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Somalia declares three days of mourning after horrific terror attack
by Guardian News, Al Jazeera, Reuters, agencies
 
Oct. 16, 2017
 
A powerful truck bomb blast has killed at least 276 people and wounded hundreds of others in Somalia''s capital, Mogadishu.
 
The powerful explosion on Saturday afternoon struck a busy junction in Hodan, a bustling commercial district in the heart of the city where shops, hotels, restaurants and government buildings cater to locals. Hundreds of people had been in the area at the time of the blast.
 
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo on Sunday declared three days of national mourning and called for donations of blood and funds to victims. Doctors at Mogadishu hospitals struggled to help badly-wounded victims, many burned beyond recognition.
 
Al-Shabab, an Islamic extremist group that has carried out dozens of attacks in Mogadishu and other parts of the country, is suspected of being behind the vicious attack.
 
Al Jazeera journalist Mohammed Adow said the car bomb blast had "all the hallmarks" of an al-Shabab attack.. This is what they''ve been doing since 2011, when they lost control of Mogadishu. The government has been unable to figure out how to stop these kinds of attacks," he said.
 
The bombing, described as the deadliest single attack in Somalia''s history, was universally condemned.
 
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, "strongly condemned" the attack in Mogadishu, his spokesman said in a statement.
 
"He conveys his condolences to the bereaved families and wishes speedy recovery to the injured," said Stephane Dujarric.
 
"The Secretary-General commends the first responders and the inhabitants of Mogadishu who have mobilised to assist the victims throughout the city. He urges all Somalis to unite in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism and work together in building a inclusive federal state."
 
On Sunday, Guterres said he was "sickened" by the bombing in the Somali capital. Michael Keating, the UN special envoy to Somalia, called the attack "revolting".
 
"I am shocked and appalled by the number of lives that were lost in the bombings and the scale of destruction they caused," he said.
 
Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commission, said the pan-African body, which has deployed a peacekeeping mission in the country, would "continue its support to the Somali government and people in their efforts to achieve sustainable peace and security".
 
15 Oct. 2017
 
Mogadishu truck bomb: 500 casualties in Somalia’s worst terrorist attack. (Guardian News)
 
At least 500 people are believed to have been killed or seriously injured in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, in one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years.
 
The death toll from Saturday’s attack, which involved a truck packed with several hundred kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives, stood at 276 on Sunday, according to Associated Press, but is expected to rise as more bodies are dug from the rubble spread over an area hundreds of metres wide in the centre of the city. At least 300 people were injured, according to local reports.
 
Rescue workers on the ground said it would be difficult to establish a definitive death toll because the intense heat generated by the blast meant the remains of many people would never be found.
 
The devastating bombing will focus attention on the decade-long battle against al-Shabaab, an Islamist group, in Somalia. It provoked a chorus of international condemnation. Michael Keating, the UN special envoy to Somalia, called it “revolting”.
 
Al-Shabab earlier this year vowed to eascalate attacks after Somalia’s recently elected president announced new military efforts against the group.
 
Doctors struggled to treat the huge numbers of seriously wounded victims on Sunday, while thousands of people queued to give blood in Mogadishu.
 
Rescue workers were still digging out injured survivors late on Sunday night. Hundreds of people took the streets to protest against the attack.
 
The city has been hit by multiple bombings in recent years. None have been as deadly as this attack, however.
 
Ambulance sirens echoed across the city on Sunday afternoon as bewildered families wandered among the rubble and wrecked vehicles, looking for missing relatives. Bodies were carried from the scene in makeshift stretchers made of blankets, as people tried to dig through the debris with their bare hands.
 
“In our 10 year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” the Aamin ambulance service tweeted.
 
“There’s nothing I can say. We have lost everything,” said Zainab Sharif, a mother of four who lost her husband in the attack. She sat outside a hospital where he was pronounced dead after hours of efforts by doctors to save him from an arterial injury.
 
Alinur Abdi, a local businessman, said: “There is nothing resilient about this. How can you say ‘we are resilient’ when people are being killed in their hundreds? We need to get our act together and find a solution for this madness.”
 
The Somali president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of national mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a plea by hospitals to donate blood for the wounded. “I am appealing to all Somali people to come forward and donate,” he said.
 
Mohamed, who took power in February, had vowed to rid the country of al-Shabaab. He has faced huge challenges, with the insurgency proving resilient to a ramped-up offensive and a famine.
 
Dr Mohamed Yusuf, the director of the Mogadishu’s Medina hospital, said his staff had been “overwhelmed by both dead and wounded”. He added: “This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past.”
 
Al-Shabaab, which has been affiliated to al-Qaida since 2011, has not yet directly claimed responsibility for the attack. However the organisation has a history of launching bomb attacks against civilian targets in Mogadishu, and is known to avoid claiming responsibility for operations which it believes may significantly damage its public image among ordinary Somalis.
 
Somalian officials said al-Shabaab did not “care about the lives of Somali people, mothers, fathers and children”.
 
The prime minister, Hassan Ali Khaire, said: “They have targeted the most populated area in Mogadishu, killing only civilians.”
 
The information minister, Abdirahman Omar Osman, said the blast was the largest the city had seen. “It’s a sad day. This is how merciless and brutal they are, and we have to unite against them,” he said.
 
15 Oct. 2017
 
Abdulkadir Abdirahman, director of Mogadishu''s ambulance service, recounts the horrors he saw after a truck bomb blast that killed and injured more than 500 people in the Somali capital. He spoke to Al Jazeera''s Hamza Mohamed:
 
"It was a normal day. Very quiet and not much work to do. I was sitting behind my desk at work. Our office is about one kilometre from the scene of the explosion.
 
All of a sudden, I heard a very big blast. Everything shook. I have never heard anything that loud before. Within a few minutes, the sky was covered with very dark smoke that covered even the sunlight.
 
I picked up my phone and called the rest of the team. I did not need to tell what just happened because they all heard it. We all rushed in the direction of the billowing smoke.
 
Aamin ambulance service was established in 2008 and we have never seen such devastation. Not even in our dreams.
 
Everywhere you looked, there were dead bodies. Everywhere you turned, there were wounded people crying for help. I never imagined I will see such a scene.
 
Big buildings were completely destroyed. Buildings crumbled. Vehicles were burned and upside down. The tarmac was covered in flesh, blood and pieces of clothes. Our country has never seen anything even close to this.
 
In one of the burned minibuses were young students coming from school, their charred remains tangled in what was left of the vehicle they were travelling in. I will never forget that gruesome sight.
 
Our 10 ambulances were not enough to take all the injured and dead to hospital. The corpses were destroyed beyond recognition. You could not tell which corpse was a man and which was a woman.
 
Everyone in the city was trying to call their family members and friends to see if they were okay. This jammed the network and we in the ambulance service could not communicate with each other or the hospitals.
 
The hospitals were overwhelmed. They had no choice but to treat the injured in the hallways because everywhere else was full.
 
I saw people I used to see every day in the city among the dead. Every home in Mogadishu has lost someone or know someone that was killed in the explosion. The city is in mourning."


 


Children fleeing conflict and disasters face high risks of exploitation
by Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons
 
10 Oct. 2017
 
States must step up their work to protect migrant children from sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation, two UN experts say in a joint study, warning that many children currently suffer sexual and labour exploitation amid “ineffective” action by countries around the world.
 
Children fleeing conflict and disasters face high risks of exploitation - with lone children facing particular dangers - and States are falling short in their duty to protect them, said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, presenting their joint report to the General Assembly in New York.
 
“States must recognize the international protection needs of children who flee conflicts and crises,” the experts said. “In particular, States must ensure that unaccompanied and separated children are promptly identified, registered and referred to the child protection system.”
 
“All children, including those accompanied by parents or other legal guardians, must be treated as individual rights-holders, not criminals,” they added.
 
The UN experts said States’ existing responses to the various forms of exploitation faced by children fleeing conflict and humanitarian crisis were largely ineffective and led to precariousness.
 
“In spite of some promising practices, the interim care and durable solutions for vulnerable children on the move often do not consider the specific needs of children, especially those separated or unaccompanied who live in mixed spaces with adult migrants or refugees in areas or camps that lack basic amenities,” the experts said.
 
“All children on the move are vulnerable to sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation,” the experts said. “Children must be protected first and foremost as children. Tailored solutions must be adopted for each case, including as appropriate additional protection offered by national legislation providing assistance, protection and residence status to children close to adulthood.”
 
Too often States fail to protect children and to identify indicators of trafficking and exploitation. “The existence of numerous cases of sexual exploitation of children, even in refugee camps and state-run facilities is an additional indication of the failure of a protection system meant to safeguard them.”
 
In their joint report, the UN experts urge States to adopt proactive protection measures for children affected by conflict and crisis, such as family- and community-based solutions and creating safe child-friendly spaces. They also advised strengthening the professionals working with migrants and refugees where they live and where they arrive in large numbers, and train them to identify international protection entitlements as well as indicators of sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation.”
 
“States should also make sure children can easily report sexual abuse and exploitation, and ensure that those without family members are placed with trained guardians as soon as possible,” they added.
 
“The sale of and trafficking in children has to be prevented, with a particular focus on protecting orphans, children left behind by parents fleeing conflict, and those who have fled conflict and crises without their families,” the experts said.
 
“States must adopt measures to prevent the sexual and labour exploitation of children, including by establishing accessible, safe and regular channels of migration, respecting the principle of non-refoulement and ensuring that migrant and refugee children have regular access to education and life skills training in the host country,” the experts added. http://bit.ly/2yfBLqw http://bit.ly/2eSmUdZ


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