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The Latest: Death toll from Somalia blast rises to 276

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The Latest on explosion in Somalia’s capital (all times local):

12:45 a.m.

Somalia’s information minister Abdirahman Osman says the death toll from Saturday’s truck bombing in Mogadishu has risen to 276, with about 300 people injured.

It is the deadliest single attack in Somalia’s history. The toll is expected to rise.

Somalia’s government has blamed the al-Shabab extremist group, which has not yet commented.

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12:40 a.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he is “sickened” by the deadliest single attack in Somalia’s history.

Guterres in a tweet Sunday night urged “unity in the face of terrorism.”

Saturday’s truck bombing in Mogadishu killed at least 231 people. Another 275 are hurt. Somalia’s government has blamed the al-Shabab extremist group, which has not yet commented.

Officials fear the death toll will rise.

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10:05 p.m.

The United States is condemning “in the strongest terms” the deadliest single attack in Somalia’s history.

The State Department statement expresses condolences to victims and wishes a quick recovery for the injured.

Saturday’s truck bombing in Mogadishu killed at least 231 people. Another 275 are hurt.

The U.S. calls the attack “senseless and cowardly” and says it will stand with Somalia in its fight against extremism.

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6:35 p.m.

Qatar says its embassy was “severely damaged” in the deadly truck bombing in Somalia’s capital.

A foreign ministry statement Sunday says the embassy’s charge d’affaires was “slightly injured in the explosion but he is now in a good health, and the rest of staff are fine.”

Saturday’s blast killed at least 231 people. It is the deadliest ever attack in the Horn of Africa nation.

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5:50 p.m.

The United Nations special envoy to Somalia calls the deadly truck bombing in the capital “revolting” and says an unprecedented number of civilians have been killed.

A statement from Michael Keating says: “I am shocked and appalled by the number of lives that were lost in the bombings and the scale of destruction they caused.” Saturday’s blast struck a densely populated neighborhood of Mogadishu.

The death toll has risen to 231. It is the deadliest ever attack in the Horn of Africa nation.

Keating says the U.N. and African Union are supporting the Somali government’s response with “logistical support, medical supplies and expertise.”

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5:45 p.m.

The U.S. Africa Command says U.S. forces have not been asked to provide aid following Saturday’s deadly attack in Somalia’s capital.

A U.S. Africa Command spokesman tells The Associated Press that first responders and local enforcement would handle the response and “the U.S. would offer assistance if and when a request was made.”

A Somali senator says the death toll from the massive truck bomb blast in Mogadishu has risen to 231, with 275 people injured.

It is the deadliest ever attack in the Horn of Africa nation.

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5:35 p.m.

Angry protesters have taken to the streets in Somalia’s capital a day after a massive truck bomb killed at least 231 people.

The protesters who gathered at the scene of the blast are chanting against the attack, the deadliest ever in the Horn of Africa nation.

The government has blamed the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group for what it calls a “national disaster.” Al-Shabab has not commented but often targets Mogadishu with bombings.

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5:20 p.m.

A senator says the death toll from a massive truck bomb blast in Somalia’s capital has risen to 231.

Abshir Abdi Ahmed says 275 others were injured. He cites doctors at hospitals he has visited in Mogadishu.

Saturday’s blast is the single deadliest attack ever in the Horn of Africa nation.

Many of the bodies in hospital mortuaries are yet to be identified.

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3:05 p.m.

Local journalists say one freelance journalist was killed in Saturday’s massive bombing in Somalia’s capital and several were injured.

Voice of America says one of its reporters, Abdulkaidr Mohamed Abdulle, is among the injured.

Police and hospital sources say the death toll from the truck bomb in Mogadishu has risen to 189 in what is the single deadliest attack ever in the Horn of Africa nation.

— Abdi Guled in Mogadishu.

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2:35 p.m.

The death toll from a massive explosion in Somalia’s capital has risen to 189 with over 200 others injured, police and hospital sources say, making it the single deadliest attack ever in the Horn of Africa nation.

Doctors are struggling to assist hundreds of horrifically wounded victims, with many burnt beyond recognition.

Somalia’s government has blamed Saturday’s truck bombing in Mogadishu on the al-Shabab extremist group, which has not commented.

— Abdi Guled in Mogadishu.

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1:25 p.m.

The United States is joining the condemnation of Saturday’s massive truck bombing in Somalia’s capital that left scores dead.

A statement by the U.S. mission to Somalia says that “such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism.”

The U.S. military this year has stepped up drone strikes and other efforts this year against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia and often targets Mogadishu.

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1:20 p.m.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says four volunteers with the Somali Red Crescent Society are among the dead after a huge truck bombing in Somalia’s capital.

A statement Sunday says “this figure may rise as there are a number of volunteers still missing.”

Security and medical sources say at least 53 people are dead after what Mogadishu residents call the largest explosion they’ve ever witnessed.

Officials have pleaded for blood donations. More than 60 people are injured.

Somalia’s government has blamed the al-Shabab extremist group, which has not commented.

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10:45 a.m.

Security and medical sources say the death toll from Saturday’s truck bomb blast in Somalia’s capital has risen to 53 as hospitals struggle to cope with the high number of casualties. More than 60 others are injured.

Police Capt. Mohamed Hussein says many victims died at hospitals from their wounds.

Somalia’s government has yet to release the exact death toll from an explosion many called the most powerful they had ever witnessed in Mogadishu.

Ambulance sirens still echo across the city as bewildered families wander in the rubble of buildings.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to donate blood for the wounded victims.

The al-Shabab extremist group often targets high-profile areas in the capital with bombings.

Somaliland

Work starts on new UAE naval base in Somaliland

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ARABIAN BUSINESS — Divers Marine Contracting has started construction of a United Arab Emirates naval base in a semi-autonomous region of northern Somalia.

The closely held Sharjah-based engineering group began work on the project after being awarded the $90 million contract in April, Managing Director Abdulla Darwish said in an interview in Dubai.

The facility, being built near the regional port of Berbera, is expected to be completed by June, he said.

Berbera is located on the Gulf of Aden, 260 kilometers (162 miles) south of Yemen, where UAE troops in a Saudi Arabia-led coalition are battling Houthi rebels.

Somaliland’s foreign minister said in May that the UAE leased the airport in Berbera for 25 years as part of a pact for a military base. The gulf country is also building a military installation in Eritrea.

The Somaliland naval base will include a 300-metre L-shaped inland berthing port with a depth of 7 metres “to support the military airport,” accommodating naval vessels to patrol the Gulf of Aden, according to Darwish.

“It’s not a commercial port,” he said. “It’s only for naval vessels.”

Somaliland Foreign Minister Saad Ali Shire didn’t immediately respond to two calls to his mobile and two emails seeking comment. A UAE foreign ministry official didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Somaliland

New Somaliland president to strengthen ties with UAE

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As the self-declared state of Somaliland welcomes its new president – the fifth in a line since breaking away from Somalia in 1991 – it is looking to the UAE for a new chapter of cooperation.

Professor Ahmed Ismail Samatar, head of Public Policy for the ruling Kulmiye Party, told The National that its victorious candidate, Muse Bihi Abdi, views the UAE’s achievements with “admiration” and is keen to develop the existing ties between the two regions.

“The new partnership that’s developing between Somaliland and the UAE is a high priority for the government,” he said. “We want to deepen and strengthen and thicken the relationship with the UAE.”

The region of 4 million people has not been internationally recognised but it has recently drawn in sizeable investments from the Gulf.

Earlier this year, the government agreed to let the UAE establish a naval base in its port of Berbera.

That came after Dubai’s DP World last year signed a multimillion dollar, 30-year contract to develop the same port, which is on the south coast of the Gulf of Aden.

This month, DP World said it would also develop an economic zone in the region, modelled on Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone.

The new economic zone is aimed at positioning Berbera as a gateway port for East Africa, by encouraging investments and trade in the warehousing, logistics, manufacturing and related businesses.

“DP World building out the port of Berbera is an excellent way of injecting energy into the economy,” said Professor Samatar, who is himself formerly a Somali presidential candidate and Member of Parliament.

“There is a great deal of anticipation around the project. The people of Somaliland are hoping it becomes a major hub for goods to come and go, and of course there are other positive side-effects, such as increasing employment and developing infrastructure.
“For the military base, too, there are benefits such as greater security for the people of Somaliland. However, these benefits need to be fleshed out in more detail to the people.”

The Kulmiye party has six core public policy priorities, as laid out in their manifesto. These are: economic growth; national security and unity; foreign policy; healthcare; justice; and education.

In each of these, Professor Samatar believes there is room to develop the relationship with the UAE.

“There is so much that Somaliland can pick up from the UAE, whether it’s in education, health, business, technology, security, international relations, you name it,” he said.

“The UAE is a very cosmopolitan place; its government is run properly, its businesses are run properly, and there are international standards that the Somaliland people and their new president view with a great deal of admiration,” he said. “They want to adopt the same practices, so they can lift their own country up.”

“Even just the culture of competence, and having institutions that work well. And having an ambition to improve them even further. In that way, the UAE is a model for us, and we would be wise to observe it and learn the tricks of the trade.

“But it is important that the relationship is built carefully, it is deep, and it is intelligent.”

Asked about future projects with the UAE, “there is lots we would like to propose,” Professor Samatar said.

“Take a look at our long coast line, for instance. We need to think about how to use and really maximise that coast – from building fishing ports to developing tourism. These are areas where we can certainly learn from the UAE.

“Exploration for energy is another thing this government is focused on – not just using solar, but also natural gas, petroleum and so on. This is something else the UAE is very good at.

“And then there’s infrastructure building – this country badly needs roads, and telecommunications systems.

“So I see lots of areas where we can partner with the UAE. Indeed, the possibilities of collaboration are much more promising than just the port and the military base.”

Dr Michael Walls, chief observer for the International Election Observation Mission in Somaliland, agreed that the relationship between the UAE and Somaliland has the potential to grow further under the new president.

“A win for the ruling Kulmiye party’s candidate was always going to result in the easiest transition in terms of a relationship with the UAE,” he said. “It means there’s no need to go back and renegotiate deals struck by the previous government. So, from the UAE’s perspective, it’s really business as usual.”

He added: “Now the election is out of the way, I think things will move much faster on the port as well as developing the military base. And I have no doubt the new president will be hoping to benefit from closer cooperation with the Gulf, from improving the roads, to health, to education.

“From here on, I believe we will see more investment and what’s more, we’ll see evidence of that investment, as the projects start to come to life.”

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Briefing Room

Somalia says it requested U.S. air strike which killed 100 militants

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Somalia’s government said on Wednesday it had requested the U.S. air strike which killed more than 100 suspected militants on the previous day to help pave the way for an upcoming ground offensive against Islamist militant group al Shabaab.

The United States military’s Africa Command said on Tuesday it had killed more than 100 of the al Qaeda-linked insurgents in an air strike on a camp 125 miles (200 km) northwest of the capital Mogadishu.

“Those militants were preparing explosives and attacks. Operations against al Shabaab have been stepped up,” Abdirahman Omar Oman, the Somali minister, told Reuters.

“We have asked the U.S. to help us from the air to make our readied ground offensive more successful.”

The United States has ramped up operations in Somalia this year after President Donald Trump loosened the rules of engagement in March.

Africom reported eight U.S. air strikes from May to August this year, compared to 13 for the whole of 2016. Including Tuesday’s air strike, it has reported five strikes in Somalia this month alone.

The Pentagon said the U.S. military would continue to target militants in strikes in coordination with the Somali government.

A Navy Seal was killed in a raid in May and U.S. forces were present at a controversial raid on the town of Bariire in August, in which 10 people were killed.

Al Shabaab has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns since African Union peacekeepers supporting Somali troops pushed the insurgency out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011. But it retains a strong presence in parts of the south and center.

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a dual U.S.-Somali citizen, has taken a harder line than his predecessors against the insurgency since he was sworn in earlier this year.

But his plans have been repeatedly thwarted by the poor state of the Somali military and political infighting.

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