.

Iman said some attackers rampaged through the buildings in an attempt to take some workers hostage, but were shot by the security forces.

“A huge blast occurred that forced my car to almost fly. Then I saw at least four gunmen in government uniforms storming into the building. I also saw the dead bodies of four civilians and several others wounded, lying along the road,” said Somali lawmaker Mohamud Abdullahi Ahmed.

He said the Somali security forces evacuated dozens of government staff members from the buildings immediately after the assault, but during the attack the militants shot Saqar Ibrahim Abdalla, the deputy labor minister, who also was a lawmaker in the Somali Parliament.

Al-Shabab militants said in a statement that the group was behind the attacks and had killed number of government officials.

Separately, at least three other, smaller blasts were reported Saturday in different areas in Mogadishu.

Two of those explosions targeted a checkpoint manned by Somali security forces and patroling soldiers, killing four soldiers and wounding 10 civilians.

The latest assault and the blasts came days after dozens of Somali National Army soldiers staged a mutiny and left their front-line bases in the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, complaining for months about the lack of salaries.

Analysis during the last six months shows the number of militants coming to and hiding in Mogadishu has increased because they are fleeing from U.S. drone attacks and special operations that target them in their bases outside Mogadishu.

Source: Voice of America

Blast Kills Eight Children in Sudan, Police Say

KHARTOUM, SUDAN Eight children were killed on Saturday in the Sudanese city of Omdurman when an unidentified object they found exploded, a police spokesman told AFP.

Seven children were killed on the spot, while the eighth one died of wounds at a hospital, Gen. Hashim Abdelrahim said.

He said the children, who were thought to be searching for scrap that they later sell, came across a “strange object” that “exploded” when they handled it.

The area where the incident took place in north Omdurman hosted a military facility several years ago.

Sudanese state media confirmed that eight children had died in a blast. It did not offer details.

Abdelrahim said police were investigating the incident.

Many school-age children often have to resort to menial jobs to earn a living amid a worsening economic crisis that has seen food prices soar.

The economic crisis has triggered nationwide protests for more than three months against the rule of President Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir has remained defiant. He imposed a nationwide state of emergency on Feb. 22 to quell the demonstrations, seen as the biggest challenge to his three-decade rule.

Source: Voice of America

BIG EXPLOSION HEARD IN SOMALI CAPITAL MOGADISHU

A big explosion was heard in the heart of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Saturday, with a plume of smoke seen above the scene of blast, a Reuters witness reported.

It was not clear who was responsible for the blast and what exactly had been detonated although Islamist group al Shabaab frequently carries out bombings in the Horn of Africa country.

“The first blast took place at the Ministry of Labor … there are also other ministry buildings near the scene. It was a suicide car bomb followed by gunfire,” said police officer Major Mohamed Hussein.

He added that a second blast had followed the initial one.

Al Shabaab is fighting to topple Somalia’s western backed central government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

The group was ejected from Mogadishu in 2011 and has since been driven from most of its other strongholds across the country. But it remains a formidable threat, with its fighters frequently carrying out bombings in Somalia and neighboring Kenya.

Troops from Kenya form part of the African Union- mandated peacekeeping force AMISOM that helps defend Somalia’s central government. �

Source: National News Agency

India, Southeast Asia to Mark Five Years of Being Polio-free

GENEVA The World Health Organization says that on March 27, India’s 1.3 billion people and the entire WHO Southeast Asia region will celebrate five years of being polio-free.

Twelve years ago, the WHO said, India alone was responsible for almost 70 percent of all polio cases around the world. It called India’s success against polio one of the most significant achievements in public health.

WHO officials said India’s accomplishment proved the crippling disease could be eliminated in even the most challenging circumstances with a strong political commitment.

Worldwide, the number of cases due to wild poliovirus has decreased from an estimated 350,000 a year in 1988, when the WHO launched its global eradication campaign, to 33 in 2018.

Trouble spots

WHO spokesman Christian Lindemeier told VOA that polio remained endemic in only three countries in two of the organization’s six regions: Nigeria in the African region and Pakistan and Afghanistan in the eastern Mediterranean region.

“There has been no wild polio virus detected in Africa since 2016, and we are cautiously optimistic that AFRO, our African region, is on the path to certification as well,” Lindemeier said. “EMRO, our eastern Mediterranean region, has only those two countries, which have never stopped polio, unfortunately � Afghanistan, Pakistan.”

Lindemeier said the countries are considered a joint reservoir of the virus. Therefore, he said, both are getting most of the focus and support from the WHO’s polio eradication program. He said tailored and innovative tactics were being put in place to deal with the challenges in each country.

The strategies include identifying, tracking and vaccinating migrant and hard-to-reach populations. Lindemeier said community workers would be trained to go door to door to find children who haven’t been vaccinated and immunize them against polio.

The WHO said the polio virus does not respect borders. It said polio would not be eradicated until every last child was protected.

Source: Voice of America