Daily Archives: December 28, 2014

Islamist with $3 million U.S. bounty surrenders to Somali authorities

A file photo taken on March 5, 2012 shows Al-Qaeda linked al-Shebab recruits walking down a street in Mogadishu. A top leader of al-Shebab rebels has surrendered to government and African Union forces and is now in custody, officials said

A file photo taken on March 5, 2012 shows Al-Qaeda linked al-Shebab recruits walking down a street in Mogadishu. A top leader of al-Shebab rebels has surrendered to government and African Union forces and is now in custody, officials said

A leader with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, who the United States offered $3 million for his capture, surrendered in Somalia, a Somali intelligence official said Saturday.

Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi surrendered to Somali police in the Gedo region, said the intelligence officer, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

Hersi’s surrender would be the second major blow to al Shabaab’s leadership in just a few months. In September the group’s main leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed by a U.S. drone strike. Hersi may have surrendered because he fell out with those loyal to Godane, the intelligence officer said.

State radio Web site Radio Muqdisho described Hersi as “the general secretary of al-Shabaab’s finance (department).” It did not give reasons for his surrender. But a senior member of al-Shabab’s media team told Reuters that Hersi left the Islamist group two years ago. “(Hersi) cannot have impact on al-Shabaab because he is not a member,” the al-Shabab member said.

Hersi was one of seven top al-Shabab officials whom the Obama administration offered a total $33 million in rewards for information leading to their capture in 2012. It is not clear whether the reward will be paid out for Hersi because he surrendered.

Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab remains a threat in Somalia and the East African region. The group has carried out many terror attacks in Somalia and some in neighboring countries including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak U.N.- backed government.

On Christmas Day, al-Shabab launched an attack at the African Union base in Mogadishu. Nine people died, including three African Union soldiers, in the attack on the complex, which also houses U.N. offices and Western embassies. Al-Shabab said the attack was aimed at a Christmas party and was in retaliation for the killing of the group’s leader Godane.

Al-Shabab is waging an Islamic insurgency against Somalia’s government that is attempting to rebuild the country after decades of conflict. Al-Shabab controlled much of Mogadishu during 2007 to 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia’s capital and other major cities by African Union forces.

The United States and the United Nations warn that political infighting in Somalia is putting the security gains at risk. The federal government remains weak and wields little power outside the capital Mogadishu.

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Evacuation as ferry with 400+ on board catches fire en route from Greece to Italy

466 passengers and crew are being evacuated from an Italian car ferry that caught fire near a Greek island on Sunday morning. The evacuation is being complicated by strong winds and lack of places in lifeboats, according to the media.

Fire broke out on an Italian Norman Atlantic car ferry traveling from western Greece to eastern Italy at around 6.00 am local time (0400 GMT), coast guard officials said on Sunday.

“The captain has requested the evacuation of the ship, according to initial information,” spokesman Nikos Lagkadianos said.

The international evacuation effort including Italian and Albanian forces is complicated by dangerous weather conditions with strong winds blowing in the area northwest of Corfu.

The ferry has 411 passengers and 55 crew on board, as well as 222 vehicles. An official told Reuters that within the framework of the rescue operation 130 people had already been transferred from a lifeboat to a container ship that had been sailing nearby.

A Greek TV station got comments of some passengers, who dramatically described the evacuation.

They tried to lower some boats, but not all of us could get in. There is no coordination,” one said, as cited by Reuters. “It’s dark, the bottom of the vessel is on fire. We are on the bridge, we can see a boat approaching… we opened some boxes and got some life vests, we are trying to save ourselves.

Several people reportedly jumped into the water, but it is unclear whether there are any casualties. However, cold winter temperatures will lessen their chances of survival if this is the case.

Rescue helicopters and a C-130 search-and-rescue support aircraft have been sent to the scene. Seven nearby ships havebeen instructed to take passengers and crew members from the ferry, said Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, according to AP

 

AirAsia flight from Indonesia to Singapore confirmed missing

AirAsia flight number QZ8501, bound from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore, has lost contact with air traffic control, the airline has confirmed. The missing flight is an Airbus A320-200 with up to 161 people on board.

Indonesia air transport authorities have provided details of the plane’s last position.

“We are coordinating with the rescue team and looking for its position. We believe it is somewhere between Tanjung Pandan, a town on Belitung island, and Kalimantan,” Indonesia’s air transportation director-general Djoko Murjatmodjo stated, as cited by AFP.

Also, air force spokesman Marsma Hadi Tjahjanto confirmed that the Air Force was using the last point of contact to conduct an air search.

AirAsia has stated that there were 162 passengers on board: 156 Indonesians, one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one French, and three South Koreans

The flight was due to land in Singapore at 8:30 a.m. local time (00:30 GMT) and was listed as “delayed.

AirAsia has confirmed the plane has gone missing in a statement

“At the present time we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all parties informed as more information becomes available,” the company said.

It added that “search and rescue operations are in progress and AirAsia is cooperating fully and assisting the rescue service.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said that services have been “activated” to help Indonesia search for the missing flight

An Emergency Call Center with the number +622129850801 has been established for family and friends of those who may have been on board the flight.

Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia is believed to be one of the safest air carriers in the world. Until today there have been only two incidents with its aircraft. In both cases they overran runways. One took place in November 7, 2004, at Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu airport (Flight 104, Boeing 737). Another incident with Flight 5218 (Airbus A320-200) occurred in Malaysia’s Kuching on January 10, 2011.