TPM World News

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian state media on Wednesday aired pro-government demonstrations in cities across the country after a week of protests and unrest over the nation’s poor economy — a move apparently seeking to calm nerves amid clashes that have killed 21 people.

The protests, the largest seen in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, began Dec. 28 in the city of Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest, over the weak economy and a jump in food prices. They have since expanded to cities and towns in nearly every province. Hundreds have been arrested, and a prominent judge warned that some could face the death penalty.

The English-language broadcaster Press TV broadcast Wednesday’s pro-government rallies live, saying they were to “protest the violence that has taken place over the last few nights in cities.”

Demonstrators waved Iranians flags and signs supporting Iran’s clerically overseen government.

According to state TV, the demonstrations took place in at least 10 cities, including Ahvaz, the capital of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, the Kurdish town of Kermanshah in the country’s west and Qom, the religions capital of Shiite Islam in Iran.

The rallies come after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday blamed days of protests across the country on meddling by “enemies of Iran.”

“Look at the recent days’ incidents,” Khamenei said. “All those who are at odds with the Islamic Republic have utilized various means, including money, weapons, politics and (the) intelligence apparatus, to create problems for the Islamic system, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution.”

Khamenei avoided identifying any foreign countries, although he promised to elaborate in the coming days. Undoubtedly high on his list is the United States, where President Donald Trump has tweeted his support for the protests for several days.

Iran’s government has since shut down access to Telegram and the photo-sharing app Instagram, which now join Facebook and Twitter in being banned, in an attempt to slow the unrest.

The Trump administration called on Iran’s government to stop blocking Instagram and other popular social media sites. U.S. Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said Instagram, Telegram and other platforms are “legitimate avenues for communication.”

The head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court also reportedly warned that arrested protesters could potentially face the death penalty.

“Obviously one of their charges can be Moharebeh,” or waging war against God, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Mousa Ghazanfarabadi as saying. Moharebeh is punishable by death in Iran.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan fired back Tuesday after President Donald Trump accused it of harboring terrorists, calling his New Year’s Day tweet “completely incomprehensible.”

The government summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain but stopped short of demands by protesting Islamic groups to expel the envoy.

The latest round of tit-for-tat attacks between the two reluctant allies, neither of whom trusts the other, was ignited by Trump’s tweet on Monday. He said the U.S. had “foolishly” given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had gotten nothing in return but “lies & deceit.”

He also reiterated longstanding allegations that Pakistan gives “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

A statement issued after a National Security Committee meeting, which was attended by Pakistan’s prime minister and the powerful army chief of staff, said the U.S. was scapegoating Pakistan for its own failure to bring peace to Afghanistan after 16 years of war.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have long accused each other of harboring militants, and have exchanged lists of wanted terrorists they want apprehended and returned. Afghanistan has also provided what it says are the locations of militant camps inside Pakistan.

Pakistan denies supporting militants, pointing to its own war against extremist groups battling to overthrow the government. It blames the burgeoning insurgency in Afghanistan on runaway corruption, infighting that has paralyzed the Kabul government and record drug production. Pakistan says the chaos next door has spawned a proliferation of insurgent groups, including an Islamic State affiliate that has attacked it from hideouts in Afghanistan.

The National Security Committee statement said Pakistan is among the countries hardest hit by terrorist attacks, having lost thousands of civilians and soldiers to the violence that has convulsed the region since the Sept. 11 attacks.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday to expect more details on specific actions against Pakistan over the next day or two.

“In terms of Pakistan, as I said, our goal is that we know that they can do more to stop terrorism and we want them to do that. That seems pretty simple,” she said. “In terms of specific actions, I think you’ll see some more details come out on that in next 24 to 48 hours and we’ll be sure to keep you guys updated on that front.”

Defense analyst and retired Pakistani Gen. Talat Masood said vilifying Pakistan won’t bring stability to the region and belittles the losses Pakistan has suffered.

“The people of Pakistan, the government of Pakistan (has) been really seriously affected and its consequences are felt every day,” said Masood. “America needs Pakistan. Without the help of Pakistan, it can never have stability in the region.”

Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia program, said withholding aid to Pakistan is unlikely to deter Pakistani support for insurgents it sees as necessary to protect its security interests. Pakistan has long supported Islamic militants battling India in the disputed Kashmir region, and has close ties to the Afghan Taliban.

“If the US truly had leverage, then one would have expected all the arms and money it’s sent to Pakistan over the years to have had happier results for the United States,” he said in an email interview. “It would take a whole lot on the part of Washington, and certainly more than threats and aid cuts, for Pakistan to agree to alter its immutable interests.”

The contradictions at the heart of U.S.-Pakistani relations were on display Tuesday, when the Jamaat-ud-Dawa movement held protests in Lahore calling for the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador.

The group is headed by Hafiz Saeed, who also founded the militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The State Department has offered a $10 million reward for Saeed, who is wanted on terrorism charges, but he lives openly in Pakistan and frequently appears at public rallies.

Pakistan recently placed Saeed under house arrest for 11 months, but a court released him, citing lack of evidence.

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BEIJING (AP) — The United States should look within to cut down demand for opioids which are fueling its deadly drug crisis rather than stressing unsubstantiated claims that China is the major source of these chemicals, a top Chinese drug enforcement official said Thursday.

China and the U.S. have worked to build a close working relationship to fight global flows of illicit synthetic drugs, but their collaboration remains fraught.

Yu Haibin of the China National Narcotics Control Commission told reporters there was little evidence showing China was the source of much of the chemicals used in the production of the powerful opioid fentanyl. President Donald Trump in November blamed a “flood of cheap and deadly” fentanyl made in China for the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history.

“China doesn’t deny that shipments to the U.S. happen, but there isn’t the proof to show how much — whether it’s 20 percent or 80 percent,” said Yu, adding that U.S. authorities have only sent him information about six shipments from China in the past year.

In October 2016, the AP identified 12 Chinese companies willing to export carfentanil around the world for a few thousand dollars a kilogram (2.2. pounds), no questions asked. Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl and is legally used as an anesthetic for elephants and other large animals.

Yu urged the U.S. to share more data and police intelligence with Chinese authorities and said rampant over-prescription of pain medication and lax cultural attitudes toward drugs had fueled massive demand for opioids in the U.S.

Insufficient drug education and the trend in some states of legalizing marijuana have hurt drug enforcement efforts, he said.

“As many states decriminalize marijuana, the public’s attitudes and trends of thinking toward drugs will also have a bad effect” on the fight against hard drugs, Yu said.

Chinese officials have been eager to tout their collaboration with American counterparts on drug enforcement as a bright spot in the occasionally rocky relationship.

Though Beijing has said U.S. assertions that China is the top source of fentanyls lack evidence, the two countries have deepened cooperation as the U.S. opioid epidemic intensifies. Beijing already regulates fentanyl and a number of related compounds, even though they are not widely abused domestically.

Since 2016, China has arrested dozens of synthetic drug exporters, destroyed several illegal labs and seized tons of new psychoactive substances, according to the Office of the National Narcotics Control Committee.

Officials in Beijing said Thursday they busted a fentanyl factory in November and seized 4.7 kilograms (10.36 pounds) of the substance thanks to a tip-off from U.S. Immigration and Customs about a major online purveyor named “Diana” that turned out to be a front for a 19-person drug ring scattered across China.

China wanted to work more closely with U.S. law enforcement, as well as authorities in Mexico, a transshipment point, Yu said.

China has backed a successful U.S. proposal this year to add several fentanyl precursors to a U.N. list of controlled substances. China has listed the two chemicals, NPP and 44-ANPP, under domestic drug laws, officials said.

More than 66,000 people in America died of drug overdoses in the year ending May 2017, a jump of 17.4 percent from the year before, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reports most cases of fentanyl overdose are linked to illicitly produced batches of the substance.

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MOSCOW (AP) — The explosion at a supermarket in Russia’s second-largest city was a terrorist attack, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, adding that another attack had been thwarted.

At least 13 people were injured Wednesday evening when an improvised explosive device went off at a storage area for customers’ bags at the supermarket in St. Petersburg. Investigators said the device contained 200 grams (7 ounces) of explosives and was rigged with shrapnel to cause more damage.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Putin made his comment Thursday at an awards ceremony at the Kremlin for troops who took part in Russia’s Syria campaign but did not offer any details. He also said another terrorist attack had been thwarted in St. Petersburg but did not elaborate.

Putin has portrayed Russia’s operation in Syria as a pre-emptive strike against terrorism at home. He said the threat of attacks at home would have been much worse if Russia had not intervened in Syria.

“What would have happened if those thousands (of terrorists) that I have just spoken about, hundreds of them had come back to us, trained and armed,” he said in comments to Russian news agencies.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov would not say what led authorities to declare the attack an act of terrorism, but he said the fact that the bomb was rigged with shrapnel proved it “was a terrorist attack anyway.”

Earlier this month, Putin telephoned President Donald Trump to thank him for a CIA tip that helped thwart a series of bombings in St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown.

The Federal Security Service said seven suspects linked to the Islamic State group were arrested in connection to the alleged plot. The Kremlin said the suspects had planned to bomb Kazan Cathedral and other crowded sites.

In April, a suicide bombing in St. Petersburg’s subway left 16 people dead and wounded more than 50. Russian authorities identified the bomber as a 22-year old Kyrgyz-born Russian national.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway will be the first foreign leader to call on President Donald Trump in the new year.

The White House announced Tuesday that Trump will welcome Solberg to the White House on Jan. 10. The White House says Trump looks forward to exchanging views with Solberg on relations between the U.S. and Norway, as well as on how to make progress on regional and global security issues and economic prosperity.

The leaders also plan to discuss defense and security goals within NATO and the coalition aligned against the Islamic State group, along with trade matters.

The White House announced the visit while Trump was in Florida for the holidays.

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A brutal attack claimed by the Islamic State group devastated a two-story Shiite Muslim cultural center in the Afghan capital on Thursday, killing at least 41 people and wounding another 84, many suffering severe burns from the intensity of the explosions.

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said three bombs were used in the ferocious assault as well as a single suicide bomber who blew himself up inside the center, where scores of people had gathered to mark the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union.

The claim reflects eyewitness reports that said one bomber sneaked into the center and exploded his device. Other explosions occurred outside the building, which also houses the pro-Iranian Afghan Voice news agency, which may also have been a target in the attack.

Earlier, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said an unknown number of suicide attackers set off an explosion outside the center before carrying out an attack inside.

In its statement to Aamaq news agency, the IS said the center was being funded by Iran and used to propagate Shiite beliefs.

Ali Reza Ahmadi, a journalist with the Afghan Voice, told The Associated Press he had been in his office when the explosion shattered the building. He leapt from his second-story office to the roof of the building where he saw flames from the basement.

“I jumped from the roof toward the basement yelling at people to get water to put out the fire,” he said.

Shiite leader Abdul Hussain Ramazandada said witnesses reported at least one suicide bomber sneaked into the event and was sitting among the participants. He exploded his device and as people fled more explosions occurred, he said.

At nearby Istiqlal Hospital, director Mohammed Sabir Nasib said the emergency room was overwhelmed with the dead and wounded. Additional doctors and nurses were called in to help and at the height of the tragedy more than 50 doctors and nurses were working to save the wounded, most of whom suffered severe burns.

The death toll rose as the day progressed. By late afternoon Wahid Mujro, spokesman for the public health ministry, said 41 were dead and 84 others were wounded.

The two-story cultural center is located in a poor area of the Shiite-dominated Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood in the west of the capital. The center is a simple structure surrounded by sun-dried mud homes where some of Kabul’s poorest live.

In an interview with The Associated Press, a senior member of the Shiite cleric council, Mohammad Asif Mesbah, said the center may have been targeted because it houses the deeply pro-Iranian Afghan Voice news agency. Its owner Sayed Eissa Hussaini Mazari is a strong proponent of Iran and his publication is dominated by Iranian news. Iran is a majority Shiite Muslim nation.

The local Islamic State affiliate has carried out several attacks targeting Shiites in Afghanistan. The IS issued a warning earlier this year following an attack on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul vowing to target Afghanistan’s Shiites. Since then, the IS has taken credit for at least two attacks on Shiite mosques in Kabul and one in the western city of Herat, killing scores of worshippers.

In a telephone interview with The AP, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied involvement in Thursday’s attack on the cultural center.

The IS affiliate, made up of Sunni extremists, view Shiites as apostates. The IS in Afghanistan is a toxic mix of Uzbek militants belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who broke with the Taliban, as well as disenchanted insurgents who left the much larger and more well-established Taliban.

As attacks targeting Shiites have increased in Kabul, residents of this area have grown increasingly afraid. Most schools have additional armed guards from among the local population. Still, Ramazandada said security at the cultural center was light.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani called the attack a “crime against humanity.”

In a statement released by the presidential palace, Ghani said: “The terrorist have killed our people. The terrorists have attacked our mosques, our holy places and now our cultural center.” He called them attacks against Islam and “all human values.”

In a statement, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, John R. Bass, called the attack “horrific” and said “we remain confident the Afghan government and people, supported by their friends and partners, will defeat those behind these terrible acts.”

Separately, Dawlat Abad District Gov. Mohammad Karim said a powerful mine killed six shepherd children ranging in age from 8 to 10 on Wednesday.

Afghanistan has the highest number of mine victims in the world, which along with other roadside bombs, kill or wound an estimated 140 people every month.

Elsewhere, a Taliban attack on a security police post in central Ghazni province Wednesday night left three police dead and one other wounded, said Mohammad Zaman, provincial chief of police.

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Tens of thousands of nationalists marched in a demonstration organized by far-right groups in Warsaw Saturday, as Poles celebrated their country’s Independence Day.

The far-right march was one of many events marking Poland’s rebirth as a nation in 1918 after being wiped off the map for 123 years. Earlier in the day, President Andrzej Duda presided over state ceremonies also attended by European Union president Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

But the march has become the largest Independence Day event in recent years, overshadowing official state observances and other patriotic events. Some participants expressed sympathy for xenophobic or white supremacist ideas, with one banner reading, “White Europe of brotherly nations.”

Participants marched under the slogan “We Want God,” words from an old Polish religious song that President Donald Trump quoted from during a visit to Warsaw earlier this year. Speakers spoke of standing against liberals and defending Christian values.

Many carried the national white-and-red flag as others set off flares and firecrackers, filling the air with red smoke. Some also carried banners depicting a falanga, a far-right symbol dating to the 1930s.

Police estimated that 60,000 people took part, and said there were no reports of violence. Many were young men, some with their faces covered or with beer bottles in hand, but families and older Poles also participated.

The march has become one of the largest such demonstration in Europe, and on Saturday it drew far-right leaders from elsewhere in Europe, including Tommy Robinson from Britain and Roberto Fiore from Italy.

State broadcaster TVP, which reflects the conservative government’s line, called it a “great march of patriots,” and in its broadcasts described the event as one that drew mostly regular Poles expressing their love of Polands, not extremists.

“It was a beautiful sight,” Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said. “We are proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday.”

A smaller counter-protest by an anti-fascist movement also took place. Organizers kept the two groups apart to prevent violence.

Independence Day marks Poland regaining its sovereignty at the end of World War I after being partitioned and ruled since the late 18th century by Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Duda oversaw ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, walking past a military guard before the raising of the flags and cannon salutes. After delivering a speech he took part in a wreath-laying ceremony, kneeling and crossing himself at the monument to all unknown soldiers killed fighting for the country.

Tusk, who attended at Duda’s invitation, also paid his respects at the monument.
Ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski noted that Poland has not always been fully independent since 1918, a reference to Germany’s occupation during World War II and the decades spent under Moscow’s direction during the Cold War.

Still, he said: “The Polish state was internationally recognized the whole time and that is a great achievement.”

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TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A Danish inventor has admitted dismembering a Swedish journalist who disappeared from his home-made submarine in August and has changed his story about how she died, but still denies killing her, police investigating the bizarre case said Monday.

According to Copenhagen police, Peter Madsen now says Kim Wall died as result of carbon monoxide poisoning inside the submarine while he was on deck. Previously he had said she died after being accidentally hit by a heavy hatch in the submarine’s tower.

“This explanation (by Madsen) naturally will lead the police into gathering additional statements from the coroner and the armed forces’ submarine experts,” said Copenhagen police investigator Jens Moller Jensen.

Police say Madsen acknowledged he dismembered her body and threw it into Koge Bay southwest of Copenhagen.

Wall’s torso was found on a southern Copenhagen coast in late August, and her head, legs and clothes were found at sea this month. No fractures to Wall’s skull were found that would have supported the claim that she was killed by the hatch.

Wall was working on a story about Madsen and was last seen aboard his home-made submarine Nautilus as it left Copenhagen in August.

The next day, Madsen was rescued from the sinking submarine without Wall. Police believe he deliberately sank the vessel.

Madsen’s pre-trial detention is set to expire Tuesday but police said no new hearing will be held as the 46-year-old has voluntarily agreed to remain in detention.

Madsen is currently charged with murder and mutilating Wall’s body. Police said Monday that the charges have now been extended to include sexual assault without intercourse. An examination of Wall’s torso revealed wounds to her genitals and ribcage that were believed to have been caused during her death or shortly after.

“We’re taking an approach that there exists a sexual motive,” Jensen told Swedish broadcaster SVT.

Police have finished an unsuccessful search for the phones of Madsen and Wall in the past weeks but said they are mulling reactivating that search if needed.

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VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — A Dutch forensic team arrived in Malta on Tuesday to help investigate the car bomb slaying of a journalist who scrutinized the country’s top politicians and other powerful figures, an official said, as angry Maltese demanded the truth about who killed the anti-corruption crusader.

Maltese Home Minister Michael Farrugia said that FBI agents will also be sent to the Mediterranean island in the coming days to assist police in Monday’s killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, who exposed Maltese links to offshore tax havens through the Panama Paper leaks.

“My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists,” her son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, himself an investigative journalist, wrote on Facebook. “But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so. This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated.”

It was unclear who might have engineered the bombing. Her car exploded, spinning in the air and landing as a fiery hulk in a field, right after she left her home Monday afternoon.

Her son Matthew, who was part of a Pulitzer-Prize-winning consortium behind the Panama Papers leaks, wrote: “I am never going to forget, running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door, the horn of the car still blaring, screaming at two policemen who showed up with a single fire extinguisher to use it.”

“They stared at me. ‘I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do,’ one of them said. I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me,” he recounted.

One of the topics she probed grew out of revelations from the 2016 Panama Papers leak. She wrote that the wife of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the country’s energy minister and the government’s chief of staff had offshore holdings in Panama to receive money from Azerbaijan.

The Muscats denied they had companies in Panama. The minister and chief of staff denied that the Panama companies were opened to receive money from Azerbaijan and filed libel suits against the journalist.

Ordinary Maltese, many of whom made Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blog, Running Commentary, the first thing they read daily on the 400,000-population island nation, were shocked and angered.

Outside Malta’s Law Courts, about 200 people held an hour-long sit-in to call for justice for the slain journalist in the capital, Valletta. Graffiti quoting the last words she wrote — “There are crooks everywhere you look” — were written on one of Malta’s major roads Tuesday.

In posts to online newspaper coverage, Maltese expressed hope her death could be a turning point in a national narrative they see as riddled with corruption.

A tax haven, Malta’s financial institutions have a reputation as a convenient place in the middle of the Mediterranean to move questionably earned money or to avoid taxes.

Matthew Caruana Galizia, one of the slain woman’s three sons, contended that a “culture of impunity has been allowed to flourish by the government of Malta.” He added: “If the institutions were already working, there would be no assassination to investigate — and my brothers and I would still have a mother.”

On the European mainland, several EU lawmakers echoed similar concerns.

EU parliamentarian Sven Giegold, a spokesman for the Greens in the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on money laundering and tax evasion, demanded that the EU scrutinize Malta.

“The murder of a courageous journalist who has been fighting with corrupt elites in her country must lead to a European outcry,” Giegold said. In a statement, the lawmaker described Malta as a “mecca for money launderers and tax avoiders.”

In Italy, a senator from the populist 5-Star Movement, Mario Michele Giarrusso, noted that the Italian Parliament’s anti-Mafia commission was coming on a money-laundering fact-finding visit to Malta on Oct. 23-24, a previously scheduled mission.

The car bomb, Giarrusso contended, was meant to “shut Daphne Caruana Galizia’s mouth” before the commission arrived.

Malta is experiencing an exponential expansion in online gaming businesses as well as financial services businesses.

Italian prosecutors who specialize in organized crime investigations have been warning for years that Italy’s powerful crime syndicates are increasingly laundering illicit revenues through the financial services sector. They have also said the Naples-area Camorra syndicate has heavily infiltrated online gaming in Italy and beyond.

Italy’s national organized crime prosecutor, Franco Roberti, told reporters in Milan that the Maltese slaying reminded him of the 2006 killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaja. Noting Malta was an EU member, Roberti said it was imperative that the truth come out.

“Europe can’t tolerate that a journalist who denounces corruption is killed,” Italian news agency ANSA quoted Roberti as saying.

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — More than 300 people were killed in the weekend truck bombing in Somalia’s capital and scores remained missing, authorities said Monday, as the fragile Horn of Africa nation reeled from one of the world’s worst attacks in years.

As funerals continued, the government said the death toll was expected to rise.

Nearly 400 people were injured in the bombing Saturday that targeted a crowded street in Mogadishu. Somalia’s government blamed the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, though the Islamic extremist group has not claimed responsibility for the attack. A new statement by the SITE Intelligence Group said al-Shabab posted claims of responsibility as recently as Monday for other attacks on Somali and African Union forces — but not for Saturday’s blast.

Still, analysts said there was little doubt the Islamic extremist group carried out the bombing, one of the deadliest in sub-Saharan Africa. “No other group in Somalia has the capacity to put together a bomb of this size, in this nature,” said Matt Bryden, a security consultant on the Horn of Africa.

Nearly 70 people remained missing, based on accounts from relatives, said police Capt. Mohamed Hussein. He said many bodies were burned to ashes in the attack.

As the death toll rose to 302, overwhelmed hospitals in Mogadishu were struggling to treat badly wounded victims, many burned beyond recognition. Exhausted doctors struggled to keep their eyes open as the screams from victims and bereaved families echoed in the halls.

Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, al-Shabab has waged war in Somalia for more than a decade, often targeting high-profile areas of the capital. Earlier this year, it vowed to step up attacks after both the Trump administration and Somalia’s recently elected Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, announced new military efforts against the group.

After Saturday’s attack, Mohamed declared three days of mourning and joined thousands of people who responded to a plea by hospitals to donate blood.

Meanwhile, a Turkish military plane carrying 35 critically wounded people arrived in the Turkish capital, Ankara, where they were taken to hospitals for treatment. Countries including Kenya and Ethiopia have offered to send medical aid in response to what Somali’s government called a “national disaster,” Information Minister Abdirahman Osman said. A plane carrying a medical team from Djibouti also arrived to evacuate the wounded, according to health ministry official Mohamed Ahmed.

Mogadishu, a city long accustomed to deadly bombings by al-Shabab, was stunned by the force of Saturday’s blast. The explosion shattered hopes of recovery in an impoverished country left fragile by decades of conflict, and it again raised doubts over the government’s ability to secure the seaside city of more than 2 million people.

The United States condemned the bombing, saying “such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism.” It tweeted a photo of its charge d’affaires in Somalia donating blood. But the U.S. Africa Command said U.S. forces had not been asked to provide aid. Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning said Monday the U.S. currently has about 400 troops in Somalia, adding “we’re not going to speculate” about sending more.

The U.S. military has stepped up drone strikes and other efforts this year against al-Shabab, which is also fighting the Somali military and over 20,000 African Union forces in the country.

Saturday’s blast occurred two days after the head of the U.S. Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president, and two days after the country’s defense minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons.

The United Nations special envoy to Somalia called the attack “revolting.” Michael Keating said the U.N. and African Union were supporting the Somali government’s response with “logistical support, medical supplies and expertise.”

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