Counting begins in knife-edge Pakistani elections marred by suicide bomb

Women, clad in burqas, stand in line to cast their ballot at a polling station during general election in Peshawar, Pakistan July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

By Gul Yousafzai Jibran Ahmad

QUETTA/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed at least 29 people near a polling center as Pakistanis voted on Wednesday in a knife-edge general election pitting cricket hero Imran Khan against the party of jailed ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Neither Khan nor Sharif is likely to win a clear majority in the too-close-to-call election, with results likely to be known by around 2 a.m. local time on Thursday (2100 GMT Wednesday).

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack that hospital officials said killed 29 people and wounded 35 in the western city of Quetta. Security sources said the bomber drove his motorcycle into a police vehicle.

About 106 million people were registered to vote in polls which closed at 6 p.m (1300 GMT).

Sharif’s party had called for voting to be extended by an hour, saying people were still lining up and could be turned away without casting ballots. TV channels said election officials denied the request.

About 371,000 soldiers have been stationed at polling stations across the country, nearly five times the number deployed at the last election in 2013.

(GRAPHIC: Pakistan Election – https://tmsnrt.rs/2LaIlGt)

Earlier this month, a suicide bomber killed 149 people at an election rally in the town of Mastung in Baluchistan province. That attack was also claimed by Islamic State militants.

Security officers gather at the site of a blast outside a polling station in Quetta, Pakistan, July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed

Security officers gather at the site of a blast outside a polling station in Quetta, Pakistan, July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed

Khan has emerged as a slight favorite in national opinion polls, but the divisive race is likely to come down to Punjab, the country’s most populous province, where Sharif’s party has clung to its lead in recent surveys.

The election has been plagued by allegations the powerful armed forces have been trying to tilt the race in Khan’s favor after falling out with the outgoing ruling party of Sharif, who was jailed on corruption charges this month.

“Imran Khan is the only ‚Äéhope to change the destiny of our country. We are here to support him in his fight against corruption,” said Tufail Aziz, 31, after casting his ballot in the north-western city of Peshawar.

ANTI-CORRUPTION CRUSADER

Whichever party wins, it will face a mounting and urgent in-tray, from a brewing economic crisis to worsening relations with on-off ally the United States to deepening cross-country water shortages.

An anti-corruption crusader, Khan has promised an “Islamic welfare state” and cast his populist campaign as a battle to topple a predatory political elite hindering development in the impoverished mostly-Muslim nation of 208 million people, where the illiteracy rate hovers above 40 percent.

“This is the most important election in Pakistan’s history,” Khan, 65, said after casting his vote in the capital, Islamabad.

“I ask everyone today – be a citizen, cherish this country, worry about this country, use your vote.”

Khan has staunchly denied allegations by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party that he is getting help from the military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half of its history and still sets key security and foreign policy in the nuclear-armed nation. The army has also dismissed allegations of meddling in the election.

People stand in a line as they wait for a polling station to open, during general election in Rawalpindi, Pakistan July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

People stand in a line as they wait for a polling station to open, during general election in Rawalpindi, Pakistan July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

STRUGGLE TO WIN

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has inched ahead of PML-N in recent national polls, but even if it gets the most votes, it will likely struggle to win a majority of the 272 elected seats in the National Assembly, raising the prospect of weeks of haggling to form a messy coalition government.

Such a delay could further imperil Pakistan’s economy, with a looming currency crisis expected to force the new government to turn to the International Monetary Fund for Pakistan’s second bailout since 2013. PTI has not ruled out seeking assistance from China, Islamabad’s closest ally.

Sharif’s PML-N has sought to turn the vote into a referendum on Pakistan’s democracy and has said it was campaigning to protect the “sanctity of the vote”, a reference to a history of political interference by the military.

“I voted for PML-N because of Nawaz Sharif’s struggle for the rule of constitution and supremacy of the parliament,” said Punjab voter Muhamad Waseem Shahzad, 41, a farmer. “We want to get rid of the system that steals peoples’ mandate.”

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which has been overtaken by Khan’s PTI as the main challenger to PML-N, has also alleged intimidation by spy agencies.

Sharif’s PML-N has been touting its delivery of mega infrastructure projects, especially roads and power stations that helped hugely reduce electricity blackouts, as proof the country is on the path to prosperity.

“If we get the opportunity, we will change the destiny of Pakistan,” said Shehbaz Sharif, brother of Nawaz and the PML-N president, as he cast his vote in Lahore. “We will bring an end to unemployment, eradicate poverty and promote education”.

PML-N’s campaign was reinvigorated by the return to Pakistan of Nawaz Sharif, 68, who was earlier this month convicted and sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison over the purchase of upscale London apartments using offshore companies in the mid-1990s. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The election will be only the second civilian transfer of power in Pakistan’s 71-year history.

(Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi and Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Alex Richardson and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

UK PM May joins families to remember Manchester pop concert victims

Painted stones are left in tribute in St Anne's Square on the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing, in Manchester, Britain, May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May will join Prince William at a memorial service in Manchester on Tuesday to remember the 22 victims of a suicide bombing on a pop concert a year ago, Britain’s deadliest attack for more than a decade.

Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton born to Libyan parents, blew himself up at the end of a show by U.S. singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena in northern England in the deadliest militant attack in Britain for 12 years.

People wearing Ariana Grande sweatshirts look at tributes left in St Anne's Square on the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing, in Manchester, Britain, May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

People wearing Ariana Grande sweatshirts look at tributes left in St Anne’s Square on the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing, in Manchester, Britain, May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

His victims included seven children, the youngest aged just eight, while more than 500 were injured.

On Tuesday, an hour-long service of commemoration will be held at Manchester Cathedral, including a nationwide one-minute silence at 1330 GMT, with William meeting some of the bereaved families privately afterwards.

“The targeting of the young and innocent as they enjoyed a care free night out in the Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017, was an act of sickening cowardice,” May wrote in an article for the Manchester Evening News newspaper.

“It was designed to strike at the heart of our values and our way of life, in one of our most vibrant cities, with the aim of breaking our resolve and dividing us. It failed.”

In other events, singers from local choirs, including the Manchester Survivors Choir made up of those caught up in the attack, will join together in the city for a mass singalong titled “Manchester Together – With One Voice”.

It echoes a moment when crowds broke into an emotional chorus of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Manchester rock group Oasis after a minute of silent tribute days after the bombing.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks on science and the Industrial Strategy at Jodrell Bank in Macclesfield, Britain May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples/Pool/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks on science and the Industrial Strategy at Jodrell Bank in Macclesfield, Britain May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples/Pool/File Photo

“Thinking of you all today and every day. I love you with all of me and am sending you all of the light and warmth I have to offer on this challenging day,” Grande wrote on Twitter, including a bee emoticon, the symbol of Manchester.

Britain is seeking the extradition of Abedi’s brother Hashem from Libya over the attack, although the authorities do not believe a wider network was involved.

The Manchester bombing was the deadliest of five attacks in Britain last year blamed on militants which killed a total of 36 people.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Kate Holton)

Militant family uses child in suicide bomb attack on Indonesian police

Police aim their weapons at a man who was being searched by other police officers following an explosion at nearby police headquarters in Surabaya, Indonesia May 14, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/ Didik Suhartono / via REUTERS

By Kanupriya Kapoor

SURABAYA, Indonesia (Reuters) – A family of Islamist militants in Indonesia carried an eight-year-old into a suicide bomb attack against police in Surabaya on Monday, a day after another militant family killed 13 people in suicide attacks on three churches in the same city.

The suicide bombers rode two motorbikes up to a checkpoint outside a police station and blew themselves up, police chief Tito Karnavian told a news conference in Indonesia’s second-largest city.

He said the child survived the explosion, and CCTV footage showed the girl stumbling around in the aftermath.

Four officers and six civilians were wounded in the attack, East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said.

“We hope the child will recover. We believe she was thrown 3 meters (10 ft) or so up into the air by the impact of the explosion and then fell to the ground,” said Mangera, adding she had been rushed to hospital.

President Joko Widodo branded the attacks in Surabaya the “act of cowards”, and pledged to push through a new anti-terrorism bill to combat Islamist militant networks.After some major successes tackling Islamist militancy since 2001, there has been a resurgence in recent years, including in January 2016 when four suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a shopping area in the capital, Jakarta.

Police suspected Sunday’s attacks on the churches were carried out by a cell of the Islamic State-inspired group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an umbrella organization on a U.S. State Department terrorist list that is reckoned to have drawn hundreds Indonesian sympathizers of Islamic State.

“In the case of Surabaya, they escaped detection, but once it happened we moved fast to identify their network,” Karnavian said.

The father of the family involved in those attacks was the head of a JAD cell in the city, the police chief said.

Earlier, police said his family was among 500 Islamic State sympathizers who had returned from Syria, but the police chief said that was incorrect.

During the hunt for the cell, police shot dead four suspects and arrested nine, media reported police as saying.

The police chief said the JAD cell may have been answering a call from Islamic State in Syria to “cells throughout the world to mobilize.”

He said the imprisonment of JAD’s leader, Aman Abdurrahman, could be another motive, and cited clashes with Islamist prisoners at a high-security jail near Jakarta last week in which five counter-terrorism officers were killed.

Karnavian said the JAD attacks used a powerful home-made explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP), known as the “mother of Satan”, and commonly used in Islamic State-inspired attacks.

In another incident in Sidoarjo, south of Surabaya, police recovered pipe bombs at an apartment where an explosion killed three members of a family alleged to have been making bombs, Karnavian said. Three children from the family survived and were taken to hospital.

In all, 31 people have died since Sunday in attacks, including 13 suspected perpetrators and 14 civilians, police said.

CHILDREN USED IN ATTACKS

CCTV footage of the blast outside the police station early on Monday morning showed two motorbikes arriving at a checkpoint next to a car followed by an explosion as officers approached.

Security experts said the attacks represented the first time in Indonesia that children had been used by militants on a suicide mission.

“The objective of using a family for terror acts is so it is not easily detected by the police,” said Indonesian security analyst Stanislaus Riyanta.

He said that families could also avoid communicating using technology that could be tracked.

Indonesia’s chief security minister said that police backed by the military would step up checks across Indonesia.

In Surabaya, police officers wearing balaclavas were posted at major hotels and landmarks on Monday.

President Widodo said he would issue a regulation in lieu of a new anti-terror law next month if parliament failed to pass the bill.

Police have complained that laws do not give them enough powers to detain suspects to prevent attacks.

Speaker of parliament Bambang Soesatyo told Metro TV that the house was committed to wrap up debate on the bill this month, but called on the government to help resolve differences.

(For a graphic on ‘Bomb Attacks in Indonesia’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2rBtid8)

(Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Fransiska Nangoy, Tabita Diela and Gayatri Suroyo; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Suicide bomb attack near Afghan political gathering kills nine

Suicide bomb attack near Afghan political gathering kills nine

KABUL (Reuters) – A suicide bomb attack in the Afghan capital on Thursday near a gathering of supporters of an influential regional leader killed at least nine people and wounded many, the interior ministry said.

It was not clear if the politician, Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of the northern province of Balkh and a leader of the mainly ethnic Tajik Jamiat-i-Islami party, was at the meeting at the time of the attack.

Islamic State claimed responsibility, according to Amaq, its official news agency. The Taliban denied involvement.

“We are proud to be martyred because of our country and our rights. This gathering was for the sake of our country to raise our voice,” said witness Jan Mohammad.

The explosion was the latest in a wave of violence that has killed and wounded thousands of civilians in Afghanistan this year.

Political tensions are up as politicians have begun jockeying for position ahead of presidential elections expected in 2019.

A spokesman for the interior ministry said the bomber approached the hotel hosting the gathering in the Khair Khana district of Kabul, on foot. The dead included seven policemen and two civilians.

Media showed photographs, apparently from witnesses, which appeared to show about a dozen bodies. Reuters was unable to verify the photos.

The northern-based Jamiat-i-Islami was for years the main opponent of the Taliban, who draw their support largely from the southern-based ethnic Pashtun community.

In June, a suicide bomber attacked a meeting of Jamiat-i-Islami leaders, including Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Abdullah, who is backed by Noor, and other ethnic minority leaders, formed a coalition government with President Ashraf Ghani after a disputed 2014 presidential election.

Ghani on Wednesday sacked the chairman of the Independent Election Commission, raising doubts over whether parliamentary and council ballots scheduled for next year will take place as planned.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi, Mirwais Harooni, Mohammad Aziz and Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel)

A dozen killed, over 40 wounded in Cameroon suicide bomb attack

DOUALA (Reuters) – Two suicide bombers killed at least 12 people and wounded over 40 others in a small town in northern Cameroon near the Nigerian border late on Wednesday, a senior army source and a local official told Reuters.

“There were 14 deaths, including the two suicide bombers, and 42 wounded,” said an army colonel responsible for evacuating the wounded who asked to remain anonymous. “The attack was perpetrated by one suicide bomber, and the other was shot dead.”

The attack was carried out by two women who walked into a busy area in the center of Waza, five miles (8 km) from the Nigerian border, said Midjiyawa Bakari, the governor for the Far North region where the attack took place. He said that 13 had been killed and 43 wounded. A baby was among the dead, he said.

Many were seriously wounded and were flown to nearby hospitals, he said.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the region has been a frequent target of Boko Haram militants in their eight-year bid to carve out an Islamic caliphate beyond Nigeria.

Last month, nine were killed in the town of Kolofata when two children carrying explosives blew themselves up near a camp housing people displaced by Boko Haram violence.

In eight years, Boko Haram attacks have killed more than 20,000 people in the Lake Chad region, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger and, according to the latest U.N. refugee agency figures, displaced 2.7 million.

(Reporting By Josiane Kouagheu, writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Iran’s Khamenei says attacks to increase hatred toward U.S., Saudi: TV

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS

ANKARA (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday attacks in Tehran by Islamic State that killed at least 17 people will increase hatred toward the United States and Saudi Arabia, state TV reported.

Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in Tehran on Wednesday. Scores of people were wounded.

“It will not damage our nation’s determination to fight terrorism … but will only increase hatred for the governments of the United States and their stooges in the region like Saudis,” Khamenei said in a message read at the funeral of victims of the attacks.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks and threatened more against Iran’s majority Shi’ite population, seen by the hardline Sunni militants as heretics.

Iranian authorities said on Thursday five of the attackers were Iranian nationals recruited by Islamic State to carry out the assaults inside the tightly controlled Shi’ite Iran.

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps blamed the assault on regional rival Saudi Arabia and has threatened revenge. Sunni Saudi Arabia denied any involvement in the attacks.

The assaults have further fueled tension between Riyadh and Tehran as they vie for control of the Gulf and influence in the wider Islamic world.

Iran is one of the powers leading the fight against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Four suicide bombers kill two in northeast Nigeria’s Maiduguri

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) workers attend to a woman after suicide bombers detonated their explosives along Muna Garage in Maiduguri, Nigeria, March 15, 2017. NEMA/Handout via REUTERS

By Kolawole Adewale and Lanre Ola

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Four female teenage suicide bombers killed two people and injured 16 others in a residential area in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a disaster agency spokesman said on Wednesday.

The girls knocked on the door of a house and then detonated their devices, a representative of the state-run emergency service in Borno State said.

The focus on individual homes is a new tactic.

“Community leaders should create awareness among residents not to open their doors for anybody (if) they are not aware of the visit,” Borno police commissioner Damian Chukwu said.

The blasts in the Muna Garage area, on the edge of the city worst hit by jihadist group Boko Haram’s eight-year insurgency, occurred around 1:15 a.m (0015 GMT), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesman Abdulkadir Ibrahim said.

“Four female teenage suicide bombers and two other men died,” he said.

Hours later, suspected Boko Haram militants attacked the town of Magumeri, around 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Maiduguri, shooting indiscriminately and forcing locals to flee their homes, witnesses said.

Residents said the attackers burned down buildings and opened fire after arriving in vans and on motorcycles at around 05:00 p.m. (1600 GMT).

“They were shooting sporadically, one person was dead near them. The police station, village head’s house and other residences were burnt down,” civil servant Mustapha Aja said by telephone. He said he had been separated from his wife and children.

The number of attacks or attempted attacks bearing the hallmarks of Boko Haram in crowded areas, such as markets and refugee camps, has escalated since the end of the rainy season in late 2016.

Most of the attacks have either been foiled or the suicide bombers have only managed to blow themselves up.

The jihadist group has killed 15,000 people and displaced more than two million during its campaign to create an Islamic state governed by a harsh interpretation of sharia law in the northeast of Africa’s most populous nation.

It has also carried out cross-border attacks in neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Cameroon said on Wednesday that West African forces had freed 5,000 people being held in villages by Boko Haram, in an operation that killed more than 60 fighters and destroyed the jihadist group’s hideout along the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Kingimi and Ardo Abdullahi; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Suicide bombers hit peacekeeping base in Somali capital, 13 dead: police

Suicide bombing in Somalia

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Suicide bombers killed at least 13 people at the gates of the African Union’s main peacekeeping base in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Tuesday, police said, in an attack claimed by the Islamist militants of al Shabaab.

The force of the explosions shattered windows at the nearby airport, showered arriving passengers with glass and forced the suspension of flights, police and witnesses said.

Police said the first attacker detonated a car bomb and the second tried to storm the base on foot, but was shot and exploded at the gate.

“At least 13 people mostly security forces died in the two car bomb blasts,” and 12 others were wounded, Abdiqadir Omar, a police officer told Reuters.

The guards were caught in the blast as they escorted U.N. personnel into the base, which is known as Halane, he added.

Al Shabaab, an Islamist militant group linked to al Qaeda and fighting to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government, said it set off two car bombs.

The African Union’s AMISOM force said on Twitter it condemned the “senseless attacks that aim to disrupt and cripple the lives of ordinary Somalis”. There was no immediate comment from the United Nations.

People arriving on international flights said the blasts shattered windows in the airport buildings.

“We were greeted by two loud blasts. The glass of the airport building fell on us,” said Ali Nur, who had just got off a plane from Nairobi.

Al Shabaab regularly attacks AMISOM, which is made up of about 22,000 military personnel from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and other African countries helping to support Somalia’s government and army.

The country in the Horn of Africa was plunged into anarchy in the early 1990s following the toppling of military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Writing by Duncan Miriri and Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Syrian refugee suicide injuries 12 at German music festival

Police secure the area after an explosion in Ansbach, Germany,

By Andreas Burger

ANSBACH, Germany (Reuters) – A 27-year-old Syrian man denied asylum in Germany a year ago blew himself up on Sunday outside a crowded music festival, injuring 12 people in the country’s fourth violent attack on members of the public in less than a week.

A spokeswoman for the Bavarian state police force said on Monday it was unclear whether the man was an Islamist militant, and that investigations were continuing.

German newspaper Die Welt quoted Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann earlier as saying: “My personal view is that it is unfortunately very likely that a real Islamist suicide attack took place here.”

The incident, on top of three other attacks since July 18 that left 10 people dead and 34 injured, will fuel growing public unease about Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy. More than a million migrants have entered Germany over the past year, many fleeing war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

For a graphic on the blast, click on http://tmsnrt.rs/2abQibf

Police said three of the 12 wounded were in a serious condition after the attack in Ansbach, a town of 40,000 people southwest of Nuremberg that has a U.S. Army base.

The dead man had been in treatment after twice before trying to kill himself, though Sunday evening’s explosion was more than just “a pure suicide attempt”, Herrmann told Reuters. An Islamist link could not be ruled out, he told reporters earlier.

“It’s terrible … that someone who came into our country to seek shelter has now committed such a heinous act and injured a large number of people who are at home here, some seriously,” Herrmann told a news conference early on Monday.

“It’s a further, horrific attack that will increase the already growing security concerns of our citizens. We must do everything possible to prevent the spread of such violence in our country by people who came here to ask for asylum.”

Herrmann told Reuters the recent attacks raised serious questions about Germany’s asylum law and security nationwide. He planned to introduce measures at a meeting of Bavaria’s conservative government on Tuesday to strengthen police forces, in part by ensuring they have adequate equipment.

Herrmann said the Syrian asylum seeker arrived in Germany two years ago and had been in trouble with local police repeatedly for drug-taking and other offenses.

He said investigators had yet to determine the motive of the attacks. “Because the rucksack and this bomb were packed with so many metal parts that could have killed and injured many more people, it cannot simply be considered a pure suicide attempt.”

It was the second violent incident in Germany on Sunday and the fourth in the past week, including the killing of nine people by a deranged 18-year-old Iranian-German gunman in the Bavarian capital Munich on Friday.

EXPLOSIVES, METAL PARTS

Herrmann said the man, whose identity has not yet been released, had been living in Ansbach for a year. Although his application for asylum had been denied, he was not in danger of being deported immediately given the civil war in Syria.

One U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators would focus on what the bomber was doing before he left Syria and why he was denied asylum.

U.S. security sources said the bombing did not appear to be a well-planned operation and could well turn out to be the act of another mentally unstable individual.

Herrmann said the man had been denied entry to the Ansbach Open music festival shortly before detonating the bomb outside a restaurant. More than 2,000 people were evacuated from the festival after the explosion, police said.

Ansbach resident Thomas Debinski said people panicked when they heard the explosion, especially after the events of the past week, and it soon became clear that someone had set off a bomb in a rucksack.

Earlier on Sunday, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested after killing a pregnant woman and wounding two people with a machete in the southwestern city of Reutlingen, near Stuttgart.

“After what just happened in Munich, and today in Reutlingen, what you hear about, it is very disturbing, when you know that such a thing can happen so close to you, in such a small town as Ansbach,” Debinski said.

A week ago a 17-year-old youth who had sought asylum in Germany was shot dead by police after wounding five people with an ax near Wuerzburg, also in Bavaria. He was initially thought to be Afghan but federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has since said he may have been from Pakistan.

Police said neither Sunday’s machete attack nor Friday’s shooting in Munich bore any sign of connections with Islamic State or other militant groups.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Wuerzburg attack as well as the July 14 rampage in the French Riviera city of Nice in which a Tunisian man drove a truck into Bastille Day crowds, killing 84 people.

(Additional reporting by Reuters TV, Thomas Krumenacker and Andrea Shalal in Berlin, Joern Poltz and Jens Hack in Munich, John Walcott in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Suicide bomb attack kills 28, wounds dozens in Cameroon

DOUALA, Cameroon (Reuters) – Suicide bombers targeting a town in northern Cameroon killed 28 people and wounded 65 on Monday, one of the worst attacks yet in the Central African nation as it struggles to contain an overflow of violence blamed on Nigeria’s Boko Haram.

State-owned radio and local officials said four explosions struck a busy market and entrances to the town of Bodo, which borders the Islamist insurgency’s strongholds in northeastern Nigeria.

“The new toll is 28 dead and 65 wounded. Currently the situation is stable. Our security forces are in place,” said one official, who asked not to be named.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, northern Cameroon has become the scene of increasingly frequent suicide attacks as Boko Haram has stepped up cross-border violence that has also spread into Chad and Niger.

Twelve people were killed in an attack on Jan. 13 at a mosque in the town of Kouyape.

Bodo, separated from Nigeria by only a small border river, was previously targeted at the end of December when two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at the town entrance.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people and driven more than 2 million people from their homes during its six-year insurgency in one of the world’s poorest regions.

Regional armies mounted an offensive against the insurgents last year that ousted them from many positions in northern Nigeria.

In the wake of that operation, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin pledged to set up a 8,700-strong regional force tasked with wiping out Boko Haram. The United States has also sent troops to supply intelligence and other assistance.

The establishment of the force has been plagued by delays, however, and joint operations have yet to begin, leaving it up to national armies to tackle Boko Haram individually.

In the absence of effective coordination, security sources have warned this can often mean that soldiers just drive the militants across each other’s borders.

(Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Makini Brice and Joe Bavier; Editing by Edward McAllister and Mark Heinrich)