Four killed in Somalia blast during Eid celebrations

BBC World Service

A map of Somalia

At least four people have been killed and 15 others were injured in Somalia when an explosion went off during Eid celebrations.

Witnesses say a crowd had been dancing and singing in Baidoa city when the blast occurred.

It is not yet clear who was behind it. For several years the Islamist militant group al-Shabab controlled Baidoa.

Since 2012, when its fighters were pushed out of the city, the jihadist group has remained active there and has attacked military bases and other targets.

Covid-19 blamed for delay to Somalia-Kenya sea dispute case

Muhyadin Roble

Editor, BBC News Somali

The International Court of Justice has postponed a hearing into Somalia and Kenya's long-running maritime dispute by another 10 months following a Kenyan petition.

Both countries claim sovereignty of an area in the Indian Ocean that is thought to be rich in oil and gas.

A letter sent by the court to both parties and seen by BBC states that that the hearing scheduled for early June is now is delayed to 15 March 2021 because of the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

A map showing the territorial claims of Kenya and Somalia

Somalia's Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohammed Gulaid told the BBC last week that his country objected to a new petition from Kenya asking to delay the hearing because of the virus outbreak.

Kenya said the pandemic had wreaked havoc on its economy and its plans to defend itself, according to documents sent to the court and seen by the BBC.

Somalia had asked the court to hold the hearing virtually using video technology.

Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister told the BBC that his government was not happy with the court’s decision, but would adhere to it.

Somalia flooding forces 400,000 from homes

Somalia map

Flooding in Somalia has affected nearly one million people, with more than 400,000 forced from their homes, the United Nations says.

The UN’s office for humanitarian affairs also says that 24 people have died.

It adds that there is a high risk of disease spreading as people crowd together in temporary shelters.

The worst-hit place was Beledweyne, 85% of which was inundated after the Shabelle river burst its banks last week.

“The flooding here has affected the entire city... People are very worried about their safety,” resident Hassan Elmi told the AP news agency.

“The government forces are helping some people, but those who are too weak or old need more help because they cannot wade through these flooded streets because the water is moving too fast.”

Somalia blast kills regional governor

Will Ross

Africa editor, BBC World Service

Map of Somalia

An explosion in Somalia has killed at least four people including a regional governor.

Correspondents say the bomb blast in Galkayo is widely thought to have been detonated by Islamist militant group al-Shabab, which is very active in the area.

In recent years it has killed numerous officials including senior members of the police force, a mayor and business leaders.

Galkayo is a divided city that is governed by the two states of Galmudug and Puntland.

Militias from rival clans have often fought each other in the city.

Use a broomstick to social distance, Somali comics joke

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

As aid agencies warn of a catastrophe in Somalia if coronavirus takes hold, many in the country are coming up with all sorts of inventive ways to try to stop its spread.

Somalia's most famous cartoonist, Amin Arts, has drawn pictures with people shielding themselves from huge green viruses.

A cartoon by Amin Arts
Amin Arts

He is now preparing a special one, featuring camels, for Somalia's large population of nomads. Camels have also been used in videos as people are being urged to keep at least a camel's-length distance from each other.

Broomsticks are the social-distancing prop of choice for two young comedians whose hugely popular video have been watched hundreds of thousands of times.

Here's one of Abdiqani Iskufilan and Abdirahman Heelo's skits:

View more on youtube

One big challenge is dispelling myths about the virus.

The Islamist militant group al-Shabab, which controls much of the country, says it has been brought in by infidels.

Others believe only Chinese people can get it, that all Muslims are immune, or that it can be cured by eating a special kind of sweet.

Even if the correct messages are getting through, Somalia will not be able to cope with a big outbreak. Official figures report more than 1,000 cases but many including the mayor of the capital city believe the true number to be higher.

Somalia is already struggling with the worst locust invasion for 25 years and devastating floods.

There have also been years of drought and more than three decades of conflict.

Italian kidnapped in Kenya returns home

BBC World Service

Silvia Romano, wearing a green tunic, waves upon her arrival at the Ciampino airport, Rome, Italy
Silvia Romano, wearing a green tunic, waves upon her arrival at the Ciampino airport, Rome, Italy

An Italian woman who was freed after being taken hostage in Kenya in 2018 has been flown back to Rome.

Silvia Romano embraced her parents and sister, and was greeted by Italy's prime minister and foreign minister.

According to Italian media reports, she was freed from suspected al-Shabab militants in an operation near the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Italy's secret services were reportedly assisted by counterparts from Turkey and Somalia.

Ms Romano said she was well, both physically and mentally.

The 25- year- old was seized while working as a volunteer at a Kenyan orphanage in November 2018.

Her father said he was bursting with joy at her release.

Church bells were rung and people applauded from their balconies in her hometown of Milan to celebrate her return to Italy.

Deadly flooding displaces thousands in Kenya, Somalia and Rwanda

More than 12,000 people have been displaced by the flooding
At a time when they were already having to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, countries in East Africa are also having to contend with widespread flooding.

More than 260 people have died following days of heavy rain. Kenya with 198 deaths is the worst hit country in the region. However, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda are also badly affected. 

Peter Abwao is helping to coordinate the response for the Red Cross in Kenya.

(Photo: People displaced by the flooding in Kenya. Credit: Reuters)

Somali mayor suspects Covid-19 deaths go unreported

Bella Hassan

BBC Somali Service

A Somali woman with a mask
Officials say number of cases could be higher than that was reported

The mayor of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, says the city has recorded about 500 deaths over the past two weeks many of which he suspects are as a result of Covid-19.

The federal government has so far confirmed 44 deaths from the pandemic out of 928 known coronavirus cases.

But Mayor Omar Filish told the BBC that the numbers were likely to be much higher.

"We worked on counting the number of bodies that have been taken to graves in Banaadir region," he said.

"We have been doing this since the middle of last month and today alone we have recorded 33 deaths.

"The highest number we had in a day was 49 and the lowest was 22."

Workers at the Mogadishu cemetery said they had noticed an increase in the number of burials, digging about 20 graves each day.

Health workers share the mayor’s concern. The Somali Medical Association has warned more people will die from Covid-19 if a lockdown is not implemented and health workers don't get more support.

Somalia has one of the weakest health systems in the world following decades of civil war.

It has less than 20 intensive care beds available and only one public hospital ready to deal with coronavirus patients.