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Friday, April 24, 2015

At least 14 migrants killed in Macedonia train horror

At least 14 migrants from Somalia and Afghanistan were killed in central Macedonia when they were hit by an international passenger train, officials said on Friday.
The tragedy is the latest loss of life involving migrants seeking a new life in Europe after around 750 people drowned last Sunday when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean.
The train driver reported seeing several dozen people sitting on or near the track late on Thursday but was unable to stop in time, a local prosecutor said in a statement.
Emergency service workers described a "scene of horror with body parts scattered some 150 metres along the railroad".
"The driver tried to alert them by horn and stop the train. Many managed to escape but 14 were killed," the statement said, adding that the victims were from Afghanistan and Somalia.
The accident occurred on a mountainous part of the line passing through a canyon near the central town of Veles, so the migrants could not get out of the away.
A group of migrants walk near to the railroad tracks …
The bodies were taken to a chapel at the local cemetery in Veles, police said.
Eight migrants were detained, while others fled the scene, police spokeswoman Anita Stojkovska said.
In the past six months around a dozen migrants had been killed in similar incidents on the same stretch of line, Stojkovska added.
Migrants from impoverished and war-torn countries in Africa, the Middle East and central and south Asia walk through Macedonia along the line to reach Serbia as they head north from Greece in the hope of crossing the European Union border into Romania, Hungary and Croatia.
According to the latest report of EU border agency Frontex, Macedonian smugglers charge between 120 and 200 euros ($130 and $215) for passage as far as the Serbian border.
Similar networks have sprung up on the Greek-Albanian border, owing to greater security on ferry crossings between Greece and Italy.
Traffickers charge half the price for the land route through the western Balkans into northern Europe, around 1,800 euros compared to 3,000 euros for the direct sea or air route, according to Frontex.
Detections of non-EU migrants on the border between Serbia and Hungary rose by 338 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to Frontex.
The latest tragedy in Macedonia comes as EU leaders on Thursday agreed to triple the funding for the bloc's search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean in a bid to curb the soaring number of migrants dying as they seek a better life in Europe.
Already, more than 1,750 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean this year -- 30 times more than the same period in 2014.

Minnesota Mother Shocked That 2 Sons Face Terror Charges - ABC News

Minnesota Mother Shocked That 2 Sons Face Terror Charges - ABC News

Adnan Abdihamid Farah's parents took his passport away last year when it came in the mail, and his mother would later tell authorities she feared her son would "disappear."
She also stopped the 19-year-old from traveling with his brother, Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, when the siblings told her they were going to Chicago. Mohamed — who was older and given more freedom — made the trip and instead ended up in San Diego, where authorities say he was bound for Mexico and ultimately the Islamic State group in Syria.
"I cry all day," their mother, Ayan Farah, said Wednesday. "I don't know what happened."
The brothers are among six Minnesota men of Somali descent charged this week with terrorism-related offenses, accused of attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group. Family members have expressed shock to see the men caught up in a terror investigation, but people who track such cases say it's not uncommon for sibling relationships to play a role in recruiting.
William Braniff, executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), said an intimate relationship — like that of family members — is often the key that will lead someone with extremist views to action. He said it's hard to conspire with others over the phone or in emails or meetings without getting caught, but much easier to make plans with a sibling at home.
"The current security environment lends itself to that kind of tight-knit conspiracy," he said.
Authorities said another man charged with the Farah brothers, Guled Ali Omar, is the younger brother of Ahmed Ali Omar, who joined al-Shabab in 2007 and remains a fugitive. A court document says Guled Omar also had tried to go to Somalia in 2012 to join al-Shabab, and has made at least two attempts to travel to Syria in the last year.
U.S. Attorney Andy Luger described the group charged this week as friends and family members who recruited and inspired each other. He said the recruiting was "friend-to-friend, brother-to-brother."
Former prosecutor Anders Folk, who handled the initial al-Shabab cases in Minnesota, said younger siblings often look up to their older brothers or sisters.
"I don't think it provides any kind of excuse or diminishes at all their potential dangerousness or potential commitment to the cause, but it is certainly context for how people can get involved," Folk said, adding: "Who better to keep a secret than a sister or a brother?"
Ayan Farah said she thinks her sons were set up. Her reaction echoed that of some in the Somali community who suggested the role of an FBI informant in the case was entrapment.
She said her sons, two of seven children, still lived in the family home with her and her husband. Mohamed, 21, graduated from high school in 2012 and was studying at St. Paul Technical College with plans of becoming a science teacher. Adnan graduated from high school last year and planned to marry this summer, she said.
She said both are religious and frequently attended the mosque. They never strayed far from home, and liked basketball and soccer.
"The kids, they have a beautiful life," she said. "So I did not see anything for the problem."
She said Adnan told her he wanted to go to college in China, but she thought he was too young and she wanted him to stay in the U.S. She said she did not believe he wanted to join the Islamic State group.
"I keep the passport because Adnan, he's young. That's why," she said. "(I) say, 'Hey, you're not going anywhere.' ... And he listened."
According to an FBI affidavit, the mother took Adnan's passport because she "was fearful he would disappear and that they would 'not know where (he) went.'" The affidavit also says Adnan posted jihadist images on Facebook and last year told an informant, "There's nothing for me in this world, bro."
Ayan Farah said she saw her sons' activity on Facebook and nothing alarmed her.
The affidavit also says Mohamed was among four men who took a bus to New York City and were stopped at JFK Airport last November while trying to travel to Syria. During conversations recorded by the FBI informant, Mohamed allegedly said that he tricked his grandmother to get his passport.
On another occasion he said that "the American identity is dead."
"Even if I get caught, I'm whatever ... I'm through with America," Mohamed said, according to the affidavit. "Burn my ID."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Obama's grandma arrives for Umrah

Obama's grandma arrives for Umrah

Sara Omar, grandma of US President Barack Obama, has emphasized the significance of the Prophet Muhammad exhibition in Makkah and said it reflects the moderate teachings of Islam that calls for tolerance and rejects violence.
Sara has come to Makkah with her son Saeed Obama, uncle of President Obama and her grandson Mousa Obama to perform Umrah.
She commended the Saudi government’s efforts to expand the two holy mosques.
Sara and her family members visited the Prophet’s show, which is located in the Naseem district of Makkah, for two hours. “I am very happy to visit this exhibition, which is a good example for the propagation of Islam in a modern way, supported by scientific and authentic documents.”
Obama’s grandma also expressed hope that the exhibition would visit other countries with the support of the Saudi government in order to remove the misunderstandings about the divine religion.

Somalia's Premier Bank to bring ATMs, debit cards to Mogadishu | Top News | Reuters

Somalia's Premier Bank to bring ATMs, debit cards to Mogadishu | Top News | Reuters

Somalia's Premier Bank has struck a deal with Mastercard and will issue debit cards and install ATM machines in the capital of the war-ravaged country, the Islamic lender's top executive said on Wednesday.
    The east African nation has struggled for more than two decades with civil war and containing an insurrection by Islamist militants which has meant even basic infrastructure has been beyond most of the country's 10 million people.
Yet with al Shabaab militants driven out of the capital Mogadishu and other major strongholds, business and consumer demand has grown for services which would be taken for granted in many other parts of the world, including banking."Somalia is a very under-penetrated market with less than 3 percent of its population banked," Mahat Mohamed Ahmed, managing director of Premier Bank, which received a licence from the central bank last year, told Reuters in Dubai.    Carrying local currency in Somalia, a de facto dollarized economy, is cumbersome as $1 is worth 21,000 Somali shillings, and the only note in circulation is 1,000 shillings. For wealthier Somalis and visiting foreigners, carrying cash can be a dangerous task in cities rife with crime and awash with guns.Ahmed said in an interview that the Islamic lender, one of a handful of banks in Somalia, will soon start distributing Mastercard-administered debit and prepaid cards to customers. It plans to have 15,000 cards issued by the end of 2015 and says its ATM machines will also accept cards issued abroad.MasterCard's spokeswoman for Africa said it had licensed Premier Bank to go live with their cards and machines.MOBILE MONEYHowever, Somali banks may struggle to convince the local population to sign up to debit cards, which might charge for withdrawals, as most Somalis use ubiquitous cheap, or free, mobile money technology to pay for goods and services.Premier has bought five ATM machines and will install them in various locations with high security in Mogadishu, Ahmed said. With a withdrawal limit of $1,000 a day, the cards can be used online and abroad. Salaam Somali Bank installed the sole ATM in Somalia in an upmarket hotel in Mogadishu last year. However, central bank sources and hotel visitors say it does not work.Salaam did not respond to requests for comment.Creating a banking system from scratch is proving problematic for Somalia. The U.S. terms al Qaeda-aligned al Shabaab a "terrorist organisation" and this has raised concerns in international banking about the risk of fines if money channelled through them ends up in the hands of the militants.Premier has one of Somalia's four registered SWIFT codes but Somali lenders are struggling to build networks of correspondent banks for cross-border transactions due to fears about money-laundering and terrorist financing. "Anti-money laundering is a huge issue for dealing with international banks. They don't want to deal with Somali banks," Ahmed said.Somalis have traditionally dealt with informal and unregulated money transfer firms. But these money transfer firms that send much of diaspora remittances to Somalia are also struggling as correspondent banks shut their accounts, driven by the same worries about funding militant groups.Yet despite all the challenges, Ahmed believes the security improvements in Somalia have heralded huge business opportunities: "(It) has encouraged Somalis overseas to come back and invest in the country."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

US designated two top militant leaders as 'terrorists'

US designated two top militant leaders as 'terrorists'

The United States government has formally designed two top Al-Shabab leaders as terrorists following deadly attacks in Somalia and across East African region.
The state Department added Ahmed Diriye, the new Al-Shabab leader who replaced Ahmed Abdi Godane who was killed in a US air strike last year and Mahad Karate, his deputy to the terrorist list on Tuesday.
Announcing the designation, State noted that Diriye "shares Godane's vision for al Shabaab's terrorist attacks in Somalia as an element of al Qaeda's greater global aspirations.", after the group's fighters
attacked Kenyan University in a deadly siege which killed at least 147 people, mostly students.
The group also carried out numerous deadly attacks across Somalia.
In the statement, the state Department said Diriye or Karate has any interest is blocked and any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with Diriye or Karate, or to their benefit.
Al-Shabab claimed the responsibility for the 2010 Kampala bombing attacks in Uganda, the 2013 Westgate attack in Nairobi.
No comment could be reached from Al-Shabab on the development. The Department of State said it took the decision in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.

Local Somali community looks to achieve the American dream - KUSI News - San Diego, CA

Local Somali community looks to achieve the American dream - KUSI News - San Diego, CA

There is a large Somali population in Minnesota, but San Diego is also home to roughly 30,000 Somali refugees. One Somali man, Hassan, came to this country in 2004 in search of peace and a better life. Now at 26 years old, he helps other Somali refugees find the same.
Hassan volunteers at the Somali Bantu Association of America in City Heights, a non profit which offers resources like English as a second language classes, a computer lab, job training, a path to citizenship.
He knows what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land, facing so many cultural challenges. He cannot explain why some refugees make bad choices, but he understands. "A lot of people, they cannot stay here, no job, no other people to help, some don't have no house at all," he said.
The folks at the Somali Bantu Association seek to mentor young Somali's, keep them close with after school activities. This is a community not used to being in the spotlight. Many here work hard at the jobs available to them, translating, driving a cab, housekeeping. They are trying not to let the actions of a few who choose terror, overshadow their attempts at making it in this country.
Hassan has a plan. To get a full time job, and continue to give back.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rochester Somali community denounces ISIS ideology - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Rochester Somali community denounces ISIS ideology - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

"I moved to America when I was 9 years old," says Deq Ahmed, a librarian and administrative assistant at Rochester Math and Science Academy, a charter school that specializes in education of Somali youth.
"I'm more American than I am Somali."
Such is the sentiment of many Somalis in Rochester. They are overjoyed with their inclusion in the American Dream, happy to be a part of the melting pot, and eager to build better lives for their kids than they have for themselves.
Somalis today find themselves victim of the same xenophobia that dogged Arabs in the months and years after 9/11, and in large part still pervades. The prejudice against young Somali men is in many ways a continuation thereof, another iteration of the proverbial boogeyman, Islamophobia's latest target.
"It changes the whole community," says Abdi Roble, a Somalian man living in Rochester, says of the extremist ideology that creates a stereotype of Somali culture. "People look at you when you are walking down the street... it creates vulnerability."
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Roble sees anti-Somali sentiment as an opportunity.
"Every race of people that has come to America has encountered this. It's part of coming here."
Many in Rochester are working to combat that vulnerability, to instill structure and discipline where there was once an identity crisis.
"We are doing all in our capability to divert them [from extremist ideology] and tell them that this is the right way," says Roble. He says that while his efforts as a father and as a community leader to improve the lives of Somali youth have been successful thus far, it's important to remain vigilant against pervasive extremism.
"No matter how much you close your doors," says Roble, "thieves will always try to get in."
Those sentiments were echoed by other Somalis in Rochester, who say that their culture, ideologies, and religion is not that espoused by ISIS, or by the young Somali men arrested Sunday for allegedly attempting to obtain forged passports for terrorist groups.
"We are worried about people in the Minnesota community getting involved in a bad situation overseas. We want to reach our youth and get them help," says Omar Nur, director of Somalia Rebuild Organization, a nonprofit whose aim is to improve the lives of Somali youth living in Rochester. His organization funds literacy programs and sports leagues for Somali youth. He, like Abdi Roble, sees progress. He cites the example of Munira Khalif, the Somali-Minnesotan girl recently accepted to all eight Ivy League Schools, plus Georgetown, Stanford, and the University of Minnesota.
"There's a big gap between the life we left, and the life that's here. And we try to fill in that gap."
 Toryn Hill assisted in writing this article.