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Somalia is making progress in convincing East African nations that it’s a viable trading partner. One of its biggest challenges remain security, But by improving controls at transit hubs and tightening immigration policies, the country is hoping to open its borders to free trade. CGTN’s Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.

Somali News

Mogadishu Blasts Death Toll Rises to 38

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VOA — The death toll from two suicide car bomb blasts that ripped through the Somali capital of Mogadishu Friday, has risen to at least 38 people, according to government sources.

Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan of the Aamin Ambulance Service said the bombings targeted the presidential palace and a hotel. At least 30 other people were wounded. Adan said that most of the victims were civilians.

The first blast occurred near the country’s intelligence headquarters. Minutes later, another car bomb hit a checkpoint about 300 meters from Somalia’s presidential palace.

The al-Shabab Islamist militant group claimed responsibility in a statement posted online, saying it was targeting the government and security services.

A Somali intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told VOA that suspected al-Shabab militants in a vehicle were stopped at the checkpoint, and began firing before the car exploded.

He said militants trying to escape were fighting Somali security officials pursuing them in the vicinity.

“We heard two big explosions and gunfire is still echoing in two different directions of the city,” Mogadishu resident Nur Abdulle told VOA. “After [the] blasts, we could see a huge cloud of smoke [go up] into the air.”

Al-Shabab has attacked dozens of government buildings, hotels, restaurants, and other targets in Mogadishu in recent years.

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Briefing Room

Singapore-flagged tanker attacked off Somalia but escapes

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AP — Mogadishu – An international anti-piracy force says a Singapore-flagged chemical tanker has exchanged fire with attackers off the coast of Somalia before escaping unharmed.

The European Union anti-piracy force says in a statement that the MT Leopard Sun was attacked by two skiffs early on Friday about 160 nautical miles off central Somalia. A private security team on the tanker fired warning shots and the skiffs turned away about 20 minutes later.

The Horn of Africa nation saw a brief resurgence of pirate attacks a year ago.

The EU statement says Friday’s attack is “likely to be piracy related” and is the first such attack since November.

The statement says the chemical tanker had been en route from Oman to Cape Town, South Africa.

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Somali News

BREAKING: 2 blasts, gunfire rock Somalia’s capital

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A Somali police official says two car bomb blasts have rocked the capital, Mogadishu, followed by sustained gunfire. Three people have been killed.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein says the first blast, apparently caused by a suicide car bomber, occurred near Somalia’s intelligence headquarters.

The second blast occurred near parliament’s headquarters, where security forces have engaged with gunmen thought to be trying to attack the presidential palace.

The explosions have shattered a months-long period of calm in Mogadishu, which is often the target of attacks by the al-Shabab extremist group.

There is no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday evening’s blasts.

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