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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Somali Pirates Seize Liberian Tanker

The European Union anti-piracy task force says pirates have seized a Liberian-owned tanker off the coast of Somalia.
The task force, known as EU NAVFOR Somalia, says the MV Polar tanker was attacked Saturday about 1,100 kilometers off the coast of Socotra Island in the Arabian Sea. The EU reports the owner of the vessel confirmed early Saturday that the ship was under pirate control.

The MV Polar is a 73,000 ton freighter with a crew of 16 from the Philippines, four Montenegrins, three Greeks and a Romanian.
EU vessels have been patrolling the shipping lanes near Somalia in an effort to reduce hijackings.

Naval forces from the EU, NATO, and several countries are patrolling waters near Somalia to combat piracy. Despite the patrols, Somali pirates have hijacked dozens of ships in recent years, taking in tens of millions of dollars in ransom.

Somalia has been plagued by factional fighting and has lacked a strong central government for nearly 20 years.

Source: VOA

Somali Parliament Gives Landslide Vote of Confidence to Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

The Somali Parliament gives today the vote of confidence to the new Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. 392 MPs attended today’s session and 297 MP voted for the new Prime Minister. 92 MPs voted against and 3 abstained.

The new Somali PM Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

“We will move with full speed to do the people’s business. I will very soon form an effective and dedicated cabinet that will put the Somali people first.” Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said after the victory.

President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said, “This is a great day for Somalia”, and he thanked the MPs for “voting for change and renewal” and called “The MPs, the Somali people and the international community to cooperate and collaborate with the new Prime Minister and his team.”

The Prime Minister will take the oath of office and form his cabinet in the next weeks.

Source: Office of the Somali President

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Arms flows and the conflict in Somalia

PF in Arms Trade & Arms Smuggling, Paper

Pieter D. Wezeman
SIPRI Background Paper

The combination of conflict and weak governance in Somalia has had a devastating impact on civilians as well as exacerbating regional tensions and facilitating the rise of piracy. This Background Paper examines recent arms supplies to Somalia and to other African countries that have directly supported Somali armed actors, both government and opposition. It discusses the effects of the United Nations arms embargoes on Somalia and Eritrea and presents the risks that are involved in supplying arms to even those actors not under embargo.

Publisher: SIPRI
12 pp.
October 2010

Article originally appeared on All the information you need! Anytime, anywhere! - Crime, Intelligence, Terrorism, Drugs, Technology, Defense & Security (  

The injustices Northern Somalis felt

This writing is a follow up to the previous opinion article published under the title ”The Night SNM Fighters Came to Hargeisa“.

This writing is based on personal observation, eye witness accounts, analysis and interviews of former ministers, officials, diplomats, educationalists, SNM members, Diaspora and the public. With the knowledge that only the truth and not propaganda can establish credibility, the overarching aim of this writing is to record the events which took place as accurately and as impartially as possible. Any suggestion or correction would be welcomed and highly appreciated.

I was once confronted with a strange question: By the way, who assigned you to write? My unflinching answer was: My conscience! When we write we shoulder a heavy responsibility which we cannot take lightly. My writings (see part one and part two and many more to come) would be incomplete without elaborating the other side of the argument: the injustices and grievances Northern Somalis felt.

Inequality in the army: the first injustice Northerners felt

The Northerners from 1960 felt wronged when they joined the South in unity. That is why in October 1969 when the army took power no one supported the military government more than the Northerners. When the army took power the Northerners rightly felt the injustices they had suffered under the civilian governments will be reversed. Their support of the revolutionary government continued right up to 1980 when the disaffection of Northerners with the military government grew.

Let no one tell you otherwise. From the word go, the 1960s civilian governments in the wrong. They were self-serving, tribalistic and greedy. The civilian government’s made disaffection to grow. Inequality was the first thing Northern officers in the army felt. Immediately after independence and unity between the North and the South, all Southern officers were promoted to the next rank. Anyone who was Lieutenant was promoted to Captain; anyone who was Captain became a Major. This was not the case for the Northern officers. When Northerners were denied such promotion universally bestowed to Southern officers, the Northerners complained. Their complaints were met with deaf ears. This blatant inequality because of short-sightedness was the first seed of injustice sown in the army. It made Northern officers to do something about the inequality and injustices they felt.

The 1961 attempted coup Northern officers

In December 1961 in the North there was an attempted coup by a group of 14 military officers headed by Hassan Keyd. The 14 were young officers who mostly graduated from the elite British Military Academy Sandhurst. The officers felt resentment towards the ethos of inequality felt across the army in the North. The 10th December 1961 attempted coup was not successful and the 14 officers were arrested, tried and given long sentences. They were later commuted and released after two years in prison.

Relationship developed between Mohamed Siad and the 14 officers

As told to me by one of the 14 officers a long relationship (bond) was developed between the would-be head of the 1969 military government General Mohamed Siad Barre and the 14 officers. Many years before he came to power the then deputy chief of staff of the army, General Mohamed Siad Barre would meet with the 14 officers in his office in Mogadishu. This would lay foundation to the development of a long relationship between the military government and the North. The main source of the adulation felt by the North towards the military government was the bond which developed between the 14 officers and General Mohamed Siad in earlier years before he came to power.

In 1965 when the young 14 officers met with General Mohamed Siad Barre there was a mutual cord struck between the grievances felt by the 14 offices and the former deputy chief of staff. Mohamed Siad Barre who in the 1960s suffered mistreatment in the hands of the shakers and movers of Somali politics in those days felt a cord with the 14 officers. A number of times during the civilian governments between 1960 -1969, Mohamed Siad Barre escaped to be exiled in Siberia, Russia. Since 1960 when Somalia forged close military relationship with the Soviet Union, Siberia used to be the most favored destination to be exiled officials who have fallen out of favor with different leaders in Somalia. During the revolutionary government, Siberia continued to be the destination for out of favor officials. 1

The first meeting between Mohamed Siad and the 14 officers

In mid 1965 fresh from prison the 14 went to Mogadishu to see what awaited them and what role if any they would be allowed to serve their country.2 As soon as they were released from prison, the officers were released from the army. To see what awaited them the 14 officers decided to go to the capital. Out on their ears and on the limb, in Mogadishu, the 14 officers went to the headquarters of the national army where first they met with the much loved and patriotic Chief of Staff General Daud Abdulle Hirsi. General Daud it would show was angry with them for their attempted coup. As told to me by one of the officers, General Daud told the officers they were traitors and he dressed them down. Bewildered and spinning from their meeting with General Daud, the officers went to see the Deputy Chief of Staff General Mohamed Siad Barre who “to our amazement stood for us and gave us one of the warmest receptions we never expected.” He told us he knew how we felt,” was told to me.

“First, he gave us a sympathetic ear and he felt for us and our grievances.” “We left Mohamed Siad Barre’s office feeling a renewed sense of hope and optimism and a light at the end of our long tunnel,” was told to me by one of them officers. That was the day when was forged a special relationship and a useful bond between Mohamed Siad Barre and the entire Northern officers in the army. The 14 officers kept in close contact with Mohamed Siad Barre. They would meet him in and out of office hours.

Through one of the 14 officer whom he forged the closest bond, Mohamed Siad Barre got an insight and understanding into the injustices and grievances the Northerners felt. When Mohamed Siad in 1969 came to power, he would appoint many Northerners as ministers, ambassadors and other positions. Almost all of the 14 officers were appointed ambassadors while a few from their group went on to take up other roles. Hassan Keyd, the head of the coup went on to become Somali ambassador to Oman. One of them Hussein Abdi Dualeh became the ambassador to Kenya. Another member Abdi Ali became ambassador to Aden, South Yemen. Many more Northerners went to numerous high office roles. At one time there were 8 Northern Ministers in the cabinet of the military government. Omer Arte became the Foreign Minister. Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo first held the Minister of Commerce then Minister of planning. One of the two Vice Presidents, Ismail Ali Aboker too was a Northerner. In later years military officer turned Ambassador Hassan Keyd was to become governor of Hargeisa.

Injustices felt by Northerners: Real and perceived

The injustices Northerners felt many were real and some were perceived. Because perception matters in politics, a government should always address both real and imagined grievances. Using the tools available to me such observation and exhaustive research the following are in my judgment some of the injustices and grievances the Northerners felt.

1. Northern Somalis who freely joined the South in unity felt multi-layered injustices. They were disaffected from the civilian governments of the 1960s. They saw them greedy, insensitive and self-serving.
2. Initially and especially the first 10 years Somalis in the North took the military government to their heart. They saw the military government as the one which will address the wrongs and grievances they felt. From 1980, after a decade of the military government support, the Northerners developed a growing sense of unfairness, neglect and repression.
3. In the 1960s in the hands of the civilian governments and later in the 1980s in the hands of the military government, the Northerners felt the squandering of their dreams and aspirations by successive governments who they saw were headed and populated by Southerners.
4. Historians shall record that one of the milestones for the change of the military government was the 9th April 1979 attempted coup. This attempted coup changed Mohamed Siad and with it the country’s destiny for good. In a speech on 10th April 1979, President Mohamed Siad Barre explained how what happened the day before would change everything. From 9th April 1979 the military government growingly felt inward looking.
5. In the 1980s Northerners felt they were made to travel to the capital in the South for everything including simple things such as overseas travel, passports and visas. They felt this was unfair and consuming.
6. Northerners felt most of the development was concentrated in the South. Especially, the military government concentrated almost all development in the Benadir region where the capital is located. This created a feeling of inequality and neglect amongst the people in the North.
7. Ministers the government appointed for Northerners mostly looked after themselves and not the people. They misreported the situation so that they are demanded and paid more money and to frequent their travel to the North.
8. Because of the centralized nature of the military government the people felt everybody was being appointed or removed from the capital in the South. It was better locally to allow the people elect their administrators.
9. In the 1980s the system sent the wrong message and made the eyes of the people on government and its positions. Working for the government became the best thing to get ahead rather than making it on your own. In 1960s the people chose the private sector more than working for government. When government position became like the great gold rush of the Wild West, the Northerners left behind.
10. In the 1980s in the North there were a number of arbitrary arrests. One such incident was the arrest of six intellectuals whose only crime was to attempt to fix the insalubrious condition of Hargeisa general hospital. The six made contacts with foreign NGOs to obtain medical equipment for the hospital which angered the military commander in the North who felt it was transgression of his authority. Their unnecessary arrest angered the people and further inflamed the situation. The six were later commuted and released from prison.
11. In the 1980s there were a number of officials appointed from the capital whom, in the North, the people used to complain about their behavior.
12. In the late 1980s between Berbera and Hargeisa there were a number of military checkpoints erected to secure security after the creation and operations conducted by the SNM. The people complained from the unnecessary searches and extortion money demanded by the soldiers.3 The soldiers were poorly paid because impoverished Somalia had to keep up with the threat from communist Ethiopia which had an army of 500,000.
13. When on 18th July 1972 the Soviets were thrown out of Egypt by President Anwar El-Sadat he opened up the country and embraced free market.4 Sadat used to call his new policy “infitaah” (opening up). When on 13th November 1977, President Mohamed Siad Barre expelled the Soviet experts from Somalia everything remained same.5 The “SRSP” (Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party) should have been disbanded and the nation should have embraced a market economy and embarked on a new path.
14. In the 1980s, the Northerners felt a lack of development in their region. But there is a paradox here. In 1972 – 1975 in Hargeisa there was a governor by the name Bile Rafle who tirelessly and relentlessly built and paved all the roads and most of the big projects in Hargeisa. In the afternoons when everybody was resting, Bile used to race with surveyors and caterpillars to built and pave for the city. But Bile Rafle was hated by the people in Hargeisa.6
15. From 1979 to 1983 only and especially for the people in the North, the government introduced “Franco Valuta.” It is an economic policy which is based on licenses issued to importers in which no foreign exchange is payable. The government intended this economic liberalism to help regeneration in the North. “Franco Valuta” allowed anyone in those days in the North to import goods with little taxation levied. During this liberalism, the North enjoyed a boom and the living standard shot up. This special policy only for the North was a “Thank you” gesture which the government felt it needed to reward Northerners for their collective and tireless participation in the war with the vicious regime in Ethiopia. During the 1977-78 war with the Derg in Ethiopia almost entire Hargeisa sometimes used to travel five miles to look after the war wounded.7 The people of Hargeisa sometime used to fight over who will look after the war wounded from the battlefield. For over three years, after the war was ended, the Derg air force continued to pound Hargeisa and Borama in the North. Unfortunately, in 1983 when the policy (Franco Valuta) was ended the government did not adequately explain the reasons behind its cancellation. It was the IMF in line with its structural adjustment program for Somalia, which targeted the policy and tied its abolition with its loan to the nation.8 When “Franco Valuta” policy was discontinued in the North, the business community felt betrayed. The government also did not make room to allow incoming goods to pass under the abrogated policy. There were confiscations which angered the people.

The final word

At the end of the 1980s Somalia already went through too many natural and man made calamities such as the longest drought (abaartii daba-dheer) and the war with communist Ethiopia. Since Somalia’s natural resources have not been exploited, there was also meagerness of resources. There was also Somalia’s switching of alliance which the Soviet Union did not forget or forgive. There were too political upheavals which brought many tribal movements to start against the government. The tribal movements one after another had fallen into the hands of the Derg in neighboring Ethiopia. There was also a terrible car accident in 1986 near the capital which nearly incapacitated the Somali President. But still it was the government’s responsibility to ensure its nation’s security and wellbeing.

I have been back in the North. There are new buildings and businesses erected by expatriates and the Diaspora but progress was very little. In my last visit only a few years back I have also noticed the absence of two important things. Under the socialist government, there was universal health care and free education up to university level. In “Somaliland” on education I saw the development of a two tier system. Good education costs money which is beyond the means of the ordinary people and good education is for those who can afford. Good schools which attract and employ the best teachers are private and they cost a lot of money. The children from poorer families are left in dilapidated schools with impoverished surroundings and teachers.

1. One of the first exiled in Siberia was Gen. Abdullahi Mohamoud Hassan (Matukade)
2. It was the civilian government of 1961 which let the officers out.
3. Expatriates from the Gulf who travelled to the North
6. I was in Hargeisa when governor Bile was a hated.
7. Government officials and former ministers

Abdulkadir Mohamoud

Views expressed in the opinion articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of this blog.

Somali forces sell weapons to Islamists

A former commander in the Somali military has admitted that government soldiers sell arms to insurgents seeking to topple western backed government. A former Chief of Staff of Somalia's Military, major general Yusuf Hussein Osman, says unpaid soldiers offered to sell their guns and ammunition to the enemy

Mr. Osman who served as the chief of staff in 2009 said the soldiers are not being paid their $100 monthly wage a long period.

“The biggest source for rebels’ arms is government forces. Unpaid soldiers get money from rebels and then hand to their arms”, said Maj.General Osman in an exclusive interview with AfricaNews.

Those who sell their guns to Islamist insurgents are part of hundred of Somali soldiers trained with U.S. and EU funds in the neighbouring countries. The soldiers were trained in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan.

Only United States spent $6.8 million to train almost 2,100 Somali soldiers in Djibouti and Uganda over the past year.

The European Union also paid €5 million ($6 million) for the training 2,000 Somali forces in Uganda.

He said soldiers’ camps are ghastly, provided with no healthcare, and often live without food. He added some of soldiers are in very malnutrition situation.

“A soldier needs to get what he is dying. He has to get money. If you didn’t give salary three months or more than, he has to look for a way to feed his family”, said Maj. General Osman.

Local Human rights groups accused uniformed and plain-clothes Somali force for looting civilians at their controlled areas. The force also frequently steals civilians’ mobile phones and other valuables at gunpoint.

Mr. Osman blamed Somali officials for corrupting soldiers’ funds and not be serious for building and establishing Somali strong forces.

He especially accused a resigned Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid and his ministers for disabling the effort to rebuild the tattered Somali military.

“The president is very committed to rebuild Somali military but the prime minister (resigned after this interview) is not helping the issue. He is busy with other issues”, Mr. Osman who is in Nairobi said.

The chief of staff who resigned at the end of last year says the cabinet is corrupted people who are out to enrich themselves. However, Somali information minister Abdirahman Omar Osman denied the allegations as total fabrication.

“Government manages funds meant for the military very well. And it’s improper for us to steal soldiers’ salary so the allegation is a big lie. We cannot do that”, Omar told AfricaNews by phone from Mogadishu.

He also denied that government soldiers sell their weapon to Islamists. “It is not true. Our soldiers are braves who stop Al-shabaab. Even if they miss salary, they could not sell their arms to their enemies. Al-shabaab tried to buy weapons from soldiers but they do not accept”.

Last month angry Somali forces with their vehicles closed main roads in Mogadishu as they were demanding for salaries.

The soldiers fired civilians and public car those using streets in the area controlled by Somali force. They also closed streets into the presidential palace, airport and other important place in the capital.

They fired guns into sky, shouting “we need our salary”. Those who made the demonstration were among soldiers trained in Djibouti, Sudan and Uganda.

The demonstration ended on Tuesday after Somali officials promised immediate payment. But Major General Osman says the only tax from seaport can buy strong force with their full equipment.

“If they manage, the tax from seaport can be enough to more than 6,000 soldiers with their communications, uniforms and vehicles. But they are not ready to do so. They are only out to satisfy selfish interests”.

Former Somali Prime minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmake said before his resignation that one the main challenge of Somali government faces is payments for Somali soldiers.

The PM said international donors gave government less than 5million to buy Somali forces but Major general Yusuf Hussein Osman had said the fund was not managed well.

He left the military because he says he could not lead disappointed soldiers. Maj. General Osman said a few deserted soldiers joined rebels, but most of them hand to their arms then returned to normal life.

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.

The turmoil — 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 neighbours and western Countries..

The country’s military who were in the fourth powerful military in Africa, behind South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria had collapsed in 1991 after Somali warlords overthrew long time military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Since that year, there are efforts to re-establish a regular armed force by a re-constituted Somali government.

The biggest effort to rebuild the Somali national army in two decades of war was made during recent years for recruiting new soldiers.
But Major general Yusuf Hussein Osman said those trained abroad brought no development in the country.

“They learnt how to fight but they don’t what they are fighting for. A soldier needs to wash and clean his mind with water of patriotism. So Somali officers have to do that job and train them in the country. You must give their chance”, he advised AU and international donors.

He says sometimes it is hard to understand each other especially in the mission because of the difference in training. There are safe places to train forces in country such as Mogadishu, Puntland or even Somaliland, according to Osman.

“IGAD must think to prepare Somali forces that can replace them. If AMISOM stay with us even more than 20 years it means for nothing to us. But if they train Somali forces, it makes a sense”, said former chief of Staff referring that AMISOM gives no attention to the Somali army.

Source: AfricaNews

Warning of 26 more suspect packages after attempted mail bombings

Hunt is on for Al-Qaida terrorists believed to be behind thwarted attacks

A picture supplied by Dubai Police showing what was found when the printer — in which an explosive device was allegedly concealed — was opened.

After intercepting two mail bombs addressed to Chicago-area synagogues, investigators are searching for two dozen more suspect packages that terrorists in Yemen attempted to smuggle onto aircraft in a brazen al-Qaida terror plot.

Authorities on three continents thwarted the attacks when they seized explosives on cargo planes in the United Arab Emirates and England on Friday.

The plot sent tremors throughout the U.S., where after a frenzied day searching planes and parcel trucks for other explosives, officials temporarily banned all new cargo from Yemen.

Several U.S. officials said they were increasingly confident that al-Qaida's Yemen branch, the group behind the failed Detroit airliner bombing last Christmas, was responsible.

A Yemeni security official said the new investigation involved about 26 suspected packages.

Some parcels have left Yemen
Some had left Yemen and others were still in the country, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information.

Authorities were questioning cargo workers at the airport as well as employees of the local shipping companies contracted to work with FedEx and UPS, the official said.

In Dubai, where one of the two bombs was found in a FedEx shipment from Yemen, police said it contained PETN, a powerful industrial explosive, and bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida.

The white powder explosives were discovered in the ink cartridge of a computer printer, said a police statement carried by the official state news agency WAM.

"The parcel was prepared in a professional way where a closed electrical circuit was connected to a mobile phone SIM card hidden inside the printer," the statement said.

"This tactic carries the hallmarks of methods used previously by terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida," it added.

The bomb also contained lead azide, which is used in detonators. Dubai police experts defused the device, the statement said.

The device was rigged to an electric circuit, and a mobile phone chip was hidden inside the printer, the statement said.

The New York Times reported that Representative Jane Harman, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, had said the package sent via the U.K. had a timer as a detonator.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in interviews Saturday, echoed Dubai police's remarks.

"I think we would agree with that, that it does contain all the hallmarks of al-Qaida and in particular al-Qaida AP," she said, referring to al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, on ABC News.

She also said on CNN that it appeared that both the bombs contained PETN.

Yemen promised to investigate the plot. The U.S. has FBI, military and intelligence officers stationed in the country to conduct an inquiry.

Checkpoints set up
Yemeni security forces set up checkpoints across Sanaa Saturday, searching vehicles and carrying out identity checks.

Dozens of heavily armed police and military forces were scattered across the Yemeni capital, including the diplomatic quarter and the large ring road around the city, stopping cars and questioning passengers, a Reuters witness said.

Yemen had also stepped up security at its air and seaports, a security official told Reuters.

There are only a handful of international shipping locations in the impoverished Arab nation, but U.S. officials worried that record keeping would be sparse and investigators would have to rely more on intelligence sources to identify the would-be bombers.

In San'a, the capital of Yemen, there was no visible security presence Saturday at the UPS and FedEx offices, which are located on the same street.

An employee at the UPS office said they had been instructed not to receive any packages for delivery for the time being. He refused to be identified by name because he said he had been instructed by authorities not to talk to reporters.

No explosives were found on an Emirates Airlines passenger jet that was escorted down the coast to New York by American fighter jets.

"The forensic analysis is under way," Obama's counter-terror chief John Brennan said. "Clearly from the initial observation, the initial analysis that was done, the materials that were found in the device that was uncovered was intended to do harm."

While Obama didn't specifically accuse Yemen's al-Qaida branch, Brennan called it the most active al-Qaida franchise and said anyone associated with the group was a subject of concern.

That would include the radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who now is in hiding in Yemen. He has been linked in the Christmas attack and has inspired other terrorists with his violent message.

An American traitor
Also hiding in Yemen is Samir Khan, an American who declared himself a traitor and helps produce al-Qaida propaganda.

The terrorist efforts "underscore the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism," the president said.

The Homeland Security Department said it was stepping up airline security, but White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Americans did not need to change their travel plans.

After a day of searches in Philadelphia, Newark, N.J., and New York City, no explosives were found inside the United States, though the investigation was continuing on at least one suspicious package late Friday night.

Intelligence officials were onto the suspected plot for days, officials said. The packages in England and Dubai were discovered after Saudi Arabian intelligence picked up information related to Yemen and passed it on to the U.S., two officials said.

Most of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the ongoing investigation.

U.S. intelligence officials warned last month that terrorists hoped to mail chemical and biological materials as part of an attack on the United States and other Western countries. The alert came in a Sept. 23 bulletin from the Homeland Security Department obtained by The Associated Press.
Since the failed Christmas bombing, Yemen has been a focus for U.S. counter-terrorism officials. Before that attack, the U.S. regarded al-Qaida's branch there as primarily a threat in the region, not to the United States.

Authorities believe about 300 al-Qaida members operate in Yemen.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Obama: Yemen devices a 'credible terrorist threat'

They appear to have explosive material, he says; Chicago synagogues were intended recipients

Calling it a "credible terrorist threat," President Barack Obama said apparent explosive material was found on two U.S.-bound packages from Yemen, triggering searches of flights with other packages from Yemen and an investigation into whether al-Qaida was behind a new terror plot.

Sources told NBC News that both packages contained toner cartridges with wires and white powder. The devices were found in Britain and Dubai last night.

"An initial examination of those packages has determined that they do apparently contain explosive material," Obama told reporters.

The devices were "in a form that was designed to try to carry out some kind of attack," added White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan. "Clearly, from the initial observation, the initial analysis that was done, the material that was found ... was intended to do harm."

Brennan said the two packages were addressed to two Chicago synagogues, adding that they had "been made inert."

Homeland Security said in a statement it was taking new measures, "including heightened cargo screening and additional security at airports."

One U.S. official said authorities are investigating whether the incident was a dry run for a plot to send bombs through the mail delivery system.

Yemen is the home of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the offshoot branch that claimed responsibility for an attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner last Christmas.

One device was found during a stopover in Britain. A UPS cargo flight had been bound for Chicago but was at a British airport when the cartridge was spotted. Officials found the suspicious item during basic security screening.

In Chicago, synagogues were warned to be on alert Friday.

"We were notified this morning that synagogues should be on the alert," Linda Haase, associate vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, told Reuters. "We are taking appropriate precautions and are advising local synagogues to do likewise."

TSA issues alert

The Transportation Security Administration earlier said that cargo flights that landed at Newark and Philadelphia airports were searched after "reports of potentially suspicious items onboard."

Two UPS jets in Philadelphia were searched. A federal law enforcement official said nothing suspicious was found. A UPS jet at Newark, N.J., also was searched and then given the all clear.

In New York, an Emirates commercial flight arrived from Dubai around 3:30 p.m. ET and was also being searched as a precaution.

"This is only because there is cargo from Yemen on the flight," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko. "There is no known threat associated with this cargo or this flight."

Earlier Friday, a UPS truck was searched and then cleared in Brooklyn.

Al-Qaida active in Yemen

The United States has stepped up its training, intelligence and military aid to Yemen after the failed Christmas Day plot, for which the Yemeni wing of al-Qaida claimed responsibility.

The accused Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has told U.S. investigators he received the explosive device and training from al-Qaida militants in Yemen.

Yemen has been trying to quell a resurgent branch of al-Qaida, which has stepped up attacks on Western and government targets in the Arabian Peninsula country.

One official said intelligence personnel had been monitoring a suspected plot for days. The packages in England and Dubai were discovered late Thursday after a foreign intelligence service picked up information
related to Yemen and passed it on to the U.S., this official said.

The Associated Press and Reuters, as well as NBC's Pete Williams and Robert Windrem, contributed to this report.

US 'horrified' by Somali girls' execution

The United States on Friday voiced horror at the executions of two girls by Somalia's Shebab, saying it showed the Al-Qaeda-inspired group's disregard for the nation's people.

Witnesses said that a Shebab firing squad on Wednesday shot dead two teenage girls accused of spying in front of hundreds of residents in the central town of Beledweyne.

"We are horrified by reports of the execution," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said, condemning the killings "in the strongest possible terms."

"This makes clear that al-Shebab continues to deprive the Somali people of security, peace and stability," Crowley told reporters.

The United States considers the Shebab a terrorist organization and has sent arms to the weak central government, viewing it as the best hope to try to end two decades of virtual anarchy in the Horn of Africa nation.

Source: AFP

US supports AU in Darfur and Somali

The United States has provided more than US$940 million to support ongoing African Union operations in Darfur and Somalia as well as capacity-building through the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program.

Ambassador Brooke Anderson, US Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs, told a Security Council briefing on support for African Union (AU) Peacekeeping Operations last Friday that her government's support for building capacity for the Africa Standby Force(ASF) is focused at all three levels: continental, regional, and state.

“My government welcomes the ongoing simulation and evaluation exercise known as Amani Africa, which we see as an important first step toward that goal. My government also supports the UN's continued assistance to the AU in the development of the Continental Early Warning System which, once it becomes operational, will further enhance the African Union's ability to prevent conflict.”

But the US urged better co- operation between the UN and AU. “We expect that the UN Office to the AU in Addis Ababa will help make the UN support to the AU better coordinated and more effective, especially in the area of financial management. This will help ensure that the AU has the capacity to use donor support effectively even as we improve cooperation and coordination. We also support making more and better use of the AU Partners Group in Addis Ababa to help make donor funding for the AU Commission more sustainable and predictable.”Anderson continued.

“We should also work together to further enhance the AU Secretariat's capacity to plan, manage, and sustain peacekeeping operations. We must identify areas that need additional support and attention from African and other partners, including logistics, mobility, and mission management. We encourage continued efforts to operationalize the ASF and the US will continue to support capacity building and encourage others to support resource-intensive endeavors” she noted.

Anderson aslo called for a “detailed analysis of the operational, budgetary, human resources, and legal implications” of letting AU peace-support operations authorised by the UNSC have access to the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, as well as UN strategic deployment stocks and UN strategic lift capabilities.

The ambassador also urged greater attention to the protection of civilians caught up in conflict and war. “We applaud efforts to incorporate doctrine on protecting civilians into all aspects of the AU's peace-support operations and related activities.” she said adding there was a need for more formed police units in Africa. “Protecting civilians and responding to gender-based violence requires stronger advocacy and program efforts at the AU and in the preparation of peacekeepers. We support doing more to enhance the civilian and police dimensions of peacekeeping in Africa.”

Written by defenceWeb

Africa Dispatch: Somali Artists Look Homeward

"I am going to use the word Midgan," declared Yasmeen Maxamuud, an American-Somali writer.

The audience released an awkward, muffled laugh. Midgan is a derogatory reference for a Somali group seen by many as outcasts. Ms. Maxamuud let the insult linger in the air, allowing the audience to recognize how a word can divide people.

"You should feel uncomfortable with that word," said Ms. Maxamuud, author of Nomad Diaries, a novel telling individual stories of Somali refugees in the U.S., including a character considered to be an outcast.

She was speaking at Somali Week Festival in London, a city home to a large Somali diaspora. The annual event aims to give major issues affecting both the diaspora and Somalis back home a platform for discussion—through music, literature and general debate.

These days, the world's attention is more on Somalia's litany of woes, rather than its literature. In recent weeks, the president has ousted the prime minister, Islamic militants have pressed its battle to topple a weak government and Somali pirates have stepped up attacks on foreign ships following the monsoon rains.

But the troubles discussed at the festival were more social in nature.

The theme of this year's Somali Week was 'Tradition and Modernity.' In addition to young female writer Ms. Maxamuud, another participant was someone who many at the east London venue call their William Shakespeare, Somaliland-based poet Mahamed Ibrahim Warsame Hadraawi. The elderly Mr. Hadrawi was seen checking his cellphone, as young volunteers—some in headscarves—scampered around women in colorful Somali dresses.

The event will also be held in Somaliland, an unrecognized state in northwest Somalia, later in the year. The ties between London and Somaliland are strong. Many members of Somaliland's government are frequently in London in part to campaign for recognition as a state from the U.K. government. Somalis also have a strong history of sending remittances home.

"The event is about promoting tolerance and acceptance among Somali cultures and to really discuss issues that are important," said organizer Ayan Mahamoud. "As a Diaspora we are exposed to racism and Islamaphobia but we haven't dealt with our own racism," she said.

At the packed London community center, the audience got a good dose of these issues. During the aforementioned "Midgan" moment, people shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. Somalia has a group of people called the Gabooye, who are often referred to derisively as Midgan, the social equivalent to India's "untouchables" in the caste system.

"We have more information about what it is to be black in America than it is to be Gabooye," said Nadifa Mohamed, author of Black Mamba Boy, a novel based on the life of her father who started out on the streets of Aden.

Somalia is far away for many of the teenagers born and raised in the UK. But they are still faced with the issues of tribalism that affect family in Somalia.

"It happens in real life, it's realistic for Somalis in London," said Nawal Ibrahim, 16 years old, a volunteer at the event. "We know it happens to us."

Meanwhile, a play written and directed by Somali students focused on the resistance a young girl living in London faces when she wants to marry a boy from a tribe deemed lower than her own. At one point the boy, speaking in Somali peppered with British slang blurts: "We're the generation that has to change things!"

This time, the audience let out a cheer of agreement.
— Each week, Africa Dispatch takes a snapshot of a different African place, offering a ground-level view of change on the continent.

Write to Devon Maylie at

Source: Wall Street Journal

Somali author Nadifa Mohamed up for first book prize

An author born in Somalia has been shortlisted for the 2010 Guardian First Book award.

Mohamed's debut novel Black Mamba Boy is published by HarperCollins

Nadifa Mohamed, who spent her early years in Hargeisa, Somaliland, before moving to the UK, is cited for her debut novel Black Mamba Boy.

The book, which describes a journey from her Somalian homeland to Port Talbot in Wales, is also shortlisted for this year's Dylan Thomas Prize.

The winners of both literary prizes will be announced on 1 December.

Black Mamba Boy is one of three novels and two non-fiction works in the running for the Guardian's £10,000 prize.

Also in contention are Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman, about a boxer living in the east London of the 1930s, and Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto, a novel by Maile Chapman set in a women's sanatorium in Finland.

The non-fiction works shortlisted are Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz, and Romantic Moderns by Alexandra Harris.

Continue reading the main story
Related stories
Women lead Dylan prize shortlist
The former is a study of why human beings make everyday errors, while the latter is subtitled English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper.

Clare Armitstead, the Guardian's literary editor, said the shortlist "reflects one of the year's big literary themes - how to tell stories in our new era".

Actress Diana Quick, journalist Ekow Eshun and the novelist and poet Adam Foulds are among those who will join her on the judging panel.

Last year's winner was Petina Gappah for her short story collection, An Elegy for Easterly.

Mohamed is one of six writers up for the £30,000 Dylan Thomas prize, presented each year by the University of Wales.

Source: BBC

Al-Shabab Execute 2 Teenage Girls in Somalia

Somalia’s most powerful Islamist insurgents, the Shabab, executed two teenage girls on Wednesday after deciding they were spies, setting off fears among residents, officials and witnesses said.

The two teenagers — one 18, the other 14 — were shot by firing squad in the center of the town of Beledweyne, near the border with Ethiopia, witnesses said.

Pickup trucks with big loudspeakers drove into the town, ordering the residents to watch the execution. Residents were also told to switch off their cellphones and were warned not to take pictures, a prohibition that has been enforced at some Islamist executions in the past.

“The teenage girls were executed in the regional headquarters at the center of the town. Some of the women who were watching fainted at the scene,” said Abukar Elmi, a witness. “This is a shocking event.”

The Shabab official in the town, Sheik Yusuf Ali Ugas, told local journalists that “the two girls were found guilty of spying for the Ethiopian government.”

Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 to oust an Islamist movement that had taken control of much of the country, including the capital, Mogadishu. Thousands of Ethiopian soldiers remained in Somalia for the next three years before withdrawing, and some of the Somali government forces fighting the Shabab in the Beledweyne area are supported by the Ethiopian government.

Mr. Ugas said the teenagers were not the only ones in Shabab custody, adding, “There are many people now in Shabab prisons in Beledweyne.”

He also sent a warning to Ethiopia, saying that the Shabab knew “all the informants serving for the Ethiopian government.”

Townspeople argued that the two teenage girls were innocent. The girls, they said, were traveling away from their families when they were caught in a cross-fire just outside Beledweyne, where both government forces and the Shabab are positioned. Many Somalis try to reach Yemen and Saudi Arabia to find better opportunities there and escape from the violence in this country.

“When the fighting started between the Shabab and the government forces just outside Beledweyne, the girls had to flee to the bush, where they were finally caught,” said a resident whose name was withheld for his safety. “I think they were executed because they were caught at the front line.”

The Somali transitional federal government strongly condemned the public execution, arguing that the two girls had not been given the right to a legal defense, nor had their parents even been informed.

“This execution is yet another human rights abuse committed by the criminals,” the Somali government said. “This act of killing innocent children does not have Islamic and humanitarian justifications.”

The Shabab have been responsible for many human rights violations in the areas they control. In 2008, for instance, they stoned to death a rape victim in the port town of Kismayo.

Source: The New York Times.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

UN urges Kenya to move Somali refugees to safety

The United Nations called on Kenya on Tuesday to move 5,000 Somali refugees further inland to safety because of reports Islamist rebels were preparing to mount a fresh attack on a nearby Somali border town.

Some 60,000 Somalis have fled their homes since fighting erupted last Thursday between Somali soldiers, backed by allied militia, and al Shabaab militants along the border, it said. Most of the displaced have stayed in Somalia.

At least 27 al Shabaab militants, who have been waging a three-year Islamist insurgency, were killed in the fierce clashes in the Somali border town of Balad Hawo, local residents and a militia commander said at the time.

Tensions are now rising in a makeshift camp in northern Kenya holding 5,000 Somali registered refugees, only 500 metres (yards) from the Somali border, over reports that al Shabaab is regrouping to launch an attack to retake the town, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

“We are urging the Kenyan authorities to speed up relocation of new arrivals so that people can be moved away from the border and moved into a reception centre,” Andrej Mahecic, UNHCR spokesman, told a news briefing.

Most of the refugees at the Border Point One camp are women, children and the elderly living in a deplorable situation, he said. “The health conditions at the site, which has no shelter or lavatories, are quickly deteriorating,” he added.

An unknown number of Somalis have been taken in by communities in Kenya or are renting houses while waiting for the fighting to die down before deciding whether to return home.

An estimated 40,000 Somalis who fled Balad Hawo remain within Somalia, most living under trees without shelter, water, food or sanitation, according to the UNHCR.

Almost 1.5 million Somalis have left their homes inside Somalia because of fighting while another 614,000 live as refugees, mainly in Kenya and other neighbouring countries, according to UNHCR.

Kenya grants Somalis automatic refugee status if they register. But East Africa’s largest economy has long cast a wary eye at its lawless neighbour, which has been plagued by anarchy since warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Al Shabaab’s insurgency against the fragile transitional government has left it in control of much of Mogadishu and huge tracts of southern and central Somalia.

Those living in Kenya’s remote northeastern provinces have reported increasing cross-border raids by al Shabaab.

Twice hit by al Qaeda-linked attacks, Kenya has trained thousands of Somali recruits to beef up troops loyal to Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a move that has drawn condemnation from al Shabaab.


‘Becoming Minnesota’ new site

We Minnesotans often laugh about our Scandinavian accent signaling that we may be either Swedish or Norwegian.

That is far from the truth in our current Minnesota society because we now have become a very diverse society.

The Minnesota Historical Society, one of my favorite agencies, just last Thursday launched “Becoming Minnesota,” a new online resource for exploring the lives and stories of recent immigrants to Minnesota.

The launch was tied in with the Education Minnesota Professional Conference in St. Paul

The website can be found at http: //

Designed for teachers and students, the website is also a rich place for members of Minnesota’s immigrant communities to make connections.

“Becoming Minnesotan” includes oral histories narrated by members of immigrant and refugee groups, including Hmong, Khmer, Asian Indian, Somali and Tibetan, and resources for further investigation into these communities including photographs, maps, timelines, podcasts and classroom activities.

Thanks to Jessica Kohen of the Historical Society, we can learn more about the new website. She has penned the following release:

There are more than 50,000 Hmong living in Minnesota today – that’s almost a quarter of all the Hmong people in the United States.

The Twin Cities has the highest urban concentration and Minnesota has the second highest absolute population behind California.

But the story of this ethnic group is not one of numbers.

It’s a story of soldiers who fought with Americans against Communists during the Vietnam War, of civilians fleeing for safety to Thailand and Laos, of refugee camps and ultimately of a people bound by religion and culture trying to find a new home.

This is a personal story of mothers, father, sisters and brothers making their way to Minnesota and then becoming Minnesotan.

In addition to stories about the “old country” and what it has been like adjusting to the “new country,” there are entries about preserving cultural identity, including this one by Sumaya Yusuf, a Somali teenager who has grown up in Minnesota.

“Everywhere we’ve lived, we were the only family or we were one of the few families that lived there that were Somali so I’ve never really gotten a chance to assimilate into the Somali culture, which I think is bad.

“I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t speak Somali as well as I would like to. I would love to learn.

“I’ve never had Somali friends. I have Somali friends now, and they’re helping me out.

“I’m proud to be Somali and I’m proud to have this culture. It’s getting me connected to my culture.

“Now, I want to learn more; whereas, before, I was, like, whatever. I thought of myself more as a Somali American.

“Now, I think of myself as more of a Somali person living in America. think there is a difference.”


For years, the Minnesota Historical Society has collected and preserved letters, diaries, photographs and artifacts that tell the story of the immigrant experience.

Oral history is also a useful tool for documenting the lives and views of immigrants and refugees, especially of recent immigrants who often arrive with few possessions.

With the help of an Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS) grant, the society has been able to digitize and make available online, oral histories of recent immigrants to Minnesota which already existed in the collections.

This collection of oral histories represents a unique source of recent history through the experiences of the newest Americans, in their own words.

The content of the collection covers themes common to all of the groups, such as traditions and values, as well as perspectives unique to each one.

The new website “Becoming Minnesotan,” presents excerpts from these oral history interviews, along with supporting information about each narrator, the communities represented and immigration in general, in a format designed to be of greatest use to teachers and students in grades 4-12.

Additionally, these excerpts can be found on iTunes by searching “Becoming Minnesotan.”

Additional resources

In addition to the “Becoming Minnesotan” website, full interviews and transcripts of the society’s oral history projects will soon be available online through the Immigrant Oral Histories web resource.

They can also be accessed on cassette tape or CD at the Minnesota Historical Society Library.

The Minnesota Historical Society Library has records, classes and professional guidance available for those interested in family history research.

Materials include birth and death records, passenger ship lists, naturalization records, newspapers and much more.

For those getting started online, Family Tree Magazine just named the Society’s family history website one of the “Best State Websites for Genealogy” in 2010.

Immigration history is explored in the History Center exhibit “Open House: If These Walls Could Talk.”

This interactive exhibit takes visitors through a single house on St. Paul’s East Side over a period of 118 years.

Stories of families from the first German immigrants through the Italians, African-Americans, and Hmong who succeeded them, are told through rooms representing different eras of the house.

History Center field trips include 50-minute classroom lessons that bring students in contact with the real stuff of history-documents, photos, objects and more.

Lessons that cover topics of immigration history are available for grades K-12.

For classes in outstate Minnesota and elsewhere, the Society’s new Interactive Video Conferencing offers museum programs without having to leave the classroom. Programs include “Becoming Citizens of the Frontier: Lessons of a One Room Schoolhouse” (Grades 4-6).

The Minnesota Historical Society is the publisher of the curriculum used to teach our state’s history, “Northern Lights: The Stories of Minnesota’s Past.”

Written at a sixth-grade level and used by more than 45,000 students statewide, “Northern Lights” features two chapters about immigration to our state — one, telling stories from the late 1800’s and the other, from modern immigrants.

History workshops for teachers are offered throughout the school year and include immigration as a topic.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. Its essence is to illuminate the past as a way to shed light on the future.

Editor’s note: Howard Lestrud is ECM online managing editor.

Source: abcnewspapers


More than 120 women coming from the various regions of the country and other countries that are home to several communities of the Somali Diaspora, have come together in Garowe, 'capital' of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland for what is the first conference "on the Role of Somali Women for Peace and Dialogue in the Country". The president of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohammed 'Farole', also took part at the opening of the conference; he was applauded by the audience which included Somalis residing in South Africa, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Sweden, Yemen, Canada and the USA. "I thank all of you for being here," said Farole, underlining the importance of the conference, the first of its kind in Somalia, affirming that Somali women have been wounded and abused as a result of the war more so than the men. "On behalf of Somali men, I would like to express my gratitude and my disappointment to Somali women, who have suffered more than anyone the horrors of the war that has been gripping the country since 1991," said the president, underlining that women have been "victimized, also, by a system, such as the clan, which demands that they be subjugated to the men folk". Farole has suggested, to the audience's approval, that Somali women "come together in a single clan, which would become the most powerful in Somalia". In the long years of civil war, "Somali women have had to manage roles and responsibilities in the family, as well as in social life, but they have never seen these efforts recognized, while men have collapsed into the abyss of impotence, abusing themselves with qat," added the president of the region – which has achieved a certain stability after having proclaimed itself independent from the rest of Somalia in 1991 - in reference to type of narcotic that is very popular in the country. "In the total indifference of the rest of the world, in Somalia war crimes continue to take place" observed Farole, exhorting the international community to create "as was done by Bosnia and other countries, an international tribunal, just so Somalis understand that they have not been forgotten".


Hate crime charges filed in attack on Somali women in Seattle

A woman from Burien, Washington has been charged with a hate crime for physically and verbally assaulting two Muslim women at a Tukwila gas station last weekend.

The incident occurred at a Tukwila AM/PM gas station on Saturday evening when, according a charging documents, 37-year-old Jennifer Leigh Jennings accosted two Muslim women from Somali decent, calling them “terrorists” and “suicide bombers” before physically attacking them.

The victims, who do not want to be identified for fear of reprisal, are both of Somali decent and were wearing traditional Muslim attire.

The Washington chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations held a press conference Thursday morning to denounce the attack and raise awareness for what some see as a recent spike in Muslim hate crimes.

At the press conference, both victims said they are now afraid to leave their homes or show their faces in the community. Both are U.S. citizens and both called the incident “un-American.”

Jennings, who is also known as Jennifer Leigh Adams, was charged today with two counts malicious harassment, the state’s hate crime statute, for using the victims’ “race, ancestry, and nation of origin” as reason for the attack, prosecutors said.

The attack occurred as victims were trying to pump gas at the station after paying the clerk, but the pump had not been activated.

According to court documents, Jennings saw the pair trying to fill their gas tank and told the victims they should “go back to your country” after calling them “suicide bombers.”
One of the victims described how the incident began.

“A lady on the other side (of the gas station) drives up and starts verbally assaulting me,” she said. “She’s calling me a suicide bomber, a terrorist. She’s saying, ‘What are you doing here? Are you trying to bomb our gas stations? Our country?’”

Police said the victims did not respond to Jennings’ taunts, but when one of the two went back in the store to get the clerk to activate the pump, Jennings slammed their car door on the legs of the other victim.

The woman then got out of the car and Jennings kicked her, according to police.

The attack shook both victims to the bone, and they hope it opens people’s eyes about the seriousness of hate crimes.

“As Muslims, we’re human beings and we deserve the same respect as everybody else,” one victim said. “This country is a melting pot and there’s so many diverse people, I think we should all respect each other and (each other’s) space.”

Jennings was arrested arrested the scene and while being transported to jail told a police officer “Ya, I shouldn’t of called them sand (expletive) or other stuff like that.”

Jennings is scheduled to be arraigned November 2.

Source: SomalilandPress

UN Special Envoy Reaches Mogadishu As Wrangle Overshadows Somali Gov’t

Augustine Mahiga, the United Nations’ Special Envoy for Somalia, on Wednesday landed at Mogadishu International Airport, where he met top leaders of Somalia's transitional federal government (TFG) in a bid to end a dispute between the Somali president and the speaker of Parliament.

Accompanied by members of the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Mahiga held closed-door meetings with Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Somalia’s beleaguered president, and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adam following a political scuffle between the men over how the parliament should approve the next prime minister.

Abdi-Rasheed Khaliif Hashi, director of information affairs of Villa Somalia, confirmed the meeting was very crucial and occurred at the Mogadishu airport. He said the envoy told the officials that the “international community was very concerned [about] the postponement of approving Somalia’s new PM.”

Some TFG officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said security was tightened during the envoy's visit against a backdrop of new accounts that terrorist attacks might happen.

Shortly after, the delegation from the UN, AU and IGAD flew out of Somalia with no comment to the press.

Separately, Somalia’s parliament meeting was delayed for the third time in a week, according to lawmakers. Sunday, the president called on the parliament speaker to abide by the law. In response, the speaker issued a statement saying the parliament would meet again Wednesday. However, he indicated that “the vote of confidence must be held in secret rather than display of hands.”

The president is opposed to a secret ballot, charging it is contrary to the constitution.


Somali pirates fail to seize French ship

Somali pirates have failed in their attempt to hijack a French-flagged vessel approximately 100 nautical miles southeast of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

An attempt to capture the vessel carrying liquefied petroleum gas called Maido was unsuccessful, the European Union Naval Force said on Wednesday, reported xinhuanet.

The vessel came under attack late on Tuesday with 14 crew members in the Somali basin, the naval force spokesman, Per Kingvall, said.

"Pirates had managed to board the vessel, however, later in the evening (Tuesday) they eventually abandoned it, after having been unable to get control over the crew who had locked themselves in the ship's "citadel," Klingvall added.

The 14 crew members have been reported as being safe but their nationalities have not yet been disclosed.

Currently pirates are holding almost 20 vessels and a total of nearly 400 hostages, according to the naval force.

The Gulf of Aden is the main sea route between Europe and Asia but has recently become a notorious pirate haven.

All tankers carrying Middle East oil through the Suez Canal must pass through the Gulf of Aden first. However, only about 4 percent of the world's daily oil supply is shipped through the gulf.

The attacks launched by pirates targeting vessels are being carried out by increasingly well-coordinated Somali gangs armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Horn of Africa nation has been without a functioning government since 1991, and remains one of the world's most violent countries.

Source: Press TV

60,000 Somalis Flee Fighting

Sixty-thousand civilians in Somalia have fled their homes over the past week as fresh fighting between Islamist insurgents and a government-allied militia claimed the lives of at least 10 people, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

Fierce clashes in the southeastern border town of Beled-Hawa have forced thousands to seek refuge in nearby villages, with some crossing into neighboring Kenya in search of safety, said a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

At least 5,000 people – mostly women, children and elderly – are squatting directly at the border in a makeshift camp without shelter or toilets, said Andrej Mahecic.

"The situation of the refugees is deplorable," he told reporters in Geneva.

The U.N. agency is concerned that tensions are again rising as the al-Qaida-linked Islamist group al-Shabab is reportedly regrouping to launch an attack to retake Beled-Hawa.

"We are urging the Kenyan authorities to speed up relocation of new arrivals away so that people can be moved away from the border and into a reception center," said Mahecic.

There are already almost 1.5 million displaced people in Somalia, which hasn't had a functioning government since 1991. Some 614,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighboring countries.

Source: UNHCR

Most corrupt country in the world? Somalia, says Transparency International

According to Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index, Somalia is the world's most corrupt country, highlighting the convergence of conflict and corruption.

Along with war, piracy, and chronic hunger, here’s another reason not to live in Somalia: corruption.

According to a new report released today by the Germany-based anti-corruption group Transparency International, Somalia ranks as the most corrupt country in the world. Its closest competition – Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Iraq – are either also mired in war, or run by military leaders.

The annual Corruption Perceptions Index highlights a truism among experts in development: Conflict creates the kinds of shortages and desperation that breed corruption, making ordinary citizens prey to government officials, shopkeepers, and rebel warlords. Corruption even works its way into the very institutions set up to alleviate suffering among non-combatants, such as peacekeepers and aid workers.

The 8 worst countries on Transparency International's list

“These results signal that significantly greater efforts must go into strengthening governance across the globe," said Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency International. “With the livelihoods of so many at stake, governments' commitments to anti-corruption, transparency, and accountability must speak through their actions.”

Not surprisingly, the loudest cries against corruption tend to come from business lobbyists and economic reformers, who argue that corruption punishes everyone by scaring away the investors who could possibly create jobs.

"It is widely acknowledged that corruption scares away foreign investment and development aid," Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the Vienna-based United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), was quoted as saying. "Obviously, it is wiser to invest in countries with more transparency, independent and well-regulated banks and strong court systems."

Yet it is the poor who suffer the most from corruption.

In India, for instance, a 1000-rupee bribe to get a new drinking-water connection effectively excludes poor people from access to drinking water. Overall, corruption in Africa costs the continent an estimated $150 billion, or 10 times the combined GDP of Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda.

For Somalia, where half of the population is dependent on foreign food aid shipments, corruption is arguably a form of mass murder.

According to preliminary report by a United Nations monitoring group in Somalia, up to half of all food aid meant for hungry people is siphoned by the warlords who control territory where most of the country’s displaced people live. The UN's World Food Programme, which handles logistics for getting that food into Somalia and to the displacement camps, disputes those numbers, however.

Whatever the real numbers, Somalis can ill afford to have food aid stolen. Two consecutive years of bad rains have left 2.6 million Somalis dependent on food aid for survival, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.


FACTBOX-Ships held by Somali pirates

Here is a list of ships held by Somali pirates after a German merchant vessel, Beluga Fortune, was released. [ID:nLDE69O1YF]

* SOCOTRA 1: Seized on Dec. 25, 2009. The Yemeni-owned ship was captured in the Gulf of Aden after it left the port of Alshahr in Yemen. Six Yemeni crew.

* AL NISR AL SAUDI: Seized on March 1, 2010. The Saudi-owned 5,136-dwt tanker was on its way from Japan to Jeddah with one Greek and 13 Sri Lankan crew members.

* ICEBERG 1: Seized on March 29, Roll-on roll-off vessel taken 10 miles from the port of Aden. 24 crew.

* AL-BARARI: Seized on March 31. The small Indian trade boat was captured after it left Mogadishu. 11 crew.

* SAMHO DREAM: Seized on April 4. The 319,000-dwt Samho Dream was en route to the United States from Iraq when it was hijacked 970 miles east of Somalia. The Marshall Islands-registered ship is South Korean-owned, had a crew of five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos and carried 2 million barrels of crude oil. On April 21, Somali pirates threatened to blow up the supertanker unless a $20 million ransom was paid.

* RAK AFRIKANA: Seized on April 11. The St Vincent and the Grenadines-flagged 7,561-dwt cargo ship was hijacked about 280 miles west of the Seychelles. Owned by Seychelles' Rak Afrikana Shipping Ltd.

* Three Thai fishing vessels -- PRANTALAY 11, 12 and 14 -- were hijacked on April 17-18 with a total of 77 crew.

* AL-DHAFIR: Seized on May 7. Yemeni fishing boat seized off Yemen. 7 crew.

* MARIDA MARGUERITE: Seized on May 8. The chemical tanker en route from Kandla in Gujarat to Antwerp in Belgium was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden with crew of 22 -- 19 Indians, two Bangladeshis and one Ukrainian.

* ELENI P: Seized on May 12. The Liberia-flagged and Greek-owned ship, carrying iron and sailing from Ukraine to China via Singapore was seized in the Gulf of Aden. Crew of 2 Greeks and 22 Filipinos.

* GOLDEN BLESSING: Seized on June 28. The 14,445-dwt Singapore-registered chemical tanker was seized off East Africa on its way from Saudi Arabia to India. 19 Chinese crew.

* MOTIVATOR: Seized on July 4. A 13,065-dwt tanker, hijacked in the Red Sea, with 18 Filipino crew and carrying lubricating oil. It is Marshall Islands-flagged.

* SUEZ: Seized on Aug. 2. The Panama-flagged cargo ship was hijacked in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden. The ship was carrying cement bags and had a crew of 23 from Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.

* OLIB G: Seized on Sept. 8: Maltese-flagged merchant vessel seized in the IRTC. 18 crew -- 15 Georgians and 3 Turks.

* LUGELA: Seized on Sept. 25/26: The Greek-operated 4,281-dwt cargo ship had a crew of 12 Ukrainians. It was sailing to Mauritius with a cargo of steel bars and wires.

* ASPHALT VENTURE: Seized on Sept. 29: The 3,884-dwt bitumen carrier was heading to Durban from Mombasa. 15 Indian crew. Managed by Mumbai-based Omci Ship Management Pvt and owned by Bitumen Invest AS of United Arab Emirates.

* FENG-GUO 168: Seized on Oct. 7: Fishing vessel, believed to be Taiwanese, seized 200 miles north of Mauritius. 14 crew.

* GOLDEN WAVE: Seized on Oct. 9. The South-Korean fishing vessel Golden Wave -- formerly known as Keummi 305 -- had a crew of 39 Kenyans, two Koreans and two Chinese.

* IZUMI: Seized on Oct. 10: The Izumi, operated by NYK-Hinode Line Ltd, The Panama-flagged ship was en route to Mombasa with a cargo of steel. 20 Filipino crew.

* YORK: Seized on Oct. 23: The Singapore-flagged, Greek managed, LPG tanker was seized 50 miles from Mombasa. The European naval force, EU Navfor, said the vessel had a crew of 17 -- a German master, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos. The 5,076-dwt York was sailing empty after discharging her LPG cargo at the Shimanzi oil terminal in Mombasa.

Sources: Reuters/Ecoterra International/International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre/Lloyds List/ (Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Somali Pirates Seize 2 Vessels Off Kenya

The German army on Sunday confirmed that pirates have hijacked a German freighter after attacking it 1,930 km (1,200 miles) off the coast of Kenya.

German shipping company Beluga-Reederei owns the vessel. The number of people on board was not immediately known.

The incident came just a day after pirates seized a Singapore-flagged liquefied-gas tanker with 17 crew on board 170 km off Mombasa. The captain of the ship was German.

Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority said that the vessel, MV York, was transporting gas from Mombasa to Mahe in the Seychelles, adding that they were jointly working with the ship’s owner, York Maritime Co., and the government agencies to secure an early release of the ship.

In a statement Sunday, the European Union Naval Force said a Turkish warship has launched a helicopter to check out the hijacking and found pirates on MV York fully armed.

Fourteen Filipinos, two Ukrainians and a German are among those being held hostage.

The EU Naval Force said nearly 20 ships have been seized and more than 400 people had been kept hostage so far this year by pirates.

Somali pirates normally release the crew and ship once the countries pay ransom to them after lengthy negotiations.

Source: AHN (

German ship freed by Somali pirates

Somali pirates have freed the hijacked German merchant vessel Beluga Fortune and its 16-strong crew without getting a ransom payment, Bremen-based owner Beluga Shipping said Monday, a day after the bulk carrier was taken.

"The cool-headed behavior...of the Beluga crew on board and the quick action of navy units...left the pirates no other option than to give up their dream of a million (dollar) ransom and to flee," Beluga Shipping said in a statement.

The crew members made a distress call, locked themselves in a safety room, turned off the engines and fuel supply, put the bridge out of action and radioed a navy intelligence plane.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle confirmed the rescue.

Somalia has lacked an effective central government for almost two decades and is awash with weapons. The mayhem on land has allowed piracy to boom in the strategic waterways off its shores linking Europe to Asia and Africa.

This weekend it was reported that pirates from the lawless Horn of Africa nation also grabbed a Singapore-flagged liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker 50 miles off the coast of east Africa.

Ship hijackings worldwide hit a five-year high in the first nine months of this year, led by Somali pirates striking further away from the country's coast to avoid naval patrols, a maritime watchdog said earlier this month.

Somali pirates are holding 20 vessels with more than 430 hostages, according to EU Navfor. Typically they receive a ransom for their release.

(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; editing by Michael Roddy)

Source: Reuters

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Two Somali brothers plead guilty to $400,000 food-stamp scheme

Two Somalia natives accused in a $400,000 food-stamp scheme pleaded guilty this morning to federal charges.

Mohamed Sufi and his brother, Omar Sufi, were accused of defrauding federal food assistance programs and running an illegal money transfer business.

The government said the brothers, owners of Halal Depot, 650 28th St. SW, redeemed electronic food stamps for cash and non-food items, taking 30 percent in commissions. They allegedly took up to 50 percent from benefits under the Women, Infants and Children programs.

The brothers also allegedly wired thousands of dollars to hot spots in the Middle East and Africa. The brothers accepted funds from others, charging 6 to 7 percent, while operating an unlicensed money transfer business, or “hawala,” from their store, the government said. They purposely kept transactions below $10,000 so that financial institutions would not file currency transactions reports to the Internal Revenue Service, according to a plea agreement.

Mohamed Sufi pleaded guilty to conspiracy, food-stamp fraud and operating an unlicensed money transfer business. Omar Sufi pleaded guilty to those charges and three charges of structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements.

They will be sentenced later by U.S. District Judge Janet Neff.

Source:- The Grand Rapids Press.

Grim milestone for UK couple held hostage in Somalia

Saturday marks a grim anniversary for Paul and Rachel Chandler, a retired couple from Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

The Chandlers' yacht, the Lynn Rival, was boarded by pirates on 23 October 2009

A whole year has now passed since they were seized off the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates as they sailed westwards to Tanzania. They have since been taken to the Somali mainland where they continue to be held.

This week a London-based piracy analyst told the BBC: "At the anniversary of the captivity of Paul and Rachel Chandler it is to be hoped that those holding them can now show compassion and release them, as a sign of goodwill, and to encourage further international support for those most at need in Somalia."

In happier times, the Chandlers planned their dream retirement - sell up, buy a yacht and sail round the world.

Attacked and boarded

Last year they sailed their yacht, the Lynn Rival, from Turkey down through the Suez Canal, southwards through the Red Sea and then swung far out to the east to avoid the Somali coast.

In April 2009 they reached the Seychelles, and after six months there they set sail westwards for Tanzania, far to the south of Somalia but still through an area where several ships had recently been attacked by pirates.

On the night of 23 October they activated their emergency beacon: their yacht was being attacked and boarded by Somali pirates, hundreds of miles from the Somali shore.

Over the next few days they were forced to sail at gunpoint towards the Somali port of Haradheere.

On 29 October a Royal Fleet Auxilliary supply ship, the Wave Knight, approached but its crew was unable to prevent them being transferred off their yacht and onto a much larger container vessel, the Kota Waja, which already held a number of captured merchant seamen.

The Chandlers were then taken ashore and deeper inland into Somalia. Separated at times, they have been allowed to make only occasional phone calls to their relatives in England, as well as rare appearances in videos where they are shown living in the thorn scrub bush.

In one of these broadcast in May this year Rachel Chandler vented her feelings about her captors.

She said: "We are just animals to them, we've been kept caged up like animals. They don't care about our feelings and our family and our lives and what they've taken. They don't care whose lives they ruin."

The Chandlers' plight is symptomatic of a wider problem throughout the western Indian Ocean.

'Nowhere is safe'

In the last three years piracy has become a boom business with former fishermen arming themselves, then heading further and further out to sea in search of prey.

Western warships have had only limited success in deterring them, as observed by shipping lawyers in London.

Maritime lawyer Stephen Askins said: "The reality is that the pirates have shown themselves able to operate 1,200 or 1,300 miles from Somalia so in fact they are much closer to India than they are to Somalia itself.

"That's the message that is being put out to all the ships crossing north to south through the Indian Ocean - that nowhere is safe and you have to be alert and be ready to repel or try to avoid a piracy attack."

Paul and Rachel Chandler have now been held longer than anyone else taken by Somali pirates in recent memory. Both the Foreign Office and Somali leaders have called for their immediate release.

Source: BBC

Somali president says they will not be tired implementing Sharia law

The president of the transitional government of Somalia Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed said they will not be tired implementing the Sharia law calling the people to redouble their efforts dealing the Sharia.

President Sharif said that the government would insist the decision of the government that was approved the Sharia law adding that two committees of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) agreed it earlier.

“It is very important to encourage the Somalis and advice to deal the Sharia law though the Sharia law was not completely implemented in Somalia. We also suggest to put pressure on clinging it,” said president Sheik Sharif

The president said that they were people aiming to misunderstand the Islamic religion to the people asserting that they would never accept those people and their improper actions against the Sharia law.


UN asks countries to put out their welcome mats for refugees

A family of Somali refugees sit outside their tent in Kakuma, Kenya in September near the border of war-torn Somalia. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, has called on countries to stop sending refugees back to the the Somali capital Mogadishu. About 200,000 Somalis have fled the country this year and Guterres is asking rich countries to share the burden of resettling refugees.
Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

Six decades ago, when the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established, uprooted Europeans were on the move.

The end of the Second World War saw millions of them forced from their homes. Jews searched for safe havens. Poles, Czechs and others were transferred in or out of areas annexed by the USSR. An estimated 11.5 million Germans fled or were expelled from Eastern Europe.

Forcible displacements were nothing new. But not until the 20th century did the international community try to help. There were efforts to aid Russian refugees in 1921 and Armenians in 1924. Yet even at the end of the Second World War, when the notion of a “refugee crisis” took hold, the phenomenon was considered temporary.

There remained about one million refugees in Europe when UNHCR was created in December 1950. It was initially given a three-year mandate. Expectations were simple: Get the job done and disband.

A decade later, Europe's refugee camps were virtually empty. But concern had shifted to the quarter million Algerian refugees in Tunisia and Morocco. By 1970, largely due to the fallout of African decolonization, the worldwide count was 2.5 million. A decade later, there were 11 million.

No one talks of a temporary phenomenon any more — quite the opposite.

“As a result of never-ending conflicts, we are witnessing the creation of a number of quasi-permanent, global refugee populations, of which Afghans and Somalis are the most obvious,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, told the UNHCR's annual meeting this month.

“Over half of the refugees for whom UNHCR is responsible live in protracted situations,” he added, referring to some six million people. “There are 25 such situations today in 21 countries.” (A protracted refugee situation is defined as one where at least 25,000 people of one nationality have been in one asylum country for at least five years.)

Among such groups is perhaps the world's most famous refugee, the Dalai Lama. Tibetans who fled the Communist takeover of Tibet in 1950 established themselves as a government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, where they still don't have the right to citizenship. About 145,000 remain outside Tibet, with significant numbers now living in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere.

Last year, 43.3 million people were forcibly displaced due to conflict or persecution — the highest number since the mid-1990s, when tragedies were unfolding in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Afghanistan and Iraq, among others. More than 27 million of those were displaced within their own country.

The UN estimates a further 50 million are displaced by natural disasters in any given year. Studies suggest global warming could force many millions more to move by 2050, fleeing drought or rising seas.

Repatriation to the country of origin has steadily declined for years. Meanwhile, the number who manage to find a permanent home in countries like Canada falls far short of those identified as most urgently needing a new home. (Canada accepts about 37.5 refugees per 100,000 people, a rate better than the U.S. but far less per capita than Australia.) The result: People are staying longer in camps, often barred from working or even moving outside of them.

“People become uprooted in a much more chronic way, and that tremendously affects their ability to resume productive lives,” says Michel Gabaudan, president of the Washington-based advocacy group Refugees International.

Another trend is the growth of internally displaced persons (IDPs) by almost one million a year since 1997. Not covered by the international laws that protect refugees who cross from one country to another, they remain vulnerable to those they were fleeing.

“Very often, these are people who flee either persecution by their government or persecution by other groups for whom their government is unwilling or unable to provide adequate protection,” says Gabaudan, until recently a top UNHCR official.

One example is the 1.9 million IDPs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, half uprooted last year alone. Most move to other villages, fending for themselves or living off their hosts' meager resources.

In the eastern part of the country, they're repeatedly attacked by government soldiers or rebel groups. Women are raped and children are abducted to fight. Many return home for planting season and are chased out by renewed fighting, which often leaves humanitarian workers in the line of fire.

“There is less respect for humanitarian workers in conflict situations,” says Katy Long, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford's Refugee Study Centre. “Fewer and fewer of them are regarded as neutral.”

U.S-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fuel the dangers. There, aid efforts are connected to explicitly political projects of state reconstruction, Long says. That turns humanitarian workers into the target of rebels. In 2008 and 2009, the two deadliest years for relief workers, over 100 were killed each year.

Fragile states, where most relief work occurs, are increasingly seen by refugee experts as the defining challenge. In these chronically unstable states, everything from factionalism to an inability to manage economic collapse displaces large groups of people.

Their search for refuge usually lands them in another fragile state. Fully four-fifths of the world's refugees are in developing countries, most struggling to cope with their own social or political strife. Pakistan, for instance, is host to 1.7 million Afghans — more than half of all Afghan refugees. Of the world's 700,000 Somali refugees, half are in Kenya, one-quarter in Yemen.

“We talk about burden sharing and it's a total fraud,” says refugee expert Howard Adelman, insisting that Western countries aren't doing nearly enough to help.

Adelman is professor emeritus of philosophy at York University and founder of its Centre for Refugee Studies. He insists repatriation is not an option for many refugees.

“You've got to give up this empty cant that the best solution for most refugees is to return them to their homes. It's meaningless and it's not true,” he says, adding that's especially the case with victims of “ethnic cleansing,” where opposing groups attempt to destroy or at least force out people of a different ethnic group, as occurred in Darfur and the former Yugoslavia.

UNHCR continues to see voluntary repatriation as the most durable solution. But its own numbers suggest a different story. The agency estimates that 800,000 of the most vulnerable refugees need to be resettled to a third country. Yet only 10 per cent found new homes last year — sparking a UN appeal for countries to expand their resettlement programs. (Canada last year admitted 12,500 refugees.)

Adelman argues developed countries could take in almost all of the 10.4 million under UNHCR's responsibility within several years if they had the political will. (A separate UN agency, UNRWA, is responsible for 4.5 million Palestinian refugees.)

The trend in Europe, however, is growing xenophobia. Boatloads of migrants have been turned back to Africa in the Mediterranean before anyone verifies whether refugees are on board. As Europe's doors close, the flow is displaced to countries like Turkey and South Africa. Human smugglers increasingly become the only option. They further stuff their rickety boats, and the drowned continue to wash ashore.

Giving refugees legal access to labour markets outside their camps, regionally or in developed countries, would spare them such fates and improve the lives of those left behind, Oxford's Long says.

“There's a lot of evidence to show that remittance money (cash sent back by expatriates) is twice as effective as development money in actually getting to communities, rather than being siphoned off by middle men along the way.”

Western nations, she adds, would also benefit by reducing regional instability. The Palestinian militia groups that emerged, or recruited, from refugee camps are the most obvious example of the possible effects of decades in refugee camps.

“A lot of refugees from areas such as Afghanistan and Somalia, if left in protracted refugee settings — impoverished, alienated and quite despondent — are susceptible, arguably, to militarization,” Long says.

But Adelman notes it's often the opposite: people turned into “quasi zombies” by prolonged stays in camps. It's a form of warehousing, he argues, “benign indifference covered over by humanitarianism.”

“We have to say: ‘No, you can't put people in warehouses,'” he says. “It's immoral. It's the most horrifying thing we do in this world, next to genocide.”

Source: The Star