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142 killed in Yemen, Turkey, Egypt, Somalia blasts

At least 142 people were killed and several hundreds were injured in separate deadly bomb attacks in Yemen, Turkey, Egypt and Somalia today.

Suicide bombers killed at least 50 Yemeni troops in Aden and 29 people in Mogadishu while 38 people were killed in twin blasts near a football stadium in Istanbul and 25 were killed in blast inside Cairo's Coptic cathedral, reports Reuters.

In Yemen, a suicide bomber killed at least 50 Yemeni soldiers at a base in the city of Aden, a local security official said, in another major attack claimed by Islamic State on forces allied to a Saudi-led military coalition.

The attacker blew himself up as the troops were waiting to collect their salaries, the government sources added, wounding around 70 others as they lined up to collect salaries at the entrance to the Sawlaban base on the outskirts of the city.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a message posted online.

The Yemeni branch of the militant group based in Iraq and Syria has carried out many deadly bombings around troops in the southern port city, which is under the control of the internationally recognized government in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom intervened in Yemen's civil war in March 2015 to fight the government's foes in the Iran-allied Houthi movement but have failed to dislodge the group from the capital Sanaa despite thousands of air strikes.

Houthi forces were pushed out of Aden and much of Yemen's south last summer, but the government and coalition troops have struggled to enforce their control as Al Qaeda and Islamic State militants use the security vacuum to carry out attacks.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the 20-month conflict, which has unleashed a humanitarian crisis on the impoverished country.

In Turkey, turkey declared a day of national mourning on Sunday after twin bombings targeting police struck the heart of Istanbul near the home stadium of football giants Besiktas, killing 38 people.

A car bomb detonated outside the Vodafone Arena football stadium on the shores of the Bosphorus after the Super Lig match between Besiktas and Bursaspor while less than a minute later a suicide attacker struck a nearby park.

The authorities did not say who was behind the blasts, the latest in a year that has seen Istanbul and other cities rocked by a string of attacks blamed on Islamic State jihadists and Kurdish militants.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim ordered flags to fly at half mast while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan postponed a planned trip to Kazakhstan, the state news agency Anadolu reported.

Twenty-seven of those killed were police and two were civilians, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said, adding that 10 suspects had been detained.

Soylu said the first blast was caused by a car bomb that struck outside Besiktas's football stadium.

It was followed 45 seconds later by another attack at the nearby Macka Park, carried out by a suicide bomber who blew himself up in the midst of police officers.

The Istanbul governor's office said 155 people were wounded, 19 of them were in intensive care unit, the private NTV broadcaster reported.

A forensic team on Sunday inspected the stadium and the park to collect evidence, an AFP journalist said. Municipality trucks meanwhile cleaned up the area.

"An act of terror targeted our security forces and citizens at Besiktas tonight," Erdogan said in a statement after the attacks.

Erdogan said the blasts were timed to cause maximum loss of life.

"We have witnessed once more here in Istanbul the ugly face of terror which tramples down any form of value and morals," he said.

'We will stand firm'

State broadcaster TRT showed images of the wreckage of a car, engulfed in flames with emergency services swarming around the scene outside the sports venue.

Other footage showed severely damaged police vehicles, while witnesses said the force of the blast had shattered the windows of nearby homes.

"I heard two explosions in less than one minute, followed by the sound of gunshots," one witness told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Besiktas is one of Istanbul's most popular football clubs, and its fans are known for their anti-establishment views and famously played a big role in the 2013 protests against Erdogan, who was then prime minister.

The club said that among those killed was Vefa Karakurdu, a senior police officer in charge of security at games who was a member of its congress, and Tunc Uncu who worked at its official merchandise shop.

Besiktas in a statement vowed to "stand firm against the vile attackers who will never achieve their goal."

Police cordoned off the area around the stadium immediately after the blasts, which occurred near the Ottoman-era Dolmabahce palace that houses Prime Minister Binali Yildirim's offices.

The scene is also about a kilometre (0.6 miles) from the busy Taksim Square, a magnet for tourists.

The government slapped a broadcast ban on footage of the attack, as is becoming typical in the aftermath of major incidents in the country.

'We will defeat terror'

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday's attack.

In his statement, Erdogan said that "the name or the method of the terrorist organisation which perpetrated the vile attack" did not matter.

"Nobody should doubt that we will defeat terror, terror groups, terrorists and of course the forces behind them, with God's help," he said.

In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, with authorities blaming IS.

Another 57 people, 34 of them children, were killed in August in a suicide attack by an IS-linked bomber at a Kurdish wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

But there have also been deadly bombings claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), seen as a splinter group of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg condemned the "horrific acts of terror" in Istanbul, adding: "We stand united in solidarity with our ally Turkey. We remain determined to fight terrorism in all its forms."

The US embassy in Turkey wrote on Twitter: "Our hearts and prayers are with the people of #Istanbul tonight."

Turkey is still reeling from a failed July 15 coup blamed by the government on the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen that has been followed by a relentless purge of his alleged supporters from state institutions.

In Somalia, a suicide truck bomb hit the entrance of Somalia's biggest port on Sunday, killing at least 29 people, police said, an attack claimed by Islamist al Shabaab militants.

The fighters said they were trying to disrupt protracted parliamentary elections - part of efforts to rebuild the fractured nation after decades of war. The three-month vote is due to end on Dec. 29.

Gunfire rang out after the blast at Mogadishu Port, Mohamed Hussein, a worker there, told Reuters. Two others said work had been halted and staff sent home.

The bodies of victims lay strewn outside the capital's terminal in a street filled with rubble from damaged tea shops.

"At least 29 civilians died and 50 others have been injured in the blast. We believe it was a suicide truck bomb," police officer Colonel Abdikadir Farah told Reuters.

Al Shabaab's military operation spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters the blast was aimed at police officers stationed close to the port.

"We killed 30 security forces and injured 50. We targeted them because they had been trained to provide security at so-called elections,' he said.

Al Shabaab's insurgency aims to drive out African Union peacekeepers, topple Somalia's western-backed government and impose its strict version of Islam on the Horn of Africa state.

Around 14,000 people representing Somalia's federal states have been chosen to pick the 275 lawmakers. Those members of parliament will choose a new president.

The government, U.N. officials and international donors have said security issues prevented a broader vote.

photo: A damaged vehicle is seen after a blast in Istanbul, Turkey, December 10, 2016. Reuters

Al Shabaab accuses the presidential and parliamentary candidates of being foreign stooges.

In Egypt, an explosion inside Cairo's Coptic cathedral killed at least 20 people and injured 35, Egypt's state television said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

On Friday, two roadside bombs - one in Cairo and one north of the capital - killed six policemen and wounded six others.

Egyptian security forces are fighting an Islamist insurgency led by Islamic State's branch in North Sinai, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed. The insurgents have also launched deadly attacks Cairo and other cities. The Daily Star

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