Grief-stricken residents in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul are demanding justice after the sinking of a ferry packed with families killed more 100 people, including children.
The vessel, which was carrying people celebrating both the Nowruz holiday and Mother’s Day, capsized on Thursday in Tigris River.
“The number of casualties has risen to 103, while an estimated 50 more remain missing,” Ghazwan al-Daoudi, a member of Nineveh’s provincial council, told Anadolu Agency on Friday.
“We believe the ferryboat was carrying about 200 passengers when it sank,” he added.
In the early hours of Friday, local authorities said 55 survivors had been pulled from the river near Mosul, the regional capital of Nineveh province.
According to al-Daoudi, the council will convene an emergency session later in the day in which “all those involved in the incident” would be present.
‘Brought to justice’
Earlier on Friday, relatives of the victims went to local hospitals to collect bodies of their loved ones in advance of funerals. Some chanted: “No to corruption!” and “They are all thieves.”
“How can a ferry sail with no means of rescue available,” asked Dalia Mahmoud, a woman who was standing outside the coroner’s office.
At the scene of the accident, where prayers were held for the dead, many said the disaster could have been avoided.
“We want those responsible to be brought to justice,” said Mohammed Adel, 27, whose father was among those who died. He accused officials of failing to enforce safety standards.
A relative of one of the victims who died after an overloaded ferry sank in Tigris river near Mosul, cries during his funeral at Mosul cemetery [Ari Jalal/Reuters]
Although no official statements have been issued regarding the cause of the accident, local residents have attributed it to overcrowding, saying the ferry only had a 50-passenger capacity.
After visiting the scene of the accident alongside President Barham Saleh, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi declared three days of national mourning. He said the justice system “must do its job and the investigation must produce results on the reasons for this shipwreck”.
According to a statement released late Thursday by Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, nine people have been detained so far in connection with the incident.
Meanwhile, witnesses told Anadolu Agency that angry local residents, including several relatives of the victims, chanted slogans and hurled shoes at Nineveh Governor Nofal al-Akoub following his arrival to the site of the ferryboat accident.
As al-Akoub’s convoy attempted to flee the scene, two people – both relatives of the victims – were run over in the confusion, according to witnesses. The extent of their injuries remains unknown.
Calls for accountability
The spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shia majority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for accountability for those responsible for the sinking and urged officials whose ministries were linked to the tragedy to resign.
Al-Sistani’s message was delivered by his representative Ahmed al-Safi in the Shia holy city of Karbala.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis sent a telegram of condolences to Iraqi authorities, expressing his “prayerful solidarity” with all those who lost loved ones.
The sinking of the ferry was a tragic blow to Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that is still struggling to overcome the devastation wreaked by ISIL.
The armed group, also known as ISIS, captured Mosul it in the summer of 2014, making the city its main stronghold in Iraq. After US-backed Iraqi forces retook it three years later, in July 2017, much of Mosul was left in ruins.
“We lost a lot because of Daesh and we will not accept to lose more,” said Mahmoud, using an Arabic name to refer to ISIL.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
Saudi Aramco says customers unaffected by Houthi attack on Jeddah
Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah. One of the facility’s tanks…
Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah.
One of the facility’s tanks was hit by a missile in early on Monday.
The attack knocked out 10 percent of all fuel that was stored at the plant, a Saudi Aramco official said on Tuesday, adding that the tank – one of 13 at the facility – is currently out of action.
The official described the site as a “critical facility” that distributes more than 120,000 barrels of products per day.
A fire caused by the attack was extinguished in about 40 minutes with no casualties, he said.
The attack was confirmed by a Saudi official who told the Saudi state news agency (SPA) it was a “terrorist attack with a projectile”.
The oil company’s production and export facilities are mostly in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province, more than 1,000km (621 miles) away from Jeddah, across the country.
Announcing the attack, a military spokesman for the Houthis warned that “operations will continue”.
Yahya Sarea said the attack was carried out with a Quds-2 type winged missile. He also posted a satellite image with the label: “North Jeddah bulk plant-Saudi Aramco”.
“The strike was very accurate, and ambulances and fire engines rushed to the target,” Sarea said.
That facility is just southeast of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, an important site that handles incoming Muslim pilgrims en route to nearby Mecca.
Yemen has been mired in conflict since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015 to restore the Yemeni government, which had been removed from power in the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces in late 2014.
Cross-border attacks by Houthi forces have escalated since late May when a truce prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic expired. The Saudi-led coalition has responded with air raids on Houthi-held territory.
The Houthis control most of north Yemen and most large urban areas. They say they are fighting a corrupt system.
Sarea said the attack was carried out in response to the Saudi-led coalition’s actions in Yemen.
The claimed attack came just after a visit by outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The kingdom also just hosted the annual G20 summit, which concluded on Sunday.
US appoints first Venezuela ambassador in a decade amid tensions
The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations. James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a…
The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations.
James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a US Senate voice vote.
The South Carolina native takes the job that he will carry out from the capital of neighbouring Colombia as Venezuela endures an historic economic and political crisis.
The US and Venezuela have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations first started to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.
The two nations totally broke diplomatic ties last year, each withdrawing its diplomats shortly after Washington backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s leader.
Story, 50, will likely play a key role in helping guide US policy on Venezuela during the transition of President-elect Joe Biden.
Biden’s win has sparked debate among those who back President Donald Trump’s hardline approach of isolating his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro and others who say it is time for a new course.
The critics say heavy sanctions have failed to remove Maduro from power, opening Venezuela to US competitors such as China, Russia and Iran, while making life harder on millions of residents of the South American nation.
The US leads a coalition of dozens of nations that rejected Maduro following his election in 2018 to a second term in a vote Washington called fraudulent.
The US has since heavily sanctioned Maduro, his inner circle and the state-run oil firm, attempting to isolate them.
The Trump administration offered a $15m reward for Maduro’s arrest after a US court indicted him on drug charges.
‘UAE, Israel can stamp out Islamophobia, anti-Semitism’
People to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in change mindsets, Ban Ki-moon says. Countries like the UAE and Israel who have signed the Abraham Accords should stamp out anti-semitism and Islamophobia and devise curriculums to educate their youth on the significance of the peace deal, said former…
People to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in change mindsets, Ban Ki-moon says.
Countries like the UAE and Israel who have signed the Abraham Accords should stamp out anti-semitism and Islamophobia and devise curriculums to educate their youth on the significance of the peace deal, said former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
He said that one of the major achievements of the deal – considered a huge political and diplomatic win – is that it opens up a “cooperative space not only for leaders but also for citizens of all the participating countries”
“The architects of this important agreement must ensure that the Accords is not an agreement just for their countries but for their people. Abraham Accords should serve as a launchpad for the sustainable peace and prosperity in the region,” Ban Ki-moon said while addressing a virtual conference on ‘The Abraham Accords: Advancing UAE-Israel, Regional, and Muslim-Jewish Cooperation’ organised by UK-based Emirates Society.
Stressing on the important role of education in building secure, peaceful, resilient and prosperous societies in both a short and long term, the Secretary General said it is his “sincere hope that the UAE and Israel and others redouble their sustained effort to educate their students and citizens – both young and old – about the significance of this important agreement and each other.”
“Devising curriculum and expanding global citizenship education as well as being aggressive about stamping out instances of anti-Semitism and islamophobia are important steps to take in this regard, he added.
He said people to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in helping to change mindset and begin a dynamic new era of cooperation.
The UAE is the first GCC country and the third Arab nation to establish diplomatic relations with Israel by signing the US-brokered Abraham Accords on September 15. Bahrain and Sudan also followed suit and have signed peace deals with Israel.
The deal is considered a game changer for peace and stability in the region, as in exchange, Israel has agreed to temporarily halt annexations in the West Bank.
Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, said the UAE continues to consider the issue of a Palestinian state as the most important one but without impeding opportunities for dialogue and open communication.
She said Abraham Accords was born from a “desire to change the business as usual approach” that has mired the countries of Middle East in conflict for long.
Even as the UAE continues to work for its own national agenda, Al Hashimi said the country is “really looking to learn from each other and also to explain to one another who we are and what matters to us”.
“And it does matter to the Arab and the Muslim world that a Palestinian state in its rightful place … exists.”
Ban Ki-Moon said it would be difficult to forge lasting peace without addressing the Palestinian question as well as issues like the final status of Jerusalem and West Bank settlement.
“To truly advance the vision of peace throughout the Middle East, we should not forget that the Palestinians must be involved in determining a future that is based on security and prosperity for all people in the region. I hope that Abraham Accords can function as a springboard for invigorated action on ensuring a negotiated two-state solution aligned with the relevant UN security council resolutions.”
Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.