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US: Two Somalia airstrikes leaves 37 Militants dead

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The US military killed 37 militants in two separate airstrikes in the vicinity of Debatscile, Somalia, on Monday, according to a statement from US Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent.



The strike targeted the militants associated with al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s largest affiliate.
A US defense official told CNN that the strikes were carried out by unmanned drone aircraft and that the target of the first strike was an al-Shabaab camp.
Africa Command said the “precision strike was a planned and deliberate action” that killed 27 militants in the first strike and a subsequent strike the US says they killed an additional 10 militants.
“These precision airstrikes were conducted in support of the Federal Government of Somalia as it continues to degrade al-Shabaab. Airstrikes reduce al-Shabaab’s ability to plot future attacks, disrupt its leadership networks, and degrade its freedom of maneuver within the region,” the statement said.

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The US military currently assesses that the airstrikes did not injure or kill any civilians.
While the US has now conducted 31 airstrikes against al-Shabaab in 2018, the strikes usually target small groups of militants.
The last major strike against al-Shabaab took place last month and killed some 60 al Qaeda-affiliated fighters.
In March of 2017, President Donald Trump authorized the US military to carry out precision strikes targeting al-Shabaab in an effort to bolster the federal government of Somalia.
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Prior to that, the US military was only authorized to carry out airstrikes in self-defense of advisers on the ground.

The US has some 500 troops in Somalia, primarily in advisory roles.
While the Department of Defense recently announced plans to reduce the number of US troops in Africa, the Pentagon has said that US forces in Somalia will be unaffected by the drawdown.
A senior US defense official told CNN last week that the US was concerned about international terror threats emanating from East Africa which is one of the reasons US counterterrorism forces in Somalia were shielded from the cuts.
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24 Hours Across Africa

Sri Lanka Update: Hundreds of Muslim flee Negombo fearing for their safety after threats of revenge from locals.

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Source: Reuters

As mourners buried the remains of Christian worshippers killed by the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, hundreds of Muslim refugees fled Negombo on the country’s west coast where communal tensions have flared in recent days.

At least 359 people perished in the coordinated series of blasts targeting churches and hotels. Church leaders believe the final toll from the attack on St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo could be close to 200, almost certainly making Negombo the deadliest of the six near-simultaneous attacks.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Pakistani Muslims fled the multi-ethnic port an hour north of the capital, Colombo. Crammed into buses organized by community leaders and police, they left fearing for their safety after threats of revenge from locals.

“Because of the bomb blasts and explosions that have taken place here, the local Sri Lankan people have attacked our houses,” Adnan Ali, a Pakistani Muslim, told Reuters as he prepared to board a bus. “Right now we don’t know where we will go.”

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, yet despite Islamic State being a Sunni jihadist group, many of the Muslims fleeing Negombo belong to the Ahmadi community, who had been hounded out of Pakistan years ago after their sect was declared non-Muslim.

The fallout from Sunday’s attacks appears set to render them homeless once more.

Farah Jameel, a Pakistani Ahmadi, said she had been thrown out of her house by her landlord.

“She said ‘get out of here and go wherever you want to go, but don’t live here’,” she told Reuters, gathered with many others at the Ahmadiyya Mosque, waiting for buses to take them to a safe location. “I HAVE NOTHING NOW”

Sri Lanka’s government is in disarray over the failure to prevent the attacks, despite repeated warnings from intelligence sources.

Police have detained an unspecified number of people were detained in western Sri Lanka, the scene of anti-Muslim riots in 2014, in the wake of the attacks, and raids were carried out in neighborhoods around St Sebastian’s Church.

Police played down the threats to the refugees, but said they have been inundated with calls from locals casting suspicion on Pakistanis in Negombo.

“We have to search houses if people suspect,” said Herath BSS Sisila Kumara, the officer in charge at Katara police station, where 35 of the Pakistanis that gathered at the mosque were taken into police custody for their own protection, before being sent to an undisclosed location.

“All the Pakistanis have been sent to safe houses,” he said. “Only they will decide when they come back.”

Two kilometers away, makeshift wooden crosses marked the new graves at the sandy cemetery of St Sebastian’s Church, as the latest funerals on Wednesday took the number buried there to 40.

Channa Repunjaya, 49, was at home when he heard about the blast at St Sebastian’s. His wife, Chandralata Dassanaike and nine-year-old daughter Meeranhi both died.

“I felt like committing suicide when I heard that they had died,” he told Reuters by the open graves. “I have nothing now.”

Meeranhi’s grandmother, with her head still bandaged after being wounded in the attack, was held by a relative as the first handfuls of earth were scattered upon her child-sized coffin.

Most of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people are Buddhist, but the Indian Ocean island’s population includes Muslim, Hindu and Christian minorities. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.

There were signs of some religious communities pulling together following Sunday’s outrage.

Saffron- and scarlet-robed Buddhist monks from a nearby monastery handed out bottled water to mourners who gathered under a baking afternoon sun.

But the town, which has a long history of sheltering refugees – including those made homeless by a devastating tsunami in 2004 – may struggle to recover from Sunday’s violence, said Father Jude Thomas, one of dozens of Catholic priests who attended Wednesday’s burials.

“Muslims and Catholics lived side by side,” he said. “It was always a peaceful area, but now things have come to the surface we cannot control.”

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24 Hours Across Africa

Russian: President Putin eases access to citizenship for east Ukraine residents.

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Source: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order simplifying the procedure for obtaining a Russian passport for residents of the rebel-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

Separatist rebellions broke out against Ukrainian rule in both regions in 2014. Moscow provided military help for the separatists, according to evidence gathered by Reuters, though Russian officials have denied providing material support.

Large swathes of the two regions are now under the de facto control of the Moscow-backed rebels, while Kiev says it is determined to re-assert its control, a position backed by most Western countries.

There was no immediate reaction from Kiev to Putin’s order. Ukrainian officials are likely to react angrily to any indication Moscow is drawing the rebel regions closer into its own orbit.

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