Google+ Followers

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Japanese patrol aircraft on antipiracy mission arrive in Djibouti

Two Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C aircraft on an antipiracy mission landed Sunday at an airport in Djibouti, where they will be based during their first overseas mission.

Following some training, the aircraft will start patrolling from mid-June in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia and convey relevant information to the MSDF destroyers that have been patrolling there since March as well as Japanese-related vessels and other navy vessels in the area.

The dispatch of the P-3Cs will complete Japan's antipiracy scheme to patrol from both sea and air, according to the Self-Defense Forces.

The air patrol operations involve about 100 MSDF personnel, including the P-3C's crew and engineers and about 50 Ground Self-Defense Force members who guard the aircraft at the airport.

Japan sent some 40 members as an advance team on May 18 and dispatched the aircraft with 36 members on Thursday. Other members have already arrived at Djibouti on chartered aircraft.

Helicopters from two Japanese destroyers are currently patrolling the gulf, but the MSDF decided to send the P-3Cs, given their greater flying range and longer flight time.

Over 120 pirate incidents have occurred in waters off the coast of Somalia this year, and more than 20 countries have sent their navies to the region to counter the increase.

Source: Kyodo News

Italy dismisses reports of inviting rival Somali groups for talks

The Italian embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, has dismissed reports indicating that the Italian government has invited Somali opposition officials to a meeting which is due to take place in Rome from the 9 to 10 June.

The Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry has said that they will host a meeting for the International Contact Group on Somalia in Rome from 9 June to 10. The meeting will be chaired by the United Nations special envoy to Somalia, Ahmadou Ould Abdallah.

According to statement issued by the Italian embassy in Nairobi, the meeting will be opened by the Italian foreign affairs minister, Franco Frattini and will also be attended by Somalia's foreign affairs minister, Muhammad Abdullahi Umar. The meeting is expected to discuss the latest developments in Somalia, and particularly issues of politics and security. The meeting will also discuss the fight on piracy, issues of humanitarian aid in Somalia and those of the economy.

Source: Statement issued by the Italian embassy in Nairobi

Feature: Somali children face tough times, hope for brighter future

Young Omar Siyad plays outside his home in Mogadishu just like every child in the world does, but the sound of the distant gunshots and the artillery shells that could stray towards his home is what makes his childhood perilous.

As the world marks World Children's Day on Monday, the situation of Somali children is very exceptional because the Horn of Africa country has suffered nearly two decades of civil conflict which took away the innocence of childhood from a generation of Somali kids.

"I have seen many people killed and wounded last week. I am afraid that I may die. Every night I have nightmare. I see people killing each other," said seven-year-old Omar, his family still remaining in Mogadishu where the recent flare up forced thousands of residents out of the city.

Children are most affected by the violence in Somalia where most of the casualties are civilians caught in the crossfire.

Most of the schools in Mogadishu have been closed in the fighting with future of Somali children overshadowed by the collapse of the education system.

Yusuf Moallin is a teacher at Al Khaliil Elementary School, which was closed due to the ongoing violence in the capital.

"In our school we had nearly 1,000 students but the fighting around this area made the school unable to educate the children, so we had to close it," Moallin told Xinhua.

Medical sources in Mogadishu say many children suffer from acute malnourishment while higher percentage of them do not receive regular and proper vaccination as the children's families constantly move because of the violence.

"The fighting in the country adversely affects children's physical and mental health as well as their future because the few educational institutions that exist remain closed," says Muqtar Faruk, a medical practitioner in Mogadishu.

But Omar, who says he would like to be a teacher when he grows up, is optimistic despite the chronic chaos and lawlessness in his country.

"When my school opens again I will study well and I am going to be a teacher at my school and teach students," Omar tells Xinhua as he kicks an improvised ball made of stuffed sock, which he usually plays with friends his favorite game of football.

The Horn of Africa nation has been embroiled in civil conflict since former ruler Mohamed Siyad Barre was overthrown by warlords, who then turned on each other plunging the country into perpetual chaos and lawlessness.

Source: Xinhua

Somaliland: A Trip To The Unknown

Emily will be writing to Somalilandpress about her experience in Somaliland and will be offering tips to anyone who may want to visit the unrecognized republic along the way - discover Somaliland from a Non-Somali perspective. This is the first article - planing the trip.

In late March, the opportunity to spend the summer working in Hargeisa arose. I was intrigued. I had heard that Somaliland is a sort of enclave of stability in the region, but to the best of my knowledge still a place that foreigners would be foolish to venture to. But how can one know? And who could I ask? First I turned to my Somali friends living in the United States. All of them are from southern Somalia, with little familiarity of Somaliland.

Nonetheless, they did make requests that I bring back certain items with me, if I go. If I honor all of these requests, among the things I will return with to Boston include gold, clothes, pots and pans, a camel, and if I can’t take a camel, a goat. Now, back to the investigation. Still lacking information about Somaliland, I turned to my American friends who have worked in Eastern Africa. I finally was introduced to a friend of a friend who spent time in Hargeisa two years ago. He said it was safe, and raved about the beaches. I looked at Thorn Tree travel guide on Lonely Planet, which provided a greater wealth of first hand information. The reports and stories were mostly positive.

Still, I needed more information. On a whim, I typed “Somaliland” then “Somaliland Boston” and “Hargeisa” into the facebook search bar. To my surprise, I even found a facebook group called “Hargeisa…summer 2009!” I messaged people in the group and got in touch with Somalilandpress in Boston. Surprisingly, all of these investigative initiatives led me to make connections with many knowledgeable people, so that I started feeling more confident about going and better informed about the situation on the ground.

Okay, so I’ve decided that I will definitely be spending two-and-a-half months working in Hargeisa this summer. What now? All the planning is overwhelming and I don’t even know what airlines fly to Somaliland. A lot of research is in store. After inquiring with other foreigners who have been to Somaliland and looking on the Somaliland government’s website, it seems to be the consensus that the best way to get a visa is to head to the Somaliland embassy in Addis Ababa.

I have heard contrasting feedback about obtaining a visa. While my fellow foreigner friends all tell me that I have to get a visa in Addis or London (but better Addis), my Somalilander friends tell me that a visa can be obtained at the Hargeisa airport for $40. I am not sure which solution is best for me, and perhaps Somali ex-pats who visit are subject to different rules than foreigners. In any case, I feel better knowing I will have a visa in hand upon arrival. And anyway, I have a friend in Addis who can show me around. I will let you know how the visa process goes when I arrive in Addis next week.

Next on the agenda: booking a flight! Finding a flight from Boston to Addis is not so hard, but being that I am a graduate student on a limited budget, I am after the best deal possible. In my extensive research I have uncovered an essential travel tip, for the frugal out there: it turns out that buying two separate round trip tickets rather than one round trip ticket is cheaper (from Boston to Ethiopia).

This is why my itinerary consists of one round trip ticket from Boston to Paris, and another round trip ticket from Paris to Addis Ababa, which will even give me the opportunity to visit some friends and family when I stop over in Paris. From Paris, the most reasonable tickets I found to Addis are with Turkish Air, Emirates, and Lufthansa. At the time of my search, Turkish Air had the best price, but a very long layover and inconvenient arrival times. For only $90 more I chose to take Lufthansa and save 14 hours round trip, plus arrive at a reasonable hour. Finally I take the plunge and book my ticket. Total price? $1100. Ouch, but expected.

Now for the trickier part: how to get from Addis to Hargeisa? After speaking with my contacts in Somaliland and doing other investigations, I learn that I basically have four options to explore: Daallo Airlines, Ethiopian Air, Air Ethiopia, and the bus. My instinct tells me to go with Ethiopian Air, but then I look on their website and call the airline, only to discover that all flights to Hargeisa are still suspended. And while I have gotten mixed reviews about many topics, one thing has remained consistent: avoid Daallo airlines if you can. Luckily, (or perhaps it will be unlucky, as I have yet to take my flight and find out!) a contact in Hargeisa told me about Air Ethiopia, a relatively new airline that has flights from Addis to Hargeisa every Monday and Thursday.

I contact a travel agent as well as the airline directly, and they say they will hold a space for me, though I have not put any money down and certainly have no e-ticket as proof. I will simply go to their office when I arrive in Addis to pick up the ticket and pay. Sounds good to me.

It seems like everything is nearly set. Now I just have to pack my suitcase accordingly. Simple? Not as much as you might think. You see, my Somali friends in Boston are very excited (and also nervous) about my trip. They have all filled my already stuffed suitcase with gifts to give their family, or family of their family, or who knows who. Some gifts include clothes, Obama gear, magazines, a Blackberry, USB key, and more.

Not only that, they have showered me with Somali clothing which I have been instructed to don when I am there. I give a little fashion show to some friends, thinking that I have mastered how to wear their clothes, but as it turns out, I never noticed the little details: what size scarf to wear with a skirt versus a dress, how to tie each scarf so it looks right, what to wear under the skirt, and so on. Luckily I have a few days before I leave to learn these intricacies and patient teachers ready to instruct me.

Hopefully the people I meet in Hargeisa will be as patient with me as my Somali friends in the U.S. have been in helping me prepare for the trip! Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

By Emily H

Source: Somalilandpress

Piracy of importance to Russia

Piracy was a central issue for Russian officials at a meeting of G8 interior and justice ministers in Rome, the Russian interior minister said Saturday.

"This issue has become the most important one for us. The organization of an effective response is important in this sphere," the ministry's Rashid Nurgaliyev was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

Warships from the navies of at least a dozen countries, including Russia, are engaged in anti-piracy operations off Somalia's coast. The United Nations said Somali pirates had carried out at least 120 attacks on ships in 2008 and the problem has persisted this year.

Nurgaliyev also said the G8 meeting touched on terrorism, organized crime, cybercrimes, child pornography and human trafficking.

"We finally feel that we are passing from statements to definite action," he said.

Source: UPI

G8 vows legal cooperation to tackle Somali piracy

Ministers from G8 industrialized nations agreed on Saturday to work toward a legal framework for the trial of Somali pirates, seen as a major obstacle to policing the dangerous shipping lanes off the Horn of Africa.

Justice and interior ministers from the world's eight leading industrial powers, concluding a two-day meeting in Rome, pledged to help strengthen the criminal justice system in poor regions affected by piracy, such as east Africa.

They also recognized the need for agreements between countries that arrest pirates and those able to prosecute them -- often Western nations with more developed judiciaries.

Several G8 countries are taking part in EU and NATO naval task forces combating piracy in one of the world's busiest shipping routes off the coast of Somalia, where the number of vessels hijacked by pirates has risen sharply in recent months.


But captured pirates present a judicial headache for Western nations, which often lack official jurisdiction. Some forces simply release captured pirates, often poor local fishermen.

"We want to strengthen our ability to investigate and prosecute this crime and recover the assets illegally obtained through piracy," Italian Justice Minister Angelino Alfano, whose country chairs the G8 this year, told a news conference.

If pirates are tried in the West, they might be able to claim asylum but if they are tried in war-torn Somalia they are unlikely to receive a fair trial, experts say.

Neighboring Kenya has accepted some detainees but it is reluctant to receive a deluge of piracy cases and trials there have already received a legal challenge from Germany.

French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Western nations needed to have the legal tools to go after the masterminds of piracy, who were often powerful international businessmen.

Italy had said on Friday there was support for its proposal to establish international tribunals for piracy, but this was not explicitly mentioned in the final statement.

CONFISCATIONS

The document called for more cooperation in confiscating the assets of organized crime groups, from drug cartels to pirate networks, particularly with developing countries.

Ministers agreed on the need to tackle Internet crime, such as theft of financial and personal information online, child pornography and the use of social networking sites by criminal and terrorist organizations. They called for the creation of an international blacklist of pedophile Web pages.

Ministers expressed concern the economic crisis could increase the numbers of poor illegal immigrants seeking to reach industrialized nations, and called for the speedy international introduction of electronic machine-readable passports.

Italy has been criticized by civil rights groups for returning to Libya boats full of would-be migrants intercepted at sea. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said this would be discussed at a European Union summit next week, but the policy had slashed the number of migrant boats reaching south Italy.

A march through central Rome organized by several organizations in protest at the ministerial meeting drew some three thousand protesters, some chanting slogans like "We are all illegal migrants."

The members of the G8 group are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States.

Source: Reuters

Somalia: Government rejects the idea of creation International court

Somalia’s fragile government has rejected the idea of creation international tribunal to try Somali pirates.

The Netherlands proposed Friday the creation of an international tribunal to try Somali pirates.

Mohamed Abdulhahi Omaar, Somalia’s foreign minister said that his government did not request the creation of international tribunal and the most countries in the world were not satisfied of the idea.

Omaar said they have requested the suspected Somali pirates to be tried in Kenya temporarily until Somali government builds its court.

The minister disclosed that there were foreign ships fishing illegally and dumping toxic wastes in the coast of Somalia.

He attended a conference that took place in New York which was discussed the problems of the piracy and how they could be dealt on land.

Source: Mareeg

Somalia: Rival Islamists fight in Middle Shabelle Region

Two Islamist rivals have fought in Magurto village near Mahaday district in Middle Shabelle region, officials said on Sunday.

Residents said the fighting started after allied al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam Insurgent groups launched heavy attack bases of the pro government Islamic Courts Union.

Moalim Dahir Adow Alasow, the leader of the Islamic Courts Union said that they have been attacked and defended al Shabaab and their allies.

No casualties have been reported yet as it difficult to get information from the fighting area.

The two sides have recently fought in the area and more people fled from the region in fear for further clashes between the two sides.

Source: Mareeg

Somalia: G8 wants closer cooperation to fight terrorism, piracy

Fighting the global terrorism threat as well as the scourge of piracy calls for stronger cooperation among G8 nations, the group's interior and justice ministers said Saturday.

Despite some successes, "terrorism is still one of the most serious threats to international security," the ministers from the Group of Eight rich nations said in a final statement after three days of talks near Rome.

Extremists have shown a "significant offensive capability" and "organisational flexibility," they said, along with an ability to recruit and radicalise their followers, which is "a cause of great concern."

"The counter-terrorism cooperation between G8 nations is essential" to stop the spread of such radicalism, stressed the justice chiefs of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

"The exchange of information on the movement of funding to finance terrorist groups is a major example" of such cooperation, said Italy Justice Minister Angelino Alfano when presenting the final communique.

According to Interpol's special anti-terrorism taskforce, there is a database of more than 8,000 suspects linked to terrorist activists and a network of nearly 200 contact officers in more than 100 countries.

The head of the global police organisation spoke to the G8 ministers Friday on the rising attacks of piracy on the seas, especially off the east African coast of Somalia, saying law enforcement was the missing link in combatting this organised crime.

"There is clearly a need for a common international strategy that includes a law enforcement element to combat maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea," said Interpol Secretary General Robert K. Noble in a statement.

"Right now, we are in a situation in which there are pirates in custody while others have been arrested and released, but there is no central system in place for collecting, exchanging and processing data to help connect the dots," Noble said, suggesting creating an investigative prosecutorial taskforce.

"These pirates are organized criminals targeting victims, taking them hostage and using extortion to get money -- we must therefore follow the money trail to strike a blow at the economic interests of this type of organized crime," he added.

The G8 justice ministers agreed that steps must be taken "to deprive the pirates of the proceeds of their criminal activity," their statement said.

They also encouraged countries affected by piracy -- either due to ships flying their flag being targeted, or their nationals being crew members or passengers on held ships.

It noted that cooperation between states capturing pirates and those able to prosecute them plays "a valuable role in counter-piracy efforts."

According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirate attacks off Somalia in the first quarter of this year surged tenfold to 61, compared with the same period in 2008.

A total of 114 attempted attacks have occurred since the start of the year, and pirates have seized 29 ships.

On the sidelines of the G8 ministers' meeting, anti-globalisation and far left groups organised a demonstration that drew some 4,000 people, according to police, the ANSA news agency reported.

Many protesters brandished signs demanding rights for immigrants, including those that read "papers for all."

A flood of illegal immigration from Africa to southern Europe has led countries such as Italy to take tougher measures on repatriation and turn back boatloads of would-be immigrants to their home ports.

The justice ministers condemned illegal immigration and migrant smuggling, "which feeds the transnational criminal organisations and hampers the integration of legal migrants," their final statement said.

In a separate declaration, the ministers urged tougher measures to combat the "heinous crime" of the sexual exploitation of children such as a blacklist of Internet websites containing child pornography and blocking navigation to paedophile sites.

Source: AFP

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Netherlands proposed Friday the creation of an international tribunal to try Somali pirates.

Subsequent to article posted here on Saturday 23rd of May 2009, alleging that Qaran Express finances Al Shabaab fighters was found not true and mistakenly posted by one of our associate journalist whom we have now suspended his services to our website.

Mareeg chief editor carried a thorough investigation on the bases of these allegations as well as the authentic of the posted letter and confidently found these allegations were not only baseless but also fabricated with ill-fated individuals who have intentions to damage the image of Qaran Express and its executives. While investigating posted letter and article we also come across similar letters containing false allegation on the same company and its senior management.

During Our investigation we have spoken to number of this company's officers thus learned that Qaran express is a partnership company founded in 2005 by a group of Somali individuals’ with the objective of serving Somali people. Qaran is widely known for its generous participation of rebuilding the economy of our nation and

Mareeg.com deeply regrets posting such misinformation and faked documents and apologizes to Qaran Express and its chairman for the damage that article may have caused.

Source: Mareeg.com

Somalia: Netherlands proposes international anti-piracy tribunal

The Netherlands proposed Friday the creation of an international tribunal to try Somali pirates.

"The government submitted the proposal to a meeting of the International Piracy Contact Group in New York," Dutch foreign ministry spokesman Christoph Prommersberger told AFP.

The group met for the first time in January and consists of 24 nations including regional players, the African Union, the European Union, NATO and the United Nations.

"Hitherto, the group has spoken mainly about military action against the pirates," said a Dutch foreign ministry statement.

"The Netherlands also wants effective prosecution, trial and punishment."

The Netherlands recently had to free nine Somali suspected pirates detained in the Gulf of Aden by Dutch marines under NATO command because no legal framework existed within the military alliance to carry out arrests.

Friday's statement said a piracy tribunal should be set up in the region, and convicted pirates must serve their sentences there.

"The Netherlands will organise a gathering of international experts in The Hague in the beginning of June to work out the details for such a tribunal."

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has previously stated that the Netherlands, with its experience in international tribunals, could play a leading role in creating a special piracy court.

Dubbed the "legal capital of the world", the Netherlands hosts the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Piracy watchdogs say there have been 114 attempted hijackings off the Somali coast so far in 2009, compared with 111 during all of 2008.

Source: AFP

Somalia peacekeepers taught urban warfare

Somalia's Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers have years of experience battling rebels at home, but faced with Mogadishu's Islamist insurgents they have had to enlist the help of a private company.

The main threat is often invisible and comes in the shape of an explosive device: the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has suffered its worst losses in roadside bomb or car bomb attacks.

Unfamiliar with the kind of guerrilla tactics that US-led foreign troops in Iraq have been dealing with, AMISOM hired Bancroft Global Development, a private outfit based in South Africa and specialising in "landmine research".

At the gate to AMISOM's fortified headquarters in the war-ravaged seaside Somali capital, members of the force's Ugandan contingent are being trained.

Wagging its tail, a black labrador is led around a grey Mercedes, which sits with doors, bonnet and boot open. It sniffs behind the tyres and on the seats: no explosives.

"Any type of explosives, the dog can find them. They are 100 percent reliable. No machine or technology could do that better," said David Schoman, a Bancroft expert wearing fatigues and a khaki T-shirt.

If the sniffer dog detects something, it sits. "Then one of the military police guys goes around and searches the car with a mirror as well, so we check it twice," Schoman explained.

"You've got different types (of explosives) but the dog can find all of them. He's trained for three months on all of them. The same type of dogs is used in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are labradors and German shepherds."

Since the African Union peacekeeping force dispatched its first Ugandan contingent to Mogadishu in March 2007, the most deadly weapon used by hardliners opposed to their presence has been IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

More than half of the peacekeepers killed over the past two years died in such attacks, involving bombs either planted by the roadside or concealed in vehicles.

"For us the main threat is the IEDs," said Jack Bakasumba, operations commander for AMISOM's Ugandan contingent.

"For the three or four kilometres between the airport and the K4 crossroad, we set up some monitoring positions because that was where we had the highest number of incidents with IEDs," he explained.

In February, a suicide car bombing targeting Burundian troops killed 11 people, including the two bombers, and completely destroyed a building where the peacekeepers had set up a small shop run by Somalis.

"For almost a year, these Somalis prepared their suicide mission, and they would use that same car to come here. One Sunday, they waited for the soldiers to return from prayers and gather in the courtyard to blow up their charge," said General Prime Niyongabo, commander of the Burundian contingent.

"We have understood that with the Somalis, there can be no friends. So now, not a single Somali enters the camp, not a single car," he said.

AMISOM spokesman Bahuko Barigye explained that hiring a private security company was necessary to avoid unnecessary losses.

"The Ugandan army doesn't have any experience in IEDs, so when we were confronted with that scourge, we had to find a solution," he said.

Bancroft Global Development was contracted by AMISOM donors, had already worked with the Ugandan army in the past and was an obvious choice, Barigye explained.

Bancroft expert Rocky Van Blerk explained how his company conducts research on the explosive devices, raises awareness, offers training and active protection for the Ugandan base.

"Soon there will be some dogs at the Burundian base. It is because they had no dogs that the kamikaze could enter," said Van Blerk, who honed his skills in Iraq and Afghanistan for four years before working in Somalia.

Source: AFP

Somalia Parliament to Vote on a Land Deal with Kenya

Somalia Parliament will soon receive an agreement recently signed but not yet ratified by the Kenyan and Somali government. The agreement, according to reports, deals with the demarcation of sea borders between the two countries.

The Speaker of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) Sheik Aadan Mohamed Nuur (Sheik Madobe) said that the TFG has submitted to the Parliament an agreement (between Kenya and Somalia) and that Parliamentarians will have an opportunity to debate the agreement.

Sheik Aadan told the BBC that the agreement will be ratified if Parliamentarians feel that ratifying the agreement is in the interest of Somalis and Somalia but if Parliamentarians feel otherwise it will be rejected.

Soon after the TFG signed the agreement, there was uproar in many circles in Somalia and among Somalis in the Diaspora after reports claiming that the TFG signed away land that belong to Somalia came out.

Some experts in the law of sea and international affairs contended that the agreement was a land transfer from Somalia to Kenya and advised the TFG to withdraw from the agreement before it is implemented by the UN in the month August.

Now that the agreement will soon be before Parliamentarians to debate it, the rest of Somalis will have an opportunity to judge whether the agreement is in Somalia’s best interest or not.

Source: HOL

Ethiopia completes study to build 246-MW hydro station

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Water Resources announced it finalized a feasibility study to construct a 246-MW hydroelectric station on the Genale River in Somali State.

The government’s Ethiopian News Agency reported May 19, 2009, the ministry said a plan is set to build the station in Somali’s Liben zone. The ministry said the station would help the nation address seasonal power shortages.

The project also would contribute to a national program to export electric power for sale while controlling flood damage and providing water for irrigation in Ethiopia, project coordinator Getu Tilahun told the news agency.

Ethiopian Electric Power Corp. received expressions of interest in April for financing and building the 254-MW Genale Dawa 3 hydropower project. (HydroWorld 4/7/09)

The utility said foreign consultants previously developed feasibility studies of Genale Dawa 3, to be built 400 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa at an estimated cost of US$337.8 million. Upon completion in 56 months, the project is expected to generate 1,640 gigawatt-hours annually.

Source: Hydro World

Top Islamist insurgent commander gunned down in Somalia

Unknown gunmen overnight killed a senior insurgent commander who recently defected from the Somali government side to join the armed opposition groups in the war-wrecked Somalia, insurgent officials said.

Abelkadir Hassan Abu Qatatow was shot dead by men armed with pistols as he walked in a street in the south of Mogadishu, stronghold of the insurgent fighters.

Qatatow, who belonged to the pro-government Islamist faction, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), last week defected to the armed opposition group of Hezbul Islam (Islamic Party) led by the radical Islamist leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.

"We are deeply saddened by the brutal killing of the commander who was played major part in the struggle to liberate the country and defeat its enemy," Sheikh Hassan Mahdi, spokesman for Hezbul Islam, told reporters.

Abdiresak Qaylow, spokesman for the pro-government ICU faction, described killing of the commander as barbaric, accusing the armed Islamist opposition groups of killing the commander.

The death of Qatatow comes as Somali government forces and insurgent fighters have been battling for the control of the Somali capital Mogadishu. Hundreds have either been killed or injured in the clashes while tens of thousands have fled their homes to seek refuge in camps for the internally displaced people (IDP) on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

Insurgent forces control much of south and center of Somalia including nearly two-thirds of Mogadishu while Somali government forces backed by nearly 4,300 peacekeepers control parts of the capital and the central Somali town of Beledweyn.

Somalia, a country of nine million, has been immersed in civil conflict since the overthrow of the late ruler Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991.

Source: Xinhua

Somali FM says al-Shabab a serious threat

Somalia's new foreign minister said Friday that the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab is controlling the fighting in Mogadishu and poses a threat to the entire country.
Mohamed Abullahi Omaar told reporters that the group's ideology is not one which recognizes the values and the interests of the Somali people.

"This is now a threat not only to the government, but to the Somali nation and sovereignty," Omaar said. "So for us it is a war, and it is a war that needs to be won."

Somalia is riven by fighting among clan warlords and an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing for their lives in recent years. Insurgents are trying to topple the country's Western-backed government and install a strict Islamic state, and the latest surge of violence this month has killed about 200 people.

Al-Shabab says it is fighting for the country and against a government it says is imposed by the West.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to condemn the recent surge in fighting in Somalia and called for an end to actions that undermine the country's government.

Omaar told reporters that Somalia lacks the resources to properly fight back, noting that al-Shabab would not be so hard to defeat if the government could have access to the necessary technology and supplies.

"We have the men. We have the intelligence. We have the knowledge. We know the terrain. We know the politics. We know the clans. We know the leaders," Omaar said. "What we need are the resources."

Last month, the European Union said it would contribute

Source: Taiwan News

Young Somali men escape homeland, but not violence

A federal terror investigation into about a dozen missing Somali men from Minnesota has dominated recent headlines. But gang-related street violence remains a much more common trap for troubled Somali-American youth. Many of these young refugees live in poverty and are struggling to adjust to American life.

Since December 2007, eight Somali men, all 30 and under, have been killed in the Twin Cities. The slayings represent a tragic irony for a community that escaped the bloodshed and clan warfare of its home country.

When you first meet reformed gang member Abdulkadir Sharif, you can't help but notice his constant struggle to breathe.


Those strained breaths tell the story of how, two years ago, a rival gang member stabbed Sharif in the neck, forever altering one of his vocal chords. A Y-shaped scar that goes down Sharif's torso shows where doctors operated to save his life.

Now 30, wearing a button-down shirt and an African cloth hat, Sharif is standing on a sidewalk in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Looming behind him are the high-rise towers where thousands of Somalis live. It's the spot where, Sharif recalls, his would-be killer walked toward him with the greeting, "Somali power."

"When he walked past me, I make only three steps: One, two, three -- and the knife goes to my neck," Sharif recalled. "I felt like something bite me."

It was July 7, 2007. He likes to think of it as the night of his "lucky sevens." Sharif slipped into a coma and almost died, but the incident led to a religious awakening. He has been spreading his message of repentance and recovery ever since.

"A lot of people, they don't have a chance to better themselves," he said. "But I have a chance to better myself, so I'm taking advantage of it."

SELLING DOPE, STARTING GANGS

Today, some of his old buddies in the neighborhood high-five Sharif like a long-lost friend. Warsame Warsame, 25, knew Sharif when his friend was selling dope and driving fancy cars.


"He used to be wild, a wild man," Warsame said. "We got in trouble together. I'm glad to see he's changed. I think religion changed him. See, he's got that peace hat -- I like that."

Sharif now spends most of his time at a St. Paul storefront mosque known as the Minnesota Da'wah Institute.

A long and circuitous path brought him there. Sharif first landed in the United States in 1996, at the age of 17. With his father still in Africa, Sharif rebelled against his older sister who was caring for him. He dropped out of school. To this day, he still cannot read.

Sharif says he started fighting African-American kids who were beating him up because he was Somali. His civil-war survival instincts kicked in.

The gang life also enticed him with the money -- and the jewelry and hip-hop clothing it could buy. Sharif says he helped establish the Somali gangs known as the Hot Boyz and the Somali Mafia, and rallied them to violence.

"I would tell them, 'We are an organization -- strong, wise, powerful. We fight, we fight, until all of us dead or all of us win,'" he said.

While Somali gang members only make up about 1 percent of known gang members in Minnesota, they still are a concern to law enforcement. Last October, Minneapolis police created a position for a Somali liaison officer who focuses solely on these issues.

A NEW KIND OF TRIBAL WAR

The shootings have cooled off in recent months, but police say they've picked up on a disturbing trend: Somali gangs are beginning to divide themselves across the same clan lines that destroyed their homeland.

Officer Jeanine Brudenell, the department's Somali liaison, said Somali gangs are more fluid than traditional African-American gangs, which are known for adopting specific rules and codes. Somali gang members may change alliances and join different gangs.

One early gang, the Somali Hot Boyz, started as a singing group, Brudenell said.

"Then they started to commit small crimes," she said. "There were rumors in the community about them, so they started to commit more crimes to protect their reputation."

Over the past couple of years, some Somalis have blamed police for not acting quickly enough to remove criminals from the streets, Brudenell said. She said some native Somalis don't understand the evidentiary threshold for police to make arrests.

"Their assumption was, 'Well, you know who did it. Why aren't you arresting them?'" she said.

And many of them remain fearful of cooperating with police -- even if they were victims of a crime, because of the oppression they faced in their old country. Brudenell said she has made strong contacts within the community -- most of whom, she stressed, are following the law and want peace.

"There are more people wanting to make police reports, more people calling police," she said. "It's baby steps."

EARLY SIGNS OF TROUBLE

There were early signs that the streets of Cedar-Riverside would be ground zero for bloodshed.

Shukri Adan studied Somali youth issues as a community organizer back in 2006, for a report she authored for the city of Minneapolis. At the time, people were worried about a series of armed robberies in Uptown.


While doing her research, Adan remembers seeing groups of Somali kids idly hanging out in Cedar-Riverside.

"You could see that they had nothing to do, and there was all this tension that something was going to happen. You just didn't know when," said Adan.

Many of those kids quit school and formed cliques because they wanted to belong to something, Adan said. They didn't have jobs. But they took care of one another. The cliques eventually evolved into gangs, with their own initiation rites. They carried guns and robbed Somali-owned businesses.

"What really got me concerned was that they had attachments to each other above anyone else," said Adan.

She said some gang members have since cleaned themselves up, and spend all of their days at local mosques.

Adan sees a connection between Somali gangs and some of the missing men, who are believed to be fighting with an Islamic militia in their homeland. She says some of the missing were troubled youth who replaced one obsession -- gangs -- with religion.

"This extreme prayer is not good for them, and everyone in our community knows that," she said.

For her research, Adan scored a number of key interviews with young gang members with the help of Mohamed Jama, who worked as a youth mentor at the nearby Brian Coyle Community Center.

Last year, Jama was gunned down in Brooklyn Center. The shooting still brings Adan to tears.

"I just feel like his death has no meaning," she said. "I stood out with him at Cedar-Riverside talking to all these gang kids. ... He knew what was coming. He was shouting about it and nobody was paying attention. Nothing has changed."

Even Somalis in the suburbs were wary of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Hindia Ali of Columbia Heights recalls her mother worrying when she learned her son -- Hindia's younger brother Ahmednur -- had applied for a volunteer job as a youth mentor at the Brian Coyle center last year.

"She thought it was really dangerous, being a mom and hearing there was violence around that area," she said. "No mother would want to send her kids over there. But he was a man, and he really wanted to help the community. So for her, it was, 'How am I going to stop my son from helping his community?'"

'WE NEVER THOUGHT IT WOULD HAPPEN TO US'

Ahmednur was never one to shy away from big dreams. The third-year political science major at Augsburg College even created a Facebook page, announcing his plans to one day run for the president of Somalia and reunite his fractured homeland.


Last September, he was shot to death while working at the Brian Coyle center. The teen charged in the crime allegedly gunned down Ahmednur because he wouldn't let him play basketball.

Hindia Ali says her parents felt a painful irony that their son would be killed in the United States.

"We never thought it would happen to us, that our son would be killed with violence in the Twin Cities, when we left our home because of violence," she said.

Ali thinks her brother's death also took a toll on one of his best friends, Mohamoud Hassan. He helped bury Ahmednur Ali. A couple months later, the University of Minnesota student left for Somalia. Hassan is now on the list of missing young men believed to be fighting in Somalia's civil war.

Some experts say schools and Somali community leaders need to do more to help troubled refugee kids integrate and stay in school. Community leaders blame cuts in education, resulting in fewer bilingual teachers who could help Somali students adapt.

A SPEED-WALKING, CRIME-FIGHTING IMAM

One spiritual leader thinks his hands-on approach is working. Around 11 p.m. on a Wednesday in St. Paul, a small pack of young men and high-schoolers are speed-walking and jogging along a gritty stretch of University Ave.

Their bearded imam, Hassan Mohamud, is wearing jogging pants and leading the pack. One of Mohamud's missions is to save the streets -- one physically winded young man at a time. Men from Mohamud's mosque run every few nights right after their prayers. Sundays are reserved for soccer.

"We say the religion of Islam is balanced religion," Mohamud said. "We balance between spiritual and physical exercise and mental exercise, which means to read."

Mohamud also leads his students on hospital visits. That's how he met Abdulkadir Sharif.

It was right after the stabbing, so Sharif couldn't talk; the imam honestly didn't think Sharif would survive. He says he wanted to make Sharif a cautionary tale of what would happen to his students if they made poor choices.

Mohamud then read the Quran, held Sharif's hand and asked him to make a covenant.

"I said, 'OK, you are promising me this: In case you survive, will you join the mosque? Will you be a part of us? Then we'll save the rest of the gang people. We'll try to clean the streets.'"

Sharif nodded, accepting the imam's proposition.

After Sharif got out of the hospital, he showed up at the mosque, using his own version of sign language to communicate with the other young men. He became a youth counselor and one of Mohamud's right-hand men.

The imam says he can work with Sharif's principles of order and obedience -- skills he picked up while running with the gangs.

"They have a leader that everyone must listen to," Mohamud said. "If the leader asks them to shoot, they do it. But we command them to do good things. He listens to me as an imam. Whenever I ask him to do good, he says, 'Yes sir. I'll do it. Right away."

Sharif has been receiving tutoring at the mosque and is learning basic bookkeeping skills. Mosque leaders are encouraging him to get his GED and are even working to find him a wife.

But Sharif's divorce from the gang culture hasn't been entirely smooth. In his low points, he has thought of returning to the streets.

"Now I'm a soldier," Sharif said. "Before, I was a leader."

Yet he reminds himself he's a soldier on a mission to do good. Sharif says he has already persuaded five young men with troubled pasts to follow him on his journey.

Source: MPR

Kadhafi wants Somali exclusion zone to fight piracy

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi called on Friday for the creation of a Somali exclusion zone as part of efforts to fight piracy in lawless waters off the Horn of Africa country.

Speaking at an African regional summit, Kadhafi said he will "submit to the world a plan consisting of respecting the economic waters of Somalia in exchange for an end to piracy."

He described pirates who have attacked dozens of ships over the past year as "poor Somalians who are defending their wealth."

"They are not pirates but people who are defending their rights."

Kadhafi also accused unnamed "foreign countries of pillaging" Somalia's wealth.

Warships operating under US, European Union and NATO commands, as well as independent vessels from nations including China and Russia, are currently operating in the troubled region in a bid to thwart piracy.

Calls for more concerted action have risen as attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden have escalated this year.

Piracy watchdogs say there have been 114 attempted hijackings so far in 2009, compared with 111 during all of 2008.

Kadhafi was speaking at the opening of a two-day summit of the 28-member Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) in the Libyan city of Sabratha, a UNESCO World Heritage site west of Tripoli.

He said Africa needs an organisation such as Frontex -- the EU agency specialised in border security -- to protect "our maritime wealth" and warned against the spread of piracy.

The 11th CEN-SAD summit is also due to discuss the conflict between Sudan and neighbouring Chad, according to a copy of a draft agenda obtained by AFP.

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir -- who is facing an international arrest warrant for alleged warcrimes in Darfur -- and his Chadian counterpart Idriss Deby Itno are among the heads of state attending the summit.

Each country has accused the other of backing rebels against their respective governments, and Kadhafi said the dispute "should be resolved by force and the imposition of sanctions."

He did not elaborate, except to say that he was counting on Beshir and Deby's "wisdom to assume their responsibilities toward their peoples and the peoples of Africa."

CEN-SAD groups Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, the Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo and Tunisia.

Source: AFP

Somalia - AU, UN support proposed sanctions on Eritrea for Somalia conflict

The Africa Union (AU) and United Nations stand for a regional recommendation that the UN Security Council impose sanctions on Eritrea for interfering with the conflict in Somalia despite Asmara's denial.

In a joint statement issued in Nairobi on Thursday, the six nation regional mediation body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), UN and AU Special Representatives for Somalia voiced support for the resolution reached during last week's extraordinary session of the IGAD council of ministers on the security and political situation in Somalia.

"We have no doubt that all IGAD member states and civil society organizations will support the Communiques and we urge the UN Security Council to give them immediate and due consideration and discuss them further," they said in the joint statement.

Somalia accuses neighboring Eritrea of supporting hardline insurgent groups including Al-Shabaab militia who aim to overthrow the new Somali administration.

But Asmara denies the charges, denouncing as irresponsible and illegal the recommendation by Somalia's neighbors reached during their meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

During the Addis Ababa meeting, the IGAD and AU Peace and Security Council recommended to the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Eritrea, accusing Asmara of supporting hard line Somali insurgents who are fighting the government.

The recommendation prompted Asmara to recall its ambassador to the AU's headquarters in Addis Ababa, a move of souring ties between Eritrea and the continental body.

But the representatives of the IGAD, the AU and the UN said they agreed to support the minister's resolution after discussing developments in Somalia.

"We have noted with great interest and appreciation the Communique which resulted from the IGAD meeting. Furthermore we noted with equal satisfaction the supportive Communique adopted by the African Union Peace and Security Council of May 22," the statement said.

"We consider these important contributions particularly given IGAD's close geographical and cultural ties to Somalia and its member states' knowledge of the country.

"We have further agreed for our three institutions to continue to work together in close partnership to deliver on our mandates and implement future decisions made by the UN Security Council," the AU, IGAD and UN representatives said.

The development came as a radical cleric on the U.S. terror list, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, formally became leader of the Somali Islamist rebel group Hisbul-Islam on Wednesday.

The outgoing head of rebel group Hezbul Islam (Islamic Party), Omar Abubakar, said he had not come under any pressure to hand over the leadership to Aweys.

The militia and an allied hardline group Al-Shabaab have been locked in fierce battles with pro-government forces that have displaced more than 67,000 civilians since May 8.

The AU said public pronouncement by Aweys that his insurgent group receives help from Eritrea supports its suspicion of Asmara.

Mogadishu says Eritrea supports Islamist militants with planeloads of AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons to fuel fighting.

Eritrea's President Isaias Afewerki has sharply denied the allegation, saying U. S. agents were spreading lies to tarnish the reputation of his government.

Aweys, who returned from exile last month, was already regarded as the spiritual leader of Hezbul Islam. Hardline Somali Islamic insurgents including Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam are fighting President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's government with the aim of taking over the country.

President Ahmed's introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased radicals like Aweys, who have sworn to topple the administration and impose a stricter version of Islamic rule.

Al-Shabaab has described the new Somali administration as a creation of the West to control the natural resources of the country.

Dubbed by Washington as a terrorist organization with strong ties to Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab has refused to recognize the new Somali administration, vowing violent fight for a country with a strict Sharia law.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991 after former President Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in a coup d'etat, leaving the Horn of Africa state in constant warfare ever since.

Source: Xinhua

Somalia: sharp deterioration in humanitarian situation

Dozens of people have been killed in the capital Mogadishu since the intensification of armed clashes at the beginning of the month. Hundreds have been wounded and thousands more have been forced to flee their homes.

"Some of the displaced had only recently returned to Mogadishu. They were hoping to be able to rebuild their lives in a more stable environment," said Pascal Mauchle, who heads the ICRC delegation for Somalia. "Their hopes have now been shattered, and their painful ordeal continues."

Many of those fleeing are women and children. They are joining hundreds of thousands of displaced people in camps on the outskirts of the city and other areas of the country, or even in already overpopulated refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
"The situation is a cause for major concern," said Mr Mauchle. "The displaced usually leave their homes with very few belongings, and struggle to survive. In Somalia's makeshift camps they don't have suitable food and clean water.

Insalubrious conditions put their already weakened health further at risk."
There are also pockets of violence in other parts of the country. Armed clashes have driven people from their homes in several cities in central and southern Somalia. Host communities are not able to help them as they would like to do, in accordance with Somali tradition. The effects of years of armed conflict and a chronic shortage of rainfall as well as the ongoing economic crises have exhausted the resources of the resident population and have made it difficult for any family to feed its own children. Many of the displaced therefore remain without any protection, shelter, food or even utensils with which to prepare a meal.

"Life is very difficult," said Fatima, a mother of four from Mogadishu. "My children ask me about their father every day. I don't know what to tell them, because I don't know what happened to him. I am struggling to find something to eat. We don’t have a place to sleep. All I want is a safe place to raise my children."
The ICRC is responding to the situation in a number of ways.

Support for medical facilities
Mogadishu
The ICRC is providing support for the capital's two surgical referral hospitals: KeysaneyHospital, in north Mogadishu, which is managed by the Somali Red Crescent Society, and the community-based MedinaHospital in the southern part of the city.
Since January, the two hospitals have treated more than 1,500 mostly civilian weapon-wounded patients, including women and children. The hospitals accept patients from all backgrounds, regardless of their clan or political or religious affiliation. The ICRC has been supporting both facilities for many years, and has delivered 50 tonnes of medical supplies to them since the beginning of 2009.

The ICRC has also supplied a new ambulance service with dressing kits for stabilizing the wounded before transporting them to the hospitals. Each dressing kit covers the needs of 50 patients.

Since January, 52,000 people have received medical care in six temporary clinics run by the Somali Red Crescent in camps for displaced people (IDPs) near Mogadishu. The clinics were set up last year. The ICRC pays the staff salaries and the running costs of the clinics and provides medical supplies and training.

Central and southern Somalia
The Somali Red Crescent and the ICRC maintain, support and manage a network of 28 clinics in remote areas of central and southern Somalia.

Since January, 18,000 women have been referred to the clinics for ante- or post-natal consultations. A further 69,000 curative consultations have also taken place in the clinics, each of which is staffed with a midwife, a registered nurse and an auxiliary nurse. The midwife is in charge of pre- and post-natal care, the registered nurse treats common diseases such as diarrhoea or malaria, and the auxiliary nurse is in charge of dressing and the treating wounds. The clinics serve an estimated 300,000 people. The ICRC pays the staff salaries and the running costs, and provides medical supplies and training.

Seven hundred cases of cholera have been treated in Kismayo since January. Eight radio stations have pooled efforts with the ICRC to broadcast hygiene and cholera awareness programmes.

Emergency aid
Since January, the ICRC has provided over 234,000 displaced people in the central and southern parts of the country with household essentials such as clothes, jerrycans, tarpaulins, blankets, mats and kitchen sets.

In May, 66,000 displaced and destitute people in Badhadhe, Hagar, Lower Juba and Sool, and 36,000 displaced people in Kismayo, were given a two-month supply of dry food rations.

In response to the recent intensification of fighting in Mogadishu, the ICRC is planning to distribute essential household items to people who fled to the outskirts of the city and to Middle or Lower Shabelle.

Improvement of water resources
Communities with little or no income cannot maintain or renovate water facilities such as boreholes, wells and rainwater catchments. The lengthy armed conflict and the negative impact of global climate change and the chronic drought have combined to severely weaken the pastoralist communities which make up a large part of Somalia's population.

In order to tide people over until the beginning of the rainy season, the ICRC conducted a massive water supply operation. From March until May it delivered around 150 million litres of water by trucks to remote areas in the central part of the country for distribution to half a million people.

At the same time, the ICRC continued its efforts to improve water supply systems in rural and urban areas both for resident and displaced families. The aim is to upgrade existing water points to enhance livelihoods and to mitigate the impact of drought in the future.

Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has completed nine major projects and is currently working on 12 others in seven areas in central and southern Somalia. The projects, which will benefit nearly two million people, include repair work on boreholes and wells and their distribution systems, desalination of large rainwater catchments in areas where geological conditions make drilling unfeasible, and the renovation of underground reservoirs filled by rainwater.

Other assistance activities
Most water pumps in the country have been destroyed or looted since the upsurge of armed conflict in the 1990s. This means that farming is now primarily rain-fed except in parts of Middle and Lower Shabelle and Middle Juba. Erratic or low rainfall regularly leads to partial or complete crop failure. Many parts of the country have been suffering from a lack of rain for several farming seasons. The food and seed stocks of most farmers are empty. A dramatic reduction in cultivated acreage, poor harvests, and a lack of income with which to buy seeds have impoverished the entire farming community.

The ICRC is helping the destitute population by providing seed and food. Since January, 138,000 people in nine different parts of central and southern Somalia have been given sesame, cowpea and maize or sorghum seed. To help them bridge the gap until the next harvest, each family has also been given a one-month food ration consisting of sorghum, beans and oil.

Since January, the ICRC has distributed 17 water pumps to farming associations. With each pump, the farmers are able to irrigate at least 15 hectares of land, benefiting up to 500 people. With a pump, maize production can be from one and a half to two times higher than that of a rain-fed crop.

In preparation for the next rainy season and in order to avoid flooding, the ICRC helped communities living along the Shabelle River to reshape eight places in the riverbank and to reinforce dikes.

Restoring contact between separated family members
Another important part of the ICRC's work in Somalia is restoring and maintaining contacts between family members separated by conflict. Working with the Somali Red Crescent, the ICRC has collected almost 3,500 Red Cross messages and distributed more than 5,800 so far this year. A total of 147 people have been reunited with their families and 1,690 names have been broadcast on an ICRC/BBC radio tracing programme.

The ICRC in Somalia
The ICRC has been working in Somalia since 1977. It focuses on providing emergency aid to people directly affected by armed conflict, often in combination with natural disasters, and runs extensive first-aid, basic health-care and other medical programmes to treat the wounded and sick. It also carries out agricultural and water projects designed to improve the economic security of vulnerable communities over the medium term. It works closely with and supports the development of the Somali Red Crescent Society.

For further information, please contact:
Pedram Yazdi, ICRC Somalia, tel: +254 20 272 3963 or +254 722 518 142
Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Nairobi, tel: +254 20 272 3963 or + 254 722 512 728
Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17
For recent TV news footage or photos, please contact Pedram Yazdi
or visit our website: www.icrc.org

Prison term imposed in 2004 shooting death of Somali immigrant

A former North Side man has been sent to state prison for 10 years for the killing of a Somali immigrant on Nov. 20, 2004, during a dispute.

In March, Rasi Robinson, 31, who lived on Dresden Street, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter in front of Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Pat Sheeran.

Prosecutors said Robinson shot Sharif Sharif, 18, in front of 4286 Dresden St. Sharif died in an apartment.

Police and agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives jointly investigated the case.

Robinson also must serve 41 months in federal prison for the illegal purchase of two guns.

Source: The Coumbus Dispatch

UN Deplores Campaign of Violence Against Somali Government

The Security Council has condemned the recent resurgence in fighting in the Horn of Africa nation, and called for the end of all hostilities.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today strongly condemned the continuing armed attacks against Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, expressing concern at the growing numbers of civilians killed, wounded and displaced by the violence.

Intense fighting between the Government and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups erupted in several north-west areas of the capital, Mogadishu, on 8 May, uprooting over 67,000 people, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“This campaign of violence is aimed at the forceful overthrow of a legitimate government which has reached out to its opponents in a spirit of reconciliation, through an 'open door' policy and negotiations,” read a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

“In the face of this ongoing threat to the peace process, Somalia’s government is appealing for international assistance, and the Secretary-General wishes to strongly and urgently echo that appeal,” the statement added.

Mr. Ban called on the international community to follow through quickly with the urgently needed financial and other forms of support recently pledged in Brussels to both the Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as well as to provide direct bilateral assistance to the Government.

“The Secretary-General believes there is a unique window of opportunity for peace in Somalia, but the situation is fragile and international assistance is needed now.”

The Security Council, too, has condemned the recent resurgence in fighting in the Horn of Africa nation, and called for the end of all hostilities, in a resolution adopted on Tuesday. The 15-member body also authorized an extension of AMISOM’s mandate until January 31st 2010.

Source: Salem-News

Analysis: Somali infighting could help al-Qaida, AF

As battles rage between Somalia's Western-backed government and Islamist insurgents, another conflict is being fought behind the scenes between competing versions of Islam.

The winner may determine not only the future of the failed state, but whether al-Qaida establishes permanent bases in the strategically vital Horn of Africa.

Fighting has intensified in the past two weeks as insurgents attempt to push the government from the capital; nearly 200 people have been killed. The bloodshed has been fueled by the arrival of hundreds of radicalized foreign fighters who, experts fear, could use Somalia as a base for terror in the region.

It's a pattern that has played out in bloody conflicts around the world, including Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Iraq: petrodollars from oil sheikdoms in the Middle East pay for fighters to travel to far-flung wars.

ADVERTISEMENT

Experts now fear Somalia has become a magnet for such fighters.

"The radical factions need to boost their forces, and that means inviting in more foreign fighters," Mark Schroeder, an analyst for the international intelligence company Stratfor, told The Associated Press.

Last year, the Islamist insurgency split, and its more moderate wing now forms the government. But analysts say fighters from countries including Pakistan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia are reinforcing the more extreme insurgent factions fighting government forces.

Now two different types of Islam are struggling for dominance, adding sectarian violence to what has mainly been a clan-based conflict.

Arid Somalia's camel-herding nomads and their descendants traditionally observe Sufi Islam, a relatively moderate form of worship that allows the veneration of respected saints. But in recent years, Somalia's insurgent militias have also begun to follow austere Wahabi Islam — rooted in Saudi Arabia and practiced by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

Wahabism is a component of jihadi Salafism, a doctrine that preaches spreading a strict interpretation of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, through violence.

"The jihadi Salafists try to use pre-existing disputes that are tribal, social or political to spread their religious and political agenda," said Khalil Al-anani, an expert on political Islam at Egypt's Alahram Foundation.

Currently, the government and its Sufi allies and the insurgents and their foreign reinforcements appear to be at a stalemate.

The government cannot break out of the few pockets of the capital controlled by its 3,300 troops. But neither can the insurgents dislodge the government from the airport, presidential palace or other key installations, where the administration is supported by around 4,350 African Union peacekeepers. Government-allied Sufi militias also hold parts of central Somalia. Many analysts say those militias have received weapons and training from neighboring Christian Ethiopia, which is concerned about the Islamists' links to rebels on Ethiopian soil.

Experts say the foreign fighters are leading to increasingly sophisticated attacks by the insurgency.

The U.N. Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said this week there are around 300 foreign fighters in Somalia and they "are the best organized, the best disciplined and organized force" behind recent attacks.

On Sunday, Mogadishu's deputy mayor said the first known suicide bomber of non-Somali origin blew himself up along with six soldiers and a bystander. American officials say just under 20 Somali-Americans are believed to have traveled to Somalia, and linked two of them to suicide bombings in the north of the country.

Osama bin Laden offered his support to the insurgents in a tape called "Fight on, champions of Somalia" last March. The Somali president denounced the tape, as did Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, an Islamist insurgent leader who last month returned from two years of exile in the pariah nation of Eritrea. Aweys is listed by the U.N. Security Council as a sponsor of terror and spent a year fighting in Afghanistan, but some analysts say his agenda differs from that of the main insurgent group — al-Shabab — because he puts Somali nationalism first and jihad second.

Other insurgent leaders welcomed Bin Laden's message, underscoring the tensions within their movement. Sheik Mukhtar Robow, a former Shabab spokesman, described his militia as "students" of al-Qaida who seek a merger with the group.

Although the Islamists have shown themselves willing to fight together to defeat a common enemy, analysts like Schroeder say those alliances would probably come under severe strain if the insurgents managed to seize power.

Al-Shabab's statements have caused many to fear that the Horn of Africa, which juts into a pirate-infested shipping route just under the oil-rich Arabian peninsula, could become a safe haven for al-Qaida. The United States accuses al-Shabab of harboring al-Qaida-linked terrorists who allegedly blew up U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The United States has attempted to kill suspected al-Qaida members in Somalia several times with airstrikes.

The Wahabis' strict interpretation of Islam has already alienated parts of the local population. Al-Shabab sparked riots when it tried to ban qat, a popular mildly narcotic leaf chewed by many Somalis. It also smashed the tombs of venerated Sufi saints and imposed harsh punishments — including the stoning death of a 13-year-old girl. Human rights groups say she was the victim of a gang rape.

The destruction of tombs in particular provoked a backlash among local militias. One, Sufi-led Ahlu Sunna Waljama, began referring to al-Shabab as "the Tombraiders."

Al-Shabab, whose name translates as "the Youth," is estimated to have around 6,000 fighters. Last year it issued a statement welcoming its designation by the U.S. government as a terrorist group. It is fighting alongside the Islamic Party, an alliance of four smaller Islamist militias whose strength and ideological orientation is unclear. The group formally named Aweys leader Wednesday.

Aweys is also a bitter rival of Somalia's new president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a former Islamist insurgent who fought alongside Aweys. Ahmed was elected in January after signing a peace deal with the former administration. He has tried to win over the insurgents by offering peace talks and implementing Shariah law.

But he has not yet selected which clerics will review the country's laws and his own religious beliefs remain unclear.

Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst at the think tank International Crisis Group, predicts the "next battle is not going to be military, it is going to be over what kind of Shariah the country should have."

Source: AP

In Somalia, African Union Takes The Offensive In Information War

No sooner do officials from the African Union stabilization force arrive in Somalia's battlefield of a capital, Mogadishu, than Islamist insurgents send them a warning.

"AMISOM," reads the text message on their phones, "we're going to kill you."

Fighting in Mogadishu has escalated in the past month, and the undermanned and underfunded African peacekeeping force known as AMISOM is increasingly bearing the brunt of the ugly conflict, which pits extremist Islamist insurgents against a new, more moderate, transitional government.

Analysts say the mission has held up well, given the circumstances. But AMISOM officials say they – and the fragile government they aim to protect – are losing on one important front: the information war.

Insurgents loyal to militias known as Al Shabab, or "The Youth," and Hizb al-Islam, the party of Islam, began this latest round of attacks on May 8. And they have "misled" the international community as to their strength, according to Nicolas Bwakira, the African Union Commission's special representative for Somalia, and head of the peacekeeping mission.

But AMISOM is now fighting back – with words.

Sitting in his Nairobi office – due to the lack of security in Mogadishu, AMISOM's headquarters is in Kenya – Mr. Bwakira is on a mission to set the record straight, as he puts it.

"The image is that the government has no control whatsoever. That's not true," he says.

AMISOM is planning a public awareness campaign – hiring journalists to craft both the mission and the government's message, rehabilitating the defunct state-run Radio Mogadishu, buying air time, and publishing articles in the local press.

"We really want to tell the story as it is," says Fred Ngoga Gateretse, and adviser to Mr. Bwakira. "We're going to [empower] Somalis to tell their real story: that they're against Wahhabism," he says, referring to the extreme form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. The mission will give local nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups resources "to wage their war."

A challenging mission

But the mission still faces huge challenges more than two years after AMISOM began deploying in Somalia, where inter-clan fighting has left the country without a stable government since 1991.

After many promises, AMISOM has just over half of its mandated 8,000 troops, with three Ugandan battalions and two Burundian battalions.

Bwakira says he is "absolutely optimistic and confident" that the mission will reach full strength, with pledges from Sierra Leone and Malawi sure to materialize.

Typical deployment time for a battalion of United Nations peacekeepers is nine to 12 months, but because of their "commitment," AU countries may be able to deploy faster, he says.

Nigeria has long delayed on promises of sending a battalion, and Burundi has hesitated before sending a third.

"You're not sending troops into a situation where they're observing peace. You're sending them in to be shot at," says Roger Middleton, a Somalia analyst at the London-based Chatham House think tank. "I'd be very surprised if anyone else goes."

Facing increasingly sophisticated suicide bombers and an unprecedented quality of weapons, including antiaircraft and surface-to-air missiles, the mission has already lost 43 men.

Analysts say Eritrea is the Somali insurgents' main backer, and may be financed by several countries.

After vehement denials, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed admitted this week that foreign Al Qaeda elements were present in his country and called on Somalis and the international community to help the government defeat them – a sign, some say, of how bad things have gotten.

Not enough troops to stop fighting

Even AMISOM acknowledges that 8,000 troops wouldn't be enough to stop the fighting. In the 1990s, a UN peacekeeping force had more than 20,000 troops in Somalia, including highly trained US Marines with the best equipment in the world, Mr. Middleton says, "and [even] they weren't able to keep the peace."

The biggest problem facing the mission, he continues, is that "they're a peacekeeping force in a place without a peace to keep.... For AMISOM to be effective, it does come down to there being a political settlement for them to support. That's really the only chance they have of success."

Recent fighting in Mogadishu has forced 57,000 people to flee in less than three weeks, with 8,000 fleeing last Friday alone, when the government launched a counteroffensive, according to the UN.

At least 208 people have been killed and 700 wounded, 80 percent of them civilians, Humanitarian Affairs Minister Mohamoud Ibrahim Garweyne said, according to Reuters.

AMISOM's priorities are threefold: to protect government institutions and strategic points, like the airport and presidential palace; to build the capacity of local security forces; and to facilitate humanitarian access.

"I think it's done really well, especially now with what people are calling the battle of Mogadishu," says Paula Roque, Horn of Africa researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, a think tank based in Tshwane (formerly known as Pretoria), South Africa. "AMISOM played a key role in keeping the front line, the line of the government."

AMISOM has started to impress people in the past month just by "holding on under incredibly difficult conditions," says one regional analyst, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work. "They've risen to the challenge."

False rumors of evacuation

Rumors that the mission is considering evacuation, following fears that the insurgents would topple the government, are "absolutely out of the question," Bwakira says.

The government, too, has sung AMISOM's praises. This week, President Ahmed said AMISOM was playing an "important and needed" role in securing peace and stability in Somalia.

"We are grateful for their commitment to the Somali people," he said.

AMISOM has often been ridiculed for securing just the few city blocks of the capital that remain under government control after the insurgents gained ground in recent weeks.

But AMISOM insists the insurgents don't control nearly as much territory as they claim.

"They control territory for a portion of an hour. Then they go," Bwakira says, calling it a "hit and run" approach.

AMISOM has no mandate to be involved in the fighting, except in self-defense. But Bwakira says the often-cited figure of 1,500 or so Shabab fighters in the capital – the majority of them forced conscripts or paid fighters, he charges – are no match for troops from two of Africa's best armies.

Analysts estimate that there are several thousand insurgents nationally, including Shabab, but the figures are hard to confirm, as fighters realign themselves and insurgent groups enter towns, conscript fighters for short periods of time, and then move on. The recent fighting was not an example of the insurgents' strength, analysts say, but rather, of the government's weakness at the time.

"If we were to get into fighting," Bwakira says, "I tell you these Shabab will not last one single day – not one single day."

Allow offensive action?

During the heavy fighting last week, one of the many ideas thrown around was an amendment to AMISOM's mandate that would allow it to take offensive action, the regional analyst says.

But he says such a move would be a "bad idea" because of Somali mistrust for foreign troops on their soil. Opposition groups have already used AMISOM's presence as a rallying point.

For now, Bwakira says, the mission prefers to focus on dialogue and reconciliation.

"AMISOM is active in Mogadishu, but the African Union role in Somalia is much bigger than Mogadishu," he says. "We are looking to assist the international community to formulate a policy that will bring Somalia back into peace."

Could AMISOM be seen as a model for Africans solving their own problems?

"Africa wants to resolve its problems, but this problem is an international problem. It's absolutely not an exclusively African problem," Bwakira says.

He complains of a lack of support from the international community. The AU has been calling for a UN force to replace it, as was originally envisaged. In the meantime, the information war continues.

"We have never tried to use our capacity to crush theses forces," Bwakira says of the insurgents, but "we have a capacity more than they can imagine."

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Museveni to meet Burundi president over Somalia

The state visit today by President Pierre Nkurunzinza is expected to focus, among others, on the future of the African Union peace keeping mission in Somalia [AMISOM] composed of Ugandan and Burundian forces according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nkurunzinza’s visit comes on the heels of continued fighting in Somalia between the Al Shabaab, radical Islamist fighters and the A.U supported transitional government of President Sheriff Sheikh Ahmed.

The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday extended the mandate of AMISOM for another nine months and pledged over 200 million dollars in logistical support which could allow the deployment of additional troops by other countries military sources said.

“The African Union will not bolt and run. We see AMISOM staying longer inevitably until the security situation improves and allows for the force to transition into a fully fledged United Nations peace keeping force” said Army and Defence Spokesman Maj Felix Kulayigye yesterday.

AMISOM’s which protects key installations like the Presidential Palace, airport and sea port is mandated to defend itself only when attacked but not allowed to get involved in the fighting. It has seen an increase in attacks from Islamists in the current spate of fighting.

In an interview yesterday morning en route to a technical meeting with an advance delegation of Burundian government representatives Ambassador James Mugume of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said regional security would be high on the agenda of the Nkurunzinza’s visit.

“We signed a framework agreement for cooperation but under the present circumstances Somalia is an issue” Mugume said. He added that the Ugandan and Burundian peace keepers had “strong support” from Inter-governmental Authority on Development, a regional grouping which recently proposed sanctions on neighboring Eritrea for aiding Al-Shabaab.

Eritrea has however dismissed the proposed sanctions which include an arms embargo and no fly zones and said the African Union was an “irrelevant organization”.

Mugume said the UN resolution extending the mandate of AMISOM created conditions for other countries to intervene in Somalia. He also said Uganda and Burundi would during Nkurunzinza’s visit hold bilateral meetings on trade and other cooperation.

“Uganda is benefiting from a peace dividend in Burundi which is now a significant destination for goods from Uganda” he said.

President Yoweri Museveni was the convener of the Burundi initiative, a series of political negotiations which over the last half decade has seen constitutional reform and consensus between various competing armed groups in Burundi as well as the return to political party competition there.

Nkurunzinza will end his visit on May 30. While here he is expected to visit Ugandan industries and other institutions.
“He will visit Makerere University and interact with business promotion agencies like the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce” Mugume said.

Source: Daily Monitor

Ahmed Accuses Eritrea of Arming Resistance; More Deaths in Fighting

Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Wednesday accused Eritrea of arming hardline Islamists fighting to oust his government, a day after his own palace came under a barrage of mortar shells.

It was the first time he directly blamed the small African nation since the eruption early this month of some of the heaviest fighting against his four-months-old government.

"We know for sure that the majority of the weapons in the hands of the insurgents are coming from Eritrea," he told reporters at his targeted residence.

"Eritrea is very much involved here... We know that Eritrean officers come here and bring money in cash."

Sharif said that in the past the officers would send money via Nairobi or Dubai, but "now they come directly with cash."

The hardline Islamists, believed to be propped up by hundreds of foreign jihadists, want to impose a stricter Sharia law in the lawless country.

Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke said there were up to 400 foreign fighters while Sharif said the majority of them are from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We still understand that the influx of Al-Qaeda members continues and you can imagine how the situation will be if they take over," said Sharif.

According to Sharif, Asmara's intention in backing the radical Islamists was to create a base to train units to wage guerrilla war against its arch-foe Ethiopia.

"Since there is a war and tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Eritrea needs a place where Ethiopian opposition groups could be trained," he said. Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have been tense since a devastating border war in the late 1990s in which some 80,000 people died.

Eritrea was vehemently opposed to the deployment of Ethiopian troops in Somalia in late 2006.

Asked whether he backed a re-deployment of Ethiopian troops in the face of the renewed attacks, Sharif said "absolutely not."

"We would like our country to remain independent," he added.

Residents in a Somalia border town with Ethiopia recently said they saw Ethiopian troops there, but Sharif said authorities had discussed the matter "and they have agreed that Ethiopian troops will remain inside their border."

The United States and African Union have accused Eritrea of fuelling the violence in Somalia, a charge Eritrea denies. African countries have called for the imposition of United Nations sanctions on Asmara.

Islamist fighters opposed to Sharif launched the latest onslaught on May 7, vowing to topple his Western-backed government.

More than 200 people have been killed and some 62,000 Mogadishu residents have fled the clashes in the past 20 days. Sharif has been holed up in his presidential compound under the protection of AU peacekeepers.

Islamists insurgents on Wednesday warned that prolonging the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia would only worsen the crisis, a day after the UN decided on extending its tenure.

"We clearly say that extending the mandate of the foreign forces means extending violence and hostility in the Muslim country of Somalia," said Sheikh Ali Mohamoud, a spokesman for Shebab Islamists.

"To those deployed in Somalia, you are the ones that are trapped and dying here every day, but not those taking wines in New York. We warn you not to be here for the Mujahedeen fire."

The AU mission, deployed in March 2007, counts more than 4,300 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers and is charged with protecting strategic sites in the capital such as the presidency, the port and the airport.

But it is not allowed to fight alongside government forces and is authorised to retaliate only in the case of a direct attack.

Sharif's government, which has been confined to parts of the capital, took up power in January after a UN-sponsored reconciliation process.

The Shebab, a homegrown radical group whose leaders are suspected of links to Al-Qaeda, and the Hezb al-Islamiya armed group loyal to hardline opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys have been battling the government.

A country of around 10 million, Somalia has had no effective central authority since former president Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, setting off a bloody cycle of clashes.

Source: AFP

Kismayo: Al-Shabaab ban filming of weddings, music

The Islamic Administration in Kismayo, Lower Jubba [southern Somalia] has banned ways wedding celebrations are conducted in the town and have imposed various restrictions meant to align it with the teachings of Islam and change the way these celebrations are conducted.

Sheikh Abdirashid Ma’alin Ahmad alias Abu Yonis who is among officials of the Alshabaab militants Administration in Kismayo said there will be no music or dancing by men and women in weddings that are held in the town since it involves men and women who are not allowed to mingle and is against the teachings of Islam.

“Escorting of couples with a convoy of vehicles has also been banned as it creates unnecessary traffic jam in the town. We will not allow more than three cars which we will ensure that they are carrying the immediate relatives of the two couples. The Administration will not also be allow any filming of the wedding,” said Abu Yonis.

He warned that certain measures that are in line with the Islamic Shariah will be taken against those found to be violating these restrictions imposed by the Administration.

The restrictions imposed on the way weddings are conducted in the town banning dance, music and filming during the event has been received with mixed reactions by residents of the town.

Many bachelors in the town who were looking forward to get married have said that they are in favor of the restrictions as it will completely eliminate some of the expenses they would have incurred. Women in the town have received the news with dismay saying that it is too restricting and favors the men.

Source: SomalilandPress

Ahmed ‘Romario’ appeal halted after suspect’s fled to Somalia

Friends and relatives of Ahmed “Romario” Ibrahim Ali, who was stabbed to death last autumn near Stockholm, were stunned to learn on Tuesday that the prime suspect in the 23-year-old’s killing had fled the country.

The 18-year-old suspect, who along with two others had been acquitted of murder charges by the Attunda District Court in February, has left Sweden for Somalia, according to his lawyer.

“I have received confirmation from his father that he is in Somalia and plans to be there for the foreseeable future,” said attorney Johan Åkermark to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

As a result of the 18-year-old’s absence, the Svea Court of Appeal decided on Tuesday afternoon to cancel proceedings because of an inability to serve a summons to the suspect.

“This is incomprehensible. We hoped that the trial would happen so we could put this behind us. We’ll never forget but want to move on with our lives. But as it looks now, we’re never going to be able to do so,” said Romario’s father, Ibrahim Adan, to TV4 news website nyhetskanalen.se, shortly after hearing the court’s decision.

Several hundred Romario supporters marched through the streets of Stockholm on Tuesday afternoon to protest what they saw as a miscarriage of justice.

Romario, a promising footballer and role model for youth in the predominantly immigrant neighbourhood of Husby north of Stockholm, died in October from stab wounds following a fight near the E4 motorway in nearby Kista.

During the district court trial, the 18-year-old even admitted to stabbing Romario and two of his friends, both of whom received life threatening injuries.

But the court acquitted the teen and two other suspects, aged 16 and 20, because it believed the 18-year-old’s confession was fabricated to protect the actual perpetrators.

Prosecutors filed an appeal shortly after the verdict, but because the 18-year-old was acquitted, there were no grounds for restricting him from leaving Sweden.

While the court hopes to reschedule the hearing for next autumn, there is no guarantee that the suspect will be back in Sweden by then.

“My understanding is that the family wanted him to get out of Rinkeby and Sweden,” said attorney Åkermark to SvD, referring to the neighbourhood near Stockholm which is home to many Somali and other immigrants.

“He was talking about leaving a long time ago.”

Åkermark added that the chances were small of his client returning to Sweden for any appeal hearing planned for the autumn.

“As far as I know, there is no functioning rule of law [in Somalia], so I don’t think it’s possible to have him extradited. In addition, no one knows exactly where he is,” he told SvD.

The turn of events had fuelled further frustration among friends and supporters of Romario who have long been critical at the way police handled the investigation into his death.

“It’s been managed sloppily from the start. There were 13 people at the crime scene – the police should have been able to get at least one of them convicted for the murder,” said friend and former teammate Haiman Alz to the Metro newspaper.

Source: Bartamaha.com

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Somalia: Pro government Islamists threaten to defeat al-Shabaab

The pro government Islamic Courts Union which was routed in recent fighting that saw the seizure of Jowhar in middle Shabelle region threatened Wednesday they will defeat al-Shabaab and recapture the town.

The former governor of Middle Shabelle region of the Islamic Courts Union, Dahir Adow Alasow, said they were planning a heavy attack on al-Shabaab to recapture Jowhar, the home town of Somali president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.

Al-Shabaab captured Jowhar recently from the Islamic Courts Union in fighting that lasted more than two hours and killed five combatants from the two sides.

Al-Shabaab was the military wing of the Islamic Courts Union in 2006 before they were ousted by the Ethiopian troops who claimed they were propping up the Somali Transitional Federal government.

They jointly fought the Ethiopian troops and the Somali government, but the Islamic Courts Union joined the government when its leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed was elected president in January 2009.

Alasaw, said they were determined to defeat what he called invading forces to the region and will recapture the town again.

The two sides fought on Tuesday near Mahaday town in Middle Shabelle region after al-Shabaab attacked a base of the Islamic Courts Union.

Alasow said they defended the Shabaab and killed nine fighters, but the new governor of al-Shabaab in Middle Shabelle region said they captured a battle wagon from the pro government Islamists and killed more fighters.

Source: amsomalia@mareeg.com

Somalia: Al-Shabaab issues decrees banning from men and women to sit on the same seats in public cars

Al-Shabaab militants who control the port town of Kismayo has issued decrees banning from women and men to sit on the same seats in public cars in Kismayo 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of Mogadishu, officials said on Wednesday.

Ahmed Hassan Ali, the commander of al-Shabaab forces in Kismayu town said their administration has forbidden from the men and women to sit on same seats when traveling on public transportation and cars in the town.

A statement from the administration in Kismayu warned people and drivers against disobeying their orders.

It is the first decree prohibiting men and the women to sit on same seats that al-Shabaab issue since they seized the control of the city in August 2008.

Source: amsomalia@mareeg.com

Somalia:Somali crisis a genocide, says President Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni has described the situation in Somalia, where hard-line Islamists are battling the transitional Government, as genocide.

“This is a type of genocide. Genocide does not have to be overnight. You can have slow genocide. Why should Africans suffer like this?” the President said.

He was addressing guests at Serena Hotel on Monday at a function to mark the 46th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union).

Clashes between the insurgents and government troops have left at least 200 people dead since the beginning of May and displaced another 60,000 people.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist elected by a unity government in January, says radical al-Shabab fighters, accused of having links to al-Qaeda, have in their ranks foreigners who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Uganda and Burundi are the only countries that have contributed soldiers to the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia, forming a force of 4,300, far short of the 8,000 troops needed.

Museveni named Somalia and Darfur as the only conflicts remaining in Africa, noting that the AU is addressing it with the urgency and seriousness it deserves.

“At a political level, progress has been made in the area of continental peace and security, through our Peace and Security Council. Africa is increasingly taking responsibility with regard to the remaining parts on the continent,” he said.

He cited the peace efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Burundi, and the current efforts in Darfur and Somalia, as a demonstration of the resolve by African leaders to solve their own problems.

Museveni, however, pointed that the continent still faces economic challenges that should be addressed if the continent is to achieve the Millennium Develop Goals.

“Challenges remain on the economic front, especially the roads, the railway and electricity”, he noted. “In the last 45 years, except for South Africa and Mauritius, no African country has transited from the Third World to the First World.”

Richard Kabonero, the dean of the African diplomatic corps, cited piracy and terrorism as the greatest threat to African’s peace and stability.

He appealed to Africa and the international community to find a lasting solution to the chaos in Somalia with a view of eradicating the potential terrorism threat in the Gulf of Aden.

"Uganda and Burundi have contributed positively. However, much more should have been achieved if the mandate and size of the peacekeeping force were addressed,” he noted.

On the political front, Kabonero reported that the AU had suspended Madagascar, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea Conakry following recent coups in those countries.

Meanwhile, a senior Government official has said Uganda has no intention of withdrawing its troops from Somalia.

“The AU mission has no plan to withdraw. We have played a positive role. We would want to see that built on rather than dismantled,” Ambassador James Mugume, the foreign affairs permanent secretary, told journalists yesterday during the induction workshop for new Ugandan ambassadors.

Uganda last week announced it will soon send another contingent to Mogadishu to replace the ones who are there.

Source: New Vision