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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Relatives of missing Somali men use homeland ties in search

Families of some of the young Somali-American men who are thought to be fighting with Islamic extremists in the Horn of Africa are trying their own methods to bring them safely home. They've turned to friends in the new Somali government and U.S. officials at neighboring embassies to help.

The Somali community in Minneapolis is still well-networked into the homeland. Family and business ties make it surprisingly common for people to stay in touch with the social life and economy of this failed state. Somalia hasn't had a working government since 1991.

Osman Ahmed, whose 17-year-old nephew Burhan Hassan disappeared last November, has been working his contacts back home to try to find his nephew. He knows the FBI is also on the case, but he says law enforcement is mainly concerned with making sure the men don't cause harm in the United States.

Bringing people out of a war zone is another matter, he said.

"Actually, it's very tough [for] law-enforcement agencies, especially the FBI, to go back and get information from Somalia," Ahmed said. "But as Somalis, we know each other, we have a tribe over there, we have friends, we are connected to the Somali government because we supported it. So we are trying in any way we can to get information."

Ahmed reached out to a childhood friend in Somalia. His old pal Abdirashid Mohamed, is now Minister of Commerce in Somalia's new transitional government.

As the minister of commerce, Mohamed said he doesn't have any power to send the men home.

"But as a minister, I'm an influential person and I can bring the issue on the table of the council of ministers," he told MPR in a phone interview from Mogadishu.

The commerce minister admits he's not just motivated to help his old friend. He's got strong political reasons to join the search. The group the young men have allegedly joined, Al-Shabaab, is the government's main enemy.

"We will appeal to the international community that they will not take any action against them."
- Somali Commerce Minister Abdirashid Mohamed, on efforts to send the young Americans home
For months, the FBI has been investigating how nearly a dozen men from the Twin Cities might have been recruited to join a terrorist group fighting overseas. Authorities think at least one Minneapolis man died in a suicide bombing in Somalia, and the disappearances have triggered a Congressional hearing and at least two grand jury investigations.

Mohamed, the commerce minister, said his government has had no direct contact with the missing men, but is trying to reach them through appeals on the radio.

"We cannot get to them directly, but through the media," he said. "We would like to give them forgiveness. And if they join in the peace process, we will assist them and we will appeal to the international community that they will not take any action against them."

The transitional government is advertising immunity if these men return to their home countries. Young Somalis have reportedly gone missing from Britain as well.

But immunity is a big promise, considering it's a major violation of U.S. law to join and fight with a terrorist group or to fight against an ally of the U.S., such as Ethiopia. Somali-Americans in their teens and 20s have told MPR that they believe some of the missing men sought to defend their homeland from Ethiopian troops, which invaded Somalia in 2006 but have since left.

The Somali commerce minister said he's reached out to staff at the American embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, to ease the way for these missing men to return home.

The State Department and the FBI declined to say whether the U.S. government would grant immunity to the missing men in exchange for valuable testimony as part of an ongoing grand jury investigation in Minneapolis.

"Without knowing the totality of the circumstances, we wouldn't be able to say one way or the other," said FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson in Minneapolis.

Wilson said the FBI would encourage the young men to find the nearest friendly diplomatic agency and request to return to the U.S. "if they find that have been tasked to do things that they do not want to do, have had second thoughts, or feel that they are prohibited from leaving voluntarily."

Wilson wouldn't say whether the FBI is tracing the men's whereabouts, but it wouldn't be surprising if the agency was at least indirectly involved in efforts to find the young Americans. Part of the investigation is focusing what happened to the men and why, so law enforcement authorities would naturally be interested in locating the missing.

Fighting and lawlessness have made Somalia all but a no-go zone for many U.S. agencies. However, the FBI has operated on the ground there as recently as last fall. Agents were sent to northern Somalia following a series of coordinated suicide attacks in late October to assist with a post-blast investigation.

"We have very strong assurances that they will do their best and that they will bring them home."
- -Abdirizak Bihi, on U.S. efforts to investigate the missing
FBI officials think one of the suicide bombers was 27-year-old Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen who authorities believe was radicalized while living in Minneapolis.

The FBI also has staff and agents working out of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. The agency has no jurisdiction in Kenya, but the FBI periodically partners with such host countries and other U.S. agencies, such as the CIA, as it chases leads related to crimes or terrorism, Wilson said.

Another uncle of 17-year-old Burhan Hassan is constantly calling up his old friends about the fate of the missing men. Abdirizak Bihi said these friends from his homeland have told him that the missing men are being held captive in the southern part of Somalia that Al-Shabaab controls. He believes an unknown recruiter in Minnesota lured his nephew to Somalia under a false pretext.

"Someone here -- some people, some group, someone -- has been painting a perfect picture of Somalia," Bihi said. "That is being confirmed by some of the conversations we've been having with people on the ground in Somalia."

Bihi said his friends have told him that the young Americans "are being watched, they are heavily guarded, and heavily trained -- mentally and physically." He declined to explain how they were gathering such information, saying he didn't want to jeopardize the ongoing investigation.

But despite his frequent inquiries, Bihi said he is not trying to interfere with the official investigation by the FBI.

"We have very strong assurances that they will do their best and use all their resources and abilities to find these young American kids who have been recruited and brainwashed, and [that] they will bring them home," Bihi said.

There remain unconfirmed rumors that some of the missing men have returned to the U.S. But it's obvious to Bihi that his nephew and many others are still in Africa. He said the young men have made phone calls to their families right before press conferences to address their disappearances.

While relatives like Bihi are dialing Somalia for answers, it seems that the young men are calling Minnesota -- equally interested in following the story of their disappearances.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio

Somali Minister Responsible for Diaspora Affairs is in Canada

The Somali Minister for Diaspora Affairs Hon. Abdullahi Ahmed Abdulle (Azhari) arrived in Toronto this evening and plans to be in Ottawa on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Accompanying the Minister during this visit is the Somali Ambassador to Kenya, H.E. Mohamed Ali Nur.

While in Ottawa the Somali delegation plan to confer with Canadian officials, Members of Parliament, and the Somali Community in Ottawa.

“Somalia is suffering an acute form of brain drain and that is the reason the Somali Government created a Ministry for the Diaspora,” the Minister said in a statement adding that Somalia “is back from the brink and is in a desperate need of the talents of its overseas communities”

Minister Azhari further stated, “We are also here to listen to the Diaspora communities in Canada and US, because we are eager to forge a partnership for peace and prosperity for the homeland.”

The Minister and the Ambassador will speak with the Somali Community in Toronto on Saturday April the 4th.


Source: TFG

Somali Government Peace Efforts Receive Cash Boost

The new Somali administration's efforts at restoring peace and stability have received a significant boost from the African Union, which is giving $1 million to Mogadishu to strengthen its security forces. The African Union signed an agreement with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government as part of the recently signed Djibouti agreement that led to the formation of the new unity government. Under the agreement, security forces from the former transitional government would join forces with those from the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) to enforce peace in the capital, Mogadishu as well as in other parts of the country.

Ambassador Nicholas Bwakirah is the AU special envoy who signed the agreement with the Somali government. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that he is confident in the prospects of the new Somali administration.

"I signed with the prime minister of Somalia a framework agreement, which foresees that we will provide assistance of $1 million which is seed money to help the government to create a national security force. Now, you have to see this in the framework of the Djibouti peace process. The Djibouti peace process has foreseen that a joint security force would be created between the formal TFG (Transitional Federal Government) and ARS to bring these two forces together to create a joint force. So it is to reinforce the institutions of Somalia to create a capacity of Somalia notably, in the area of security that we have done that," Ambassador Bwakirah noted.

He said the Africa Union understands the importance of ensuring peace in the country including the capital, Mogadishu.

"We agree with the new president of Somalia that security is a key priority. It is a show of commitment of the Africa Union that the chairman of the Africa Union, Jean Ping, had decided to make available these resources to the government of national unity of Somalia," he said.

Ambassador Bwakirah said there is growing confidence among ordinary Somalis that peace would be restored after 18 years of living under the control of armed groups.

"I think it is very significant because every Somali national is aspiring to peace. Every Somali national is tired of violence, and we have seen that when we talk to Somali elders, community leaders, as well as religious leaders. They all tell us they are tired of war and therefore, we are sure that it is not only the priority for the government, the president, and the cabinet, but it is also the priority for every Somali citizen," Ambassador Bwakirah pointed out.

He said the Africa Union has confidence in the ability of the new Somali administration to address the needs of Somali citizens.

"The prospects for the new cabinet and the new government to succeed are very good. On the political front, they are advocating for peace with everybody, including those who are outside the Djibouti peace process. Secondly, they have pledged to have good neighborhood relationship with neighbors. Thirdly, they are trying to mobilize humanitarian assistance for those populations which have been displaced internally or refugees who have gone outside Somalia. As you know, there has been a terrible drought and the government is trying to mobilize assistance for all its nationals," he said.

Ambassador Bwakirah said the new government needs to be supported in its effort to cater to its nationals.

"Fourthly, they are also trying to build a capacity, a capacity to mobilize internal resources to raise taxes, and so on. Last, week they signed an agreement, a bilateral memorandum of understanding with Kenya. Kenya is going to help them raise taxes for things being exported out of Kenya to Somalia. So I'm absolutely confident that they are moving towards the right direction," Ambassador Bwakirah pointed out.

Meanwhile, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed sharply condemned over the weekend calls by terrorist al-Qaida group leader Osama bin Laden for Somalis and Muslims worldwide to fight Sheikh Sharif's new administration. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who headed the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia in exile, joined the western-backed peace process last year.

The al-Qaeda leader urged Somalis last week to rise up against President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who was elected as the country's first Islamist president in January in neighboring Djibouti after receiving the most votes from Somali parliamentarians meeting there.

Some political observers see the president now as having to face the daunting task of establishing a new security force and persuading Islamist fighters to back the government in the interests of peace.

Hard-line Islamic insurgent groups, including al-Shabab, have refused to recognize the new administration, describing it as a western stooge. They vow to continue their insurgency until eventually they can seize control of the country.

Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with close ties to al-Qaida, al-Shabab has embarked on a campaign of terror and violence in the capital, Mogadishu and other areas in the country, including seizure of the parliament building in Baidoa.

Somalia has been without an effective government since former President Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted in a coup d'├ętat in 1991.

Source: VOA,

Despite Naval Patrols, Somalia's Pirates are Busier Than Ever

Just when shipping companies thought it was safe to go back into the water — off the Horn of Africa in particular — Somali pirates last week nabbed two large chemical tankers within 24 hours, despite the presence of a bevy of Western and other navies prowling in search of the buccaneers.

The Greek-owned MV Nipayia was snagged last Wednesday, followed within day by the capture of the Norwegian-owned MV Bow-Asir. The attacks, which occurred at 380 and 490 nautical miles offshore, showed a willingness by pirates to operate at great distances from their lairs along the Somali coastline. While international navies have heralded the successes of their anti-piracy patrols of recent months, last week's captures — and the piracy statistics for the past three months — don't offer much cause for comfort to the shipping industry. Last year, according to a U.N. report, there were 111 attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden corridor, which marked a 200% increase over the previous year's figures. Now, despite the presence of ships from more than 20 of the world's navies in the Gulf of Aden, the International Maritime Bureau says there have been 51 attacks in the first three months of the year alone. And the international shipping association BIMCO says piracy attacks have spread to ships traveling nowhere near the Gulf of Aden. (See pictures of Somalia's pirates at work)

"Indeed, very recent events would seem to confirm BIMCO's worst fears," the group said of the latest attacks in a recent advisory to its members. The American Forces Press Service later filed a story quoting an anonymous U.S. official as saying that the wider field of attack on which the pirates are now operating presents "a monumental challenge" to anti-piracy efforts.

Still, analysts and anti-piracy advocates see some reasons for optimism. While the number of attacks has gone up, their rate of success at actually seizing control of vessels has declined. In December of last year, one in every five attacks was successful; the data for March suggests that only one in every ten pirate raids succeeded. (See pictures of the lives of Somali pirates)

The lower success rate, according to Michael Howlett, divisional director for the International Maritime Bureau in London, "is due to the naval presence and also the ships know this is a high risk area, and they have certain [countermeasures] in place."

More sobering, though, is the possibility that many of the attacks failed because of the bad weather that is typical in the region during the first three months of the year. Attacks off Somalia typically increase in the second quarter of the year, as sailing conditions improve.

The rising incidence of attacks is a clear indication that the pirates are as powerful as ever onshore in Somalia, and are growing bolder and more determined as a result of such high-profile ransom payments as the ones that secured the release of the oil tanker Sirius star and the freighter MV Faina, which had been carrying battle tanks bound for Kenya.

The U.N. report also highlighted just how difficult fighting Somali piracy will be, by confirming suspicions that the pirates are almost certainly in league with what passes for the government in the breakaway Somali region of Puntland. "It is widely acknowledged that some of these groups now rival established Somali authorities in terms of their military capabilities and resource," U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon wrote in the report. Not that Somalia has much by way of "established authorities" to speak of. That's why some of the navies that have captured pirates trying to seize shipping have handed the suspects over to Kenya, which agreements with the United States and the United Kingdom to try piracy suspects.

As international efforts to protect shipping around the Gulf of Aden have grown, so have the pirates adapted their tactics. Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers Assistance Program, notes that the pirates are moving their operations further south along the East African coast to avoid the international warships. Sailors are also becoming concerned about greater levels of danger to themselves: In the past, the crews of hijacked ships were relatively sure they'd survive the ordeal precisely because the pirates were so invincible — all the captives had to do was remain calm and cooperative while the shipping company negotiated the ransom. But now that pirates are being confronted, and sometimes arrested or killed, by foreign navies, Mwangura says the pirates are using more force and the danger to their hostages has increased.

"They are coming to be more violent than they were in the past," Mwangura tells TIME. "I think they have changed their modus operandi. Now they realize it's do or die."

Source: Time

Somalia: Migrant boats missing off coast of Libya

About 300 illegal immigrants are missing at sea after three boats sank in stormy weather off the Libyan coast, the International Organization for Migration told AFP Tuesday, citing diplomatic sources in Tripoli.

"Libyan authorities have confirmed the shipwrecks and our diplomatic sources in Tripoli are talking about 300 people missing," said spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy.

"It seems the three boats were overloaded and sank in storm-strength winds. A fourth boat in difficulty was towed to the coast," he added.

"There have been many boats carrying illegal migrants departing in the last 36 hours," said Jemini Pandya, a spokeswoman .

With 1,770 kilometres (1,106 miles) of coastline, Libya has become a popular destination country and transit point for immigrants from eastern and southern Africa heading for Europe.

On Monday, a Libyan interior ministry source said that an Italian tanker rescued 350 illegal migrants after their vessel ran into trouble.

A ship carrying illegal migrants bound for Europe also sank off the Libyan coast on Sunday, with 21 people drowning and an unknown number of people missing, the source added.

Twenty-three people "of African and Arab nationality" were saved by Libyan coastguards, added the source, cited in Tuesday's edition of the private newspaper Oea.

Source: AFP

New York Times examines challenges faced by a Minneapolis hospital that treats many Somali, Hispanic patients

The New York Times on Sunday profiled the Hennepin County Medical Center, a Minneapolis-based hospital that "offers an extraordinary vantage point on the ways immigrants are testing the American medical establishment."
About 20% of patients at Hennepin are foreign-born and many have conditions uncommon among those born in the U.S., such as vitamin deficiencies, intestinal parasites and infectious diseases like tuberculosis. In addition, some have "unusually high levels of emotional trauma and stress," and others question common treatments for chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the Times reports.

The 446-bed public hospital spends $3 million annually on interpreters for 50 languages -- Somali and Spanish are most in demand -- and about $100 million of $500 million in annual expenses go toward treating foreign-born patients. Mike Harristhal, the hospital's vice president for public policy and strategy, said immigrants are a "major contributor" to the $45 million annual uncompensated care costs. The hospital and its affiliates do not ask patients about their immigration status.

There are an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 Somalis in Minnesota, more than any other U.S. city, according to the Times. Most of the Somalis are legal residents and can qualify for Medicaid and other health programs, but Hennepin also offers care on a sliding-fee scale. The influx of Somali refugees prompted the hospital to tailor some of its practices. For example, Hennepin now has an entire obstetrical staff comprised only of women because Somali women had objected to male doctors delivering infants. In addition research has found that rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are "shockingly high" among the group, and the state also is currently investigating "unusually high rates of autism," the Times reports (Grady [1], New York Times, 3/29).

Hispanic Population

Hispanics represent the largest share of the hospital's foreign-born patient population, according to the Times. The hospital has a separate, part-time clinic exclusively for patients who speak Spanish. Carmen Divertie, who founded the clinic 15 years ago, said most of the Hispanic patients are from Ecuador and Mexico. She said she assumes nearly all of them are undocumented, but does not ask.

According to Veronica Svetaz, a physician at a Hennepin neighborhood clinic, teenage pregnancy is a huge problem in the Hispanic community. A large number of teenagers and adults have back pain, injuries, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and stress, she added. Svetaz said, "Mental health is huge. The levels of anxiety and depression are amazing," adding that Hispanics "tend to somatize more. ... This is where cultural competence comes in."

In addition, many Hispanics delay seeking care because of fear that they will be asked about their legal status. However, as a result, some Hispanics with diabetes arrive at the clinic with "blood sugar so high that they are sent straight to the hospital" or "have severe diabetic complications, even gangrene," the Times reports (Grady [2], New York Times, 3/29).

European Forces Capture 7 Somali Pirates

European naval forces have detained seven suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia.

The German Defense Ministry says pirates fired on one of its supply ships, the FSG Spessart, in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday.

It says the German ship returned fire and then chased down the pirates with the help of other vessels in the European Union's anti-piracy mission.

The seven suspects are being held on a German frigate (the Rheinland-Pfalz).

Somali pirates seized more than 40 ships during 2008, receiving millions of dollars in ransom payments.

But the number of hijackings has dropped sharply in recent months, after the EU, the United States and other world powers began naval patrols in the waters near Somalia.

Source: VOA

At least nine killed in Somali clashes

At least nine people were killed Monday in separate clashes in Somalia, witnesses and officials said.

Three people, including a policeman, were killed in skirmishes between Islamist gunmen loyal to President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and regular police in southern Mogadishu.

"We are not sure what caused the fighting... both sides are government troops," Ali Said Ahmed, a police officer told AFP.

At least six people, mostly fighters, were killed when government forces attacked a village in southern Somalia controlled by the hardline Islamist Shebab militia.

"We attacked a base that the terrorists were in. We killed four of them and we lost two men in the fighting," said Hassan Moalim Ahmed, a district commissioner of the southern Baidoa town controlled by the Shebab.

Somalia has had no central authority since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre sparked internecine fighting.

Source: AFP

Gunmen target Somali ex-minister

A former Somali minister and four other people accompanying him have been killed in Mogadishu.

The car carrying Abdi Rahman Mohamud Jimaale and the others was attacked with automatic weapons.

Meanwhile, a senior officer in the Islamist al-Shabab group was reportedly killed in Baidoa by forces loyal to the town's former administration.

Sheikh Hassan Deerow, the head of the Baidoa police station, was killed in fighting which left six others died.

Al-Shabab captured Baidoa, former seat of the Somali parliament, in January.

They moved in after the pullout of Ethiopian forces, which invaded in late 2006 in an effort to prop up Somalia's fragile interim government.

Al-Shabab, which its leaders say is allied to al-Qaeda, now controls much of southern and central Somalia.

Last week, Interior Minister Abdulkadir Ali Omar survived an apparent assassination attempt in Mogadishu.

The minister was passing through the capital's bustling Bakara market - an al-Shabab stronghold - when a landmine went off.

The government, installed in January after UN-brokered talks, can only work in parts of Mogadishu.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

Source: BBC

Monday, March 30, 2009

Somalia: President Meets with UN Chief

President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed led a delegation to Qatar on Sunday to attend the Summit of Arab leaders which is opening in Doha today.

Somali foreign minister Mohamed Abdulahi Omaar said that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and president Sharif Sheik Ahmed met in Doha on Sunday evening and discussed Somali issues.

Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed was elected president in UN sponsored meeting in Djibouti on January, but the parliament and the cabinet relocated to Mogadishu where the two councils have their meetings.

Ban Ki Moon praised the reconciliation efforts of the Somali president and pledged that the United Nations will take part the ongoing peace efforts.

The Arab leaders are expected to talk the Somali issues in their summit and give backing to the week Somali government.

Emergency surgery saves Somali twin

A team of doctors headed by Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah saved the life of one Somali conjoined twin born on Thursday.

In response to an appeal made by Fartoon Sheikh, mother of the Somali twins, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah directed King Abdulaziz Medical City to perform an emergency separation surgery on the twins soon after the delivery.

In a prenatal clinical examination in Jeddah, Sheikh and her husband Shuaeb Ibrahim discovered that their twins would be joined at birth and sought the king’s help to save at least one child.

“The pregnant woman was admitted on an emergency basis on Thursday and underwent caesarian operation whereby a very unique case of conjoined twins was delivered,” said a hospital spokesman. “The case included one normal baby and another dysmorphic anencephalic baby with major heart problems.”

The multidisciplinary team headed by Al-Rabeeah performed the separation of the conjoined twins who carried an 80 percent mortality risk. The team managed to separate the normal baby from the abnormal baby as had been planned prior to the surgery.

The surviving twin, Huda, is stable. Al-Rabeeah said three days after the successful separation, Huda is doing extremely well and all her vital organs have returned to normal and her breathing has stabilized. She has been taken off the artificial respirator and is breathing normally, he added.


Edmonton: Fears peace won't last

Somalian community seeks allies in bid to keep children safe from violence, death

Members of Edmonton's Somalian community are relieved to have had a few months' reprieve from the bloodshed that killed several members of the tight-knit community last fall.

But many also remain fearful the peace won't last.

"Right now, people don't know," said Mahamad Accord, executive director of the Alberta Somali Canadian Centre.

"They don't know if it's a pause or if it's better."

About 50 people from the community gathered yesterday for a town-hall meeting held by Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason.

While they have forged relationships with Edmonton police in recent months, Accord said members of the Somalian community want to work with politicians and the public and Catholic education systems next.

But a group of young women at the meeting said not everyone is satisfied with the police service's promise to work more closely with the community.

They say they're frustrated that no one has been held accountable for the deaths of the young Somalian men killed last year.

"Mothers have more fear than us," said a 19-year-old woman who asked not to be named.

"They're, like, 'My son is going out tonight and I don't know if he'll come back or if police are even going to do anything because they haven't acted like they cared about the other murders,' " she said.

"To be honest, if there were this kind of magnitude of murders happening with Caucasian males, there would be so much more done about it."

Accord said many Somalian youth in Edmonton were born here or immigrated at a very young age. He said their parents often have to work multiple jobs to get by and don't have time to help them with homework or keep a close eye on them.

That's when trouble happens.

All of the recently murdered Somalian men were high school dropouts, Accord pointed out.

"The school systems haven't made changes to reflect the demographic change in the schools," he said. "The curriculum needs to include culture and diversity."

While many of the issues brought up by the community at the meeting fell outside provincial jurisdiction, Mason said it's time politicians step up and take on some of these problems.

"The objective is simply to hear from the Somali community," Mason said.

"They have a number of challenges they've been facing ... We've just reached out to them since they seem like they need somebody in their corner."

Since last September, four Somalian men under the age of 25 have been shot and killed in the city. There are about 2,000 Somalian families in Edmonton.


Somalia's hard-line Terrorist invite aid groups.They Are Responsible Kidnapping and Killing Relief worker

It's Not April Fools Day Yet.

mogadishu News Media are deeply embedded Somali Jihadists..

Somalia's hard-line Islamists Terrorist on Sunday invited international aid groups to regions under their control to assist thousands of hunger-stricken people."We are openly calling aid agencies to operate freely in the region in order to help thousands of people in the drought-hit areas of the country," al-Shabab Islamic movement..Terrorist commander Terrorist Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abuu-Mansoor told reporters."We appreciate how they have assisted the people in the past and wish they continue doing the same," he added." There are some exaggerations released by some biased media which says that al-Shabab targets foreign aid workers helping the starving Somalis; that is null and void. We don’t actually do that "Al-Shabab commander Terrorist Sheikh Abuu-Mansoor Aid workers have been frequently targeted by gunmen in the lawless Horn of Africa country, where up to 3.25 million people—almost half of its population—are in need of humanitarian aid.Abuu-Mansoor condemned the abduction on March 15 of four United Nations aid workers in the city of Wajid, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) northwest of Mogadishu...more..

Source: TerrorFreeSomalia

Thousands of Somalis continue to flee to north-eastern Kenya

Thousands of Somalis continue to flee to north-eastern Kenya

Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Date: 27 Mar 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 27 March 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The number of Somalis seeking refuge in the overcrowded Dadaab refugee camps in north-eastern Kenya continues to grow despite the election of a new government in their homeland. Since the beginning of the year, more than 20,000 new arrivals have been registered in the three adjacent refugee sites that make up the Dadaab camp complex — Hagadera, Ifo and Dagahaley.

Many of the new arrivals UNHCR has interviewed cite increased insecurity, especially in the middle and lower Juba regions, coupled with drought and food shortages as the main reasons for fleeing into Kenya. Many also express little optimism for the return of peace to their country in the near term. Despite the recent elections held in Djibouti which saw a new government come to power, many parts of Somalia are still insecure.

UNHCR continues to receive and register new arrivals despite the fact that the capacity of the camps is completely overstretched – something we have been talking about for the past year or more. Camps designed almost two decades ago to accommodate a total of 90,000 people are currently home to over 261,000 people, making the Dadaab complex one of the world's oldest, biggest and most congested refugee sites. We have been negotiating with the Government of Kenya to provide land for the construction of new camps, but this is yet to be finalized. We are therefore receiving and accommodating these refugees with a lot of difficulty. It is crucial for the government to provide us with land as soon as possible, where we can build other camps and thus decongest the existing camps and prepare for more people if the current arrival trend continues.

Over half the new arrivals are women and children and many are exhausted after having traveled long distances, often using unofficial routes to avoid detection when crossing the border. Some come from as far away as Mogadishu by road and foot, an 800-km journey that can take up to 16 days. When they arrive, they must seek out family, relatives or clan members in Ifo and Dagahaley camps as UNHCR has no more land on which to give them plots to live, This results in up to 30 people living on a 12 by 13-metre plot of land. We fear that the situation may further deteriorate once the rainy season begins due to the shelter constraints. The next rainy season is expected in early April.

The ongoing conflict in Somalia has led to thousands of deaths and massive displacements. The Dadaab refugee camps were established in 1991 and 1992 following the collapse of the Government of Siad Bare in Somalia.


Violence Hits Quiet Somali Region

At least one person was killed and three were wounded in two explosions that hit the relatively quiet Puntland region in northeastern Somalia on Saturday.

All the casualties were Ethiopian nationals, news reports said.

Witnesses said an explosion in of Puntland’s commercial city Bosasso took place near the headquarters of the Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS).

Last Monday, PIS agents arrested a cleric for alleged ties with A-Shabab, an Islamic group seeking to undermine the central government in Somalia, according to media reports.

Last week, at least two civilians and one policeman were killed and seven others were wounded after hundreds of stampeding demonstrators took to the streets of Bosasso to protest the cleric’s detention.

Protesters hurled stones and metal objects while approaching a police post. Officers fired shots into the air in order to clear one of the nearby roads, but shot dead two of the protesters and wounded seven others, Nimco Afrah, a nearby shopkeeper told The Media Line.

Puntland’s Vice President Abdi Samad Ali Shire said it was still uncertain whether troops arrested the sheikh, and urged people to maintain calm. However, Puntland Security Minister Abdullahi Said Samatar confirmed that security forces had arrested the sheikh and that he was being interrogated.

Both Puntland and the neighboring Somaliland are relatively quiet areas of Somalia, which has been plunged in conflict for the past two years.

Puntland is a self-declared autonomous state, which has been self-governing since 1998, but unlike Somaliland, it does not seek independence from Somalia.

Puntland is home to a third of the Somali people.

Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991.

Violence in the country, particularly in the capital Mogadishu, has claimed thousands of lives. Many civilians have been killed in crossfire as gunmen roam the streets. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in recent months.

In addition, Somalia is also blighted by famine, disease, poverty and piracy.

Several Islamist groups do not recognize the new government, even though it is headed by the former leader of the Islamic Courts Union, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad.

The political vacuum and other problems have allowed lawlessness to flourish, with pirates controlling Somalia’s waters and Islamists and other factions the streets.

An AFP report last week said foreign jihad warriors have been flocking to Somalia over the past few months and joining forces with local Al-Qa’ida sympathizers in order to turn the anarchic country into an Al-Qa’ida haven.

According to the report, some 450 fighters are cooperating with the homegrown A-Shabab Islamists.

A former Somalia security official said the numbers of foreigners entering the country were increasing dramatically. He said they hailed from Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Asia, and many were concentrated in Puntland.

The Puntland government has dismissed the report as unsubstantiated and false allegations.

Source: The Media Line

Book launch: Diiwaanka Qosolka”- collection of Somali wisdom jokes

Kayd Somali Art and Culture is very excited to launch “Diiwaanka Qosolka”- Collection of Somali Wisdom Jokes. This is the first time the book will be launched and we are glad that the author, Jamal Ali, will be with us to share and present some of the 150 wonderful and hilarious short stories and poems which he has collected. Jamal Ali Hussein has collected a total of seven thousand ‘wisdom jokes’ and this is the first publication of its sort.

This book will give you an insight into the richness of Somali ‘wisdom jokes’, which have their roots in the traditional, nomadic Somali life style as well as addressing conteporary issues of immigration, exile and urbanization. The book will provide a greater understanding of Somali traditions, codes and life style.

The author, who is an International Banker with Citibank/Citigroup, and the CEO of the Bank’s operations in Ivory Coast and West Africa, has proven with this collection of Somali ‘wisdom jokes’ that laughter may be the best answer to the credit crunch! In addition to our main guest, there will be other books available for sale and there will be other poets and writers presenting some of their works, including Mohamed Baashe H. Hassan, Mawliid Aadan Aideed , Faysal Aw-Abdi, Abdirahman Ibrahim (Abees) and more.

Book launch: “Diiwaanka Qosolka” - collection of Somali wisdom jokes By Jamal Ali Hussein in London and Bristol

Language of the event: Somali

London: Saturday, 11 April, 14pm at Arts Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary, university London E1 4NSO

Bristol: Sunday, 12 April, 15PM at St Pauls Community Sports Academy, New Foundland Street, Bristol, BS2 9NH

More information:
Ayan Mahamud: 0790371-2949
Mohamed Baashe: 07852239595
Faysal Aw-Cabdi: 07931892659

Source: SomalilandPress

Group calls for end to Kenyan abuses

Thousands of Somali refugees in Kenya are being abused by a violent and corrupt police force in the world's largest refugee settlement, a rights group said.

Human Rights Watch said Monday in a 58-page report that the Kenyan government should immediately crack down on police misconduct and provide more land for refugees.

"People escaping violence in Somalia need protection and help, but instead face more danger, abuse, and deprivation," said Gerry Simpson, refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "Somali asylum seekers should be able to cross the border safely and get the aid in Kenya they urgently need."

Human Rights Watch said that in 2008, nearly 60,000 Somalis sought refuge in three camps in northeastern Kenya only to face violence and extortion by police.

Kenya officially closed its border with Somalia in January 2007, after Ethiopian troops intervened in support of Somalia's weak transitional government.

"Kenya has legitimate security concerns and a right to control its borders, but its borders can't be closed to refugees fleeing fighting and persecution," Simpson said. "The border closure has only made Somali refugees more vulnerable to abuse and lessened the government's and the (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) control over who enters Kenya and who is registered in the camps."

Source: UPI

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Somalia: Bodies rejected to be buried

The bodies died in Jiddah and Da’if cities in Saudi Arabia differently and the Saudi government rejected to be buried or taken to Somalia.

The bodies were Somalis who lived illegally in Saudi Arabia and some of them have been in fridges more than nine months.

Ibrahim Yusuf Mohamud, the father of a daughter that died in Saudi Arabia told Radio Shabelle based in Mogadishu that his daughter died in Saudi Arabia three months ago, he added that the Saudi government refused him to hand his daughter or bury her.

Sheik Mohamud Abdulle Arif, an influential Somali cleric said it is un-Islamic not to bury a Muslim person that has died.

The Saudi government is one of the biggest Islamic countries and the Somalis who fled from the chaos in their country meet harassment from the Saudi government.

Ninety Somalis cause havoc at boarder post

The Government of Botswana is investigating circumstances that led to a group of Somalis trying to force their way into Botswana illegally.
Security personnel had to be called in contain the situation that had almost gotten out of hands.

Information passed to Sunday Standard suggests that Botswana is not happy with how the South African immigration authorities decided to let the Somalis try to force their entry into Botswana illegally.

Last week Wednesday at least 92 Somalis (90 adults and 2 kids) caused havoc at the Remotlabame Border post and both Botswana and South African authorities had to be summoned to control the situation.

It is understood that the Somalis, who are political asylum seekers, claim that they wanted to go to their home country because of the violent crime that they encounter in their daily lives in South Africa.

Speaking to Sunday Standard the immigration officer at Ramatlabama border post, Mr. Joseph Motsumi, explained that on Wednesday morning at around 6, they saw a group of people standing loitering in the no man’s land between Botswana and South Africa.

He said that when they approached them and asked them what they wanted, they said they wanted to cross into Botswana and head for their home country, adding that they only wanted to use Botswana as a transit route.

Motsumi said the Somalis told them they had enough because they are being attacked, robbed and killed by the South African.

However senior superintendent Oreneetse Mogapaesi in Lobatse said “I can not comment on the matter because the issue is being handled by the office of president”.

“We could not let them in to Botswana because they were not having traviling documents”.

He said after long hours of negotiations the Somalis were then taken by the South African authorities to Pretoria,

The deputy high commissioner of South Africa high commission in Gaborone Miss Castleman declined to comment

However around the year 2000 a group of freedom fighters in South Africa also tried to force them selves in Botswana claiming that they want to have a dialogue with the SADC secretary general.

They freedom fighters allegedly told both the Botswana and South African authorities that they were being ill treated by their own government.

Source: The Sunday Standard

Somalia: President flies to Qatar

Arab foreign ministers met in Doha on Saturday to put the finishing touches on the agenda of the upcoming Arab summit due to open on Monday and draft resolutions to be submitted to the gathering of Arab leaders.

The agenda of the summit include the Somali, Sudan, and Palestine issues.

The security of the street to the airport has been tightened due to the travel of the president and his entourage.

The sound gunfire was heard near km 4 area where Ugandan troops are based.

The African Union troops along with the government soldiers tightened the security of the president.

The president has only been in Mogadishu for two days. He held a press conference in his hilltop presidential palace on Saturday and told al-Qaeda to stop interfering Somali affairs. He also indicated that Somalia needs the support of the African Union troops until Somalia gets its own forces.

Somalia:Islamist rebel leader escapes from house arrest in Eritrea

The Eritrean security forces are in search for the Islamist leader of Alliance for Re-liberation of Somalia Sheik Hassan Daahir Aweys who was disappeared mid last night after long been under house arrest in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, officials said on Saturday.

Somali pirates may be widening their hunting area

Are Somali pirates roaming farther from home to avoid the U.S.-led multinational force?

A story by the American Forces Press Service suggests that the pirates are plying their trade in the Indian Ocean now that Task Force 151 is patrolling their more traditional hunting area in the Gulf of Aden.

In the last week, pirates seized two chemical tankers in the Indian Ocean: one Bahamian-flagged and Norwegian-owned, the other Panamanian-flagged and Greek-owned.

One seizure was 380 nautical miles from Somalia, the other 490 miles, making them the farthest yet from the Gulf of Aden.

Last year, pirates seized 42 ships, but 80 "piracy events" were thwarted. The score this year: 11 seizures, 37 failures.

"This appears to be a new round of attacks," a Navy spokesman told the press service.

Source: Beiruter

Somany Somalis... may you enter peace

What kind of refugee are you?

There are two sorts in Cairo: those who have sought asylum in Egypt because of a 'well founded' fear of persecution based on race/ethnicity, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group (as defined in the 1951 Convention) ; and those who were compelled to leave their homes as a result of "external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality" (as stated in the OAU Convention of 1969). The former category is the standard definition applied around the globe, while the latter applies only within Africa. This means if you're a 1969 refugee in Cairo you don't qualify for resettlement outside the continent... and there are no countries in Africa that currently offer resettlement. Essentially these refugees become stuck in transit countries where they first seek asylum, unable to move on, and in many cases unable to return - at least in the short run.

These days, this is often the story with Somalis in Cairo (unless from a minority group). There seems to be a growing community that cannot go back and lack the connections or clan-affiliations to leave. A number of the people I see are from this arid part of the world, and they have somehow found a special home in my heart. While I admittedly know very little about their cultures and country, I love characteristics I am beginning to identify - their reputation as prolific poets and story-tellers, the oft-tenacious and strong-willed personalities, the care of Somalis for their communities and families.

Since starting at AMERA I have noticed that those from different homelands in the horn of Africa often have different opportunities in Egypt... an Eritrean woman may turn down a live-in housekeeping position that pays 300 USD a month while a Somali is struggling to work for 300-400le a month as a traveling cleaner. There are so many single Somali women caring for many children, and they often seem to face much more difficulty integrating (as a result of racism, linguistics, gendered expectations, etc). Sudanese may face similar exposure to racism, but at least the majority of them arrive knowing the lingua franca.

How do you face the heaviness of someone's limited opportunities, or the cultural patterns that seem to hinder many Somali women from processing their experiences of rape or violence? I guess you profess your powerlessness, your limited ability to understand and work with worldviews that are so different from your own, and open to listening and learning. A friend and former AMERA-ite recently wrote "listening truly is an act of love and one of the most powerful skills we can offer to others". That is one act that is offered too rarely to many refugees and that can build bonds of humanity and perhaps even hope.

I have been thinking much of hope and pain over the past few weeks. Today it was therapeutic to laugh with a Somali friend over coffee, difficult to watch news of the latest drought (again exacerbated by the ongoing violence) on Somalian television with another dear family, and important to create space to hear the personal pains of a Somali family AMERA staff are working with to build stability and opportunities. It was also a blessing to digest the words of another who lived in and loved Somaliland as a stranger - Margaret Lawrence's accounts of her years there during her mid-twenties provide a beautiful exploration of the human condition and glimpses into Somali culture in the Prophet's Camel Bell. As I think about people I know from Somalia, and the faces of that news cast again her closing words (written in 1963) still seem fitting:

"What will happen there now, no one knows, but whatever course they [Somalis] take will not be an easy one in a land that has so few resources except human ones. The best we can wish them, and the most difficult, is expressed in their own words of farewell. Nabad gelyo - May you enter peace"

May those Somalis struggling in the limbo of Cairo, and each of us, also enter peace.

Source: NileNavigations

Somali pirates free German gas tanker

A German gas tanker seized by Somali pirates two months ago has been freed and is on its way to its original destination of Vietnam, the owners said on Saturday.

The MV Longchamp, captured on January 29, was released with its crew of 12 Filipinos and their Indonesian captain at around 0600 GMT, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said in a statement.

The crew were safe and sound, the statement said, without confirming whether a ransom had been paid. The pirates had been demanding 4.7 million euros (6.25 million dollars) for the Longchamp.

An environment watchdog that also monitors piracy, Ecoterra International, said on Friday that an unknown sum of money had been delivered by aircraft to the pirates.

The Longchamp was hijacked at dawn in a hail of gunfire by seven pirates despite being under navy escort with its cargo of liquefied petroleum gas on its way to Vietnam from Norway, reports said at the time.

Ransom-hunting Somali pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the region last year, an increase of more than 200 percent on 2007, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

The number and success rate of pirate attacks has declined slightly since the start of the year, because of unfavourable sea conditions and an increased foreign naval presence in the Gulf of Aden.

Source: AFP

Foreign Ways and War Scars Test Hospital

The man from Somalia sat nervously in an examining room at Hennepin County Medical Center, gingerly brushing his fingertips against the left side of his head.

“You’re having surgery to remove shrapnel from your skull,” Dr. Steven Hillson told him, pausing to let a Somali interpreter dressed in a black head scarf and a floor-length skirt translate.

The patient, Abdulqadir Jiirow, 31, nodded and explained that the shrapnel had been there since 1991, when he was 14 and civil war broke out in Somalia and an artillery shell smashed into his home. It had not bothered him much until recently, when he began to work at a meat-packing plant and the helmet and goggles needed for the job pressed on it painfully.

Mr. Jiirow said he worked in a small town several hours away and shared an apartment with other Somalis, while his wife and child lived in Minneapolis. He saw them on weekends.

“It’s still astonishing,” the doctor, shaking his head, said after Mr. Jiirow left. “ ‘Someone sent artillery into my home.’ But it’s common.”

Hennepin County Medical Center, a sprawling complex in downtown Minneapolis near the Metrodome, offers an extraordinary vantage point on the ways immigrants are testing the American medical establishment. The new arrivals — many fleeing repression, war, genocide or grinding poverty — bring distinctive patterns of illness and injury and cultural beliefs about life, death, sickness and health.

In a city where Swedes and Norwegians once had separate hospitals, Hennepin spends $3 million a year on interpreters fluent in 50 languages to communicate effectively with its foreign-born patients.

Many arrive with health problems seldom seen in this country — vitamin deficiencies, intestinal parasites and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, for instance — and unusually high levels of emotional trauma and stress. Over time, as they pick up Western habits, some develop Western ailments, too, like obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and yet they often question the unfamiliar lifelong treatments these chronic diseases need.

Some also resist conventional medical wisdom or practices, forcing change on the hospital. The objections of Somali women to having babies delivered by male doctors has led Hennepin, gradually, to develop an obstetrical staff made up almost entirely of women.

Doctors here say that for many of these newcomers, the most common health problems, and the hardest to treat, lie at the blurry line between body and mind, where emotional scars from troubled pasts may surface as physical illness, pain and depression.

“Being an immigrant, it will be a chronic illness for the rest of your life,” said Dr. Veronica Svetaz, a physician from Argentina who works at one of Hennepin’s neighborhood clinics. “You don’t belong anywhere anymore.”

From Far-Flung Countries

Like many American cities, Minneapolis has seen a tremendous influx of Hispanics, many of them here illegally from Ecuador and Mexico. Hispanics, both legal and illegal, make up the biggest immigrant group in the state, as well as in the nation.

But since the late 1970s, this once lily-white city on the prairie, frozen solid half the year, has also been taking in waves of legal refugees from more far-flung parts of the world: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liberia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Myanmar and other countries.

So many people came here from war zones that a nonprofit group opened the nation’s first Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis in 1987. Statewide, the number of foreign-born people more than doubled in the 1990s and is nearly a quarter million now. They make up 5 percent of the population.

The influx from Somalia has been especially large. A million people fled the country when civil war broke out. Many spent years in squalid, disease-ridden refugee camps or shantytowns in Ethiopia or Kenya.

The lucky ones, granted refugee status, started arriving in the United States in the mid-1990s. Many were relocated to Minneapolis by the State Department because of the city’s strong social services and its many civic groups that help newcomers. There are an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 Somalis in Minnesota, most in Minneapolis, more than in any other American city. But the exact number is not known because refugees are not tracked when they move from state to state. Some officials and Somalis themselves think the figure is much higher than the state estimates, perhaps even double.

“Nobody can count us,” said Dr. Osman Harare, a physician and public health official in Somalia who became a patient advocate and interpreter at Hennepin. “We are nomads.”

The community is thriving, though it is not without troubles. The F.B.I. has been investigating whether young Somali men in Minneapolis have been recruited to commit acts of terrorism in Somalia, and health officials have been looking into reports of unusually high rates of autism in the children of Somali immigrants.

A 446-bed public hospital, Hennepin has a tradition of turning no one away, and it has become the first stop for many immigrants who need a doctor.

No questions are asked about immigration status. About 20 percent of the center’s patients were born in other countries, and they account for $100 million of its $500 million yearly expenses for patient care. Hennepin’s interpreters are called on to help patients more than 130,000 times a year. The greatest demand by far is for Spanish, followed by Somali.

One of the challenges in treating immigrants is money. Hennepin has $45 million a year in costs that are not reimbursed, and though immigrants by no means account for all of it, they are “a major contributor,” said Mike Harristhal, the hospital’s vice president for public policy and strategy.

Most Somalis are in this country legally and qualify for various government health insurance programs. For people here illegally, it is a whole other story. They used to be eligible for Medicaid, but are not anymore, except for emergencies or if they are pregnant or under 18. Hennepin has sliding-scale fees for the indigent, but some cannot afford even those prices.

Minnesota has its share of people who oppose immigration and resent footing the bills for foreigners, and Mr. Harristhal acknowledged that the melting-pot atmosphere at Hennepin drives some potential customers away. But the hospital is a renowned trauma center; even those who turn up their noses at the clientele accept that for someone in a car accident, there is no better place to be.

Complex Needs at the Clinic

Much of Hennepin’s work with immigrants takes place in a stretch of examining rooms and offices on the seventh floor, which has become an international health clinic with certain days set aside for various ethnic groups.

On a Tuesday afternoon last fall, a 62-year-old woman from Somalia made her first visit to the clinic. Initially, she was exuberant, speaking so rapidly that an interpreter could barely keep up.

“I love this big government hospital, the same government that welcomed me here after the war and the sadness of Somalia,” she said, beaming at Deborah Boehm, a nurse practitioner. “Your face welcomes me.”

The patient’s broad smile showed gaps in her teeth. She wore a traditional Muslim head scarf, a floor-length skirt in bright blue and purple, flip-flops and a gauzy, pale aqua shawl over a sweatshirt. Her fingernails were tinted orange with henna.

She had a dozen bottles of pills from other clinics in the Twin Cities, and a long list of ailments: arthritis, digestive trouble, allergies, insomnia and, worst of all, pain. Twice in recent months she had gone to the emergency room for terrible aches in her legs and burning pain in her side.

Ms. Boehm said she would order a blood test to measure vitamin D, because deficiencies are common in Somalis and are a frequent cause of aches and pains. (Aching all over is not uncommon among Somalis, and older people sometimes tell doctors they feel as if camels or horses have been walking on them all night.)

The body uses sunlight to make vitamin D, and dark-skinned people make less than whites. Somali women are especially prone to deficiencies because their traditional clothing covers so much of their skin.

The patient said she sometimes could not recall how many of her children were still alive. The forgetfulness had begun when she left Africa and all the problems there.

Ms. Boehm, 56, with short, curly hair and glasses, looked at the patient intently as she took notes and said, “Haa,” the Somali word for yes. “Tell me about the problems.”

The woman’s face crumpled. She rocked in her seat, choked out a few words, then bit her hand and wiped her eyes with her shawl.

The translation, “Don’t remind me,” was unneeded.

Ms. Boehm calmly changed the subject to matters of digestion and a local supermarket that sold camel’s milk.

Later, Ms. Boehm predicted that much of her new patient’s physical trouble would turn out to have emotional roots in Somalia. Anguish morphing into physical pain and depression is something Ms. Boehm has seen time and again in treating Somali refugees.

Ms. Boehm began working with Somali women at the clinic in 1997, and her job quickly became complicated.

“I began to hear about the pain,” Ms. Boehm said. “I couldn’t find any reason for it. They would say it felt like fire or electricity, descriptions I wasn’t familiar with. I did X-rays, lab tests, ordered physical therapy. Somehow, I just couldn’t get it to go away. After 6 to 12 months I said, ‘We have to look at the mental health piece.’ ”

At her urging, the clinic brought in a psychologist, and Ms. Boehm said, “I aggressively worked on getting these women into therapy.”

Dr. Mary Bradmiller, the psychologist, said the rates of depression and post traumatic stress disorder were high. Most of her Somali patients are mothers with “tremendous psychosocial stress, domestic violence, child protection issues, war trauma, nightmares, flashbacks and separation from their families,” Dr. Bradmiller said.

A study of 1,134 Somali and Eritrean refugees in the United States in 2004 found that 25 percent of the men and 47 percent of the women had been tortured, rates that the researchers considered shockingly high. The torture of women frequently involves rape.

Survivors often resist psychological help and deny their problems. Somali culture, like many others, stigmatizes mental illness. In Somalia, mental troubles are often attributed to spirit possession, and psychotherapy barely exists. “They might have talked to a sheik or an imam or a female healer,” Dr. Bradmiller said.

She has deliberately kept an office in the medical clinic, a familiar place to patients, so they do not feel as if they are going to a mental hospital. The director of care for the Somalis, Dr. Douglas Pryce, and Ms. Boehm urge certain patients to see Dr. Bradmiller and sometimes even walk them down the hall to make sure they go.

“They never come for therapy unless there’s a strong recommendation from a medical person they trust,” Dr. Bradmiller said.

Still, it has not been easy. Early on, she noticed insulted looks on patients’ faces when her role was being explained and found out that some interpreters were calling her the “crazy doctor.” Other interpreters laughed at what patients said.

Indeed, Dr. Bradmiller said, some therapists have left the clinic because of their struggles with interpreters. Now, she introduces herself as a “talk therapist” and chooses interpreters carefully.

“Some patients have completely checked out,” Dr. Bradmiller said. “The older children are bringing up the younger ones, and the mother doesn’t leave the house.”

If patients reach the point of talking about what happened to them in Somalia or at the refugee camps, it has to be handled carefully to prevent their being traumatized all over again, Dr. Bradmiller said.

The patients’ stories may also bring back the interpreters’ horrific memories, so Dr. Bradmiller has tried to find the interpreters who are the least vulnerable.

“I try not to digest what is being said so it doesn’t affect me,” said one, Abdi Rahmansali. “I try my best, but I’m a human being. I do get affected. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you feel your hair standing up.”

Dr. Bradmiller estimated that about only 10 percent of her patients saw the connection between their physical and emotional pain.

But for those who do, she said, the changes can be striking.

“They go to school, they cook, they put on makeup and colorful clothes, they start talking to you in English,” she said. “When life becomes more interesting than therapy, it’s time for therapy to be done.”

Home Health in Question

On an afternoon in late September, Dr. Pryce and Dr. Harare, the interpreter and patient advocate, emerged from an examining room looking tired but wryly triumphant.

They had just finished negotiating, politely but persistently, with a patient who — just as politely but persistently — had refused to allow any blood tests because it was the holy month of Ramadan and he feared that having blood drawn might be a sin.

Finally, they telephoned an imam, who declared there was no sin. The blood was drawn.

Dr. Pryce says one of the great joys of working in a hospital like Hennepin is finding ways to bridge such cultural divides — and knowing that his patients are better off because of it. But the cultural challenges can cut both ways, he said, and lately one issue has begun to grate on him and Ms. Boehm.

Somali patients have been asking them to fill out forms stating that they need personal-care assistants. Some do not need the help, Dr. Pryce said, but are being egged on by Somali-run health care agencies that want to collect insurance payments for the services.

Somalis in Minneapolis, often entrepreneurial and business minded, have opened the agencies to take advantage of relatively generous rules in Minnesota that were originally meant to help keep the elderly and chronically ill out of nursing homes.

Tricia Alvarado, director of home care for the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency, which evaluates requests for home help, agreed that there had been an explosion of Somali agencies, with 100 or so opening in just the last three years. Many are run by people without any medical training. And Ms. Alvarado confirmed that the agencies were putting a hard sell on potential clients.

“ ‘Diabetes?’ ” Dr. Pryce said, relaying what he said was a typical conversation between a sick Somali and a Somali-run agency. “ ‘You need a personal-care assistant. Here’s a form. Give it to your doctor.’ ”

Dr. Pryce turns down requests that he thinks are unwarranted, but patients argue and sometimes even act sicker than they really are.

The whole thing leaves him “hopping mad,” Dr. Pryce said. “I want to be a good steward of our resources, the tax money we’re all paying.”

The same thing happened with Russian immigrants in the 1990s, he said, even though state regulations were stricter then.

The current situation with the Somalis is part of a larger problem in Minnesota: the number of clients, and the costs of personal care, more than doubled from 2002 to 2008, and the number of agencies more than tripled. A report in January by the state legislative auditor said, “Personal care services remain unacceptably vulnerable to fraud and abuse”; the state is drawing up plans to tighten its control of the services.

“I love the Somali people and their culture,” Dr. Pryce said. “I like taking care of them. It’s rewarding and interesting. They don’t drink, they don’t smoke much, they’re living the American dream, they need our help. Then you have this other side that’s really painful, this contentious issue of who gets what.”

Source: The NY Times

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Somalia: Calm returns to fighting areas in Mogadishu

Two Islamist factions have been fighting in Yaqshid district in north Mogadishu for two consecutive days.

The fighting was between fighters to Abdulahi Moalim, a commander of the Islamic Courts Union in Jowhar who visited Mogadishu and fighters claimed they are Hizbul Islam a coalition of Islamist Insurgents that oppose the Somali government.

Residents in the area who have relocated back to their homes after the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops expressed concern about the fighting.

The security minister of the Somali government Omar Hashi Adan said his government will start operations in the city to secure it but it is unclear when the government will start its operations.

Two explosions hit stable north Somalia kill one, injure three

Two explosions rocked the northeastern Somali region of Puntland overnight, killing at least one person and wounding three others, all Ethiopian nationals, reports and officials said on Saturday.

Abdulahi Saeed Samatar, local minister for security, told Xinhua that the blast in Garowe, the regional capital, was caused by a hand grenade and confirmed the death of one person and injury of three all from neighboring Ethiopia but denied the occurrence of an explosion in Bossaso.

But media reports and residents in the port city of Bossaso said that huge explosion was heard late in the night near the headquarters for the local security service, the Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS) in an exclusive area in the commercial city of Bossaso. It was not immediately clear if there was any casualties.

The area around the PIS headqaurters was reportedly cordoned off and officials remained tightlipped about the situation in the area.

On Monday, PIS agents detained a well known local cleric, shiekh Osman, triggering riots by residents angry at the arrest of the respected scholar.

The local government did not say why the cleric was arrested but local media reports quoting unnamed government sources said the cleric was suspected of having links with the hard-line Islamist group of Al-shabaab which controls much of south and central Somalia.

Last year another huge explosion targeted the headquarters of PIS. The blast killed one person and wounded several others. The explosion in Bossaso, blamed on Al-shabaab, was part of coordinated suicide attacks on both Puntland and Somaliland in the far northwest where nearly 30 people were killed.

The two regions are relatively stable compared to the restive war-stricken south and central part of Somalia.

Source: Xinhua

African Union to send more troops to Somalia

The African Union will soon send more peacekeepers to protect the government of war-ravaged Somalia, a spokesman said, but he did not say how many would be deployed.

The Somali government had asked the AU to nearly double its current deployment of troops to the maximum 8,000 allowed by an agreement struck in 2007, Nicolas Bwakira, AU envoy for Somalia, told The Associated Press Friday.

AU members have previously been unwilling to send troops because of the high level of violence by Islamist insurgents against Somali and Ethiopian forces backing the government.

Bwakira did not say which countries would send troops nor how many.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since clan-based militias overthrew a socialist dictator in 1991.

The AU has been in the country since March 2007, and last weekend the number of soldiers reached 4,000 for the first time. Bwakira said the organization was planning to put in more troops.

"We are doing it now. We will send more troops to Somalia soon," he said.

The AU is seeking to put more troops into the country amid concerns that the insurgents will make further gains against a weak government that controls only small pockets of territory.

The Islamists, along with powerful clan elders and clerics, have called for the AU troops to leave the country. Last month a suicide attack killed 11 Burundian peacekeepers and injured 15 others.

The country's new president, former Islamist fighter Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, has not commented publicly on the issue of increasing the number of foreign troops since he took power but has previously opposed the presence of foreign troops on Somali soil. On Saturday, he said his "government needs help until it can stand by itself."

Deployment of more AU forces could hamper Ahmed's efforts to draw his former Islamist allies into a U.N.-sponsored peace process. So far they are still fighting the government.

The previous administration fell partly due to popular anger against the presence of Ethiopian troops who left in January 2009 after two bloody years. After they left, parliament elected Ahmed as the country's new president.

The Somali president is in a delicate position, said Rashid Abdi, a Somali expert at the International Crisis Group. "If (the president) comes out and openly calls for the increase of peacekeepers he will immediately collide with the powerful traditional elders and the clerics," Abdi said. This would be a propaganda coup for the insurgents.

The AU force guards key government institutions, like the capital's main airport, seaport and the presidential palace. They also protect top government officials and train national security forces.

The U.S. State Department says some leaders of the insurgency have links to al-Qaida. Western governments have long feared the failed state would become a magnet for Islamic terrorists and last week Osama Bin Laden issued a message calling on Somalis to overthrow their government and denouncing the president as an "infidel."

Source: The Associated Press

Somali president denounces al-Qaida

Somalia's new president on Saturday told al-Qaida to stop interfering in the affairs of the war-ravaged country.

In a tape published last week, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden called Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed an "infidel" and urged Somalis to overthrow his government.

"Al-Qaida has never helped Somalis reach a peaceful solution and has never wanted Somalis to have a government," Ahmed told journalists in the capital, Mogadishu, on Saturday, a day after returning from a tour of African nations.

"Al-Qaida did not teach us the Islamic religion and has not given us any support so I urge them to leave us alone," he said.

Ahmed, elected president by parliament in January, is a former fighter with the Islamic insurgency that is trying to overthrow the government. His faction signed a peace deal with the government last year and Ahmed is seen by many as a moderate.

Government troops hold only a few blocks of the capital and the country is split among competing militias. Many are allied to Ahmed and his new government, although not under their direct control, but the hardline al-Shabab, which the U.S. State Department says has links to al-Qaida, is still fighting him

Source: AP

Somali militants release 5 Kenyans

Five Kenyans abducted by a Somali militant group linked to Al Shabaab on Wednesday have been freed after negotiations between the militants and a Kenyan delegation led by the North Eastern Provincial Commissioner.

The four government officials and driver were immediately taken to Mandera in north eastern Kenya after being released. During negotiations for their release that spanned about four hours, the Kenyan delegation undertook to ensure the release of residents of Somalia's Bula Hawo town currently in the custody of Kenya police.

The Al-Shabaab group is also said to have demanded that Kenya police stop harassing Somalis along the border.

Those who had been kidnapped were Wajir South district education officer Moses Mwangi, his quality assurance colleague Charles Nyakundi, the provincial quality assurance officer Onchiri Onyancha, a Wajir South education official and their driver Abdullahi.

Militiamen claimed that they “arrested” the officials after they crossed the border into Somalia “without permission”. The civil servants were abducted at Bula Hawo Town, a kilometre away from the border town of Mandera.

They had apparently gone for shopping on the Somali side of the border, a fairly normal activity in the area. The officials had earlier attended the provincial primary school ball games tournament in Mandera Town.

The militants had said that the captives would be investigated and taken to court to explain their mission in Somalia

Al-Shabaab is an extremist Islamist group with links to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda. It controls southern and central parts of Somalia, and is opposed to the interim government of President Sheikh Shariff Ahmed.

It has on numerous occasions warned the Kenya government over its support for the Somali government and has threatened to wage war against Kenya.

Source: Daily Nation

Three held over Somalia terrorist links

Three suspects are under police interrogation in connection with being members of terrorist groups operating from Somalia.

The three were arrested on Sunday by anti-terrorist unit police officers in Malindi as the travelled from Lamu.

Malindi District Criminal Investigations Officer Mr John Kariuki said police were on high alert as the North Coast border with Somalia has been declared a "porous zone".

"The three suspects, a woman and two men were arrested by anti-terrorist officers from Mombasa around Gongoni area and locked up at Malindi police station for interrogation," said Mr Kariuki.

He said the three claimed to be Kenyans but only one of them was able to produce identification to prove his Kenyan nationality, said the DCIO.

"The suspects claimed they were coming from celebrating Maulidi in Lamu," said Mr Kariuki. However, police were still trying to establish their link with terrorist units operating in the volatile Somali and whether they were from the war-ravaged country.

Mr Kariuki identified the suspects as Ms Fatuma Mohamed, Mr Khalid Harith and Mr Athman Omar Bapae.

"They said they were from the historical town of Lamu where they have been attending celebrations to mark the birth of Prophet Mohamed, commonly known as Maulid," said the police boss.

Mr Kariuki said the suspects were held at the Malindi Police Station for interrogation but were later transferred to Mombasa for further interrogation.

Source: Daily Nation

Somalia: Heavy Gun Battle in Bosaaso

Heavy gun fire could be heard in the town of Bosaaso in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in north-eastern Somalia, on Friday night as unknown militant groups battle Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS).

Unconfirmed reports said that armed men threw hand grenades inside the PIS premises located in the Lanta Hawada district of Bosaaso before opening fire from small arms.

It is not clear the number of casualties or damages at this stage, as it is too early for our reporters to visit the area.

Some reports suggest that the attack is in connection to a recent arrest of a well known cleric after he returned from a visit to the port of Kismayo, an Al Shabab strong hold.

It was just few hours ago that another group attacked the town of Garowe with hand grenade killing one person and wounding five others

Source: Somaliland Press

Lawless Somalia draws influx of foreign fighters

Egged on by Osama bin Laden and drawn in by Ethiopia's pullout, foreign jihadists have flocked to Somalia in recent months, joining forces with local fighters to turn the country into an Al-Qaeda haven.

Somalia now shelters an estimated 450 foreign fighters who are working with the Shebab, a home-grown hardline Islamist group that has spearheaded a bloody insurgency since 2006.

While foreign fighters wanted for links to Al-Qaeda have long used Somalia as a backyard, their numbers have swollen dramatically in 2009, experts say.

"There were maybe 100 foreigners last year but now our estimate is up to 450," said Ismail Haji Noor, a former Somali security official who has established a secular militia bent on rooting out the Shebab and their foreign allies.

Noor said the foreign jihadists come from the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia and often enter the country on regular airlines from the northern semi-autonomous state of Somaliland.

Most of them are concentrated in Garowe, in the northern breakaway state of Puntland, and the southern towns of Baidoa, Merka and Kismayo.

"The risk is being taken increasingly seriously that they will look outside Somalia for their operations now," said one Nairobi-based diplomat.

Stripped of their arch-enemy Ethiopia, which ended its two-year military occupation in January, the Shebab have revamped their organisation and moved closer to Al-Qaeda, intelligence officials said.

A 10-member "cabinet" includes several known Somali members who have trained in Afghanistan, including Mukhtar Robow who has been the group's main spokesman.

But it is also believed to include several foreigners, from Saudi Arabia and Sudan, as well as Fazul Abdullah, a Comoran-born Al-Qaeda operative wanted over the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

"They will be targeting Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia. Western powers will focus their efforts on protecting those neighbouring countries instead of tackling the problems inside Somalia," Noor warned.

He said Somalia's new moderate Islamist president, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, needed to be urgently shored up if the threat was to be neutralised.

In a recent Internet audio message addressed to "the champions of Somalia", bin Laden urged the Shebab to topple Sharif, heightening fears the group could seek to gain an Al-Qaeda "franchise" with spectacular operations.

In the meantime, the Shebab are consolidating their grip on key towns.

"Everyone here knows that many foreign fighters are among those who fought us in Bay and Bakol regions," said Colonel Adan Abdullahi, a police officer from the Baidoa region, where clashes have killed dozens in recent months.

"A young man who talked to me said he was from Morocco but the group leader is called Mohamed and he is a white American," a local shop owner who said his life would be in danger if his name was published told AFP.

Residents say many white men are among the newly-arrived Islamic fighters in Baidoa, a town 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Mogadishu where the country's transitional parliament normally sits.

"These white men are heavily armed with hand grenades and machine guns. They sometimes come to the mosque and pray with us," resident Ahmed Hasan said.

"They are more disciplined than local fighters, they look very religious, but I don't know why they are here, there is no jihad now that the Ethiopians have left," said 28 year-old Mohamud.

One of the pictures featuring prominently on the Shebab website's gallery of "martyrs" is that of "Abu Horriya" (Father of freedom), a Hispanic American also known as the "Seattle Barber" who was killed in combat in 2008.

His real name is Ruben Shumpert and he was once jailed on gun and counterfeiting charges. He was also wanted for showing jihadist videos to children in his Seattle hair salon.

Washington earlier this month voiced concern that Somali youths in the diaspora were being recruited by hardline groups to fight in their homeland, notably among the large Somali community in the US city of Minneapolis.

Britain, which is also home to a large Somali community, warned in a report unveiling its counter-terrorism strategy and released earlier this week that Al-Qaeda activity could be heating up in Somalia.

Source: AFP

Family says King Co. jail inmate's medical care inadequate

Somali Man's testicle had to be removed, family says

The family of an inmate in the King County Jail is questioning whether he received proper medical attention for severe pain in his testicle, which family members say had to be surgically removed several days later.

Said Ali, who was sentenced Friday to 26 years imprisonment on robbery and assault charges, developed a medical problem while in custody this year. It happened in February or this month, although his family is not certain when.

A jail nurse examined him, family members said, but initially found no serious medical issue. The pain never dissipated, however, and he wasn't taken to Harborview Medical Center until his testicle swelled abnormally six days later, according to his sisters and an attorney handling Ali's appeal.

Ali, a young Somali immigrant, was convicted in connection to five robberies in the University District and Fremont last May. Victims lost iPods, cell phones, or purses. One victim was stabbed and another was beaten so badly, he lost consciousness, court documents say.

One victim identified him in a line-up, others said they recognized his face in a photo montage.

Family members, distraught over the sentence, said they were concerned about Ali's treatment inside the jail. They're still seeking more information about what caused his condition and what happened. Ali's appellate attorney, James Bible, said he is helping them look into it.

"We never thought in this country that we would have all of these problems. We thought he would be safe," said Deqa Ali, his sister, her eyes still moist from tears.

Deqa Ali said her brother told family members that he developed severe pain in a testicle, but wasn't taken to the hospital until six days later, when doctors had to surgically remove it.

James Apa, spokesman for the public health department, said Friday he couldn't confirm the family's account under medical privacy laws without Ali's permission.

"We'd like to share more information about Mr. Ali's medical care, but out of respect for his privacy and the law, we need to get his written permission first," he said.

Major William Hayes, the jail's spokesman, said he could only confirm that Ali was in custody.

Earlier this year, King County agreed to address several civil rights issues uncovered by a U.S. Justice Department investigation that found lacking medical care, poor suicide prevention measures and insufficient safeguards against inmate abuse. The county agreed in a settlement to make several improvements, one of which was to upgrade inmate medical care.

In another case in 2007, an inmate, Lynn D. Isley, died after Jail Health Services failed to diagnose a severe health condition, according to an independent report by the county Ombudsman's Office.

Born in Somalia, Ali's father was killed during the country's long civil war. He came to the United States with his mother and five sisters, who attended Friday's court hearing.

About 30 others came to show support. Judge Laura Inveen said the sentence was the lowest she could impose under the law. Four Somali community members spoke in support of Ali, describing him as an intelligent, hard-working man who had trouble re-adjusting to American culture without a father figure.

"I can't simply look at people's support. I have to follow the law," Inveen said.

Some of his struggles stemmed from a dispute over his real age. Immigration papers list him as 20, but family members and his defense lawyer say it was an error and that he is actually three years younger.

They say that due to the error, he was forced to go to school with older kids when growing up. His criminal lawyer, Michael Nance, presented a Somali birth certificate during trial to prove his client was only 16 when the robberies occurred, although he was tried as an adult.

Ali told his family of his medical problem during visiting sessions in jail. Suddenly, for a few days, they lost contact with him and didn't immediately know what happened, two of his sisters said.

Another sister, Fatima, said her family is concerned that Ali won't be safe in the state prison system.

"We want to know what happened to him," she said.


FBI targets Somalis in Minneapolis

The FBI has been interrogating members of the Somali community here about the “disappearances” of more than 20 Somali youth. A U.S. Senate committee held hearings March 11 on FBI claims that these youth may have been recruited to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States in the future. There are an estimated 70,000 to 200,000 Somalis living in the United States.

Leaders in the Somali community say it has become clear that the FBI is seeking to create an atmosphere to force people to testify about their religious and political activities.

The FBI alleges that the youth have gone to Somalia to fight with al-Shabab, an armed Islamist group that was fighting to overthrow the Somali government in Mogadishu. That government, which came out of a U.S.-backed invasion of the country by thousands of Ethiopian troops in 2006, was replaced following UN-brokered elections earlier this year. The new government has the support of the main imperialist powers, including Washington, and is backed by thousands of African Union troops.

In February FBI Director Robert Mueller said that the Somali youth were “radicalized” by people in two mosques in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Mueller said Shirwa Ahmed carried out a suicide bombing last October in an attack by al-Shabab in northern Somalia. U.S. intelligence officials have claimed that the youth have joined al-Shabab and that this group has growing ties to al-Qaeda. Leaders of the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center mosque in Minneapolis conducted an open house February 25 to allow scrutiny from the media and people from the community.

In addition to hearing the FBI's claims, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs heard testimony from Andrew Liepman, deputy director of intelligence at the National Counterterrorism Center. Liepman warned, "We are concerned that if a few Somali American youth could be motivated to engage in such activities overseas, fellow travelers could return to the United States and engage in terrorist activities here." Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Senate committee, called the ongoing investigation the "most serious instance of homegrown terrorism in the United States."

A number of local Somali leaders have urged cooperation with the FBI. However, it is clear that many Somalis are suspicious of the FBI and are not talking.

A young Somali, Omar Ali, told the Militant, “The FBI agents go up to people on the street here and put a microphone before their mouths and record what they say. They ask questions like, ‘What are you doing? Do you know any young people going back to Somalia to carry out suicide bombings?’"

Mohamed, a physician who is Somali, told the Associated Press that his cousin was detained for hours at the Minneapolis airport while being questioned about a January visit to Nairobi, Kenya, and which mosques he attended. "What is disturbing is the manner of the questions," Mohamed said. "Nobody would ask, 'Have you been to a church?'"

Tom Fiske, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, told the Militant, “The FBI investigations are violations of the democratic rights of people in the Somali communities and of all working people. Using the specter of ‘terrorism’ they seek to legitimize spying and disruption of mosques, community organizations, and individuals within the Somali community. This will be used to legitimize the expansion of spying and disruption of the labor movement, the Black struggle, socialist organizations, and other working-class movements.”

The FBI is carrying out similar investigations in Somali communities in Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Maine; San Diego; and Seattle. Currently a grand jury in Minneapolis is subpoenaing testimony from people in the Somali community.

Somalis have reason to be suspicious of the FBI. In November 2001 the FBI, along with other U.S. government agencies, raided Somali businesses that transfer money from Somalis living here to family and friends in Somalia. The excuse was the same as what's being presented for the current investigations, that the businesses had ties to terrorist groups. Subsequently, the government was forced to admit they had no evidence. This was small comfort to those whose businesses were raided, property confiscated or damaged, and shut down for many months. At the time there were protests by Somalis and others against the FBI action.

Source: The Militant

UN envoy condemns attack on Somali Interior Minister

The UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has strongly condemned those responsible for the roadside blast which wounded Somalia's Interior Minister, Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, and killed one of his assistants.

"I am shocked by this attack on the Interior Minister and his entourage," Ould-Abdallah said in a statement issued late Friday.

"The Minister was walking in a populated area in Bakara Market. This is a cowardly act which has been widely condemned inside and outside Somalia."

The Thursday's attack on Omar is the latest reminder of the challenges Somalia's new government faces in restoring security to the country.

Omar was attacked in the city's busy Bakara Market. He escaped with an injured leg, but one of his guards was killed.

No one has claimed responsibility, but Islamist insurgents opposed to the government have launched sporadic attacks on government troops and African Union peacekeepers in the capital.

"Those who carried out the attack clearly know there is absolutely no justification and that is why they have not made themselves known. They previously claimed to be fighting to get the Ethiopian troops out of Somalia and now they have turned against their own people," said Ould-Abdallah.

The UN envoy said the new administration led by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was working hard to improve security, raise resources and help Somalis lead a normal life like people in other African countries.

"Attacks such as these are clearly aimed at trying to stain the country's reputation. However the new government has the support of the majority of Somalis as well as the international community. The country is on the road towards peace and will not be thrown off course by these actions."

Source: Xinhua

Friday, March 27, 2009

Somali President Returns to Mogadishu Friday a Day After Interior Minister Survives Assassination Attempt

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is expected to arrive in the capital, Mogadishu today (Friday) from holding meetings with Tripoli about strengthening bilateral ties. President Sheikh Sharif arrives a day after an assassination attempt on the life of Interior Minister Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar that left at least two people dead late Thursday. The government sharply condemned the attack, vowing to continue with its effort to restore stability in the capital, Mogadishu. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination, hard line insurgent group, al-Shabaab is suspected of carrying out the attack. Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with close links to Al Qaeda, al-Shabaab has refused to recognize the new Somali administration.

Abdisalam Guled is spokesman for the new Somali prime minister. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that Somalis are expressing anger over Thursday's assassination attempt.

"Yes the president is expected to come into the country today (Friday) from Djibouti where he had a stop over from his Libya trip. While there he discussed several issues including the important issues on the ground here with the Libyan authorities. He has been out for a quite a while and so now coming back it will give us great energy so things would move faster on the ground," Guled pointed out.

He described the assassination attempt on the interior minister as sinister.

"It is actually unfortunate what happened today. Mogadishu was and still is one of the most violent places on earth, but what we are trying to do and the hope we have is much different than what Mogadishu used to be. The interior minister's assassination attempt was actually deliberate to kill him, but luckily he escaped. But one of his secretaries was immediately killed on the spot and one of his body guards was injured. The minister himself was injured but he was able to walk away in one piece walking on his feet when he left the place of the assassination attempt," he said.

Guled said the government is working on plans to end insurgent attacks in the capital, Mogadishu as well as the entire country.

"We have already discussed with the security agencies and we also discussed possibilities with the communities as well as religious leaders and the leaders of armed groups in Somalia about the need to restore peace to the country. It is important for us to take very tactful initiatives and missions to respond responsibly to these kinds of attacks, which cannot be accepted," Guled pointed out.

He said the lack of gainful employment among Somali youth could be one contributing factor to the escalated violence.

"You know the people in Mogadishu or the people in Somalia and the reason why these young talented soldiers or guys are willing to take these kind s of action (violence) and the reason why they are so vulnerable is because they have nothing else to do. They have no hope and so one of our methods or strategies is to create hope for these people and to create other means and channels in life for them. By doing that it will derail or minimize the risks these guys are going through and putting other people's lives too," he said.

Guled described as productive the prime minister's meeting with members of some international bodies about the progress of Somalia after at least 18 years of ineffective government.

"Today the prime minister had a meeting with the head of the U.N in Somalia as well as the head of the UNDP of Somalia. And the discussion was about how to bring Somalia to stand on its feet and how to actually empower the people and empowering the people means to create jobs to create that life worth living for the ordinary Somali," Guled noted.

Interior Minister Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar Thursday survived an assassination attempt in the capital, Mogadishu following a roadside bomb blast. His secretary and another government official were killed in the assassination attempt although the interior minister survived the blast.

Ali Omar is reportedly a close ally of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and has been the leader of the armed wing of the former Islamist opposition group led by the current president. Political observers saw his membership in the Somali government as crucial, especially in the reconciliation efforts between the former Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and armed opposition groups.

Source: VOA