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Saturday, August 1, 2015

IRIN Global | Mapped - the world's conflicts | Bangladesh | DRC | Comoros | Ethiopia | Conflict | Refugees/IDPs | Security

IRIN Global | Mapped - the world's conflicts | Bangladesh | DRC | Comoros | Ethiopia | Conflict | Refugees/IDPs | Security The news is dominated by wars and unrest in places like Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, but there are dozens of other conflicts around the globe just as devastating that get far less media attention. Next Monday, IRIN will launch the first instalment of a series on the world’s forgotten conflicts. Our package of stories, films and graphics will look in-depth at the situation in South Kordofan in Sudan, Casamance in Senegal, and the border states of southern Thailand. As a teaser, were are releasing an interactive map showing all the ongoing conflicts around the world. Click here to see the map

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Obama Admin. Extends Amnesty For Somalis, Despite Recent Terror Concerns - Breitbart

Obama Admin. Extends Amnesty For Somalis, Despite Recent Terror Concerns - Breitbart

The Obama administration is extending the availability of Temporary Protected Status for current TPS beneficiaries from Somalia for another 18 months, through March 17, 2017.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services highlighted this week that the deadline for TPS Somalis to re-register is July 31. Those granted TPS are allowed to stay in the U.S. legally and are eligible for work authorization.
TPS is afforded to eligible nationals of countries the Secretary of Homeland Security designates due to conditions in the country that prevent its nationals from a safe return. A congressional aid noted that TPS often applies to immigrants without legal status, such as those who have overstayed their visas, and are issued on top of the government’s refugee programs.
“Friday, July 31, 2015, is the deadline for current Somalia Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries to re-register for the 18-month extension of TPS that runs from Sept. 18, 2015, through March 17, 2017,” USCIS explained in a new notice. “The law requires USCIS to withdraw TPS for failure to re-register without good cause. Therefore, if you fail to re-register by this deadline, you may lose your TPS and your work authorization.”
Besides those TPS beneficiaries, the U.S. has additionally resettled thousands of Somali refugees in the U.S. So far this fiscal year, the U.S. has admitted 6,200 Somali refugees.
The extension of TPS comes following recent national security concerns involving Somali immigrants.
In April, for example, six Somali men living in Minnesota were charged with trying to join the terrorist group ISIS. Last year a naturalized Somali-American was sentenced to 30 years for a plot to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Oregon.
Fox News reports that since 2007, more than 22 young Somali men living in Minnesota have left to join the terrorist group al-Shabaab.

Mum-to-be killed in Barton Hill stabbing named as Amal Abdi | Bristol Post

Mum-to-be killed in Barton Hill stabbing named as Amal Abdi | Bristol Post

A 21-year-old pregnant woman stabbed to death has been named as Amal Abdi.
Police have confirmed she was four months pregnant when she was stabbed to death on Sunday night.
Officers were called to a seventh floor flat at Longlands House in Barton Hill on Sunday evening.
Paramedics attempted to save her life after finding her unconscious, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
         
A 21-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in police custody.
Officers said this morning that the incident was being treated as domestic-related.
Forensic officers remain at the scene as investigations continue.
One shop keeper said Amal came in his store regularly with her daughter.
He said he believed she had recently helped her husband move from Somalia via Italy so they could be together.
"She had helped him come over and he only got here recently, so I don't know him," he said.
"But she was a lovely young girl. She was quiet and always polite.
"We are just all shocked that this has happened.
"She has got other relatives in Bristol as well. Her family will just be devastated. It is such a sad situation."
Another neighbour added: "There were police and ambulances everywhere on Sunday.
"No one really knows what happened, but a lot of people have said she was pregnant and was stabbed.
"Forensic teams have been coming in and there have been police everywhere. I think she lived with some of her family, including her cousins.
"She was a young Somali girl, a pretty girl. It is just devastating that this kind of thing can happen to someone so young.
"It's such a waste of life."
A spokesman for the police said: "We can confirm that the woman who died on Sunday in the incident at a property in Morley Street, Barton Hill was Amal Abdi, aged 21.
"Amal, who is Somalian, was four months pregnant and the post mortem has confirmed that she died from stab wounds.
"A 21-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of her murder remains in police custody. A further warrant of detention has been obtained, enabling officers to continue questioning him.
"Specially trained officers are supporting the woman's family and the local neighbourhood policing team are patrolling the area, providing reassurance and receiving information from members of the local community."
A resident who lives in sheltered accommodation opposite said: "I heard from her cousin that she got stabbed. All I've been told is that the girl got stabbed.
"It was swarming with police cars and they've still got one over there.
"Yesterday they had one of the forensic vans over there too.
"There were half a dozen police cars, two ambulances and paramedics everywhere. We couldn't get in or out of our building."

UNHCR: Talented Somali refugee dreams of new life in America to honour father who died for his art

UNHCR: Talented Somali refugee dreams of new life in America to honour father who died for his art

It has been said that if you suffer for your art, you will never die. For 16-year-old Abdirahim Abdulkadir Osman, a talented Somali refugee artist, it is the memory of his father's brutal murder that keeps his dreams of a better life in America alive.
It was June 2009 when Al Shabaab gunmen forced their way into the home of his father, a teacher and co-founder of the Picasso Art School in Mogadishu. They shot him, along with three of his young children, and violently beat his mother Lul, leaving her in a coma for weeks.
Abdirahim was just 11 years old at the time and attending school with his elder brother Abdulahi. As a result, the pair were spared, along with three other siblings who also escaped the gunmen's fire.
"Everyone has something in their life and that school was his life," said Abdirahim about his father, as he sipped on a macchiato coffee in the canteen of the UNHCR office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. "When I was small, he would carry me on his back as he was teaching."
After the attack, with his mother lying unconscious in a hospital bed, neighbours hastily arranged for the two eldest boys to flee Mogadishu with them on the next available flight to Hargeisa, in northern Somalia. From there they crossed the border to Ethiopia and found safety at Aw-barre refugee camp where their grandmother was living.
When Abdirahim's mother emerged from her coma and was well enough to travel, she journeyed with her remaining children to Aw-barre. It was an emotional reunion with her eldest sons. Later, she married Abdirahim's uncle after he joined her and her children in Aw-barre in 2011. "We were happy to have a daddy and to be a full family again," said Abdirahim.
Life in Aw-barre was tough. He and his brothers and sisters earned a meagre living supplementing their rations by painting signs and posters for UNHCR and other partners during events, including World Refugee day. But, after word of their talent spread, the family were eventually assisted to leave Aw-barre and relocated to Addis where they could use their artistic skills to earn a living. They were also supported by UNHCR's urban refugee programme.
Last year, Abdirahim won first prize in the UNHCR Somalia World Refugee Day art competition for a painting on the theme of 'My Somalia' which depicted UNHCR's support to refugees and IDPs.
Today, despite everything he has been through, the young artist is once again able to dream big as he and his family enter into the final stages of what will hopefully be a successful resettlement process to America. "I want hope," he says. "Hope to give back. I want to live an artistic life."
He looks forward to improving his English and using his artistic talents at high school. But really all he dreams of is a better life away from Mogadishu, Aw-barre, and Addis – which he says is "good and full of peace but still difficult." He even hopes to work for UNHCR in the future.
"We hope now that we can all get a good education and have a good future," Abdirahim concluded, draining his coffee. "The life our father dreamed for us and which cost him his life."
Picasso would be proud.
By Andy Needham in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Obama vows to keep up pressure on Somalia’s al-Shabab - Al Arabiya News

Obama vows to keep up pressure on Somalia’s al-Shabab - Al Arabiya News

U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday praised recent advances by Somali and African Union troops against al-Shabab militants, but said it was important to keep up the pressure.
Speaking in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Obama said the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants offer nothing but “death and destruction”.
“Ethiopia faces serious threats,” Obama said. “We’ve got more work to do.”
The comments followed an bloody attack on one of Mogadishu's most secure hotels, which severely damaged the building killing 15 people including a Kenya diplomat, a Chinese embassy guard and three journalists.
The scale of the truck bomb used against the Jazeera Hotel has stunned Mogadishu, a capital long used to conflict and raises fears of an escalation of force by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group battling the government.
Somalia's foreign minister Abdisalam Omer told The Associated Press by phone from Djibouti that a Kenyan diplomat was also wounded in the attack.
The attack was claimed by the al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabab group and also wounded some 20 people. The walled, luxury Jazeera Hotel is considered the most secure in Somalia’s capital and is frequented by diplomats, foreigners and visiting heads of state.
“This is really scary - destroying the Jazeera hotel like this means no blast walls can make anyone safe,” said bystander Yusuf Mohammed. The use of huge truck bombs is a relatively new phenomenon and throws into doubt whether any place in the capital is now adequately protected.
While blast destroyed at least eight rooms and stunned the residents of the Somali capital, it wasn’t as bad as it might have been because the truck, which contained a ton of explosives, was stopped at the blast walls outside the hotel.
“The damage is big but a lot less because the truck bomb couldn’t go beyond the walls that lay a few meters from the hotel’s perimeter walls,” said Mohammed Abdi, a police officer.
Nervous soldiers fired in the air to disperse a crowd who surged toward the hotel after the blast as medical workers transported wounded victims into awaiting ambulances.
The attack comes as Somali forces backed by troops from the African Union have launched an offensive, dubbed Operation Jubba Corridor, to push al-Shabab out of its last strongholds. The coalition already has driven the group out of the capital.
In a statement, Al-Shabab said the attack was in retaliation for the deaths of dozens of civilians at the hands of Ethiopian forces, which are part of the AU force, and that the hotel was targeted because it hosts “Western” embassies coordinating the offensive.
The attack came as President Barack Obama was leaving neighboring Kenya for Ethiopia. The president’s visit has included discussions about how to deal with the threat of al-Shabab.
On Sunday, the White House Press Office issued a statement condemning the attack and extending condolences to the families of the victims.
“Despite the very real progress Somalia has achieved in recent years, this attack is yet another reminder of the unconscionable atrocities that terrorist groups continue to perpetrate against the people of Somalia,” the statement read, adding that the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to work with Somalia to bring an end to such acts of terrorism.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Seattle-area Somalis seek to shape politics back home | The Seattle Times

Seattle-area Somalis seek to shape politics back home | The Seattle Times

With one of the largest Somali communities in the U.S., Washington state could play a role in the fate of one of the most chaotic and violent places in the world. That’s why Somali politicians are coming to Seattle to campaign.
In a vast banquet room at a DoubleTree Suites in Tukwila, former Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed made his way down the aisle. The crowd of several hundred — men in dark jackets on one side, women in brightly colored headscarves on the other — had been waiting for hours.
As their ancestral national anthem began to play, they leapt to their feet, singing along, clapping and waving little Somali flags bearing a white star on a background of sky blue.
In the crowd was Abdulkadir “Jangeli” Aden Mohamud, who had greeted the former prime minister at the airport and had him to his Renton home the next morning for breakfast. They had nothing less than the future of Somalia to discuss, and Mohamud, once head of Somalia’s development bank and more recently the owner of a local MaidPro janitorial franchise, was poised to help the former leader carry out his agenda.
Now, the former prime minister, ousted in December amid a standoff with the president, took the stage, raised his fist and urged the crowd to be part of history.
In 2016, Somalia is supposed to hold its first democratic election in more than 40 years. There are obstacles, to be sure, among them attempted disruption by the extremist Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab. But if it comes off, the election could bring a measure of stability and order to one of the most chaotic, corrupt and violent countries in the world.
Washington state could play a vital role. Its Somali community is thought to be the third largest in the U.S., after Minnesota and Ohio, and to number anywhere from roughly 13,000 (according to the latest Census figures, which tend to underreport immigrant populations) to 30,000 (as estimated by community leaders).
Mohamed, among others, believes Seattle-area Somalis — indeed all of the country’s emigrants around the world — should get a vote. And he wants them to pressure the Somali parliament, as well as influential U.S. officials, to make that happen.
Some have taken up his call. Meeting in living rooms and suburban malls, teleconferencing with their compatriots around the globe, they are brainstorming about people to talk to and petitions they might start. You wouldn’t necessarily know it from their current occupations, but back in their homeland, many had impressive, even exalted, pedigrees.
“It’s a shattered country, ” said Mohamud, the former banker and amateur painter who came to the U.S. in 1989, as his country was on the brink of civil war. “We need to stitch every piece together and make reconciliation.”
For that to happen, he and other Somalis say, the diaspora must become involved. That was the message of former Prime Minister Mohamed, who spent a decade in Canada before returning to Africa. Particularly in the West, he said in a Seattle Times interview, Somali refugees have come to know “the benefits of democracy, peace and stability.”
With as many as 20 percent of native Somalis spread around the world, support for the candidates of their liking — financial and electoral — is crucial.
“If they are allowed to vote, they would be more inclined to open up their wallets,” said David Shinn, a lecturer in African affairs at George Washington University and a former ambassador to Ethiopia.
That would make Seattlean important campaign stop for Somali politicians.
Mohamed, who isn’t making his personal political aspirations known, isn’t the first to come here. Fadumo Dayib, a Harvard University fellow who is braving death threats and challenging cultural mores as she seeks to become Somalia’s first female president, made a stop in Seattle in April.

“It’s in my blood”

“Just in case you’re wondering who’s going to be the future prime minister, you’re talking to him,” Dualeh Hersi said during the May event at the Tukwila DoubleTree.
Hersi, 46, related that he is a nephew of Siad Barre, the former president and military dictator who ruled Somalia for decades before being ousted by a civil war in 1991. As rebels encroached upon Barre’s villa, Hersi’s family made a split-second decision to join a convoy headed for Kenya.
He was 22 and a recent graduate of Somali National University. Eventually making his way to the U.S., he took computer classes while supporting himself with a series of menial jobs. He now works as a program manager for Amazon.
“I cry in my heart when I see the way Somali people are treated around the world,” he said, explaining why he might give up a comfortable life here to go back to a place he calls a “black hole.” While the elite hide in fancy hotels and houses surrounded by tall walls, he said, hundreds of thousands are still crammed into refugee camps. He said that will likely only change with the help of Somalis who have benefited from opportunities abroad.
“It’s in my blood,” he added.
The Barre connection would have been a liability at one point, but Hersi believes that has changed after all this time, especially as he and others once connected to the regime are voicing support for democracy.
When Hersi might go back is uncertain. Yet, he has already tested the waters. In December, he traveled to Mogadishu to make a pitch for a new cabinet position that would improve the country’s shoddy telecommunications. The government wasn’t interested, he said, and he returned to Seattle.
This back and forth to Somalia isn’t unique to Hersi. “The diaspora and the population inside the country are so interconnected,” said Matt Bryden, speaking by phone from Nairobi, where he heads Sahan, a think tank focusing on the Horn of Africa.
Inside a little storefront in SeaTac or a nonprofit in Seattle, you might find a recent Somali member of parliament, an entrepreneur with investments in Mogadishu or a behind-the-scenes player with deep political ties to his African compatriots.

Couple of influence

Talking in his Renton home, with the curtains drawn — African-style, against the afternoon sun — Mohamud recounted his departure from Somalia in 1989, as a civil war was beginning to brew. You couldn’t just quit a job in the Barre administration, related the former official, dressed on this day in a navy suit with a green handkerchief tucked neatly into the breast pocket. You had to leave the country.
He landed in the Washington, D.C., area, where he lived for 16 years. When several of his five children made their way to the Seattle area, he moved here. Despite dealing with kidney failure and dialysis, he remains active in Somali affairs.
When he and Mohamed met for breakfast, Mohamud recalled, the former prime minister asked for his support. A considerable amount of tact was involved. “He said, ‘You are not joining us. We are joining you,’ ” Mohamud recalled.
The former prime minister was alluding to a political party Mohamud had helped form in 2011. The purpose, he said, was to create a “culture of parties” that would supplant the culture of corruption and clan-based rivalries that reigned in Somalia. Called Hiil Qaran and composed of Somalis around the world, it has no ideology, he said; Somali politics haven’t reached that point. Instead, he called its mission “patriotic”— the building of a democratic republic.
Mohamud now chairs Hiil Qaran, which has maybe 300 members. That’s not a lot, but apparently it carries enough clout to be courted by a prominent politician.
Or perhaps it is Mohamud who has the clout. Asked if he has political aspirations himself, the former banker demurred. “But I may be a kingmaker,” he said.
He later thought better of the boast and said he was joking. Yet, he noted his influence as a commentator on websites and radio shows targeting the international Somali community.
His wife, Hamdi Abdulle, is also a force to be reckoned with. She serves as executive director of the Somali Youth and Family Club, a Renton-based nonprofit.
She said she was pleased by the talk of reconciliation during the former prime minister’s visit, and gave a speech supporting women’s rights at the DoubleTree event. But she did not sit on stage. They were, she said pointedly, “all men, including my husband.”
She also said there was an expectation that women would sit apart from men. Abdulle, wearing a vivid black and red headscarf as she talked with a reporter, observes some traditional customs. Still, she said, “I don’t want anybody to dictate to me where to sit.”
You might think she would be susceptible to a woman’s bid for president, but she was critical of Dayib’s Seattle appearance, which took place at an Eritrean community center — a foreign venue for local Somalis, according to Abdulle. That may be why only about 30 people turned out.
Nourah Yonous, a 28-year-old Somali woman, invited Dayib here. A recent transplant to Seattle, she grew up in Tanzania and went to college in California, where she studied feminist theory. Moving here for a job at a local nonprofit immersed her for the first time in a big Somali community. Over lunch at a Chinese restaurant near her work in Rainier Valley, she confessed she finds it tricky to navigate the community’s mores.
Still, Yonous, whose very appearance raises eyebrows — her mass of curly hair falls to her shoulders uncovered — declared her intention to support Dayib as much as she can.
“For the first time in our history we have a Somali woman candidate,” she said. And the incredulous reaction by some merely underscores for her the need to press on.
It also suggests the diaspora, if allowed to vote, will have an unpredictable influence. “There are many diasporas,” observed Nairobi’s Bryden, citing one in the West, one in Asia and one in Somalia’s neighboring countries.
The diaspora in the West “might be more inclined toward a secular, multiparty system,” he speculated. Yet, he added: “Even in the West, there’s a lot of division … Some of the most rabid, pro-clan propaganda comes from outside Somalia because they don’t have to suffer the consequences.” (A smattering of al-Shabaab recruits have also come from the West, including at least a couple from Seattle, although the terrorist group’s pull abroad has diminished, according to Somali observers.)

Roused to action

Whatever way they lean, Somali emigrants won’t get a chance to weigh in unless they win the vote in Somalia. That’s something that Abdulhakim Hashi is working on.
The 54-year-old, who jokes that his eight children have given him a clan of his own, left Somalia in the 1980s to study at the University of Amsterdam. With a mother-in-law in the Seattle area, he came here in 1998 and now runs a nationwide business — wiring money to Africa, selling insurance and preparing tax returns — out of an odd little SeaTac building in the shadow of a mall featuring a cavernous Somali grocery and restaurant.
In 2000, when a peace conference in Djibouti established a transitional government, Hashi said, he went back to serve in parliament. But warlordism and chaos continued to reign. He returned to Seattle.
He still visits Somalia, in part to work on a bank he and other investors are trying to get off the ground. On one such trip in February, he said, he attended the founding meeting of Mohamed’s Forum of Unity and Democracy. The memory is tinged with sadness for Hashi. A few days later, he lost a good friend in an al-Shabaab hotel bombing that killed about 25 people.
Mohamed’s visit to Seattle in May roused Hashi to action. He became part of a local task force that is discussing ways to get the voices of the diaspora heard, including a possible petition drive among Somali immigrants, asking the U.S. State Department to intervene.
Donald Teitelbaum, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for East African Affairs, does not sound so inclined. “I think the decisions on the specifics of the voting is something for the Somalis to decide.”
With President Obama’s trip over the weekend to neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya, the fate of Somalia is likely on his mind, but he may be more focused on ending al-Shabaab violence than shaping the next election. Amid furious political maneuvering now going on in Mogadishu, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has said he thinks security concerns will make a one-person one-vote election “difficult.”
Local Somalis are watching all this carefully. Whatever their differences, they seem to agree on this sentiment, as expressed by Hashi: “We need Somalia to join the rank of civilized nations.”

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Somalia blast: Mogadishu hotel rocked by bomb - BBC News

Somalia blast: Mogadishu hotel rocked by bomb - BBC News


At least 10 people have been killed in a huge bomb explosion at a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
A BBC correspondent in the city says a lorry was used to attack the Jazeera Palace Hotel near the airport.
Ambulances have been collecting the dead and wounded in what he describes as one of the worst scenes of destruction he has seen in Mogadishu.
Somali militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The al-Qaeda linked group said it was responding to assaults by an African Union force and the Somali government.
The blasts came as President Barack Obama was leaving Kenya for Ethiopia, at the end of a trip during which he had discussions about dealing with the threat from al-Shabaab.
Soldiers serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) patrol outside a mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers 17/07/2015
Soldiers from the African Union mission patrol the Somali capital
International diplomats often stay at Jazeera Palace Hotel, which has been targeted in the past. It also accommodates several embassies including those of China, Qatar and Egypt.
"A suicide car bomb exploded at the gate of Jazeera Hotel," Major Nur Osoble, a police officer, told Reuters news agency.
A government security officer was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying hotel security guards were among the dead.
Al-Shabaab is battling Somalia's government for control of the country. While security in Somalia has improved, the group still attacks Mogadishu regularly.
On Saturday, a member of the Somali parliament and an official from the prime minister's office were killed in separate attacks in the capital claimed by al-Shabaab.
In recent days the group has lost two of its remaining strongholds - the south-western town of Bardere and the south-eastern town of Dinsor. Both had been under Shabaab control since 2008.
The militants have also targeted neighbouring countries, killing almost 150 people in an assault on Garissa University College in Kenya in April.
map showing who controls which parts of Somalia