Two ancient pyramids open for visitors
Egypt on Saturday opened two of its oldest pyramids, located about 25 miles south of the capital Cairo, to visitors for the first time since 1965.
Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany told reporters that tourists were are now allowed to visit the Bent Pyramid and its satellite pyramid in the Dahshur royal necropolis, which is part of the Memphis Necropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Bent Pyramid, which was built during the Old Kingdom of the Pharaoh of Sneferu, in about 2600 B.C., is unique in that it has two internal structures. El-Anany said the Bent Pyramid represents a transitional form of pyramid construction between the Djoser Step Pyramid (2667-2648 B.C.) and the Meidum Pyramid (also about 2600 B.C.)
El-Anany also announced that Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered a collection of stone, clay and wooden sarcophagi, some of them with mummies, in the area. He said archaeologists also found wooden funerary masks along with instruments used for cutting stones, dating to the Late Period (664-332 B.C.).
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said they also uncovered large stone blocks along with limestone and granite fragments indicating the existence of ancient graves in the area.
Egypt has been whipping up publicity for its new historical discoveries in the hopes of reviving a devastated tourism sector still recovering from the turmoil following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
26 dead in Islamic extremist attack
Islamic extremists blew up the gate of a Somali hotel with a car bomb and took over the building for more than 14 hours, leaving 26 people dead before Somali forces who besieged the hotel overnight killed the attackers. The victims included a prominent Canadian-Somali journalist.
Three Kenyans, three Tanzanians, two Americans and a Briton also were among the dead, said Ahmed Madobe, the president of Jubbaland regional state that controls Kismayo. Fifty-six people, including two Chinese, were injured in the hotel attack, he told reporters.
At least four al-Shabab assailants attacked the Asasey Hotel Friday evening, beginning with a suicide car bomb at the entrance gate and followed by an assault by gunmen who stormed the hotel, which is frequented by politicians, patrons and lawmakers.
The attack lasted more than 14 hours before troops shot dead all attackers inside the hotel compound, Col. Abdiqadir Nur, a local police officer, told The Associated Press.
Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack. Al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida, often uses car bombs to infiltrate heavily fortified targets like the hotel in Kismayo, which has been relatively quiet in recent years.
The attack is a blow to the Somalia government’s efforts to hold nation-wide, one-person one-vote elections next year.
Security officials cordoned off the site of the attack and prevented journalists from taking photos or video of the damaged hotel and in some cases destroyed journalists’ cameras. Government officials have not been available for further interviews.
Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband, Farid Jama Suleiman, died in the attack, Mogadishu-based independent radio station Radio Dalsan confirmed to AP.
”I’m absolutely devastated by the news of the death of our dear sister Hodan Nalayeh and her husband in a terrorist attack in Somalia today. What a loss to us. Her beautiful spirit shined through her work and the way she treated people,” Omar Suleiman, a Texas-based imam who knew the victim, wrote on social media.
Nalayeh was born in Somalia in 1976, but spent most of her life in Canada, first in Alberta and then in Toronto. She founded Integration TV, an international web-based video production company aimed at Somali viewers around the world. She was the first Somali woman media owner in the world.
Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen mourned Hodan Nalayeh’s death on Twitter, saying she “highlighted the community’s positive stories and contributions in Canada” through her work as a journalist. “We mourn her loss deeply, and all others killed in the #KismayoAttack,” he wrote.
Nalayeh’s endless “positivity” and “love for people” was inspiring, said Canada’s New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath on Twitter.
”In Ontario, Hodan launched @IntegrationTV to tell the beautiful stories of the Somali Diaspora, and took that same humanity and love to her reporting and storytelling in Somalia. My thoughts are with her family, and the victims of the #Kismayo attack during this horrific time.”
A top official of the African Union condemned the attack.
”This is an attack meant to derail progress in Somalia as the country rebuilds and consolidates the gains made on peace and security,” said Francisco Madeira, special representative of the chairman of the African Union Commission. “Somalia has made tremendous progress in seizing territory and pushing out the terrorists from many places across the country.”
He said the African Union’s multinational force in Somalia will continue to work to stabilize the country.
Major new telescope launched into space
A Russian Proton-M rocket successfully delivered a cutting-edge space telescope into orbit Saturday after days of launch delays, Russia’s space agency said.
Roscosmos said the telescope, named Spektr-RG, was delivered into a parking orbit before a final burn Saturday that kicked the spacecraft out of Earth’s orbit and on to its final destination: the L2 Lagrange point.
Lagrange points are unique positions in the solar system where objects can maintain their position relative to the sun and the planets that orbit it. Located 0.93 million miles from Earth, L2 is particularly ideal for telescopes such as Spektr-RG.
If all goes well, the telescope will arrive at its designated position in three months, becoming the first Russian spacecraft to operate beyond Earth’s orbit since the Soviet era. The telescope aims to conduct a complete X-ray survey of the sky by 2025, the first space telescope to do so.
The Russian accomplishment comes as the U.S. space agency NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969.
Russian space science missions have suffered greatly since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Budget cuts have forced the Russian space program to shift toward more commercial efforts.
A Russian Mars probe, called Mars 96, failed to leave Earth’s orbit in 1996. A later attempt to send a probe to Mars, called Fobos-Grunt, suffered a similar fate in 2011.
Work on Spektr-RG telescope began in the 1980s but was scrapped in the 1990s. Spektr-RG was revived in 2005 and redesigned to be smaller, simpler and cheaper.
In its modern form, the project is a close collaboration between Russian and German scientists, who both installed telescope equipment aboard the Russian spacecraft.
1 dead as firefighters battle blaze
Firefighters are battling wildfires on multiple fronts in southern Italy, including one blaze in Puglia that left at least one person dead.
Firefighters said Saturday they had sent up three Canadair aircraft to dump water on a wildfire raging in Tortoli, Sardinia, that forced the evacuation of a beach and some homes.
Canadairs were also deployed over a forest in Puglia’s Gallipoli, near a beach and a protected park. Firefighters said a burned body was discovered during land-based operations.
Wildfires are common during Italy’s dry, hot summers.
The Italian farm lobby Coldiretti said Saturday that 2019 has been particularly bad, given a dry start to the year and one of the hottest months of June on record. Coldiretti warned of agricultural losses from fires, heat and extreme weather that included orange-sized hail raining down.