Nairobi hit by grenade attacks as Somalis turn against Kenyan incursion

Nairobi hit by grenade attacks as Somalis turn against Kenyan incursion. At least 279 killed in Turkey quake. Bloody weekend in Colombia just 10 days before elections. Indonesian police officer shot dead in Papua. All this in today’s briefing...
Josephine Whitaker
25 October 2011

Nairobi hit by grenade attacks as Somalis turn against Kenyan incursion

Two grenade attacks in Nairobi on Monday left at least one person dead and dozens injured. The first attack took place in the morning, with a grenade thrown into a bar; the second saw a grenade thrown at a minibus during evening rush hour.

The attacks come only days after the US embassy issued a warning that reprisal attacks in places where foreigners are known to congregate were likely.

The openSecurity verdict: Although it is not yet clear who was responsible for the attack, all eyes are on Al-Shabaab, the Somali militant group that controls large swathes of southern Somalia. The Kenyan government last week sent troops into neighbouring Somalia, in an unprecedented move designed to enhance its own security, according to officials. The government also announced that it would tackle the group’s sympathizers in Nairobi.

The offensive, conducted with support of the Somali transitional federal government’s (TFG) army, was reportedly advancing towards the port town of Kismayo on Sunday. There were also reports of aerial bombardments of the town.

While the Somali government was initially supportive of the Kenyan operation, yesterday the President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed distanced himself from it, saying he only wanted Kenya to train and provide logistical support to his troops. Despite an agreement signed last week between the two governments to “cooperate in undertaking security and military operations” in the Lower Juba region, Sharif today said “Somalia’s government and its people will not allow forces entering its soil without prior agreement.”

Analysts believe that there are growing fears in Sharif’s government, which in practice controls little of the country’s territory, that the Kenyan incursion is designed to achieve Kenyan control of the Lower Juba region.


At least 279 killed in Turkey quake

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck in a mountainous region of eastern Turkey yesterday has already claimed over 279 lives, with hundreds still to be accounted for. Thousands left homeless by the quake will face another freezing night in temporary shelters, as rescue workers race against time to reach those still trapped in collapsed buildings.

Worst affected were the cities of Ercis and Van, where almost 1000 buildings are believed to have been destroyed in the quake-hit zone. However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who visited the affected area on Sunday, expressed fears that many mud brick houses in remote villages would have been completely destroyed.

Rescue workers were on the scene soon after the quake struck, but many have complained of inadequate equipment to tackle collapsed apartment blocks. Families made homeless by the quake have also reported that there is an insufficient numbers of tents while others have reported that tents are being unfairly distributed.

The quake struck an already impoverished region of Turkey, which is battling a decades-long insurgency which killed 24 soldiers in a terrorist attack last week. In response, Ankara last week launched a fresh offensive against the PKK, which today saw Turkish tanks cross the border into northern Iraq.


Bloody weekend in Colombia just 10 days before elections

Ten government troops were killed on Saturday in Arauca province, Colombia, just hours after ten soldiers were killed in Narino province on Friday, in the country’s most violent weekend this year

Although, reports of how the soldiers died are conflicting,  both raids are believed to have been carried out by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftwing terrorist group that has been waging armed insurrection in Colombia since the 1960s. FARC has a history of pre-election violence in Colombia. At least 41 candidates have been killed so far in violence in the run-up to national elections due on 30 October.

The last ten years have seen a significant reduction in FARC’s capabilities, thanks to a state offensive against the group. However, it is still able to conduct hit and run operations such as those of the last weekend


Indonesian police officer shot dead in Papua

A police officer has been shot dead in the Indonesian province of Papua, just days after soldiers stormed a Papuan independence rally, arresting hundreds of people and leaving at least five dead. Dominggus Awes, chief of police in Mulia city, was at a local airport when two unidentified men attacked him, eventually shooting him with his own gun.

“We are still chasing the attackers. We believe they are separatists trying to steal weapons from security forces for their group,” a local police spokesman told AFP. However, the Free Papua Organisation denies these allegations, saying that any claims the attackers belonged to OPM must be independently verified.

The shooting comes as tensions run high in Papua, after at least five people were killed after hundreds of arrests at an independence rally in Abepura, near the provincial capital Jayapura, on Wednesday. Bodies bearing evidence of gunshot wounds were found outside a local military office the day after the arrests.

According to local witnesses, hundreds of troops surrounded the 5000 participants at the Third Papuan Congress, a gathering calling for independence for the Melanesian majority, firing shots into the air and beating protestors with their fists. The government has defended its actions today, claiming it was cracking down on a separatist rebellion that had to be quashed.

Indigenous Papuans have been struggling for self-determination for decades, but their demands have been consistently rejected by the Indonesian government, which has closed the area to foreign journalists and rights campaigners. Simply displaying the Papuan independence flag can result in long prison sentences, and six people were charged with treason in the wake of last week’s rally.

Although the province was granted a degree of autonomy in 2001, resulting in increased powers over natural resources, for example, many Papuans believe it has failed to safeguard their rights against the Indonesian army.

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