Phuket Gazette World News: Somalia rocked by hotel blasts; Palestinian envoy to Prague killed; Hong Kong stages democracy march
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
Mogadishu hotel targeted by bombs, at least 11 killed
Reuters / Phuket GazettePHUKET: Three bombs exploded within an hour outside a hotel frequented by government officials in a heavily fortified district of the Somali capital on Wednesday, killing at least 11 people.
The attacks on the Jazira hotel, one of the securest places in Mogadishu, underscore the security challenges facing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, whose election by lawmakers last year was hailed by many as a way to end two decades of conflict.
The first two bombs came in quick succession and were followed by heavy bursts of gunfire by Somali security forces. The third blast took place about an hour later when a bomb went off inside a car that was being searched by the military.
At least one of the first two bombs appeared to be a suicide bomber, police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Islamist rebel group al Shabaab has carried out a campaign of attacks over the past two and a half years in Mogadishu.
“First we heard a big crash and the security forces immediately opened fire,” said Abdullahi Hussein who lives 300 metres behind the hotel. “After a few minutes another explosion took place and there was more gunfire.”
Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of a private ambulance service, told Reuters at least 11 people had been killed and 17 others were wounded.
The attack will be an embarrassment to the government whose survival depends heavily on a near 18,000-strong African peacekeeping force. Donors pump in hundreds of millions of dollars into the Horn of Africa country every year to provide basic services.
“This year, 2014 is going to be the strengthening of Somali forces and the elimination of the extremists,” the newly appointed Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed said in a statement on Wednesday.
The African forces helped drive al Shabaab out of the capital in August 2011, as well as other major urban centres, but the militants still hold sway over swathes of rural areas.
Islamist suicide bombers attacked the Jazira hotel in September last year as Mohamud was giving a news conference just two days into the job. He and the visiting Kenyan foreign minister were unhurt in that assault.
An attack on Kenyan shopping mall in September that killed dozens of people highlighted the militants’ ability to strike beyond Somalia’s borders.
Croatia arrests ex-spy chief wanted in Germany
Reuters / Phuket GazettePHUKET: Croatia arrested on Wednesday a former intelligence chief wanted in Germany, responding to an extradition row that overshadowed the Balkan state’s accession to the European Union last summer.
Josip Perkovic was one of 10 people arrested, state news agency Hina reported, as an amended law took effect that brought the country’s extradition laws into line with most of the rest of the bloc.
He is sought in connection with the 1983 murder of a Yugoslav dissident in Bavaria, allegedly orchestrated by communist Yugoslavia’s secret services for which he then worked.
He has denied wrongdoing. His lawyer, Anto Nobilo, told state television HRT that Perkovic would oppose extradition, saying he did not expect a fair trial in Germany and because he had already been investigated and cleared of all charges in Croatia.
Shortly before joining the EU on July 1, Zagreb changed its laws to prevent the extradition of suspects in crimes committed before 2002, when new EU extradition rules had taken effect.
The government said it wanted to protect veterans of Croatia’s 1991-95 independence war from facing potential prosecution elsewhere in the EU, and denied any connection to the Perkovic case. Some EU member states have the same 2002 time limit.
But the government removed the time restriction in August after the European Commission warned it could face legal action, including the possible loss of EU funds.
The amended law took effect on January 1 and Hina said that in addition to Perkovic, police had immediately arrested a second Yugoslav era intelligence chief, Zdravko Mustac, and eight others.
“It is now a matter for the police and the judiciary. The new law is applied equally to everyone,” President Ivo Josipovic said.
Perkovic had worked for the communist-era secret service, the UDBA, and led the intelligence service in Croatia after the breakup of Yugoslavia.
His lawyer Nobilo said a local court should rule on whether Perkovic would be extradited within eight days.
Perkovic, who could not be reached for comment, said last month he was ready to testify before a Croatian court as soon as the new law took effect.
Palestinian envoy killed by explosion at Prague home
Reuters / Phuket GazettePHUKET: The Palestinian ambassador to Prague was killed on Wednesday in an explosion that was triggered when he opened the door to a safe, Czech police said.
Jamal al-Jamal, 56, died in hospital after the incident at his home on the morning of New Year’s Day.
“According to information from the investigation so far, this was definitely not a terrorist attack,” national police president Martin Cervicek said on Czech Television.
Police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova said an explosive – which may have been part of a security mechanism – went off after the safe was opened. “With the greatest probability, an explosive device placed on the door of the safe was triggered,” she said.
The Palestinian foreign ministry, in a statement reported by the official WAFA news agency, said the blast happened minutes after Jamal opened a safe that had come from the embassy’s old offices.
The mission is in the course of moving into new premises next to the residence in a suburb of the capital.
Zoulova told reporters: “The possibilities include inexpert handling of an explosive device or its spontaneous detonation … The device was in a safe and was triggered after the door of the safe was opened.”
Some safes can be fitted with small charges to destroy secret documents in the event of the lock being tampered with.
A spokesman for the embassy, Nabil el-Fahel, said he had no details on what it was that blew up. “We need to wait for the results of the police investigation,” he said.
Jamal suffered lethal injuries to his head, chest and abdomen, surgeon Daniel Langer told Czech television.
No one else was injured in the explosion, police said, although a spokeswoman for Prague’s emergency medical services said a 52-year-old woman was treated for smoke inhalation and shock. Jamal’s family was at home at the time of the blast.
No sign of damage to the two-storey house was visible outside, but police cordoned off part of the street while bomb experts searched the premises.
Palestinians sending team
The Palestinian foreign ministry said it would send a team to Prague to help with the investigation.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, quoted by WAFA, said Jamal was “martyred in the line of duty”.
Born in Beirut to a refugee family, Jamal joined Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1975 and served in PLO missions to Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia in the 1
— Phuket Gazette Editors
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