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Al-Shabaab attack claims 12 lives in Mogadishu3 minutes read

A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into the Medina hotel in the port town of Kismayo

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Twenty-six people were killed and 56 injured in a 12-hour attack by Al-Shabaab jihadists on a popular hotel that ended early Saturday in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo. 

A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle loaded with explosives into the Medina hotel on Friday before several heavily armed gunmen forced their way inside, shooting as they went, authorities said.

It was the largest coordinated attack by the Shabaab in Kismayo since 2012 when it lost control of the city.

Three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans, one Briton and one Canadian were among the dead, president Ahmed Mohamed Islam of the semi-autonomous Jubaland region told a news conference.

The hotel was packed with politicians and prominent businessmen as meetings were underway for upcoming presidential elections in Jubaland, due in August. 

One of the candidates in the election died in the siege, local authorities said.

‘Martyrdom attack’

“The whole building is in ruins, there are dead bodies and wounded who have been recovered from inside. The security forces have cordoned off the whole area,” said witness Muna Abdirahman.

Another witness Hussein Muktar said: “The blast was very big.”

“The security forces are in control now and the last terrorist was shot and killed”, security official Mohamed Abdiweli said.

“There are dead bodies and wounded people strewn inside the hotel,” Abdiweli added. 

He said authorities believed four gunmen, who one witness described as wearing Somali police uniforms, were involved in the attack.

Halayeh’s death sparked an outpouring of grief on social media. 

She was an ardent campaigner for Somali unity and peace and had started an online TV show named Integration. 

In a recent podcast, Nalayeh said her television programme about the Somali diaspora gave the community a voice.

“Social media has changed the game for how people learn about culture. So, if we don’t become the creators of our own content, we are going to be at the mercy of other people telling the stories of Africa,” she had said.

A local journalist, Mohamed Omar Sahal, also died in the siege, the Somali journalists’ union SJS said, adding that these were the first journalist deaths in the country this year.

Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda-linked group, claimed responsibility for the siege describing it as “a martyrdom attack”.

‘Criminal, murderous, destructive’

The African Union’s Special Representative in Somalia, Francisco Madeira, said the attack was “meant to derail progress in Somalia as the country rebuilds and consolidates the gains made on peace and security. 

“The attackers are a group of people with a criminal, murderous and destructive agenda. They cannot claim to be fighting to bring good governance to the country,” he said.

The attack is the latest in a long line of bombing and assaults claimed by Shabaab, which has fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government.

The militant group emerged from Islamic Courts that once controlled central and southern Somalia and are variously estimated to number between 5,000 and 9,000 men.

In 2010, the Shabaab declared their allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

In 2011, they fled positions they once held in the capital Mogadishu, and have since lost many strongholds.

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed receives Nobel Peace Prize

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Ethiopia's Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali (R) receives the Nobel Peace Prize from Berit Reiss-Andersen (L), chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee during a ceremony at the city hall in Oslo on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was on Tuesday handed his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. 

The event was attended by the Norwegian royal family, government officials and public figures. Ironically, the prize-giving happened at a time ethnic violence was rising in the East African country.

However, the 43-year-old Prime Minister and former Intelligence Chief reaffirmed his readiness to face the challenges that come with peace.

“For me, nurturing peace is like planting and growing trees. Just like trees need water and good soil to grow, peace requires unwavering commitment, infinite patience, and goodwill to cultivate and harvest its dividends.” Ahmed said.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee Berit Reiss-Andersen (L) and Vice-Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee Henrik Syse (R) applaud Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali (C) during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at the city hall in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Following the Nobel Committee’s announcement in October that it was honouring Ahmed for his efforts to decisively resolve the long-running conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopians have expressed their concerns over the decision to honour him the prestigious award with many saying it came too early to the Prime Minister who only assumed office in April 2018.

Few months after the announcement by Nobel Committee, Ahmed shocked many, including the Committee itself when he disclosed that he was not going to grant interviews to international media or even field questions from young students who are usually given such opportunity at an event hosted by Save the Children.

 Following a meeting held in Asmara, Eritrea’s capital on 9 July 2019, between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki the 20-year-old cold war between the two countries was formally brought to an end.

Recall that the two countries plunged into prolonged hostility following the 1998-2000 border conflict.

The historic achievement happened barely three months after Ahmed assumed office as Ethiopian Prime Minister and was largely due to his diplomacy in tackling the issue.

Ahmed also showed his eagerness to boost the nation’s democracy when he released dissidents from jail, apologised for state brutality, welcomed home exiled armed groups, established a national reconciliation committee and lifted the ban on some political parties.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali speaks after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony at the city hall in Oslo on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Notwithstanding all the laudable reforms, Ahmed still faces some major challenges.

His commitment to hold the first “free, fair and democratic” elections since 2005 is being threatened by ethnic violence.

About 80 people have been killed in protests in the country in less than two weeks after his Nobel Peace Prize announcement.

On arrival in Oslo, Ahmed told a Norwegian journalist that:

“The situation in Ethiopia has… new challenges but without challenges, there is no way that we can do something new,” 

“We consider those challenges as a great opportunity to do something positive.”

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East Africa News

Austrian, Rosenberger, Triumphant at 2019 Safaricom East African Safari Classic Rally

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After 9 exhilarating race days across Kenya and Tanzania, Kris Rosenberger emerged as the new Safaricom East African Safari Classic Rally champion, after powering his Tuthill Porsche 911 to victory in Mombasa on Saturday.

The Austrian and co-driver Nicola Bleicher finished ahead of 2015 Safari Classic champion Stig Blomqvist, also in a Porsche 911. Rosenberger held a 1 minute 19.40 seconds advantage over Blomqvist before the final stage and went on to finish second in the final Mombasa Cement stage. The Austrian, who last rallied in Kenya in 1989, cruised to the finish of the 9-day endurance rally to claim victory by 13:01:48.

“It was a fantastic rally, our tactics were 100% right. We know Stig, he is obviously the best and we knew if we stay close to him and we had the pace and as we rallied through the last stage we pushed really hard. We also know that it’s really hard to beat Blomqvist and we are aware of that for sure. He had more problems than us and we still think he is the man and we are happy to be here”, said Rosenberger.

Blomqvist, navigated by compatriot Jorgen Fornander, applied his extensive experience in endurance rallying when things got tougher in the last two days of the rally. In the last section on Friday, his Porsche 911 steering dumper broke 50Km into the last stage, while on Saturday, he had a soft roll in the last Mombasa Cement stage thus losing some time and ultimately placing second.

Kabras Sugar Racing’s Onkar Rai completed the podium dash, finishing third in a Porsche 911 navigated by Drew Sturrock. Onkar managed to post the fastest times in 6 out of the 20 run competitive stages.

“I span in this last stage and luckily we are here. To be honest, it’s been a quick safari and to be able to beat people like Stig is a pretty big achievement for me. Drew has been on the notes and I have been on the pace. We had a bit of bad luck, it’s part of rallying and we get over it and we would like to be back in 2021, Onkar said.

Other best placed Kenyans include Onkar’s older brother Tejveer Rai/Gavin Laurence who finished 8th, ALS Motorsports Aslam Khan/Imran Khan who finished 11th,, while Kabras Sugar Racing’s Baldev Charger/Ravi Sini finished 14th.

Another notable driver who emerged as the new driver to watch was 27-year-old Welshman Osian Pryce, navigated by fellow countryman Dale Furnish. Osian set the quickest time in the prologue and went on to rack up the fastest times in 4 stages, including the 14Km last stage at Mombasa Cement in Kenya’s Kilifi County.

Local rally ace Baldev Charger was the events front runner in the early days, before falling behind. He did however, manage to post fastest times in 4 stages. Out of the 20 competitors that started the 3,390km journey, 17 survived the demanding course across Kenya and Tanzania. Italy’s Gilberto Sandretto navigated by legend Fabrizia Ponz, was forced to end his run, citing important personal reasons back at home that he had to attend to. Another exit was Kenya’s Rommy Bhamra who left the rally unexplained.

In staying true to the nature of the safari classic rally, the weather played a major role in the cancellation or revision of several stages: The Day 3 itinerary was cancelled after torrential rain and subsequent flash floods rendered several sectors of the stages impassable, forcing the organizers to give the competitors a near full extra day service in Arusha, Tanzania.

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East Africa News

Six-storey residential building collapses in Embakasi, Nairobi

Access to the scene by emergency responders was hampered by the poor state of the roads in Tassia

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Collapsed residential building in Tassia
Collapsed residential building in Tassia.

A six-storey building in Tassia, Embakasi, a suburb in Nairobi, has collapsed with scores of people inside it. According to the residents of the building, the structure began sinking at around 5:00 am this morning and eventually collapsed. Eyewitnesses at the scene say that three bodies had been retrieved as of 1:00 pm EAT.

Access to the scene by emergency responders was hampered by the poor state of the roads in Tassia estate and made even worse by the ongoing heavy rains being experienced in the city and across the country.

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The Kenya Red Cross, St. John’s Ambulance, Emergency Plus Medical Services (EMS Kenya) and the Kenya Police are at the scene and are being aided by the area residents.

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