MOGADISHU: Thirteen people were killed and 20 others wounded in central Somalia on Saturday after a suicide bomber drove a truck packed with explosives towards a security checkpoint in the town of Beledweyne, police said.
“We have recovered the dead bodies of 13 people, most of them civilians who stayed nearby,” Ahmed Yare Adan, a local police officer, told AFP by phone.
“Around 20 wounded people were already taken to hospitals, and we believe the number of the casualties could rise,” he said.
The attack, which damaged nearby buildings, trapping people under the debris, came after Somalia´s beleaguered government admitted to suffering “several significant setbacks” in its fight against Al-Shabaab militants.
The Islamist militants have waged an insurgency for over 15 years to overthrow the fragile internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday´s bombing.
Police officer Abdukadir Yasin, who rushed to the scene after the blast, said rescuers were pulling injured victims to safety from under the rubble.
“The destruction caused is immense, more than ten dead bodies were confirmed already and the death toll can be higher,” he said.
An African Union (AU) force deployed in Somalia in 2007 with a six-month mandate but still remains on the ground, with the government now seeking to delay a planned reduction of foreign troops by three months.
UN resolutions call for the African Union Transition in Somalia (ATMIS) force to be reduced to zero by the end of next year, handing over security to the Somali army and police.
Somali troops launched a major offensive against the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab in central Somalia in August last year, joining forces with local clan militias in an operation backed by the AU force and US air strikes.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office in May last year vowing “all-out war” against Al-Shabaab, who were driven from Mogadishu in 2011 but control swathes of the countryside.
Mohamud, who has recently been visiting the frontline, said in August that government would “eliminate” the jihadists by the end of the year.
But Somalia´s national security adviser wrote to the United Nations requesting a 90-day delay to the planned pullout of 3,000 AU troops by the end of September.
In the letter seen by AFP, he said the government had “managed to re-liberate towns, villages and critical supply routes” during its offensive but had suffered “several significant setbacks” since late August.
“This unforeseen turn of events has stretched our military forces thin, exposed vulnerabilities in our frontlines and necessitated a thorough reorganisation to ensure we maintain our momentum in countering the Al-Shabaab threat,” the letter said.-AFP
Thousands march against police violence in France
Paris: Tens of thousands of people marched in France Saturday to protest police violence in demonstrations organised by the left, with clashes breaking out on the margins of the Paris rally.
The nationwide protest came just under three months after the point-blank killing by a policeman of a youth outside Paris at a traffic check sparked over a week of rioting in Paris and elsewhere.
In Paris, demonstrators of all ages held up placards proclaiming “Stop state violence”, “Don´t forgive or forget” or “The law kills”, with a statue of justice with its eyes crossed out in red.
The demonstrators took particular aim at article 435-1 of the internal security code, introduced in 2017, which extends the possibility for the forces of law and order to shoot in the event of a suspect´s refusal to comply.
The demonstrators were responding to a call by the radical left including the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI).
Unions said some 80,000 people joined the protests across France, including 15,000 in Paris, but the interior ministry put the number at 31,300 nationwide, with 9,000 in Paris.
The government denounced “unacceptable violence” on the margins of the march in Paris, after were officers trapped in their police vehicle when it was attacked, an AFP correspondent said.
Hundreds of people wearing black and in hoods broke away from the main march of several thousand people in Paris
They smashed the windows of a bank branch and threw objects at a police car stuck in traffic, an AFP reporter said.
Paris police said that the police car was attacked with a crowbar and only the intervention of an anti-riot police unit allowed the release of the vehicle.
Police said that three officers were slightly injured.
A video later published by the BFMTV channel and shared on the internet showed a group of masked protesters running after the car, repeatedly kicking it, as one man smashes a window with a crowbar.
An officer gets out and brandishes his service weapon, but does not fire it and gets back in the vehicle.
“We see where anti-police hatred leads,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on X, formerly Twitter, denouncing “unacceptable violence” against the police.
Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said three people had been arrested over the incident.
Another three were arrested elsewhere in France, according to the interior ministry.
Among those marching in the northern city of Lille was 27-year-old Mohamed Leknoun, whose brother Amine was killed in August 2022 after refusing to obey police orders.
“All this injustice destroys families,” he told AFP.
He deplored the fact that he had not been informed of any progress in the investigation since the police officer who fired the fatal shot was indicted.
The march came days after the IGPN, the inspectorate responsible for investigating police misconduct, released its annual report on the use of force by officers.
It showed that in 2022, 38 people died as a result police action, including 22 who were shot dead: 13 of those deaths involved cases of someone refusing to comply with a police order. —AFP