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Friday, April 30, 2010

Behind the scenes with NPR counterterrorism reporter

The FBI, wiretaps, anthrax, al Qaida and mysterious disappearances of Somali youth in Minneapolis all placed prominently in a talk that National Public Radio counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston delivered at a North Campus luncheon yesterday for supporters of WBFO 88.7 FM, UB’s National Public Radio affiliate.

In a whirlwind 45-minute lecture at the Center for Tomorrow, Temple-Raston, author of “The Jihad Next Door: The Lackawanna Six and Rough Justice in the Age of Terror,” treated her audience to the story behind her stories, describing how she covered her beat and made decisions as a journalist.

She focused on her experiences reporting on such subjects as the alleged recruitment of young Somali-Americans in Minneapolis by al Shabab, a Somali Islamist group; the case of Najibullah Zazi, an airport shuttle driver accused of involvement in a potential terrorist plot against U.S. targets; and the struggle of Charles Ivins to accept that his brother, Army scientist Bruce Ivins, could have sent anthrax-laden letters to members of Congress and news organizations.

Her presentation was filled with behind-the-scenes tidbits about her job. She told listeners that she made mistakes while working on the Zazi story, revealing on air, for instance, when the FBI had begun wiretapping Zazi—information that could help Zazi’s defense team and complicate the bureau’s case against their suspect.

In discussing Charles Ivins with WBFO’s sustaining donors, who lunched on chicken salad while she talked, Temple-Raston described how Charles Ivins initially turned her down for an interview, but later opened up after she spent several weeks keeping him up to date on developments in the government’s case against his brother, who had committed suicide. Charles Ivins finally agreed to meet her, and when he did, she showed him documents containing evidence against Bruce Ivins. Later, Temple-Raston said, Charles Ivins would tell her that, “The moment I realized that Bruce had done it, I was with you.”

Temple-Raston’s story about the vanishing Somalis also ended in heartbreak. Her coverage began with a tip from a source at the FBI, who clued her in on the disappearances, telling her they were linked to terrorism. As Temple-Raston interviewed relatives of teens who had gone missing, she discovered that their departures had been sudden and unexpected. The mother of one teenager said her son, Burhan Hassan, wanted to go to medical school.

“She had no idea that anything was wrong...and then he’s gone,” Temple-Raston said.

She discovered that Hassan was in Somalia, but that he was planning to leave al Shabab and meet his mother in Nairobi, Kenya.

“It looked like I was going to go with them, and I was actually going to have the story of one of the kids from the Minneapolis area coming back to Minneapolis and talking about al-Shabab and how he was recruited in America, and this would be this great story,” she said.

The meeting in Kenya never took place. Hassan was reported killed in Mogadishu.

Source: UB Reporter

Hard times lead 21 Somali couples to share wedding

Twenty-one couples have shared a joint wedding in Somalia, where the traditional lavish celebrations are increasingly unaffordable at a time of economic slump.

The function was held this week at a hotel in Hargeisa, capital of Somalia's breakaway region of Somaliland, and was arranged by Telsom, a telecoms company that employs all the bridegrooms.

The Horn of Africa region is staunchly Muslim, so the men and women celebrated separately.

The expense of a traditional wedding, especially when economic times are hard, is driving some young Somalis to leave their homeland.

"One of the reasons why the youth migrate is weddings are expensive, and I appeal to the community to simplify marriage by reducing the cost," Sheikh Mohamed Sheikh Omar Dirir, one of the area's most prominent religious leaders, told guests.

Source: Canwest News Service

Somali militants increasing use of child soldiers

Sharif says he was 10 when his religious teacher led his class into a poor neighborhood of Somalia's capital to pray for a sick relative. Suddenly Islamist fighters jumped from the shadows and ordered the children onto buses, the beginning of a terrifying two years as a child soldier.

The class was taken to a training base in the south of the anarchic country, Sharif says, where Somali and foreign instructors showed them how to use weapons and set ambushes. The boy says before battle he was sometimes given drugs that made him feel like he could "pick up a tank and throw it aside like a telephone."

The recruitment of child fighters in Somalia is on the rise, both by the government and particularly by the country's most powerful Islamist militia, al-Shabab, whose name means "the youth." Al-Shabab's recruitment of children may partly stem from a lack of willing adults, who have been alienated by Islamist attacks on traditional Sufi saints and bans on everything from chewing qat, a mildly narcotic leaf, to school bells and music.

"Better informed, smarter, older people are saying they don't want to join" al-Shabab, said E.J. Hogendoorn, a Nairobi-based analyst at the International Crisis Group. "The sad reality with modern infantry weapons is that all you really need is a kid to operate them."

UNICEF, the section of the U.N. dealing with children's rights, said children as young as 9 are being targeted and often taken through force or deception, said Denise Shepherd-Johnson, a Nairobi-based spokeswoman, citing information received from monitors in Somalia.

"Children are being systematically recruited and used in ever larger numbers for military and related purposes by all of the major combatant groups," she said. "The number of bases and camps used to train these children is commensurately widespread and appears to be growing."

An aid worker in Kenya tracking child recruitment says cases verified by their partner organizations in Somalia have risen from five in September to a high of 26 in January, when Somalia was awash with rumors of an imminent government offensive. Since the government toned down its rhetoric, the numbers have fallen slightly to 20 children recruited in February and 18 in March.

The figures represent a small fraction of child fighters, the aid worker said, because they only record new recruits and many cases could not be fully documented due to insecurity. Staff often reported seeing scores of children in camps but were only able to verify the details of one or two, she said. She asked for her name and her organization's name to be withheld to protect staff from retribution.

Human Rights Watch documented several cases of children fighting in militias in a report released last week. A mother said her 14- and 12-year-old sons had been seized by militants from an Islamic school. Her uncle was killed for trying to find them and she stopped trying after receiving death threats, the report said.

Sharif escaped last month, waiting until nightfall and then sneaking past the guards with six friends. Now the slender, dark-eyed boy is too afraid to go home. If he does, his family could be killed by the insurgents who control their neighborhood.

Source: AP

Psychologist's testimony in Somali's murder case ruled improper

Defense attorneys for a Somali accused of murdering his four children have asked a judge to reconsider his competency after a psychologist was sanctioned for offering his opinion in testimony without having met with the defendant.

Dr. Larry Curl, who was an employee with Central State Hospital at the time, has been reprimanded by the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology and put on two years’ probation and supervision for testifying about Said Biyad’s competency, even though he admitted he had not personally assessed him.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge James Shake ruled in June that Biyad is competent to stand trial on the murder charges as well as charges of attempted murder, rape and assault on his wife, Fatuma Amir, who survived the Oct. 6, 2006, attack.

Shake noted in his ruling that after initially being deemed paranoid and delusional, Biyad had shown marked improvement with treatment at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center in La Grange, according to testimony from Dr. Greg Perri, a psychologist who met with Biyad.
Curl agreed with Perri and testified in October 2008 that Biyad's cultural differences may have played a role in why Biyad was initially deemed not competent.

During that hearing, Curl acknowledged he had not evaluated Biyad personally and couldn’t declare the defendant competent or not, but he said he was relying on his observations and interviews with corrections officers and nurses as well his analysis of other experts’ evaluations.
On Thursday, defense attorneys Mike Lemke and Ray Clooney wrote in a motion that Curl’s testimony was “incompetent and illegal” and that he should not have been allowed to testify.

The motion claims a psychologist who read about Curl’s testimony in the media filed a complaint with the board, which investigated and ruled in November that Curl had violated state law by testifying to Biyad’s competency without formally assessing him.

In a settlement, Curl denied wrongdoing but acknowledged there was enough evidence for the board to prove the violation. Curl was reprimanded, put on probation for two years, ordered to pay a fine of $2,160 and will undergo weekly, face-to-face meetings with a supervisor.

Prosecutors with the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office could not be reached Thursday.

Also, the defense claimed in its motion that Shake misstated a key defense witness’s testimony when he ruled that Dr. Wayne Herner, the chief psychologist for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, had issued no conclusion to Biyad’s competency.

Lemke and Clooney noted that Herner testified that Biyad is schizophrenic, paranoid, has grandiose thoughts that he is a multimillionaire with “celebrity status” and is borderline mentally disabled.

The defense said Herner and another doctor clearly found Biyad was not competent.

Shake’s ruling “will result in an incompetent man being tried for capital murder,” Clooney and Lemke wrote.

Biyad, who is scheduled for trial in June, has told police that he and his wife had been fighting and he forced her to have sex, then hit her with a blunt object, according to court records.

When Amir regained consciousness, she fled to a bedroom and braced the door shut so Biyad could not enter, prosecutors said in court records.
Biyad then went to the rooms where his children slept and cut their throats, according to a transcript of an interview he had with police.
“It is not right, I did bad things,” Biyad told police, according to the transcripts.

Goshany, Khadija, Fatuma and Sidi Ali, ages 2 to 8, all died in the family's apartment in the 1400 block of Bicknell Avenue.
Reporter Jason Riley can be reached at (502) 584-2197.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yemen: Part of the Problem, Part of the Solution

Yemen recently received a spot in the limelight thanks to the 'underwear bomber,' a Nigerian national who attempted to blow up a plane bound for the US on Christmas Day and who allegedly received training from Al-Qaeda elements in Yemen. Despite the fact that Yemen has been facing a myriad of challenges for some time now, the country rarely received media attention prior to the failed terrorist attack on the US airliner. People soon caught up though, and the recent confrontations between the Yemeni army and Houthi rebels in the mountainous north of the country – the sixth round of fighting since 2004 - helped to further advertise the country, which is also facing a secessionist movement in the south as well as an oil-based economy in trouble due to Yemen's failure to diversify it.

Whilst much is now said about Yemen's current numerous security problems, less is known about the implications of these challenges for Africa, especially the region of the Horn of Africa (and how in turn challenges in the Horn have impacted on Yemen). Yemen is often analysed from a Middle Eastern or Arab perspective only, whilst its geographical proximity to the Horn of Africa requires the country to be taken into consideration when discussing issues such as migration, piracy, the fight against terrorism and other issues related to security in that region. Yemen is separated from the Horn by the Red Sea but the country's closest point to the Horn, which is with Eritrea, sees a less than 100 kilometre distance between the two countries.

In addition to its geographical proximity to the Horn, Yemen has strong historical ties to the region. The Horn and Yemen have witnessed centuries of cultural exchanges between their peoples as well as strong commercial relations. Yemenis have since long immigrated to countries in the Horn, especially Ethiopia and Djibouti, and vice versa. In more recent times, Yemen was involved in a two-day war with Eritrea over the Hanish Islands, an issue that was resolved by arbitration in 1998. However, Yemen has also played the role of peacemaker in the Horn region, with mediation attempts by President Saleh between Eritrea and Sudan in 1994 and the warring Somali factions more recently. In turn, Yemen was assisted by Eritrean President Afwerki when tensions increased following the unification of North and South Yemen. At present, the countries of Djibouti and Somalia interact with Yemen as members of the League of Arab States and in 2002 Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan initiated the Sana'a Forum for Cooperation. The Forum was later joined by Somalia and Djibouti which has created some apprehension on the part of Eritrea, which remains the odd one out.

In present times, several issues illustrate the importance of the inclusion of Yemen when considering security issues in the Horn. The aforementioned migration has continued, although currently Yemen is more often a recipient than a sender of immigrants. The total number of African immigrants (mostly from Somalia and Ethiopia) in Yemen is estimated at more than 700 000, which increases the pressure on Yemen that has a population of about 23 million, said to double in the next 20 years, of which more than 30 per cent is unemployed. Besides ordinary refugees, elements of various armed opposition movements in the Horn also find their way to Yemen. The Islamic Courts Union, for instance, reportedly regrouped in Yemen after their defeat by Somali government and Ethiopian forces at the end of 2006. In turn, Eritrea reportedly recently welcomed a Houthi rebel leader who required medical attention. Claims that Eritrea is also providing arms to the Houthi rebels cannot possibly be discussed here.

Talking about arms, however, it should be noted that the proliferation of weapons is another crucial threat to security in the Horn. The ready availability of arms in the Horn is well-known. In the case of Yemen, IRIN reported in 2006 that the country faces the circulation of almost 17 million firearms. Arms from the Horn make up a significant amount of goods smuggled into Saudi Arabia via Yemen whilst the Horn in turn receives its fair share of weapons from Yemen. For instance, the Crisis Group reported in mid-2009 that numerous Yemeni army leaders would have requested additional weaponry to fight the Houthi rebels, of which only a few were used for that purpose and many found their way to Somali and other markets in the region.

Piracy is obviously another key issue. Notwithstanding the root causes of piracy, it has become an extremely lucrative business and any attempts to deal with the situation would be in vain if Yemen is not considered, where sympathy for the pirates among certain parts of the population reportedly runs deep. The Yemeni government is said to exercise little control over certain areas in the country, including some parts along its long coastal line, perfect additional operating bases for piracy entrepreneurs.

Last but not least: terrorism is high on the agenda of those looking at the Horn and Yemen. With concerns that Yemen will soon join the list of failed states, terrorism is believed (albeit mistakenly) to become more of a problem in the near future. Key actors are likely to respond by beefing up support for Yemeni security forces, although the country was already designated a 'front-line state' in the 'War on Terror' and received significant military financing with little positive results. In actual fact, Yemen is probably the prime example of a country where the 'War on Terror' completely distorted existing conflict management processes. Nonetheless, opinions on the possibility of already exciting links between Al-Qaeda elements in Somalia and Al-Qaeda elements in Yemen differ significantly but most would agree it is definitely something to monitor.

In sum, Yemen is more a part of the Horn than often acknowledged and policy-makers should reconsider limiting one's Horn of Africa mandate to the conventional members of that region. Unless initiatives aimed at fostering cooperation amongst the Horn countries take Yemen into consideration, at least with regards to some of the security issues, we can expect the Horn's road to stability to be even longer.

Source: ReliefWeb

National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) statement

On the occasion of World Day for Safety and Health at Work, 28 April 2010, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) issues the following statement :


Stand up for safety of men and women working for Somali media

Somalia has been notorious for the brutal killing of local journalists for their determination to discharge vigorously their professional duties. Journalists have been prime targets for the warring sides in Somalia who do not like the truth to be uncovered, public plights to be revealed and human atrocities to be presented in journalistic reports.

The safety of Somali media professionals has declined drastically in recent years because the media has been perceived as part and parcel of the conflict, a platform to pass warmongering messages and a functional instrument for defeating enemies. Journalists, who decline to bend to the whims of the warmongers, received warnings telling them they will pay the price of defiance before they were murdered. Media practitioners who have dared to expose the ills in the society are often killed for stories they tell.

Media work has become very unsafe in Somalia. It has become a profession wrought in dangerous hazards. A total of 19 journalists have been killed in Somalia since 2007. The killers do not need to escape the justice yet there is no one to put them through a justice system, hence a great deal of impunity. They are neither named nor questioned for their gruesome transgression. Murdered journalists and their families have no remedy.

Security of journalists did not deteriorate only because of the lawlessness and instability that has afflicted Somalia for nearly 20 years. Calculated and well-organised criminal acts are the major cause of insecurity. Warring sides have turned the media houses into a theatre of war. Journalists have become the charcoal with which to fuel the crisis. Impunity is the motivating factor.

We call upon all sides in the armed struggle in our country to cease hostilities, turn away their guns from the journalists and allow media professional to work and live in safety and peace. We censure, again, the ruthless hooded men who covered their faces as they fired bullets into the bodies of journalists whose only crime was to be armed with a pen and a notebook.

We call upon the media owners, editors and journalists to join forces with like-minded members of the Somali society to start addressing the safety problems. Without safety, journalists will not be willing to continue being part of the statistics of the killed journalists and will thus cease working, which means there would be news blackout in Somalia.

Let us stand up for safety of men and women working for media.

Source: The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)

Islamist Rebels Claim Responsibility for Bombing in Somalia

Somalia's al-Shabab Islamist rebels have claimed responsibility for Tuesday's suicide car bomb attack at a base for African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu. The al-Qaida-linked militants say the bombing was in retaliation for the recent killings of two senior al-Qaida commanders in Iraq.

The spokesman for al-Shabab, Ali Mohamud Rage, called Tuesday's suicide attack a "success," claiming that the explosion destroyed a former Somali commercial bank building housing African Union peacekeeping troops from Uganda.

Rage says the blast killed 20 peacekeepers, disputing statements made earlier by the Ugandan spokesman for the peacekeeping mission known as AMISOM.

AMISOM spokesman, Major Barigye Ba-Hoku, told VOA Somali Service that African Union soldiers foiled the attack by killing three would-be suicide bombers inside the vehicle. He said two soldiers were wounded when the explosives-laden vehicle blew up before it reached the entrance to the base. Ugandan newspapers subsequently reported that five soldiers had been wounded, one seriously.

Al-Shabab, considered a terrorist group by the West, says the attack was carried out in retaliation for the killing of two top al-Qaida leaders in Iraq. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed last week during an Iraqi-U.S. military raid on their safe house in Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

Al-Shabab, which is fighting to create an ultra-conservative Islamic caliphate in the Horn of Africa, recently proclaimed allegiance to al-Qaida and has expressed solidarity with al-Qaida-affliated groups. Al-Baghdadi was the self-described leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an off-shoot of al-Qaida, and al-Masri was a weapons expert trained in Afghanistan.

The suicide car attack in Mogadishu Tuesday triggered another round of violence in the Somali capital. Witnesses say al-Shabab traded mortars and gunfire for more than four hours with AMISOM, Somali government troops and pro-government militiamen. At least 14 civilians are reported to have been killed in the cross-fire.

Uganda and Burundi are the only contributors to the 5,300-member peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which has a mandate to keep Somalia's weak U.N.-backed transitional government from being toppled by al-Shabab and other radical Islamist groups.

The United States and European Union countries are heavily involved in the training of AMISOM and Somali troops, making them a frequent target of insurgent attacks. Suicide and roadside bombings blamed on al-Shabab have killed nearly three dozen AMISOM soldiers since the first contingent of Ugandan troops arrived in Mogadishu in 2007.

In recent months, AMISOM, as well as insurgent groups, have been sharply criticized by Somali and international human rights groups for indiscriminately shelling populated areas of the capital and causing high civilian casualties. An estimated 21,000 Somalis are believed to have been killed, mostly in Mogadishu, since the insurgency against the government began three years ago.

Source: VOA

Unpaid Somali soldiers desert to insurgency

Hundreds of Somali soldiers trained with millions of U.S. tax dollars have deserted because they are not being paid their $100 monthly wage, and some have even joined the al-Qaida-linked militants they are supposed to be fighting, The Associated Press has learned.

The desertions raise fears that a new U.S.-backed effort beginning next month to build up Somalia's army may only increase the ranks of the insurgency.

Somalia's besieged U.N.-backed government holds only a few blocks of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, while Islamic insurgents control the rest of the city and most of the country. That turmoil — and the lawless East African nation's proximity to Yemen, where al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is based — has fed fears that Somalia could be used to launch attacks on the West.

In an effort to rebuild the tattered Somali military, the United States spent $6.8 million supporting training programs for nearly 1,000 soldiers in neighboring Djibouti last year and about 1,100 soldiers in Uganda last year and earlier this year, the State Department and Western diplomats told the AP. The troops were supposed to earn $100 a month, but about half of those trained in Djibouti deserted because they were not paid, Somali army Col. Ahmed Aden Dhayow said.

"Some gave up the army and returned to their ordinary life and others joined the rebels," he said.

Somalia's state minister for defense, Yusuf Mohamed Siyad, confirmed some trainees had joined the al-Shabab militants, but he declined to specify the number of deserters.

The development highlights a key problem facing efforts to rebuild the bankrupt nation's army — guaranteeing funding for soldiers' salaries, not just their training.

Failure to resolve the pay issue could threaten the success of a U.S. and European Union training program beginning in Uganda next month that has been touted as the biggest effort to rebuild the army in 20 years.

Funding for the Somali army is a complex affair involving contributions from donor nations, the U.N. and the Somali government. Individual countries sometimes pledge to cover salaries for a limited number of soldiers for a few months, and when the money runs out, salaries don't get paid.

The U.S. has provided $2 million to pay Somali soldiers and purchase supplies and equipment in Mogadishu since 2007, according to the State Department. Another $12 million went toward transport, uniforms and equipment.

During a recent AP visit, dejected-looking soldiers sat under dust-covered thorn trees at the government's main military base, Camp Jazira, which lacks toilets, a clinic or even a perimeter fence. They had not been paid, some for months, they said, adding that their wages were intercepted by senior officials.

When pressed for details, mid-level officers glanced at colleagues clutching plastic bags of spaghetti, the day's lunch ration, before saying they could not discuss the problem.

"There is not enough money to pay everyone," Col. Ali Hassan said as a group of officers listened, then added hastily: "But we are happy there is some money."

Earlier this year, trainee soldiers had their guns confiscated and replaced with sticks after a riot broke out between those who had been paid and those who had not. The African Union, which has peacekeepers at Camp Jazira, temporarily suspended payments over fears that men who had been paid would be killed by those who had not, an official involved with the training said.

Soldiers also had problems with some battalion-level commanders stealing their rations, a European official said. The U.S. has sent a shipment of food this month to try to help the malnourished soldiers regain their strength, he added.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Siyad, the defense minister, said the U.S. was currently funding the salaries of around 1,800 Somali soldiers, and another 3,300 soldiers were being paid by other donors. However, that is only about half the 10,000 troops allowed under the peace agreement that formed the coalition government.

Other countries have contributed to training programs for security forces, notably France and Germany. A German-funded training course for 900 Somali police recently ended in Ethiopia, a Western official in Nairobi said, but there are fears the trainees will desert because no provision has been made for their salaries.

Some international payments are channeled through a fund administered by PricewaterhouseCoopers, an arrangement designed to prevent the mass theft of salaries and combat a desertion rate of up to 90 percent that scuttled a previous U.N. effort to reform the police force.

However, diplomats complain the lists of soldiers the government has provided differ from those they have been authorized to pay. Officers including Gen. Ahamad Buraale, who is in charge of Camp Jazira, also say PricewaterhouseCoopers has been slow to issue the identity cards that allow soldiers to be paid.

The firm declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement with its clients.

"We only have anecdotal information but those reports indicate that the desertion rate has been very low among those trained in Djibouti. For those trained in Uganda, the problem has not been desertion but reassignment from that trained unit to other duties such as personal protection for government senior leaders," said a State Department spokesman in an e-mail.

Siyad said it is vital that the 2,000 Somali soldiers slated to undergo six months of training in Uganda be paid. The European Union will take the lead in training, while the U.S. has pledged to pay the salaries of graduates until January, said Patrick Geyson, a political adviser to the EU program.

"Both the police and soldiers need to feed their families," Geyson said. "They need to be paid every month. Otherwise they have to find other solutions."

Guaranteeing longer-term wages for the soldiers may be difficult. Many donors are reluctant to contribute money to an army once notorious for crimes such as rape, kidnapping and murder.

The new army commander is seen by international officials as a vast improvement over the previous one, a warlord who used the army as a clan militia to extort money from civilians. But donors remain wary.

In the meantime, the Somali government is forced to rely on donor nations that are often slow to pay, undercutting soldiers' confidence in regular paychecks, and feeding desertions and corruption. There are few signs Somalia's government will ever be able to deliver social services, shape military strategy and pay its army on its own.

Siyad said the success of the multimillion-dollar training programs funded by American and European taxpayers is completely dependent on being able to pay the graduates.

"If this is not done, then we shouldn't even start. Otherwise the soldiers will just join the opposition," he said.

Associated Press Writer Mohamed Olad Hassan contributed to this report.

Source: The Associated Press.

Al-Shabab Denounces VOA Somali Service Chief

Al-Qaida-linked Somali insurgent group accuses VOA, BBC editors of abandoning Islamic faith

The Somali insurgent group al-Shabab has rebuked the chief of VOA's Somali Service and his counterpart at the BBC.

Speaking at a Mogadishu mosque last Friday, an al-Shabab official labeled VOA Somali Service chief Abdi Yabarow and BBC Somali Service chief Yusuf Garaad Omar as murtadeen, or one who abandons the Islamic faith.

The official apparently did not make a direct call for violence, but al-Shabab loyalists have killed those they deem to have violated Islamic law.

The speaker, Shiekh Fu'ad Mohamed Khalaf Shongole, also accused the two journalists of using propaganda and pro-Western information to mislead Somali Muslims.

In a statement Wednesday, the chief of VOA's Africa division, Gwen Dillard, called the comments "unfortunate and incorrect." She said VOA's mandate is to serve the interest of all Somalis with objective, accurate information.

Al-Shabab, which controls portions of southern and central Somalia, has attempted to limit Somalis' access to VOA and the BBC.

The group recently told local media networks to end contracts with the two agencies. Al-Shabab also shut down FM radio stations that relay BBC programs. VOA is still being heard through a Somali government-run FM station and through shortwave and the Internet.

Al-Shabab is the most prominent of the militant groups trying to overthrow the Somali government and set up a strict Islamic state. The group has proclaimed itself an ally of al-Qaida.

VOA is funded by the U.S. government. The Somali Service broadcasts to Somalia twice each day.

Source: VOA

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Somalis raise alarm over killings in Alberta

On his way to the Edmonton funeral for a 19-year-old member of Fort McMurray's Somali-Canadian community on Monday Mahamad Accord says he wasn't surprised to hear the RCMP had ruled just hours earlier that Abdinasir Abdulkadir Dirie's death was a homicide.

Young men from Somali backgrounds in Northern Alberta have met their end this way a startling number of times, the president of the Alberta Somali Community Centre points out. What does surprise him, he says, is that provincial authorities seem to him to be so uncurious about the pattern.

"Another Somali will die tomorrow, and it won't change a thing," Mr. Accord says.

In the past five years scores of young Somali-Canadians have been murdered across Alberta. It's true that the latest, Abdinasir Abdulkadir Dirie, was out on bail when he was found murdered in an apartment complex on April 21, charged with four other men with dealing cocaine. Several of the murdered men have been linked to drug trafficking. But not all of them, community leaders insist.

"It's a mixed bag. Obviously there are people who are getting mixed up in a very high-risk lifestyle. But among the deaths there are a good number of them who are innocent," says Ahmed Hussen, national president of the Ottawa-based Canadian Somali Congress. "It isn't one single narrative."

It is difficult to confirm even precisely how many men from this community have been murdered: community leaders say in the past five years there have been 30: four in Fort McMurray; 14 in Edmonton; and a dozen scattered around the province.

RCMP, however, release no statistics on the racial patterns of provincial homicides. Newspaper reports point to at least 19 murdered Somalli-Canadians since 2005, almost all having moved from the Toronto area, as were the bulk of Alberta's roughly 12,000 citizens of Somali heritage who were attracted to the lure of so many decent-paying jobs for anyone willing to work them.

"Literally in 1998, ‘99, 2000 - until about 2006, there was a huge influx of immigration from Ontario to Alberta," Mr. Hussen says. "We are talking about families of six or seven people just taking off."

Where some found virtuous opportunity, others inevitably found vice. Some young African men, including those from the Sudanese and Somali communities, took to the province's growing drug trade, says Mustafa Kamoga, a partner at Selkirk Placement, which helps find immigrant labourers for oilpatch employers in northern Alberta.

And still, there are many murdered Somali men with no apparent links to any crime - nothing in common with one another, it seems, than being of Somali background in Alberta, and the fact that, save one, none of their killings has ever been solved.

This, says Mr. Accord, demands serious investigation. His community centre and the Canadian Somali Congress say they have been calling on the province to strike a task force to get to the bottom of it. They met last month with Alberta's justice minister, Alison Redford, though a ministry spokesman claims no formal request for the task force had been made. In any case, the premier, Ed Stelmach, last month dismissed the idea.

"Police forces can certainly manage it," Mr. Stelmach told reporters.

Next month, Mr. Accord says he will hold a community meeting with federal MPs and municipal officials from Calgary and Edmonton to try his luck with other levels of government.

He worries that the fact that a number of the murdered men have had run-ins with the law has people, and politicians, looking the other way. Simply ascertaining how many men from his community have died, and what exactly they do have common, is just one thing he hopes a task force might do. Because whatever other commonalities these men may have, he says, they are also victims, and they are Canadians, and they deserve more than to have their deaths ignored.

"It's sad that what kind of society we live in that we only blame the victims," he says. "It's missing the point. Police have no answer for this issue so what they're doing is looking for excuses to deflect the criticism. That's the issue. If I'm killed, and someone looks at my history and says, ‘wow, he's known to police,' so that's it? He deserved to die?"

That these crimes have mounted for years, with no sign of progress from authorities in understanding or addressing it, has undermined the faith of many in Alberta's Somali community in the willingness of authorities to protect them, Mr. Accord believes. He's reminded, he says, of a Somali parable about a village plagued by a coyote ravaging its livestock. When the villagers uproot their families and travel many miles to resettle and escape, they find the coyote there waiting for them - and complaining about the long walk.

"Right now, people are saying they escaped coyotes eating their kids in Mogadishu, and now they find them waiting for them in Alberta."

National Post

World Cup anthem singer stirs few in native Somalia

For the few who know him in Somalia, he is a “crazy” refugee, but many have never heard of K’naan—a hip-hop artist whose hit song “Waving Flag” is the official World Cup anthem.

Born Keinan Abdi Warsame in 1978 in Mogadishu, the Toronto-based rapper who fled the war-wracked Horn of Africa country at the age of 13, has worked up crowds across the world during the World Cup Trophy tour.

The soccer anthem, from his album “Troubadour,” is a stomping rendition packed with resounding percussions and rhymed with a reggae riff and was also recently reworked for the Haiti earthquake fundraiser.

“He is great but I can tell you that nobody knows about his greatness in Somalia, where he is taken as someone who lost his culture to the West,” said Mohamed Adan Tarabi, a 25-year-old football fan.

“If you Google his name you see thousands of results, which prove his prominence, but in Somalia I’ve never heard anybody listening to his songs,” he added.

Largely under the control of hardline Islamist rebels, Somalia has been cut off from the entertainment world owing to the imposition of strict sharia, or Islamic law, by the extremist militia.

Watching movies, football or listening to music are banned and transgressors can incur drastic penalties such as public flogging, chopping of limbs or even death by a firing squad.

“I heard about a Somali man being selected to sing in the World Cup, but I have no idea about that guy and I have never seen him,” said Hasan Adan, a Mogadishu teenager.

“I was only told by a friend that he is an English rapper like those blacks in the US,” he added.

Those who know K’naan have great admiration for him, but are restricted to secretly watching his clips on the Internet for fear of being caught by the Islamist militia.

“I’m really a big fan of great K’naan. I have watched him on the Internet and his song for the World Cup is also so good, but I’m disappointed that I cannot freely watch his songs here in Mogadishu,” said Fadumo Moalim Hasan.

“I have the anthem downloaded into my mobile and I can secretly watch it. But if the Shebab guys find me with this song in my cell phone I could face punishment,” she said, referring to the Al Qaeda-linked group.

Late last year, K’naan returned to the country, but only visited the northern breakaway state of Somaliland which has been spared much of the bloody violence in other parts of the country.

But he did not perform during his two-week stay in Hargeisa, only meeting with prominent Somali poets and elders.

Many Somali youngsters and fans of K’naan do not understand much of what he sings about because they do not understand English.

“Who understands English in this country. I think a singer who sings in English has no market in this country and that is why few know about K’naan,” said Mohamed Ilkase, a Mogadishu resident.

“I watched one of his songs and I can say he is crazy if he believes he could be listened to in Mogadishu,” he added.

Source:GlobalNews

Colleagues of slain cabdriver plan protest at Dallas City Hall

The colleagues of a cabdriver slain in a drive-by shooting last week hope to send a message with a protest at City Hall this afternoon.

The Somali drivers are angry that Dallas police haven't charged the two passengers who dropped the mortally wounded driver off on the side of the road after the April 19 shooting.

Bashir Abraham (right), a 30-year-old immigrant from Somalia, was shot after picking up Fidel Retana, 25, and Ezequiel Vasquez, 31, at the XTC Cabaret strip club.

Police say Jose Luis Covarrubias Jr., 21, opened fire on Abraham's cab with a shotgun, targeting one of the men he had gotten into an argument with at the club. Covarrubias remains at large.

Retana and Vasquez then left the driver in the road and drove to a hospital in the cab. Police later found Abraham dead in the street.

Neither Retana nor Vasquez suffered life-threatening injuries.

The protest will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Dallas City Hall Plaza, 1500 Marilla St.

Source: dallasnews.com

Somali Pirates Flee Al-Qaida Affiliates, Hostages in Tow

With the fate of a frail country and the lives of hundreds of innocent hostages on the line, two warring Islamic groups and a band of 21st century pirates are battling for control of a remote port town on the coast of Somalia.

The conflict kicked off Sunday, when a group of Islamic militants known as Al-Shabaab apparently entered the Somali pirate stronghold of Harardhere, only to retreat soon thereafter. Reports from inside the remote town suggest that the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamma militia group, which recently signed a peace agreement with Somalia's government, has been fending off Al-Shabaab's advances.

So where does that leave the pirates? They're probably gone, says Roger Middleton, a Somalia expert at Chatham House, a U.K. think tank. "They're not particularly tied to one place or another," he tells AOL News.


Mohamed Sheikh Nor, AP
Two Islamic militant groups, Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamma, as well as a band of pirates, are fighting for control of Harardhere, a port town on Somalia's coast. Here, newly trained Al-Shabaab fighters patrol the streets of Somalia.
Numerous headline-making incidents, including last year's daring rescue of Capt. Richard Philips and the Maersk Alabama, have brought the piracy problem to worldwide attention. Attacks are generally down this year, but the Somali pirates have proved resilient. They still hold 15 ships and more than 300 hostages, and the loss of a single stronghold won't halt their activities, as Middleton says that they have proved to be flexible in the past. Harardhere isn't their only home -- not long ago, the pirates were based farther north in a town called Eyl.

The battle on shore will most likely prompt them to return to the north, Middleton suggests. If they linger off the coast of Harardhere, they risk losing supply lines from their captured vessels to the shore, should Al-Shabaab take control of the town. A report in the Guardian says that the Al-Shabaab advance has already incited the pirates to sail on from Harardhere to another pirate-friendly port, Hobyo.

Either way, Middleton says, most of the hostages will likely remain away from the battle, out on the boats. "Because they're on a boat it ought to be easier for the pirates to move them away from the conflict," he notes.

While that could complicate negotiations for their release, Middleton says, those hostages held on shore, such as the British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, are in a much more dangerous situation. The leader of the pirate gang that is holding the couple has said he would leave them to Al-Shabaab if necessary.

Middleton worries that another potential victim of this battle will be Somalia itself. Al-Shabaab has been linked to al-Qaida, and control of Harardhere would represent a significant advance for the group. "If they manage to establish a foothold much further north in the country, further north than they've been before, then you start to look at Al-Shabaab threatening the more stable institutions in Somalia," Middleton says. "That would be very worrying, regardless of piracy."

Source; aolnews.com

Security Council suggests tribunals to try Somali pirates

The UN Security Council on Tuesday put forward the possibility of establishing international tribunals to try pirates, as its members called for tougher legislation aimed at prosecuting and jailing suspects caught off the coast of Somalia.

In a resolution unanimously adopted, the 15-member body appealed to all States "to criminalize piracy under their domestic law and favorably consider the prosecution of suspected, and imprisonment of convicted, pirates apprehended off the coast of Somalia, consistent with applicable international human rights law. "

The Security Council also requested that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon present a report within three months on possible options for prosecuting and imprisoning suspects in connection with piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Horn of Africa.

In its resolution, members noted efforts by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other international organization and donors, including the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), "to enhance the capacity of the judicial and the corrections systems in Somalia, Kenya, Seychelles and other States in the region."

They also highlighted the role of the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other partners in bringing suspects to justice, in cooperation with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Ongoing violence between the TFG, heavily backed by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and other supporters, and rebel groups in the Somali capital of Mogadishu prevents piracy suspects from being tried or imprisoned there. Some of the burden has shifted to neighboring Kenya's justice system.

The Security Council acknowledged "difficulties that Kenya encountered, encouraging its Government to continue prosecuting suspects and imprisoning convicted persons."

The Tuesday meeting came just days after B. Lynn Pascoe, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs and chair of the Board of the Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, unveiled 2.1 million U. S. dollars worth of projects planned to tackle the scourge.

The five projects being backed by the UN Trust Fund, which was set up in January by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, are focused largely on efforts to prosecute piracy suspects.

Source: Xinhua

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Islanders aid Somali refugee who lost cash

A Somali refugee who lost $2,200 in cash on the streets of Charlottetown last week now has more money than she lost, thanks to donations from Prince Edward Islanders.

Uba Ali had just cashed a federal government cheque Wednesday and was on her way to the grocery store when she lost the envelope containing the cash.

Officials with the TD Bank in Charlottetown made a big donation to the ensuing campaign to help Ali, who is raising seven children on her own.

"We'd like to kick-start this by donating $1,000 to her and her family, and hopefully others out there will respond to that challenge and assist as well," said branch manager Bruce Donaldson.

Late Friday afternoon, the Charlottetown Mosque and Islamic Foundation of P.E.I. announced it had collected $1,900. Ali is also being supported by Charlottetown's First Baptist Church.

While raising her children, Ali is learning English and looking for work.

Source: www.cbc.ca

Monday, April 26, 2010

Arab League condemns Israel over Somaliland

The Council emphasized that they only recognize one Somalia led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and have strongly warned Israel not to recognize Somaliland.Somali Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Abdurrahman Abdushakour who was present at the meetings thanked the Arab members in particular Egypt for it’s support in the reconciliation process.The Somali minister has called for Israel to end the malpractices against the Palestinian people and to lift the embargo they imposed on the Gaza strip immediately.

Source: WordPress

Somaliland elections: Who will decide, you or ISSA?

As many of you already know, we’ve previously published the below report; however we decided to put it on hold as we gathered information.

Yes, a number of minor web sites looking for attention also accused us of writing it and that we were ‘pro-UDUB’. Let us make it clear, we are no pro-UDUB nor Kulmiye or UCID, we are the voice of Somaliland and we will always represent you regardless of your party.

How many web sites, do you know, in the short time we were around, that introduced as many stories about Somaliland, to the world audience? Not many, if any.

We will publish the article again so you know the truth, first of all we can confirm to you all that the report was indeed produced by Defense & Foreign Affairs, which is part of the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA), “for its government audience” according to the president of ISSA, Mr. Gregory R. Copley.

Mr. Copley admits that the report was leaked to the media. “That is, in fact, produced on a confidential basis for government members of ISSA, so I am unaware as to how it may have been leaked to the media,” Mr. Copley told Somalilandpress.

We asked him, who are these “government members” but so far he has not responded to us but we assume it’s United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and possibly few other Western nations.

Mr. Copley is the author of “The Art of Victory” and has been awarded with number of Orders including the Order of Australia in 2007 by the Australian Governor-General, Major-General Michael Jeffery –who is the Principal Companion and Chancellor of the Order on behave of the Queen. Mr. Copley, is perhaps the modern Cecil John Rhodes, maybe like Mr. Rhodes, he too has that ‘imperial factor’. The Queen, properly saw that in him too.

We believe, Mr. Copley is very powerful man and we feel, Somalilanders have the right to know about their plans for the region, whether you approve of their report or not.

The accusations against Kulmiye are very serious and we should do every thing to protect our stability and democracy regardless of what West says about our candidates, whether you support UDUD, UCID, or Kulmiye.

Indeed, all eyes are on Somaliland and this elections, it’s very possible, that Somaliland might get recognized as so many think-tanks, ambassadors and diplomats descend upon Addis Ababa and Nairobi to discuss Somaliland.

We urge everyone to put national interest before the party, tribe and their personal political gains. Remember, this man, claiming that honourable Silanyo and other Somalilanders, have links with terrorism, is like you and wants nothing for himself but placing his national interest before his personal gains. Just read more about his book: “The Art of Victory is based on the author’s four decades of work at the highest levels of governments around the world and was originally written as a guide to national leaders to shape long-term strategies for national success.” It is also the reason the Queen has honoured him, and so now, don’t let him turn you against each others, before Kulmiye, Udub and Ucid, we are Somalilanders. Wihout peace Udub, Kulmiye and Ucid are all nothing and Somaliland is no different to Somalia.

We published this article not for Udub, certainly we are not UDUDpress, nor any other party but you have right to know and decide your future for your nation. We also thank Mr. Copley for his information and we just wish to tell him that, we also have right to publish this under the Freedom of Information Act (and if you don’t respect that then give that Order of Australia back because in Australia, where I am, they do).

We also urge, the accused men, Mr. Abdul-Aziz Samaale, Dr Mohamed Abdi Gaboose, and Eng. Mohamed Hashi Elmi, not to point fingers at UDUD camp and attack them, because that’s what they want. Act civil and hold a press conference and address the people of Somaliland. We do not want to see or hear, exchange of verbal abuse, we have Paltalk for that, thank you.

Finally, we ask the leaders and their parties, what are your party policies? So far, we have heard nothing, absolutely ZERO, attacking each others and saying nasty things about the opposition are not policies.

Source: Somaliland Press

Muslim students face teasing, harassment in schools

Tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim students in St. Cloud and Owatonna school districts have kicked up a storm, with advocates calling for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to look into reports of racial and religious harassment. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) describes hostile school environments where students were harassed solely for being Muslim. CAIR-MN charged that "school administrators have failed to effectively respond to the incidents and the harassing treatment often becomes worse after they report it."

According to CAIR-MN a student wrote a racist essay that he used to taunt Muslim students while other students shoved pork into the faces of Muslim students.

Are there such incidents in the Twin Cities? How do Muslim students interact with their peers when faced with constant bullying?

Taneeza Islam, the executive director of CAIR-MN says that there have been no incident reports filed with their office from students in the Twin Cities.

The Daily Planet spoke to about twenty Muslim students from public schools around the Twin Cities. A Sunday school class at the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley was made up of a group of teenagers mostly comprising suburban middle school and high school students. They were discussing multiculturalism and racial theory. Their consensus: that while they have different cultural backgrounds - African, American, Southern Asian - their identity is American. For boys, and for girls who don't wear scarves, it is impossible to even know that they are Muslim unless they mention it.

Kashif Saroya, a CAIR-MN board member, hosts a summer youth camp where he has children share their experiences. While he admits that there is a lot of religious tension, he suspects that Somali kids face more discrimination than other Muslims. He says that some of the children in his class were shocked to hear about the negative experiences of many Somali students. One student agreed. "Sometimes, I don't think people know the difference between a Somali and a Muslim."

This group of students expressed positive experiences in their schools. Their teachers, they said, were accommodating. They are allowed to take time off for prayer and sometimes even use the teacher's staff room to pray.

Abia Ali, a community activist who works with young Somalis, says that she has seen schools in Minneapolis transition over the last several years. Although she still hears complaints from Muslim students she says that the large numbers of Somali and other Muslim children around the metro has accustomed students and school administrators to diversity.

In most of her work, Ali says, she tries to work directly with institutions because she is concerned about negative biases based on racial and religious stereotypes. She talks about a nephew who was told by his Minneapolis high school career counselor that he could not make it academically.

Ali runs a girls' afterschool program at the Abubakar As-Saddique mosque in Minneapolis where she mentors young girls. It was here that I talked to the second group of teenagers: all girls, attending high schools in Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Louis Park. They come to the mosque every day for their evening prayers and later to work on their school homework. Clad in variations of head covering: the hijab and long flowing jilbab and long skirts the girls engage in animated discussion about their daily encounters with prejudice.

The teasing is constant, they say. "Pillow head," "blanket," and "towel head" are epithets that they have been called.

In school hallways, one of them describes being constantly uncomfortable when other kids stare her down. "When they see girls in head scarves, they mean mug us," she said. While waiting in line for school lunches some of the girls have had their head scarves tugged at. They tire of the teasing as they do of the persistent questions on their head scarves or jilbab.

To one girl's amusement, she has sometimes been mistaken for a Catholic nun.

Teachers seldom take action, even when they observe the bullying. "I can't do anything," is a refrain the students are used to hearing.

In one incident, a teacher asked a student if she had a bomb in her bag. "I knew that she was joking, but it was inappropriate to make a joke like that. It made me uncomfortable because these are stereotypes we face everyday."

The students have learned to protect themselves through banding together and only making friends with people they can trust.

"The other kids can be your best friends," one explained, "but things get awkward when no one stands up for you when a religious or racist joke is made at your expense."

But they stand by each other. "When I got picked on in the past I have defended myself," one girl said. "I don't tolerate bullying and if someone is getting bullied then I step in as well."

Source: Twin Cities Daily Planet

Somalia Qualifies for CAF U 17 Second Round

The Somali National U 17 football squad has qualified for the second round of African youth qualifying match, after a hotly contested game between Kenyan-Somali youngsters ended in 0-0 draw on, Saturday afternoon.

Kenya needed a 2-0 win to eliminate Somalia which humiliated Kenya 3-1 in the first leg of the competition which took place in Djibouti on April 9 and with today's draw Somalia has promoted for the second round of the CAF youth championships.

The match was due to take place at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, but was later transferred to the Oserian stadium in Naivasha due to unidentified reasons.

The head of Somali delegation Amir Abdi Hassan who talked to reporters after the game ended said that they were based at a hotel which is very far from the stadium and they traveled just 90 kilometers to the stadium before the game kick off on Saturday.

"Praise be to Allah this is a tangible success for us, because we have eliminated them from the competition, although we were playing minus one" the head of Somali delegation said.

"In the 40th minute of the first half of the game Mohamed Hashi siyad was given the red card and that didn't disappoint my boys, they redoubled their efforts and as the result the game ended in draw" he added.

Mr. Amir said that the atmosphere was very cold, but the Somali youngsters who were committed to qualifying for the second round made every possibility to upgrade their flag and the name of Somalia.

In the next round Somali U 17 will face Egypt, a leading football power in the African continent on August 27 this year. The 2011 CAF U 17 competition will take place in Rwanda next year.

Shafi'i Mohyaddin Abokar is the NewsBlaze Somalia reporter. Contact him through NewsBlaze.

Pressure mounts on Speaker of Somali Parliament

Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur alias Sheikh Aden Madobe, the Speaker of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Parliament, has insisted that he is the legitimate leader of the legislative house.

His Saturday statement appears to be a response to a large group of MPs who met in Mogadishu on Friday, demanding his replacement.
At a press conference in Mogadishu, Sheikh Aden Madobe has reiterated that despite rhetoric, he remains the elected Speaker of the House. He hinted that there are meetings taking place at Villa Somalia, the State House in the Somali capital, which is geared to clear the differences among legislators.

Legislators’ meet
The MPs, who had a meeting on Friday that numbered 300 and clearly constituted the majority of the 550 members, vowed to elect a new speaker if Sheikh Aden Madobe attempted to chair the next meeting that was scheduled to take place by press time yesterday. An earlier meeting held in Mogadishu on Thursday was assumed to have convinced Sheikh Aden Madobe, to accept that Parliament holds a session yesterday.
The legislatives meetings have been suspended for a long time due to unexplained reasons.

New development
The new development emerged when a landmark meeting was held at Villa Somalia with the participation of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Premier Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and Sheikh Aden Madobe.

Sources close to the meeting indicated that Sheikh Aden Madobe could no longer ignore increasing demand from parliamentarians that the Speaker should face a vote of confidence or even a revolt by rebel MPs holding a voting.

On Tuesday, Sheikh Aden Madobe stated that he would only step down if it is in the interest of the Somali people. The rift among MPs is the most serious in the Transitional Federal Government since the current coalition was set up just over a year ago.

Source: Daily Monitor

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Somali Pirates Charged in U.S. Courts

Eleven alleged Somali pirates, charged in a Virginia Court yesterday, have not entered pleas but have indicated that they understand the accusations being set against them. The case indicates a landmark moment in the ongoing saga over who should take charge of bringing the hi-jackers to justice when the crime is committed in international waters. Check out the full story, as well as pictures and video below!

The eleven accused came from two different groups that had attacked U.S. Navy ships earlier this year. The first five had mistaken the USS Nicholas for a cargo frigate and attempted to hi-jack the ship. Not smart! The other six had allegedly opened fire upon the USS Ashland in waters near Djibouti.


The U.S. has been increasing its presence in the waters near Kenya due to the increasing rates of incidents. The alleged Somali pirates, charged with more than enough for life sentences, are being brought to justice as part of an ongoing effort to stabilize international waters according to NCIS Special Agent in Charge Russ.

“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service provides unique forward deployed law enforcement capabilities to the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Strategy,” said the agent. “This case demonstrates the working relationship between uniformed military forces and NCIS – which is a civilian agency – and our federal partners to ensure cooperative security and stability across the maritime domain.”

U.S. Attorney MacBride issued a statement on the proceedings as well:

“Since the earliest days of this country, piracy has been a serious crime. Piracy threatens human lives and disrupts international commerce. When pirates attack U.S. vessels by force, they must face severe consequences.”

The defendents are being accused of piracy, attacking to plunder a vessel, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to use firearms during an act of violence, and using firearms in an act of violence. The first accustation carries a life sentence in itself, and the others can total up to another 50 years if they escape the first.

The Somali pirates, charged in U.S. Courts for the first time since the nineteenth century will no doubt receive swift justice. But what does this mean for the other vigilantes on high waters? Will the U.S. only bring to justice those stupid enough to fire upon a U.S. Navy ship? Let me know what you think in the comments section!

Also, check out the pictures and video below!


 

Somalia: Al-Shabaab Metes Out Repression in the South

Indiscriminate Attacks by Opposition, Government, and African Union Forces Devastate Mogadishu

The Islamist armed group al-Shabaab is subjecting inhabitants of southern Somalia to killings, cruel punishments, and repressive social control, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Al-Shabaab, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and African Union (AU) forces in the war-torn capital, Mogadishu, continue to conduct indiscriminate attacks, killing and wounding numerous civilians.

The 62-page report, "Harsh War, Harsh Peace: Abuses by al-Shabaab, the Transitional Federal Government, and AMISOM in Somalia," finds that al-Shabaab forces have brought greater stability to many areas in southern Somalia, but at a high cost for the local population - especially women. Based on over 70 interviews with victims and witnesses, the report describes harsh punishments including amputations and floggings, which are meted out regularly and without due process. People accused of being traitors or government sympathizers - often on flimsy pretexts - face execution or assassination. Al-Shabaab fighters had threatened some of those interviewed with death simply because they lived in government-controlled areas of Mogadishu.

"While al-Shabaab has brought stability to some areas long plagued by violence, it has used unrelenting repression and brutality," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The population under al-Shabaab's control is paying a very steep price."

Key international actors have often played a counterproductive role in the crisis and have played down abuses by AU troops deployed to Mogadishu to protect Somalia's weak transitional government, Human Rights Watch said.

Many local al-Shabaab authorities devote extraordinary energy to policing the personal lives of women and preventing any mingling of the sexes. Several women told Human Rights Watch that they had been beaten, flogged, or jailed for selling tea to support their families because the work brought them into contact with men. In other cases, women were beaten for failing to wear the precise type of abaya - a bulky head-to-toe garment - prescribed by local edicts. Women often fail to wear the abaya not out of defiance but because their families simply cannot afford them.

"He was raising his hand back and counting, ‘One, two, three, four, five .... '" one woman told Human Rights Watch, describing the beating she got when she ran out of her house after her toddler without an abaya. "It felt so painful that if I had a gun I would have killed that man."

Al-Shabaab has subjected young men and boys to abuses that include forced military recruitment and strict social control. Human Rights Watch interviewed one young man who saw his uncle murdered by al-Shabaab fighters because he refused to reveal the whereabouts of another nephew, a 15-year-old, who had deserted their ranks after being wounded in combat. Beatings or public humiliations are commonly meted out to men for a broad range of offenses such as failing to go to mosque, having long hair, or wearing clothes that al-Shabaab considers Western.

"Alongside abuses in al-Shabaab-controlled areas, all sides are responsible for laws-of-war violations that continue unabated in Mogadishu," Gagnon said. "Many Somalis confront indiscriminate warfare, terrifying patterns of repression, and brutal acts of targeted violence on a daily basis."

In Mogadishu, the transitional government and the 5,300-member African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are squared off against a powerful opposition dominated by al-Shabaab.

Opposition fighters regularly fire mortar rounds indiscriminately into populated neighborhoods controlled by the transitional government. They frequently fire from residential areas in apparent hope of attracting retaliatory attacks that will damage the image of the transitional government and AU forces. All too often these forces oblige, responding to indiscriminate attacks in kind. AU forces have fired mortar shells into densely populated areas without taking precautions to discriminate between civilians and military targets. Human Rights Watch interviewed people on both sides of the lines who witnessed family members being torn to pieces in such attacks, which violate the laws of war.

Al-Shabaab and other opposition fighters threaten and kill civilians they see as sympathetic to the transitional government. Al-Shabaab has also carried out devastating suicide attacks against civilians, including one at a university graduation ceremony in Mogadishu that killed at least 22 people in December 2009.

The intervention of outside powers in Somalia has often proved counterproductive to restoring security. The strong backing for the transitional government by the US, the EU, the AU, and the UN Political Office for Somalia has led these actors to quickly condemn serious abuses by al-Shabaab, but effectively turn a blind eye to abuses by transitional government and AU forces. The US government has sent mortars to transitional government forces in Mogadishu even though no party to the fighting has used the weapons in accordance with the laws of war.

Neighboring Kenya has under false pretenses helped recruit Somali youths from refugee camps to be fighters, contravening the humanitarian status of the camps. Eritrea, in an effort to undermine the regional interests of its political foe, Ethiopia, has helped al-Shabaab procure weapons. Human Rights Watch urgently calls on foreign actors to re-evaluate their policies toward Somalia and help end the impunity that fuels the worst abuses.

"There is no easy, obvious way to solve the crisis in Somalia," Gagnon said. "But outside powers should address abuses by all sides instead of ignoring those committed by their allies."

Somalia has been plagued by armed conflict since the collapse of its last functioning government in 1991. But the situation dramatically worsened in late 2006, when Ethiopian military forces intervened to smash a coalition of Sharia (Islamic law) courts that had taken control of Mogadishu.

The resulting conflict pitted Ethiopian forces and their transitional government allies against an array of insurgent groups, including al-Shabaab, who sprang up to fight them. The fighting devastated Mogadishu, drove hundreds of thousands of Somalis from their homes, and spawned a massive humanitarian crisis that continues to worsen. Ethiopian forces withdrew by the beginning of 2009, but the violence continues unabated.

Quotes from Victims and Witnesses Interviewed in "Harsh War, Harsh Peace":

"My husband was then asked, 'Are you going to take the 10 lashes normally prescribed for women who are supposed to wear the abaya?' He refused, and they said, 'Okay, then your wife will take it.' A young man gave me 10 lashes with the whip. He beat me so much that I felt heat and pain throughout my body. He was raising his hand back and counting, 'One, two, three, four, five .... ' It felt so painful that if I had a gun I would have killed that man."
- Woman from Mogadishu who had been chasing after her toddler who had wandered from her house to the street, and was arrested by al-Shabaab fighters for failing to don her abaya.

"If they find you without [an abaya], they will beat and flog you. This happened to me two months ago. I was standing in front of my compound. When I saw them with whips and guns, I rushed back inside. But a man chased me and whipped me three times. He used a stick from a marer [a berry tree]. He said, 'Why are you not wearing a hijab?' I said, 'I cannot afford it.' He said, 'That is not possible; get into your house.' So you either have to have it or stay in your house, hungry."
- Woman from a farm near the town of Jilib, north of Kismayo.

"One day when I came home from duksi [Quranic school] I found our house had been hit by a [mortar shell]. The house was pulverized. My mother and father were killed. I think my four brothers were killed as well - I saw pieces of their hands and legs near the part of the house that we used for resting. I am in such shock, I barely know who I am."
- 14-year-old boy whose family in Mogadishu was wiped out by a mortar strike in September 2009.

"They [al-Shabaab] use mortars. They sit at a specific place and launch one, five, or even ten mortar rounds. Then they pack and go immediately. We have no way to complain to them [and tell them to stop]. Even if you look at them, you can be killed. Now a counterattack comes, without discrimination. One day some of my relatives were buried in their house after a mortar hit a nearby house - three people died there. My house was blocked by the rubble of that house. We had to dig them out."
- Former resident of an opposition-controlled neighborhood of Mogadishu.

Source: Human Right Watch

Somali man from Toronto killed in Alberta city

Young man is 30th young Somali-Canadian murder victim in Alberta since 2005

He was young. He was of Somali descent. He had grown up in Toronto, but had moved west for work and opportunity. His body was found Thursday in an apartment in Fort McMurray.

Abdinasir Ali is the 30th young Somali-Canadian man killed in Alberta since 2005. His death is the latest in a disturbing pattern that sees young men, who had moved to Alberta from Ontario, murdered amid an escalating gang and drug turf war.

The death is yet another blow to a community that has been working to staunch the string of killings in Alberta. The 19-year-old was killed just two days before the mother of a 2008 murder victim flew from Toronto to meet with Edmonton’s chief of police to press for answers on the cases.

“It’s very painful to the community to hear of yet another fatality,” said Ahmed Hussen, national president of the Canadian Somali Congress. “But the community isn’t sitting back. We’re doing something about this.”

The congress has partnered with Edmonton’s Alberta Somali Community Centre to mobilize the Somali-Canadian community to push for a province-led task force to investigate the deaths.

The two groups are petitioning the Alberta government to form a task force of provincial elected officials, police, criminologists, community leaders, members of the public and parents and victims. They are seeking 10,000 signatures and have already collected 1,500 names just weeks into the campaign.

“This issue is huge, it’s bigger than our community,” Hussen said. “We don’t have the full resources or the full expertise to deal with it internally.

The proposal for the task force is modeled after the one launched in Manitoba in August 2009 to investigate cases of missing and murdered women in that province, Hussen said. Many of the cases that prompted that task force involved aboriginal women.

“It was our template because it was targeted at a specific community that had a disproportionate number of deaths in a particular segment of that community, i.e. women,” he said. “In this case, it’s a subgroup of young males within an ethnic-cultural group whose deaths are quite disproportionate.”

According to news reports, at least half of the 30 victims were known to police, usually because of drugs. Arrests have been made in only one case.

Hussen said the goals of the task force would be to investigate the scope of the problem, pinpoint obstacles that stop the police from solving the outstanding cases, and make recommendations to prevent more young men from dying.

“We need to stem these deaths.”

Ali was found dead in a Fort McMurray apartment early Thursday morning, after RCMP officers responded to an anonymous call for help. RCMP are treating the death as a homicide, but would not comment further on the case.

Mohamed Gilao, who knows the Ali family through his work as executive director with Dejinta Beesha, a community organization that assists immigrants with resettlement, said the Ali family lived in St. Jamestown and immigrated to Canada in the early 1990s.

“His mother, his father, we are all devastated,” he said.

Ali’s mother works as a personal support worker, Gilao said, and his father as a cab driver. The family was in Edmonton Saturday for Ali’s funeral.

According to Gilao, Ali moved to Fort McMurray in the summer of last year after he’d been told that he would be able to find a job in Alberta’s booming oil economy. Once there, however, Gilao believes Ali may have become involved with criminal activity.

“They go there to get a job and once they’re there, they cannot get jobs. Then, they go into the hands of criminals,” he said. “They’re brain-washed.”

Mohamed Accord, executive director of Edmonton’s Alberta Somali Community Centre, met with Edmonton police Chief Mike Boyd Saturday to discuss the murders.

Faduma Arab, whose 23-year-old son Abdulkadir Mohamoud was found dead in an Edmonton Park in Nov. 2008, flew from Toronto to be at the meeting.

“She wants to tell him that she lacks confidence that he will be able to get answers for the parents and the victims’ families,” Accord said.

Up until a few months ago, the Somali-Canadian community was relying on the Alberta government to take action, Accord said. While he sees some positive steps – the Edmonton Police Commission is offering $40,000 rewards for information leading to arrests; the province has sent an additional 21 RCMP officers to Fort McMurray to tackle organized crime – Accord said they are not enough.

“We are no longer waiting for the government to do something,” he said. “We will exercise every available venue as a community that we are entitled to, whether it’s demonstration, whether it’s suing, whether it’s petition…everything. We will go as far as we can go.”

Source: TheStar.com

Hard work pays off for Somali student

Amina Musa heard the news from a teacher she encountered in the hallway at school just before spring break: She had passed the California High School Exit Exam and would graduate with her class.

“She came into my classroom. She was jumping up and down,” said Diana LaMar, Musa’s instructor in English as a second language at Crawford High School.

While some students might take passing the exit exam for granted, it was a major accomplishment to Musa. When she came to the United States with her family at age 12, she didn’t speak English, could not read or write in her native language and had no math skills beyond counting to 10.

Now Musa, 18, will be the first female Somali Bantu student to graduate from the school, said Amberley Middleton of the International Rescue Committee’s Students Plus Program at Crawford.

One of the keys to Musa’s success was her dedication, Middleton said. In order to catch up with her peers, who were starting middle school while she was still struggling with concepts being taught to kindergartners, Musa took tutoring sessions, went on field trips and enrolled in after-school programs.

“Amina came after school basically every day for four years,” Middleton said.

Carl Munn taught Musa in his math classes for two years. Munn recalled how she frequently came to his classroom for extra help, staying as long as three hours to improve her skills.

Musa, who has six brothers and two sisters, lives with her family in North Park. Her father works at Lindbergh Field, greeting passengers and handling luggage, and her mother is studying English.

The family left Somalia because of civil war and spent more than 10 years in refugee camps in Kenya.

“It was like a whole new thing to me, I was scared,” Musa said of her first days in sixth grade in San Diego.

At the time, she said, her stomach would hurt from the unfamiliar food, and she would sit in class with no idea of what the teacher was saying.

She moved on to middle school the following year and entered an intensive language program.

In high school, she continued English as a second language classes, both during and after school, and first took the exit exam as a sophomore.

Last year, Musa said, she went home and cried when she found out she had failed to earn a passing mark on the test. Her mother comforted her and told her to keep trying.

So after doing her after-school classroom work, Musa would study for the test on her family’s computer.

Munn said many non-native English speakers struggle with the exit exam because it requires strong English skills, even on the math portion of the test.

Now Musa serves as an inspiration to refugee students, volunteering to work in Crawford’s new-arrival center. In addition to English, Musa speaks Kugwaza, her native language, Swahili, some Somali and two other dialects.

Newly arrived refugees “need to be able to see light at the end of the tunnel,” said Viraj Ward, who oversees the new-arrival center, where her students speak 14 different languages.

Ward said Musa “just jumps in head first. She’s a go-getter and a problem-solver.”

She gets plenty of practice at home.

Her older brother, Haji Auli, 20, said Amina helps her siblings with their schoolwork. Auli graduated from Crawford in 2007 and has attended local community colleges since then. He plans to attend San Diego State University in the fall and study psychology.

When he comes home, Auli said, his sister will ask whether he has homework, and offer him her help.

With her graduation pending, Musa has set her sights on attending nursing school, either at Cal State Dominguez Hills or San Diego City College.

Musa said that after college, she would like to return to Kenya to work.

“When I was in Kenya, too many people died because there were not enough nurses,” she said.

Source: SignOnSanDiego.com

Corruption outrage rocks Somali Embassy in China.

The Somali Embassy in China is currently trapped in a fraud scandal allegedly involving some of its top officers. The scam, which is reportedly causing ripples in Somali government, is over the misappropriation of the Somali Embassy property and diversion of visas, and aids meant for Somali students in china.

Named in the scam are the embassy´s Charge di Affairs, or Somali Ambassador In China Mr. Maxamed Cawil and the Second Secretary, Vice Counsel.

Reports quoted by a Asian Tribune and a Somali Internet News newspaper, The Dayniile.com, which blew the lid off the scam, specifically accused Cawil "of misdirecting and squandering donations made by foreign governments and agencies to Somalis in China and other surrounding countries."

Moreover, it was reported that he borrowed The Somali Embassy Vehicle to a known group of mafia and gangs that were smuggling the country illegal drugs. The Chinese authorities have alleged the Somali Ambassador to China that he has relationship with the Notorious well known gangs in China. The group has committed crimes including Murder, robbery, Kidnapping and drug dealing.

A top Somali government source confirmed the scandal to us at the weekend, adding that the country´s president, Mr. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh, was alarmed at the development.

The president, who assumed office early last year with a pledge to tackle corruption, has vowed to get to the root of the matter, the source added.

Rather than channel the materials to the Somalis in China, he allegedly diverted it to himself, with none of the items going to the Somali students.

Contacted over the weekend on telephone, Cawil said he would not comment on the matter on telephone but added that he was unaware of any such allegations.

Source: American Chronicle

What Somali 's Government must execute

Many Somali Parliamentarians were right when they challenged the president to select a prime minister who would contribute resources and soldiers to the TFG. They were also right when they said that the prime minister should not sit passively by when there is so much to be done. Why, then, didn´t Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid, who is from Puntland, think about contributing soldiers and resources to improve the weak TFG before now, as Abdulahi Yusuf had done in the past? Quite simply, it adds to a list of things over the last one and a half years that have seen little action on his part to improve the government´s purpose and its people´ lives.

Local sources report that an increase in violence between government forces and militant groups fighting for control of the conflict-torn region have left at least 258 civilians dead this year already and another 253 wounded, making it the deadliest period since last August. Since the civil war began almost twenty years ago, Mogadishu civilians have been dying due to violence on an average of twenty a day, bringing the death total to nearly 1.5 million people. The violence has also caused the displacement of 800,000 Somalis in the last few months alone, and the deteriorating security conditions have made it nearly impossible for humanitarian workers to access the needy population.

So how can we take the prime minister seriously while he has accomplished so little while in office? how can we trust him when he said According to the AP, "the government will only gradually try to expand its control of the capital", now majority of Somalia and most of the Somali capital is held by Alshabab an al-Qaeda-linked extremists. This is unacceptable. The last two years have seen too little in the government´s bolstering of its troops and providing aid and security to its suffering people.

My fellow Somalis—enough is enough! With the coming months, know that now is the time for change and much needed and over-due action. At this critical stage of our country´s development, self-seeking behavior and corruption by our political leaders will no longer be tolerated by its citizens. The selection of our new leaders should unequivocally reflect the needs, prosperity and peace of our entire nation. Sober reflection, therefore, on the part of each one of us will be important in determining who is most qualified and equipped to lead our country forward in this trying time.

The violence, suffering and meaningless deaths have gone on for too long and we stand now at the critical crux of initiating true change—change that will bring the Somali nation a peace , security and economic improvement, and most importantly, reconciliation between all of us. Accept absolutely nothing less than the best for our country. Please watch it carefully.

Source: American Chronicle

Somali al-Shabaab group seizes three towns

According to witness reports, three towns in the Galgudud region of Somalia have been taken over by the counter-government group al-Shabaab, taking them from a rival group, the pro-government Ahlu Sunna.

The three taken towns were El Der, Galad, and Masagaway; they were taken over without any resistance from Ahlu Sunna. All three are on the road to the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Senior al-Shabaab official Sheik Yusuf Kabokudukade commented that "[w]e have overrun the militants who tried to stop the efforts to spread Islam in Somalia. With the power of Allah we have taken control of three districts in Galgadud region. We will not stop until we take control of the whole region from the enemy of Allah."

The al-Shabaab group controls large portions of southern central Somalia, and part of of Mogadishu.

Source: Wikinews.com

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Iranian Navy rescues supertanker from Somali pirates

Iran's anti-piracy forces have rescued an Iranian oil supertanker that was attacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, a media report said.

The oil tanker was carrying 300,000 tonnes of crude oil and was sailing from the southern Iranian island of Khark to Egypt, when it was attacked by the pirates, Press TV reported Thursday.

A fleet of 15 pirate boats reportedly attacked the ship after it entered the Gulf of Aden, but the Iranian Navy thwarted the hijacking attempt.

The vessel is now en route to its original destination with a naval escort.

Since November 2008, the Iranian Navy has dispatched seven navy vessels to patrol the pirate-infested waters of Somalia.

Despite an internationally-backed EU anti-piracy mission, armed pirates have become increasingly emboldened over the past few years and are even venturing into the Indian Ocean.

Earlier this month, the navy prevented a similar attack on another Iranian tanker bound for Turkey.

Source: IANS

UN-backed group supports Somali Government’s peace overtures to rivals

A United Nations-backed group supporting peace and reconciliation in Somalia today welcomed efforts by the country’s transitional Government to reach out to opposition groups willing to join the peace process.
The International Contact Group on Somalia (ICG) said in a communiqué issued in Cairo that it was particularly encouraged by the signing on 15 March of an agreement between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ahlu Sunna wal Jama, an opposition faction previously opposed to the transitional authority.

“The ICG recognises this agreement as a possible blue print for future cooperation with other groups and calls for the TFG to intensify its outreach efforts to those committed to peace and stability,” the communiqué noted after the Group’s latest meeting, held under the chairmanship of the UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.

The ICG stressed that all Somali Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) must be protected and supported and should not be politicised or undermined by activities from within. It called on all elements of the TFIs to end divisions and demonstrate their unity to restore peace and provide support to the population.

The communiqué noted the support of Japan and the European Union (EU) for the reorganization of Somalia’s police force, as well as the launch of a training mission for the security forces by the EU, Uganda and the United States.

It also voiced support for the efforts of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), thanked Uganda and Burundi for continuing to contribute troops and urged other African Union member to provide soldiers to the mission.

The ICG strongly condemned the violent actions of extremists which have led to continued suffering among the civilian population. In addition it condemned attacks on human rights workers, judges, journalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and called for the respect of human rights by all parties.

The Group denounced continuing acts of piracy off the Somali coast and called for further international cooperation to deter and combat the crime, and to establish job generation projects so that young people do not have to resort to piracy to earn a living.

Source: UN News Centre

Somalia: Hope in Statelessness?

Today’s idea: The lesson we should learn from Somalia is that a stateless society “isn’t so bad” when compared with the often ghastly alternatives, an economist says.

Africa | O.K., maybe calling Somalia an economic success “overstates the situation slightly,” Benjamin Powell concedes in an essay in The Freeman. But poor as it is, Somalia has improved living standards faster than the average sub-Saharan African country since the early 1990s, he says. That’s thanks to rule by decentralized clan networks relying on legal custom, he contends, and no thanks to chaotic outside efforts to impose centralized rule.

Even the recent scourge of Somali piracy is “a tribute to the internal effectiveness of Somali customary law,” Mr. Powell argues, since the pirates don’t target Somali ships. So, yes, combat piracy, but not with the imposition of an internationally “friendly” government likely to plunder its people:

Pirates are said to respect Somali customary law.
State DepartmentSomalia’s lesson should not be overstated — it is no libertarian utopia. I certainly don’t plan to move there anytime soon. But Somalia does demonstrate that a reasonable level of law and order can be provided by nonstate customary legal systems and that such systems are capable of providing some basis for economic development.

This is particularly true when the alternative is not a limited government but instead a particularly brutal and repressive government such as Somalia had and is likely to have again if a government is re-established.

Source: nytimes

Former Chief of Somali NSS faces lawsuit for torture

The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP have filed a lawsuit against the former chief of Somali National Security Service (NSS). The lawsuit alleges that Col. Abdi Aden Magan ordered the detention and torture of a professor and human rights lawyer in 1988.
The civil complaint was launched Wednesday in US District court for the southern district of Ohio eastern division.

According to legal documents obtained by Hiiraan Online, Professor Abukar Hassan Ahmed was detained on or about the evening of November 20,1988 and was taken to the NSS Department of Investigations Prison (NSS Prison) was interrogated and tortured for three months. Professor Abukar alleges that he suffers physical and psychological injuries as a direct result of the detention and torture.

The defendant Mr. Magan held the rank of Colonel and served as the Chief of the NSS Department of Investigations from 1988 to 1990. According to these same documents, Colonel Magan ordered, conspired with, aided and abetted, or exercised command responsibility over subordinates in the NSS to carry out the torture, arbitrary detention and degrading punishment of Professor Abukar.

Defendant Magan is a native of Somalia and a permanent resident of the United States. He currently resides in Columbus, Ohio.

Pamela Merchant, CJA’s Executive Director, said, “We are committed to achieving justice for our client who suffered so severely at the hands of the defendant. Human rights violators like the defendant must be held accountable and should not be permitted to live with impunity in the United States.”

Tiffany Smith, the filing attorney from Akin Gump, said, “Fortunately there are laws in our country that allow individuals like Mr. Ahmed to pursue legal actions against those responsible for their wrongful imprisonment and torture. We are committed to working with CJA to see this case through to an appropriate resolution.”

In 2009, the CJA filed a lawsuit against the former Somali Prime Minister, General Mohamed Ali Samatar for torture and human rights abuses. This case is currently in the U.S Supreme Court.

No one from the former regime of Siad Barre has yet to be held legally responsible for human rights abuses.

Hiiraan Online

Somali refugee prays for Good Samaritan

A Somali refugee living in Charlottetown is hoping the public will help her after she lost all the money she had to live on for the next month.

Ubah Ali and her seven children arrived on the Island last summer, sponsored by the First Baptist Church.

Every month, Ali receives a cheque for $2,200 from the federal government — enough to pay the bills and feed her family while she learns English and searches for a job.

On Wednesday, she cashed the cheque and left the bank with all the money in an envelope.

Ali said she was holding onto two of her children and had no pockets, so she put elastic around the envelope and tucked it into her headscarf. She then walked up University Avenue toward Sobeys.

When she got to the grocery store, Ali said she realized the envelope was missing. Charlottetown police helped her retrace her steps, but they found nothing.

When she contacted the government, she was told there was nothing they could do to help.

"They say we can't get you a cheque. We can't help you because you cashed the money," Ali said Thursday.

Ali is hoping that if someone did find her money, they'll return it to the police or the church.

"I think they will feel some guilt, and bring back. Because I am a single mother who is a refugee. I have no work and a lot of children. I have no other way to get money," she said.

"Maybe somebody, a Good Samaritan, will find it and turn it in. That's what I'm hoping."

The church provided Ali with boxes of food Thursday.

"She would normally never go to the food bank here," said Rev. Kathy Neely, of First Baptist Church. "She is independent and looks after herself in that way, but this month is different."

Ali said she realizes now she shouldn't have taken out that much money, and the church is making arrangements with her bank so her bill payments can start coming directly our of her account.

"We don't understand when we come from Africa, we don't understand the banks, how to make a cheque or how to use a card," Ali said.

Neely said church members have been trying to teach Ali how to live in her new community.

"Day by day, we teach her different things. It sounds like we should've done this earlier, but every day there's something, so you spend a lot of time teaching them," she said.

The church will pay Ali's bills this month and is accepting donations of food or money from anyone who wants to help.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca