FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Wednesday: April 2, 2014 

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Abuja (2)

Friday
Aug262011

Suicide Car Bomber Attacks UN Headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria (REPORT)

Victims being evacuated from UN House in Abuja, CREDIT: Vanguard Newspaper

Latest Developments

  • UN revises death toll to 23, including 9 UN staff members; fears more bodies under rubble
  • 73 people injured, 26 of whom remain in intensive care; eight evacuated to South Africa for treatment
  • 50 suspects reportedly arrested, according to Nigerian Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim 
  • Vast majority of the dead Nigerians; 30-year-old Norwegian woman has also been confirmed among the dead.
  • Nigeria asks FBI for assistance in investigation
  • Deputy UN Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro and UN Security Chief Gregory Starr visit victims in Abuja
  • UN promises care of staff and continuity of operations; UN and Nigerian security officials rapped for lax precautions.
  • Embassies demand extra police protection in aftermath of the blast; French Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Juppé describes attack as a “heinous and cowardly act."

 

(HN, August 30, 2011 - UPDATED 0300GMT) - A suspected suicide bomber detonated a car bomb inside the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja Friday, killing as many as 23 people and injuring 73 others.

The UN confirmed Saturday that nine of its staff members are confirmed dead and several others injured. Of the injured, 26 are in intensive care - some of whom have been evacuated to South Africa.

The vehicle - reportedly a white SUV - roared past security guards Friday morning and rammed through two gates before stopping inside the entrance to the enormous building, inflicting maximum damage.

Known as UN House, the facility has four floors and is designed as an atrium-like structure. Since the vehicle entered inside the building it was able to inflict tremendous human and structural damage.

One source in Abuja told HUMNEWS that one UN agency - the World Health Organization (WHO) - has had two staffers confirmed killed. At the time of the attack, a WHO staff association meeting was taking place on the 1st floor, above the reception area. "That is apparently where many injuries and deaths occurred," the source said.

Migiro said the bombing was "a shocking incident, an attack on global peace and communities".

"I have looked at the ripped-up gate. It is amazing how this happened and we are grappling with that, now ... an investigation is under way ... We will see what we have to do better," Migiro, who was accompanied by UN Security Chief Gregory Starr, said.

"We are working as a team to ensure that the injured do get all the treatment that they require," Migiro said after visiting the hospital, where many of the injured were receiving treatment.

Starr said the UN had no previous warnings or intelligence about threats against its Nigeria headquarters.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attack "an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others."

Aside from WHO, the building houses the offices of UNICEF, UNDP, UNIFEM and many other UN agencies. It also houses a travel agency and a branch of the UK-based Standard Chartered bank. In all 26 UN agencies are in the building, employing about 400 people.

The 23 death toll figure would strike many people as eery as it is the same number of people that died in the 2003 attack on the UN headquarters in Iraq, including  including the United Nations' Special Representative in Iraq Sérgio Vieira de Mello.

Said UNDP Chief Helen Clark: "I deplore this brutal attack against our unarmed colleagues who dedicated their lives to helping the people of Nigeria."

The bomb would have made a direct hit on a security desk at the front, the bank and travel agency and ground-floor UN security offices. It would appear the attackers had knowledge of the facility: Fridays are half-days at the UN in Nigeria and since the attack occurred at 1030am local time it was well before workers began to pack up their belongings for the weekend.

The attack would have come as a surprise to UN security personnel as Abuja has one of the lowest security phases in the UN system.

According to one source, a security clamp-down on Abuja took effect soon after the attack, snarling traffic to and from the airport.

The building is protected by a private security firm hired by the UN; unlike the nearby US Embassy there is no Nigerian security presence. A security building at the front screens all visitors and has x-ray machines to monitor bags and other items. It is a 10 minute walk from several embassies, included the heavily protected US Embassy.

One former UN employee at the building told HUMNEWS that he disliked working at the complex for two reasons: "Number one it is a natural target as all UN agencies are housed in one building, and second the security is rarely at the top of their game from what I have seen."

Soon after the attack, militants from the shadowy group, Boko Haram, the Muslim sect with reported links to al-Qaida that wants to implement a strict version of Shariah law in the nation, took credit for the bombing in a phone call to British broadcaster BBC.

Jennifer Cooke, Director of the Africa Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies described the Boko Haram attack as "a major escalation."

"There's going to be a security reaction from Nigeria which has been fairly lax so far," Cooke told BBC News.

A UN official in Nigeria told the BBC that the UN had stepped up security at all its buildings in Nigeria in the past month after receiving information that the UN could be targeted by Boko Haram.

UN House in Abuja. Observers say the lack of protective, concrete security barriers on the approach road left the building vulnerable to high-speed vehicles. CREDT: HUMNEWSThe attack follows a period of relative calm. However, early this year, there were bombings connected with the local, state and national elections, including one in late 2010 during Nigeria's 50th independence anniversary ceremony, killing at least 12 at a market in Abuja.

"I saw scattered bodies," said Michael Ofilaje, a UNICEF worker at the building, which he said shook with the explosion. "Many people are dead."

"We condemn this terrible act, utterly," secretary-general Ban told reporters at U.N. headquarters. 

Ban reportedly told a Security Council meeting that the attack was "evidence that the UN premises are increasingly being viewed as a soft target by extremist elements around the world".

The explosion punched a huge hole in the building. Workers brought three large cranes to the site within hours of the attack, trying to pull away the concrete and rubble to find survivors. Others at the site stood around, stunned, as medical workers began carrying out what appeared to be the dead.

"This is getting out of hand," said a U.N. staffer who identified himself as Bodunrin. "If they can get into the U.N. House, they can reach anywhere."

Ali Tikko, who was in a building 100 yards (meters) from the site of the blast when it occurred told the AP, "I see a number of people lying on the floor - at least four or five. I cannot see if they are dead. There are a lot of security around."A wide view of the Security Council as Members observe a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in today’s tragic attack on the UN House in Abuja. CREDIT: UN

Ordinary Nigerians were quick to register the shock and disgust in postings on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. "Please pray for Nigeria in this turbulent time. The government has failed us in its entirety," wrote a Twitter user, Toni, from Benin City in Nigeria.

Tweeted MusaT from Nigeria: "When will our President stand up to the call of governance. Maybe he needs to be reminded that the Primary function of government is SECURITY.  Our president is not proactive on the issues of security facing this country, rather he is busy pock-nosing in the judiciary."

In a statement, US President Barack Obama called the attack a "heinous action."

"I strongly condemn today’s horrific and cowardly attack on the United Nations headquarters building in Abuja, Nigeria, which killed and wounded many innocent civilians from Nigeria and around the world.  I extend the deepest sympathies of the American people to the victims and their families, colleagues, and friends, whom we will keep in our thoughts and prayers.

"The people who serve the United Nations do so with a simple purpose: to try to improve the lives of their neighbors and promote the values on which the UN was founded -- dignity, freedom, security, and peace.  The UN has been working in partnership with the people of Nigeria for more than five decades.  An attack on Nigerian and international public servants demonstrates the bankruptcy of the ideology that led to this heinous action."

Many Nigerians and outside observers were upset that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan took a full five hours to comment on the attack, which he described as a "barbaric, senseless and cowardly." The statement also promised to increase security in the nation's capital, and indeed, the diplomatic copmmunity this week demanded more protection in a meeting with government officials.

Jonathan visited the blast site Sunday.

Ban dispatched Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro and the UN security chief, Gregory Starr.

The Security Council observed a minute's silence before the start of a meeting Friday on UN peace keeping operations.

The Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, described the attack as a sad development and a wake-up call for security agencies in Nigeria.

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies, Twitter

Saturday
Feb052011

Amid Chaos Nigeria Voter Registration Extended (Updated Feb 6 1500GMT)

HN, February 6, 2011 - Nigerian officials late Saturday ordered a two-day extension to the largest-ever voter registration drive in Africa amid widespread choas that left many citizens unable to get documented.

The order of the last minute "mop-up" registration came as tempers flared at voter registration points across the country of 150-million people as thousands of voters were trying to obtain voter registration cards for April elections.

A voter registration point in Abuja. The technology used has caused widespread problems. HUMNEWS

As the deadline for voter registration ended at 1700 local time (1700GMT) Saturday, hundreds of people were angrily pushing towards the booths in two locations in the capital, a HUMNEWS correspondent on the scene said. Similar scenes of chaos were reported elsewhere in Nigeria - Africa's most populous nation.

"I've been waiting here since early this morning and still dont have my card," said Geoffrey, an Abuja resident in his 20s.

George, a small business owner, said it took at least 20 minutes per person for processing - which includes finger printing, a head shot photograph, verification of identification and printing and lamination.

As darkness began to fall at 1800 local time there was no way that officials could clear the backlog at the two points visited by HUMNEWS.

The two-day mo-up registration will occur only in certain states and only in certyain parts of the Federal Capital Territory.

The voter registration exercise - the largest-ever in Africa - was initially scheduled for a two week period. Despite assuarnces from the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) - which is overseeing the process - a second extension still may not be sufficient to document million of unregistered eligible voters.

Soon after the nationwide registration process got underway in January, widespread problems began to emerge with the more than 120,000 computers and peripherals purchased. Registrars also complained of a lack of crucial materials, a lack of electricity and late salaries.

Security was tight at registration points HUMNEWSEarlier in the week, Project 2011 Swift Count - and independent monitoring group, called upon the INEC to improve its logistical and organizational capabilities. Another group said that in spite of the one week extension, the registration exercise is still being undermined by non-functioning direct data capturing machines and shortages of essential materials.

As of Thursday, INEC said it has registered 54.9 million of an estimated 70 million potential voters. The average daily registration count has fluctuated recently between 3.2 million to 4.3 million-a-day. When all is said and done the entire registration exercise will have cost Nigerian taxpayers almost N100-billion.

Elections for presidential, senate and local races will be held April 7.

From a HUMNEWS correspondent in Abuja