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Triple suicide bombing kills three, wounds dozens in Ugandan capital

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November 16, 2021

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) -A triple suicide bombing killed at least three people in the heart of Uganda’s capital on Tuesday, sending members of parliament and others rushing for cover as cars burst into flames in the latest in a wave of bomb attacks.

The blasts in Kampala shocked a nation that is known as a bulwark against violent Islamist militants in East Africa, and whose leader has spent years cultivating Western security support.

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At least 33 people were being treated in hospital, including five who were in critical condition, police spokesperson Fred Enanga said.

The death toll including the three bombers was six, Enanga said.

A diplomat told Reuters two police were among the victims. Enanga confirmed the death toll included police but declined to give further details.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Police said intelligence indicated the Islamic State-aligned Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) were responsible.

“Our intelligence … indicates that these are domestic terror groups that are linked to ADF,” Enanga said.

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The explosions – the first near the central police station and the second very close to parliament – sent bloodied office workers rushing for cover over shards of broken glass as a plume of white smoke rose above the downtown area.

A suicide bomber wearing a backpack carried out the first blast near the checkpoint at the police station, which killed two people, Enanga said. The second attack, involving two suicide bombers on motorbikes, killed one other person.

“A booming sound like that from a big gun went off. The ground shook, my ears nearly went deaf,” said Peter Olupot, a 28-year-old bank guard who was near the attack close to parliament.

“I saw a vehicle on fire and everyone was running and panicking. I saw a boda boda (motorcycle) man – his head was smashed and covered in blood.”

A Reuters journalist saw burned cars behind a police cordon at the scene and a reporter with local television station NTV Uganda said he saw two bodies in the street.

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Anti-terrorism police caught another person who was preparing to carry out an attack, Enanga said, adding: “We are now pursuing other members of the terror group.”

MILITANT GROUPS

The al Qaeda-linked Somali insurgent group al Shabaab has carried out deadly attacks in Uganda in the past, including a 2010 attack that killed 70 people.

Ugandan soldiers are fighting al Shabaab in Somalia as part of an U.N.-backed African Union peacekeeping force. An al Shabab spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The ADF is a separate group, founded by Ugandan Muslims but now largely active in the forested mountains of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where it has been blamed for thousands of civilian deaths.

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Last month, Islamic State made its first claim of responsibility for a blast in Uganda – an attack on a police station in Kampala’s Kawempe neighbourhood in which no one was killed.

It later also said a “security detachment” in “Central Africa Province” had placed a bomb in a restaurant. Police said it killed a waitress and wounded three others, and linked it to the ADF, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Also last month, Ugandan police said a suicide bomber had blown up a bus, killing only himself. His affiliation was unclear.

Dino Mahtani of the think tank International Crisis Group said ADF’s focus had once been on settling local scores and controlling local war economies.

“With the more recent affiliation of its main faction to ISIS (Islamic State), a number of foreigners from across East Africa with more globalist jihadist agendas have been arriving into its camps,” he said.

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(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Giles Elgood, Angus MacSwan and Timothy Heritage)

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Poor weather hampers search and rescue efforts at Indonesia volcano

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December 6, 2021

By Willy Kurniawan

SUMBERWULUH, Indonesia (Reuters) – Officials monitoring Indonesia’s Semeru volcano on Monday warned residents to remain vigilant after a deadly eruption over the weekend, as heavy wind and rain brought search-and-rescue efforts to a halt.

The tallest mountain on the island of Java erupted dramatically on Saturday, shooting a towering column of ash into the sky that blanketed surrounding villages. Fourteen people were killed and dozens more injured.

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Aerial footage showed roofs jutting out of an ashen landscape, while on the ground military officers, police and residents dug through mud with their hands to extricate victims.

GRAPHIC-Indonesia Semeru eruption

To view the graphic, click here: https://graphics.reuters.com/INDONESIA-VOLCANO/klvyknzmbvg/INDONESIA-VOLCANO.jpg

On Monday, the head of the Semeru Volcano Observatory, Liswanto, warned people to keep a safe distance from the mountain, amid reports anxious residents had returned to their homes to check on belongings and livestock.

“The status of Mt. Semeru is still at level 2, which means at this level, people need to be more vigilant because the potential threat is still there,” he said.

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More than 50 people had suffered injuries from the eruption, mostly burns. Lava flows destroyed a strategic bridge connecting two areas in the nearby district of Lumajang with the city of Malang.

In the Sumberwuluh area, where two trucks lay half-buried by volcanic ash, recovery efforts came to an abrupt halt because of strong winds, a Reuters witness said.

Public kitchens and health facilities have been set up for more than 1,000 people who have been displaced.

A trauma healing team to work with children affected by the eruption has been dispatched, CNN Indonesia reported, while hundreds of aid packages, including rice, blankets and clothes and other basic necessities have been sent to the area.

Semeru is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a country that straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of high seismic activity that rests atop multiple tectonic plates.

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GRAPHIC-The Pacific Ring Of Fire

To view the graphic, click here: https://graphics.reuters.com/INDONESIA-VOLCANO/zjvqkyeamvx/RING-OF-FIRE.jpg

(Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Karishma Singh and Gerry Doyle)

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Solomon Islands prime minister faces no-confidence vote after riots

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December 6, 2021

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare faces a motion of no confidence on Monday, after anti-government riots just over a week ago saw dozens of buildings burnt down and shops looted in the capital of the Pacific island nation.

Boats have been banned from Honiara harbour, and more than 200 police and soldiers from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are on alert, amid fears the vote could trigger another outbreak of violence.

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However, Monday’s motion is not expected to gain enough support from government MPs to pass, even though four of them resigned.

Church leaders called for talks between the national government and the most populous province of Malaita to resolve a range of domestic issues and a dispute over the switching of diplomatic ties to China from Taiwan in 2019.

Sogavare was “in the service of a foreign power,” opposition leader Matthew Wale said in parliament, accusing the prime minister of using money from China in a national fund to prop up his political strength before the vote.

“The prime minister is dependent on the National Development Fund (NDF) money to maintain his political strength,” Wale said. “How can he make decisions only in the interests of the Solomon Islands?”

Sogavare’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Citizens are angry at inadequate healthcare, prime land being taken by foreigners, and logging companies overriding local interests, Wale said.

The looting and violence that erupted November 24 must be condemned, he added, but said, “It pales in comparison to the looting that happens at the top.”

Anti-government protests spiralled into violence that killed four and destroyed large parts of Honiara’s Chinatown after Sogavare refused to speak with protesters who had travelled from Malaita.

The province has a history of disputes with Guadalcanal province where the national government is based, and opposed the 2019 switch.

About 1,000 people gathered in the provincial capital of Auki to listen to a livestream of the parliament session.

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A political aide to Malaita’s premier, Daniel Suidani, told Reuters it appeared the no-confidence motion would be defeated.

Suidani is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday outlining a referendum for independence for Malaita, the adviser, Celsus Talifilu, said by telephone.

Health minister Culwick Togamana backed Sogavare’s leadership amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said he should not resign. There have been 20 cases and no deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

China had agreed to upgrade the Solomon Islands’ hospital and universities, said South New Georgia MP Danny Phillip.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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U.S. condemns militant attack in Mali that killed 31

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December 6, 2021

(Reuters) – The United States “strongly condemns” a militant attack on a bus in central Mali that killed at least 31 people and wounded 17, the State Department said on Sunday.

Unidentified gunmen on Friday opened fire on the bus as it traveled from the village of Songho to a market in Bandiagara, 6 miles (10 km) away.

The villages sit in the heart of the Mopti region, an epicenter of violence in Mali fueled by insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

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“The United States strongly condemns the attack on civilians on Saturday near Bandiagara, Mali, which left 31 dead and 17 injured,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the Malian people and will continue to partner with them in their pursuit of a safe, prosperous, and democratic future,” Price said.

Jihadist attacks have surged across Africa’s Sahel region, killing thousands and displacing millions across Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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