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IS claims responsibility for Baghdad bombing that killed 21

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  • As Baghdad declares state of emergency following protesters storming parliament

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a bombing Saturday east of Baghdad, according to a statement posted on an IS-affiliated website. The attack killed at least 21 people and wounded at least 42 others, according to Iraqi police and hospital officials. The IS statement described the attack as a three-ton truck bombing.

The attack targeted Shiite civilians shopping in an open-air market selling fruit, vegetables and meat in Nahrawan, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry. The IS statement and initial reports from local officials at the scene claimed the bombing targeted Shiite pilgrims walking to Baghdad’s holy Kadhimiyah shrine.

“It was not a road for people walking toward Kadhimiyah,” said Brig. Gen. Saad Mann, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry and Baghdad Operations Command.

The attack’s casualty figures were confirmed by police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Thousands of Shiite pilgrims from across Iraq are expected to travel on foot to the shrine of 8th-century Imam Moussa al-Kadhim over the coming days to commemorate the anniversary of his death. Security in the capital has been tightened in anticipation of the crowds; additional checkpoints have been set up and roads have been closed.

The Islamic State group regularly carries out attacks targeting Iraq’s Shiite majority, including attacks on Shiite pilgrims and civilians in Baghdad’s Shiite neighborhoods. IS views Shiites as apostates deserving of death.

Mann said the attack in Baghdad was carried out by IS in response to recent territorial losses in Iraq. “The only strategic weapon left for them are (suicide bombers),” Mann said. While IS still controls large swaths of Iraq’s west and north, the group has suffered a series of territorial losses over the past year. Most recently IS fighters were pushed out of the western town of Hit.

In the face of those losses, analysts and Iraqi security officials say the extremist group is increasingly turning to insurgent-style attacks in Baghdad and other areas far from the frontline fighting.

More than 40 civilians have been killed in high-profile bombings in Baghdad over the past month. On March 25th an IS-claimed suicide bombing attack on a stadium killed 29 and wounded 60.

Saturday’s attack also comes amid a political crisis in Iraq as the country’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is under increasing public pressure after repeated failed attempts at political reform to combat corruption and waste.

In the meantime, a state of emergency has reportedly been declared in Baghdad after supporters of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the Green Zone and entered the parliament building.

Hundreds of people gathered in protest at the failure of Iraqi MPs to convene for a vote to approve new ministers. The unrest comes after weeks of political turmoil in Baghdad over efforts by the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats. MPs failed to reach a quorum to approve the measures on Saturday.

People gathered outside the heavily fortified green zone, comprising government buildings and foreign embassies, after crossing a bridge over the Tigris river chanting: “The cowards ran away.”

They reportedly attached cables to the tops of concrete walls surrounding the green zone and pulled them down to gain access. Protesters are believed to have damaged cars belonging to MPs, and a video emerged online of a man in a grey suit being beaten.

Footage from inside the parliament building appears to show scores of people across both levels waving flags and chanting. “You are not staying here. This is your last day in the green zone,” shouted one protester, according to Agence France-Presse.

All entrances to Baghdad have been closed “as a precautionary measure to maintain the capital’s security”, a security official said. A UN spokesman and western diplomats inside the green zone said their compounds had been locked down.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (Unami) , which has its headquarters in the Green Zone, said it was gravely concerned about the situation. In a statement it condemned any violence against elected officials and urged “calm, restraint and respect for Iraq’s constitutional institutions at this crucial juncture”.

It said the UN mission “continues to operate from its headquarters in Baghdad’s international zone and is in constant contact with parties to facilitate a solution that meets the demands of the people for reform.”

Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism forces had yet to be called on to reinforce security, and police and troops appeared to be taking no action against the protesters.

“We still view this as a demonstration,” said Sabah al-Numan, a spokesman for the counter-terrorism forces. “We aren’t taking any part in this as it’s not something regarding terrorism.”

He said that if the unrest escalated his forces may have to intervene to “protect the legitimacy of the government”.

The unrest began after Sadr held a news conference in the holy Shia city of Najaf and condemned the political deadlock. He threatened last month that his supporters would storm the green zone, but he did not order them to enter the area in his address on Saturday.

He said the politicians “refused to end corruption and refused to end quotas”, adding that he and his supporters would not participate in “any political process in which there are any type … of political party quotas”.

For years key government posts have been shared out based on political and sectarian quotas, which the demonstrators want to end. Abadi’s move to change the system has been opposed by powerful political parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

Both Washington and the UN have said the political crisis could distract from the fight against Islamic State.

Also on Saturday, a bomb targeting Shia pilgrims near Baghdad killed at least 23 people. Isis later claimed responsibility for the attack.

MSN with additional report from Guardian

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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