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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Somali, Ethiopian forces take control of trade town

Backed by Ethiopian forces, Somali troops have wrested control of a key trading town after fierce fighting with Islamic militants, officials with Somalia's transitional government and witnesses said Saturday.

"Our forces achieved a great victory and have driven out of Beledweyne all the forces of the al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab terrorists," Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse said.

Beledweyne is a crucial trading point near the Ethiopian border, linking south and central regions of Somalia.

"All sections of Beledweyne are under our control, Isse said. "The only things remaining are (checking) operations to secure the city and make sure that no terrorists are hiding among the residents."

Hashi Olow, a resident in Beledweyne, said the fighting last for at least six hours.

''It was really tense and I saw 10 dead bodies which I believe were Al-Shabaab fighters,'' Olow said, adding he saw convoys of Ethiopian and Somali forces inside the town.

Ethiopian government officials confirmed their troops were involved in the operation to take control of Beledweyne, but would not elaborate.

On Thursday, African Union forces in Somalia reported that they had successfully pushed Al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu, the capital.

The African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, is trying to consolidate power for Somalia's weak transitional federal government in Mogadishu, where Al-Shabaab had been especially active in its battle against that government.

Al-Shabaab is linked to al Qaeda and is considered a terrorist group by the United States.

In Mogadishu, the group was using conventional military tactics, terrorism and propaganda in its fight against the government.

AMISOM is now expanding its forces into areas surrounding the capital, an African Union commander said.

Other forces are fighting Al-Shabaab in Somalia as well.

Kenyan forces entered Somalia in October after a rash of kidnappings Kenyan authorities blamed on Al-Shabaab.

Kenyan officials say the kidnappings threatened security and constituted an attack on Kenyan sovereignty. Kenyan forces are ultimately seeking to take the Somali port city of Kismayo, described by the United Nations as a key stronghold and source of cash for Al-Shabaab.

Journalist Aaron Massho contributed to this report.

Source: CNN News

UN agency deplores killing of Somali community leader at refugee camp

The head of the United Nations refugee agency voiced deep regret today at the killing of a Somali refugee leader in the Dadaab complex in north-eastern Kenya, describing the slaying as senseless.

António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), issued a statement after last night’s killing of the chairperson of a community peace and security team in Hagadera camp, which is part of Dadaab.

The man – whose name has not yet been released – was shot several times as he entered his compound about 7:45 p.m., according to UNHCR, which said the gunmen reportedly escaped. The victim was rushed to a camp hospital and later died as he was being evacuated to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, for further treatment.

The peace and security team which the man headed is run by refugee residents in Dadaab, and UNHCR said they have been instrumental in helping to maintain security inside the camp.

Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee settlement, home to more than 460,000 people, overwhelmingly Somalis who have fled famine and fighting in their neighbouring homeland.

Aside from the humanitarian suffering and violence, Somalia remains beset by political tensions, and the UN and other international organizations have been working to help Somalis resolve their differences.

In a statement issued late today by his spokesperson, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Somali political leaders for committing under the so-called Garoowe Principles to a clear process and timeline for finalizing a draft constitution, reform of Parliament and the conclusion of the transition.

“The Secretary-General reminds the leaders that the people of Somalia and the international community expect them to keep up the momentum on the Roadmap and resolve outstanding differences to enable the transition to be completed on time,” the statement noted.

Source: UN News Centre


The European Union is considering expanding its anti-piracy operation to include Somali beaches.

The mission is currently limited to waters off the coast of Somalia. German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said new rules of engagement "would only be considered to destroy pirate logistics on the beach, not deployment in the country". Peschke explained that a proposal will be submitted to the EU in January. At present, 200 people are being held hostage by Somali pirates.

Since the start of the EU's Atalanta mission, in December 2008, 2317 merchant seamen have been attacked by pirates. . .

Source: AGI

MSF ponders Somali presence after attack - official

Medecins Sans Fontieres is withdrawing non-Somali staff from a hospital in Mogadishu where two of its staff were shot dead but the aid group hopes to maintain its operation in Somalia despite the danger, an official said on Friday,

Meinie Nicolai, president of MSF's Belgian branch which runs the hospital in the Somali capital, said Thursday's attack did not appear to be politically driven.

"For us to leave Somalia would be a last option," Nicolai told Reuters.

"It is not a political action as far as we can read it today," she added. "It's not against the organisation."

The hospital is the largest of MSF's 13 projects in Somalia.

A Somali gunman, himself an employee of MSF, shot dead two international staffers there - an Indonesian doctor and a Belgian emergency coordinator.

The gunman, who worked as a logistics officer, was seen being dragged from the building still holding a pistol as he was taken into custody.

A Brazilian and some Kenyan staff were transferred to Nairobi, Kenya's capital, for security reasons, Nicolai said.

Somalia descended into chaos in 1991 after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted and has not had a functional central government since.

Last week, a gunman killed three Somali aid workers, including two with the U.N. World Food Programme, in the central town of Matabaan.

"For us it's a big dilemma," Nicolai said. "We know Somalia is one of the most dangerous places to work, but the needs of the Somalis are so high. If you asked us where MSF should remain working, I would say Afghanistan and Somalia."

MSF said those killed were 53-year-old Belgian Philippe Havet and 44-year-old Indonesian Andrias Karel Keiluhu.

The paediatric hospital has 130 beds and has treated some 15,000 severely malnourished children so far, said Nicolai, adding that it gets about 100 new cases of cholera each week.

More than 100 Somali staff at the hospital will continue to run it, Nicolai said.


MSF will decide which steps to take after further analysing the shooting, Nicolai said.

MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, operates in a number of locations in Somalia, providing emergency aid to people suffering from famine and widespread violence.

The attack happened in a bustling part of the capital, which is under the control of the government and African Union troops.

In mid-October, gunmen kidnapped two Spanish aid workers for MSF in Kenya, near the Somali border.

(Reporting by Sebastian Moffett; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)

Source: Reuters

2012 Happy New Year!!!

SomaliCare Blog wishes a Happy New Year to all followers and readers!

From JA

US Somalis say funds cutoff will devastate country

US Somalis said Friday that a Minnesota bank group's decision to cut off their money transfer business would have a devastating impact on people in the war-torn African country.

Somalis were preparing to protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota after Sunrise Community Banks said they would shut down the accounts of money transfer shops handling Somalia-related business.

The move puts a stop to the main avenues for the largest US Somali community to send millions of dollars a year back to relatives in the eastern African country wrecked by years of war and famine.

But Sunrise said it needs the government to remove "legal obstacles" -- which Somalis say is the threat of prosecution if funds end up in the hands of designated terrorists -- before it can resume the service.

"The impact is really drastic. Almost all the Somalis here were relying on the Sunrise banks to send money to their loved ones in Somalia," said Saeed Fahia, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota.

"Anybody who wants to do some work in Somalia has to use the 'hawala' (money transfer) system. People want to support schools, hospitals. There is no alternative."

Sunrise, an association of three banks, announced in early December that it would close the accounts of a dozen or so money transfer shops serving an estimated 30,000 Somalis in the region.

Sunrise gave no clear reason for the action, but it came after two Minnesota Somali women were convicted in October of sending thousands of dollars to Al-Qaeda-linked radical Shebab militants in Somalia, designated terrorists by the US government.

On December 1, an immigrant Somali woman in Los Angeles pleaded guilty of sending money to the Shebab.

Somalis send money back home via the hawala transfer shops, which can accept small deposits on the US side and immediately credit recipients in Somalia before any money is actually transferred.

The hawalas, though, need the large banks to help balance the books with larger transfers.

The Somali American Money Services Association said its members "believe that their businesses have been singled out and denied vital banking services."

"Cutting more than $100 million every year that the Somali Americans send their families will adversely impact the already fragile situation in Somalia and push millions to poverty," it said.

In a statement on Thursday, Sunrise apologized for shutting the accounts, and called for unspecified government remedies to allow them to continue the business.

"Sunrise Community Banks recognizes the potential humanitarian impacts that the lack of money transfer services has on the people of Somalia," it said.

Sunrise noted that the government has "remedied legal obstacles" to allow humanitarian groups to send food to Somali famine victims.

"The bank remains hopeful that the government would be willing to consider a similar solution in this instance," it added.

The US Treasury declined to comment on the issue.

But terror financing specialist Scott Rembrandt said on the agency's website last week that banks are responsible themselves to avoid being involved in money laundering or terrorist financing,

"So many Somali-Americans have sent money to their loved ones in the region struggling to survive," he said.

However, he added, "maintaining safe, transparent payment channels is of the utmost importance given that funds have also been transferred to Al-Shebab."

Source: AFP

Somalis in US scramble to find way to send relatives in Africa money after wire transfers end

Somalis caught off guard when more than a dozen Minnesota businesses stopped accepting wire transfers said Friday they were scrambling to find a way to get money to relatives in East Africa and options mentioned by the U.S. Treasury weren’t realistic.

Somalis in the U.S. use the businesses, known as hawalas, to send money to relatives in the famine-stricken nation and nearby refugee camps because Somalia hasn’t had a functioning government since 1991 and has no banking system.

But 15 Minnesota hawalas stopped accepting wire transfers Thursday because the bank that handles the majority of the transactions planned to close their accounts Friday. Minnesota-based Sunrise Community Banks has said it fears unintentionally violating complex regulations designed to combat terror financing.

Abdirahim Hersi, 27, of Minneapolis, was among the Somalis who thought they could still send money Friday. He went to a money service business with the money in hand and was surprised to find the transfers had already stopped.

“I don’t know what to do,” said Hersi, 27, who sends $500 every month to his mother, daughter and siblings in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, near the Somali border. He usually sends the money at the start of each month, so his December transfer is running out. “I’m confused. I talked to my mother and she’s also confused. ... I’m really sad.”

He and hundreds of other Somalis gathered to protest in a park, many holding signs with pictures of hungry children and messages such as “I am starving — banks blocked transmitting money to me” and “Banks block me from feeding my family.”

The U.S. Treasury said there are other legitimate and transparent ways for Somalis to send money home. They include setting up accounts with other U.S. banks or sending money through other money transmitters or U.S.-based banks to clearinghouses or hubs in Dubai, which arrange for payouts in Somalia.

Another option, it said, is that Somalis could declare the money and legally ship cash or money orders to those same hubs for payout in Somalia.

Minnesota has one of the largest Somali populations in the U.S., and residents there said those options weren’t practical.

Abdulaziz Sugule, former chairman of the Somali Money Services Business and now a consultant on the issue, said sending cash would be even more risky than wire transfers, as it would be tough to document and might not reach its intended destination. People handling the cash risked being robbed or killed, he said.

Going through multiple money service businesses, such as one in the U.S. and then one in Dubai, adds layers of cost and time to each transaction, he added.

Sunrise Community Banks’ decision to stop the transactions came weeks after two Minnesota women were convicted in October of conspiracy to provide support to al-Shabab, a group at the center of violence in Somalia and one the U.S. says is tied to al-Qaida. Evidence at their trial showed the women used the hawalas to send money to the terror group.

The bank said Friday it would consider an extension of the service if it received some sort of way to minimize its risk. No solution was reached at a meeting Friday with Somali community leaders, money-service business owners and government officials.

U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said a waiver isn’t possible.

“The Department of Justice doesn’t give anyone a free pass right up front for possible future criminal activity,” Jones said. “Federal prosecutors don’t give waivers.”

Somalis at Friday’s rally were trying to come up with their own solutions. Samatilis Haille, who lives in Washington, D.C., but was visiting friends and family in Minneapolis, said he was thinking about using Western Union to send money to Nairobi and asking a friend there to pick up the money and send it on to Somalia through a hawala.

But he said that plan has its own risks: He’s worried if his friend learns how much money he sends back, his friend will ask for more. And, he said, he’s unsure if his friend, who is a refugee, has the identification required to pick up the money.

Kamal Hassan, of Edina, said he has been sending almost half of his income to family members in the Dadaab refugee camp, as well as family inside Somalia. But without the hawalas, he can’t think of a way to get it there.

“I blame al-Shabab. Because it is the terrorists’ fault,” he said. “But the thing is, is this the best way to deal with it?”

He said if the U.S. government does not provide a waiver, members of al-Shabab will seize on this as a way to justify their hatred of the U.S. “They will take advantage of this kind of grievance,” he said.

Source: The Associated Press

Friday, December 30, 2011

Somali asylum seekers agree to compromise

Dozens of Somali asylum seekers who were camping outside a detention centre in Ter Apel in the northeastern Netherlands have packed up their tents and ended their protest. A local council spokesperson has confirmed the news.

The refugees have agreed to a compromise offered by the Immigration and Naturalisation Department. They will be allowed to apply afresh for asylum and will be allowed to stay in the country while their cases are considered.

They were protesting because they were due to be deported but claimed Somalia was too dangerous for them to go back. Many of the failed asylum seekers claim not to have the necessary documents to return.

The IND disputes this, saying that repatriation would be possible if the Somalis co-operated in the process. The question of whether or not they can return to Somalia will be answered when their new requests for asylum are considered, according to the IND.

Earlier today, local Mayor Leontien Kompier announced it was “not desirable on humanitarian grounds” that the Somalis should stay in their tents in the present weather conditions.

Source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Nearly 100 Indian seafarers taken hostage in 2011 by Somali pirates

The hijacking of an Italian cargo vessel with seven Indian crew members on board off the coast of Oman by suspected Somali pirates on Tuesday takes the number of Indian seafarers taken hostage in 2011 to nearly 100. Of this, 63 were reportedly released.

Figures from the Ministry of Shipping say that a total of 86 Indian seafarers were taken hostage between January and August in the Somali waters. Of them, 60 were released during the year. To this can be added the 17 Indian crew members of Italian vessel ‘Savina Caylyn,' who were released according to news reports out of Rome early this month. This vessel was hijacked on February 8.

The Ministry had allowed deployment of armed guards on Indian merchant vessels in August and prescribed the best management policy to thwart pirate attacks. Meanwhile, the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre has recorded 199 piracy-related incidents attributed to Somali pirates between January and September.

Information from the Bureau said that piracy on the world's seas rose to record levels, with Somali pirates being behind 56 per cent of the incidents in the first nine months. Anti-piracy measures were increasingly successful in thwarting attacks.

It pointed out that Somali pirates were spreading their operations to the Red Sea areas too, especially during the monsoon. The boldest attack by them was in August, when they hijacked a chemical tanker, under State coastal security, from an Omani port.

Attacks by these pirates were up this year to 199 from previous year's 126 for the same period. However, they are managing to hijack fewer vessels — 24 this year against 35 last year during the January-September period. Hijackings were successful in 12 per cent of all attempts, down from 28 per cent last year.

The report pointed to the coast of Benin turning into a hotspot. There were 19 attacks, eight tanker hijacks, up from zero incidents in the area in 2010. Piracy and armed attacks in Indian subcontinent were down from 106 in the first three quarters of 2010 to 87 this year.

The report is also a pointer to the area of influence of the Somali pirates. A total of 48 German ships, 47 each from Greece and Singapore, 22 from Hong Kong, 15 from Japan and 14 from India were among the ships hijacked during the first nine months. Among the ships that came under attack were 78 bulk carriers, 59 chemical tankers, 50 tankers, 50 container vessels and 29 general cargo vessels.

Source: The Hindu

Somali staff member kills 2 MSF aid workers in Mogadishu

A Somali staff member of Medecins Sans Frontieres shot dead two of the aid agency's foreign workers in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Thursday, police said.

Police spokesman Abdullahi Barise said the gunman had been taken into custody. A Reuters witness said the man was dragged from the building, still holding a pistol.

"The man was armed with a pistol and we understand he had a quarrel with the coordinator. It is very shocking," Barise said. He said the gunman had worked as a logistics officer for the agency.

The MSF official, who declined to be identified, also said the Somali gunman had worked for the aid agency.

One of the aid workers was shot dead at the scene, and the other was wounded and taken to hospital, where he died of his wounds, according to police and medical staff at the hospital.

MSF said in a statement: "We confirm that a serious shooting incident has taken place in the MSF compound in Mogadishu. At this point we don't have more information about the scale and the extent of this incident. MSF is doing everything it can to ensure the security of its staff."

It would neither confirm nor deny the deaths.

MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, operates in a number of locations in Somalia, providing emergency aid to people suffering from famine and the violence that has plagued the country for decades.

The attack happened in a bustling part of the capital which is under the control of government and African Union troops.

In mid-October, gunmen kidnapped two Spanish aid workers for MSF in Kenya, near the Somali border.

Somalia descended into chaos in 1991 after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted, and has not had a functional central government since.

Last week, a gunman killed three Somali aid workers, including two with the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), in the central Somali town of Matabaan, in a region under the control of the Ahlu Sunna militia group, which supports the Somali government.

Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia in October after a wave of kidnappings and cross-border raids it blamed on al Shabaab Islamist rebels, including the kidnap of the MSF Spaniards.


Kenyan police said suspected al Shabaab militia members shot a member of a local security committee at the Daadab refugee camp in Kenya near the border on Thursday night.

"A man, a member of a community security group who works with us has been attacked. He was shot by people we believe are al Shabaab militants. Fortunately he is alive. Our vehicle is on the way to Garissa General Hospital," North Eastern police commander Leo Nyongesa told Reuters.

A Transitional Federal Government soldier and an al Shabaab spokesman said the insurgents attacked a convoy of Kenyan troops inside Somalia in the southern town of Qoqani.

"First, al Shabaab attacked Qoqani airstrip in the morning and then ambushed the Kenyan convoy, but I have no details about casualties," Mohamed Mural, a Somali government soldier told Reuters by phone from Qoqani on Thursday.

Kenya's military spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesman for al Shabaab told Reuters the fighters had ambushed Kenyan soldiers between Qoqani and Tabda on Thursday, burning three of their vehicles.

"It was at 4.00 pm (1300 GMT) when we ambushed them. A land mine hit one vehicle and when the Kenyans stopped and got down from the vehicles, we opened fire on them. We burnt other the two using rocket-propelled grenades," he added.

(Additional reporting by Noor Ali in Isiolo and Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: Reuters

Minnesota Money-Transfer Shops Stop Taking Somali Cash

Money-transfer businesses that cater to Somali immigrants in Minnesota stopped accepting money bound for the famine-stricken East African country Thursday, a day before a key bank was due to stop processing the transactions.

Hinda Ali, a spokeswoman for the Somali-American Money Services Association in Minneapolis, said 15 money-transfer businesses stopped taking the money because they would no longer be able to execute transactions through Sunrise Community Banks. Minnesota represents the nation's largest Somali population.

"They don't have a bank account as of tomorrow," she said of the businesses, which are sometimes known as hawalas.

Sunrise Community Banks previously announced it would stop processing the transactions on Dec. 30 because it risked violating government rules intended to fight the financing of terror groups.

On Thursday, the bank released a statement saying it wouldn't process the transactions without a governmental waiver or similar arrangement. It said it would continue to seek one.

"Sunrise Community Banks has empathy for the Somali people during this very difficult and uncertain time," said the bank's statement. "We continue to work tirelessly with the community and government officials to create a temporary legal and regulatory solution."

Ali said the transfer businesses are a crucial lifeline to Somalis in Africa, where even $100 to $200 a month from immigrants in Minnesota could buy enough food to prevent starvation. She said Somalis in Africa also often need quick cash to get medical care, which must be paid for in advance there.

"A tremendous amount of lives will be lost because they can't get medical care," she said.

Garad Nor, who owns a money transfer business in Minneapolis, said he stopped accepting remittances Thursday. A few out-of-state banks still handle transfers to Somalia, he said, but he doubted they would continue to do so.

"I don't think we can continue this business," said Nor, who said he has helped Somali immigrants send money home since 1992.

Somali community organizers planned a demonstration in Minneapolis on Friday afternoon to raise awareness of the repercussions of the decision by Sunrise Community Banks.

Sunrise's decision came weeks after two Minnesota women were convicted in October of conspiracy to provide support to al-Shabab, a group at the center of violence in Somalia and one that the U.S. says is tied to Al Qaeda. Evidence at the Minnesota trial showed the women, who claimed they were sending money to charity, used the hawalas to send more than $8,600 to the terror group.

If the Sunrise Community Banks accounts close, Somalis in Minnesota have said they will find other ways to send money, but they are more laborious. One way is to send the remittances to another country, such as Kenya or Britain, and then have a third party pick up the money and re-wire it to Somalia.

Somalia hasn't had a functioning central government since 1991.

Source: The Associated Press

Federal judge in Norfolk recuses himself from Somali pirate case

Judge Mark Davis, a Federal judge in Norfolk, recused himself after learning the yacht the men are accused of hijacking was being stored at a Portsmouth marina his brother partially owned.

The 13 Somalis and one Yemeni were brought to Norfolk in March.

Eleven of the men have pleaded guilty.

The case will be transferred to another judge who will preside over the possible death penalty trial of the three other defendants.

The men are accused of hijacking an American yacht called "the quest" and killing the four people on board back in February.

Three Norfolk-based ships helped capture the pirates.

The boat was put in the Portsmouth area by the family estate of the former owners.

The judge's brother is vice president at the marina.

No details have been released about when a new judge will be selected.

Source: WTKR-TV

KENYA: Deaths, displacement in Isiolo fighting

Fighting between communities over grazing land in northern Kenya's Isiolo region has led to at least 10 deaths and the displacement of some 2,000 people in the past three days, according to local leaders and residents.

The fighting, mainly between the members of the Turkana and Somali communities, with some Borana siding with the Somalis, has disrupted transport and trade networks and hampered access to farms and communal grazing areas.

The camel milk trade has been affected, with traders who take the milk to Nairobi daily unable to access grazing fields. Residents have also reported a shortage of charcoal due to lack of access to trading centres.

The areas most affected by the fighting are Burat, Mulango, Kilimani and Kampi ya Juu, all in Isiolo central division. A similar conflict, involving the Gabra and Borana communities in Moyale, near the Ethiopia-Kenya border, recently displaced several thousands of people.

At a funeral in Isiolo's Kambi Oda cemetery on 26 December, Mohamed Kuti, the minister for livestock production, said those fuelling the fighting should be arrested and those with guns disarmed. According to police sources, no arrests have been made so far.

"These clashes must be brought to an end immediately. Many lives have been lost; many people have abandoned their homes. Security officials, the entire [district] security committee team must be moved and punished for failing to do its work," Kuti said.

Residents of the affected areas told IRIN tension remains high as more families continue to flee - most of them to Isiolo town - fearing more attacks. Some 2,000 members of the Turkana community are reported to have arrived in the town in recent days.

Isiolo has seen an escalation in violence since October 2010, with analysts pointing to the town's planned economic expansion as well as elections due in 2012 as key drivers of conflict.

Blame game

Members of the warring communities have traded accusations over who is responsible.

Paul Mero, a Turkana leader, said members of his community had been forced to abandon their homes, farms and businesses. “Bandits are being used to force the Turkana to leave; we are being fought to pave way for other people to settle on our ancestral land… It is not fair that we are blamed and accused of being cattle rustlers."

Dozens of Somali herders and families from areas affected by fighting have also been displaced and are unable to access grazing fields.

Somow Mohamed, a Somali elder, told IRIN he was unable to reach Burat, where his camels are grazing and was only communicating with his herders by phone.

"The road to Burat has been blocked by armed Turkanas. We cannot access our animals," Mohamed said. "I am informed some of my camels are sick but I cannot take the drugs required to treat them."

He added that more than 1,000 families who depended on camel milk to sustain their families were now desperate. "These families depend on the sale of camel milk to buy food and clothes, [and] pay fees and drugs for those who are sick; now they have no option but to beg. We have been forced to become beggars by these bandits," Mohamed said.

Local councillor Ekuam Terru said attacks on the Turkana were political: "We have suffered for many years as a result of politics. The situation is now worse because it is now a combination of politics and campaigns to take away the land, sand and farms of the Turkana."

House set ablaze

Halima Mohamed, a resident of Kambi Garba, said she lost her belongings when her house was set ablaze.

"I am now staying with relatives. My house was burnt; all my clothes, my children's clothes and books got burnt; now I am an internally displaced person… The government should help us the same way it has been helping those who were displaced by the post-election violence [of 2007-2008]."

Mary Ekuot, a mother of five, is among 200 displaced Turkanas at Kambi ya Juu Church. She said she fled her home on the night of 25 December after a neighbour informed her that youths from the rival community were planning to attack her village that night.

"I left my house to spend the night in the open at the church so as to escape death; I have witnessed many deaths this year," Ekuot said. "When my neighbour informed me that a group of youths from her tribe were planning to attack us on Sunday [22 December] night, I left immediately to save my life and my children."

Source: IRIN News

Somalia: taking back schools from Islamic militants

The government is reopening schools in areas of Mogadishu formerly controlled by the al-Shabaab militia, but most students have not yet returned

Schools are beginning to reopen slowly in areas of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, that were until recently controlled by the militant Islamic group al-Shabaab. But an estimated 80% of students have not yet returned.

The government is also moving to create a unified syllabus for all schools. Al-Shabaab controlled schools had been running a separate Islamic curriculum.

Eleven of Mogadishu's 16 districts were under the control of the al-Qaida-linked militants before their August withdrawal from the capital.

Only 20 of the 78 existing schools in these districts have opened since September, but they are mainly empty as families slowly return to the capital.
Somalia was the hardest hit by the drought in the Horn of Africa, with the UN declaring famine in parts of southern Somalia.

Sadeq Salaad, from the NGO Formal Private Educational Network in Somalia (Fpens), told IPS that 78 schools in north and north-eastern parts of the capital were closed because of the daily armed confrontations between al-Shabaab and forces loyal to the government in those areas since mid-2009. "According to our statistics, only 20 schools in these war-ravaged areas have reopened and that is because of the small number of families which have returned to their homes in the city since August," he said.

In Somalia, most schools are managed by Fpens, as the Somali government has yet to gain control over them after years of war. Fpens has been managing schools since the country fell into anarchy in 1991 with the outbreak of the civil war. During that time there had been no central government control over the country.

"Another big problem is that so many schools were destroyed by the wars, and they need to be rebuilt. There are some schools that were reopened but are partly destroyed," Sadeq told IPS by telephone.

Boondheere district in the north-eastern part of the capital is a former al-Shabaab controlled area. Twelve schools here were closed during the militant group's three-year siege of Mogadishu. Mujama Umul Qura, thought to be the largest school in this district with a capacity for 6,000 students, became the first school in the area to open its doors in October. But only a few students are enrolled here.

"At least 20% of our 6,000 students are currently here. We hope that all students will restart their education by January," said the school's principal, Sheik Hassan Mohamed Ahmed. The International Islamic Relief Organisation runs the school, and its curriculum differs from that of other schools in the area.

The Somali education minister, Ahmed Aideed Ibrahim, said his ministry is trying to combine the different curriculums being taught at schools into one unified syllabus. "We are in consultations with experts from the former Somali education ministry and we are discussing ways to unite the different curriculums used in the country. We hope to reach our target within the next eight months and we are very hopeful that the country's former curriculum will once again be in place," he said.

While students and parents say they are happy with the opening of some of the schools in the capital, most homes in the former al-Shabaab-controlled districts are in need of major repairs, and residents say this is one of the main reasons why more families are yet to return to the capital.

Hasna Abdulkader Farah, a mother of five, said that two of her sons would have graduated from high school in January 2011 if the country's ongoing conflict had not affected their education. "I am praying to Allah to punish al-Shabaab in his hell, because they caused many problems for us. Praise be to Allah now we are safe and my children have returned to school," said Farah.

Many other children in Somalia suffered a worse fate, as they were easy targets for militant recruitment. Ibrahim said a large number of Somali children of school-going age have been used as combatants in country's long-running conflict. He said a lack of education was the main cause for the increasing number of child soldiers in the country.

He said his ministry is planning to build colleges and boarding schools for orphans and children from poor families in to prevent them from being recruited by militant groups. "The Somali government is giving particular consideration to this sector, because lack of education has lead thousands of children to be very vulnerable to warmongers, who have been monopolising them as warriors for the past two decades," Ibrahim said.

In the past, education was free in Somalia but Ibrahim could not say if his ministry would be able to continue with this.

Mohamed Abdullahi, chairman of the Somali Students Union, said the organisation welcomed the re-establishment of education in the capital. "If there is no education it means we have no bright future, because when education is growing, the civilisation also grows. So the SSU is very much jubilant at the restart of education in the war-devastated parts of Mogadishu," he said.

He called on the Somali government and Unesco to help rebuild the destroyed schools.

Source: The Guardian

Somali women face sexual violence

Somali women, in a county devastated by the al-Shabaab insurgency and famine, face an epidemic of sexual violence, aid workers say.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, a special representative for the United Nations, said famine has forced many Somalis to leave their homes. Many women have lost the protection of family and clan.

"The situation is intensifying," she said.

Al-Shabaab, an Islamist group, sometimes forces women to enter brief marriages that are a cover for sexual slavery.

"For the [al-Shabaab], forced marriage is another aspect they are using to control the population," Coomaraswamy said.

Sheik Mohamed Farah Ali, who left al-Shabaab to fight on the government side, said girls as young as 12 are forced into temporary marriages. If they refuse, they are killed.

"There's no cleric, no ceremony, nothing," he said.

The United Nations said at least 2,500 recent cases of sexual violence have been reported from Mogadishu alone.

Source: United Press International

Somalis Fear End of US Remittances Will Empower Militants

At the end of this week, citizens of Somalia will lose one of their biggest sources of money. That is when a U.S. bank cuts off cash transfers to the war-torn and famine-stricken country. Somalis in Nairobi say the move - intended to stop funding for Somali militants - will hurt ordinary people instead.

Nairobi's Eastleigh neighborhood is a center of commerce for Kenya's sizable Somali community.

Nicknamed “Little Mogadishu,” the streets are crowded with handcarts pulling cooking oil, men selling suit jackets and undershirts, and street vendors hawking a leafy narcotic known as khat.

The invisible force energizing much of this trade is a unique money transaction network, which allows the Somali diaspora to send money to family members and business partners back home.

But the so-called hawala network is about to lose a major lifeline, when a U.S. bank cuts off one of the only transfer services for Somalis in the United States.

Omar Haji, originally from Mogadishu, now lives in Eastleigh, and receives financial support from his family in the U.S. state of Minnesota.

He said that most people will see this action by the banks as an attack on Somali people rather than against al-Shabab.

He added that support for the militant group could actually grow, and businesses that typically receive money from abroad may turn to the relatively wealthy al-Shabab for financing.

The al-Qaida linked group has waged war against the country's central government for years, and has funded itself by taxing citizens in areas under its control.

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government has had some limited success driving the militants out of the capital Mogadishu in recent months. But Hassan Said Samantar, a minister of Galmudug State in central Somalia, said cutting off remittance flows could further destabilize the country.

“I find this move really very unfortunate for the Somali population at a time. Particularly at a time when Somalia is going forward with the roadmap and the security situation is improving and so on. Whenever Somalia is going forward it seems there are forces that push it back,” said Samantar.

The United States says Somali money transfer services handle up to $1.6 billion every year. And the international development agency Oxfam says about $100 million is sent directly from the United States.

Mohamed Ali Mohamud is a former Somali presidential candidate from Puntland. He now runs a borehole drilling company that operates in Somalia. He said the bigger money-wiring services have a very scant presence in Somalia and do not operate in al-Shabab controlled areas, leaving very few alternatives for cash transfers.

“Western Union or Moneygram, or whatever, they don't venture to go that area where those guys are controlling. But these Somali remittance [companies], they are taking risks. They make agreements with the local people there, for their safety, and then they make the remittances, immediately, without delay,” said Mohamud.

In addition, Western Union can charge a fee of up to 20 percent, while the hawala merchants charge between two and five percent.

Eastleigh businessman Mohamed Jamaa sells electronics, milk, biscuits and other small items that he imports from Somalia.

He said if the money is cut off at the source of the supply chain, it will immediately affect his business, and his ability to support his four sons who live at a refugee camp.

Jamaa said he gives the boys money to keep them occupied, but that if he can no longer support them, they may have no choice but to go back to Somalia and join al-Shabab.

The U.S. firm, Sunrise Community Banks, decided to shut down the money transfer service for fear it would be in violation of a U.S. counter-terrorism law if the money ended up in the wrong hands.

Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali is urging the U.S. government to step in to help find another solution.

Source: VOA News

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vital lifeline to millions of Somalis could be cut off by December 30, 2011

The Somali American Money Services Association (SAMSA)


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Somali American Money Services Association (SAMSA) is very concerned about the Sunrise Community Bank's decision to close the bank accounts of its Somali American Money Services customers who are legally licensed and regulated to do business on remittances. This decision could totally cut off the only means that the Somali Americans have to provide vital support to their loved ones in Somalia. Now more than ever, remittances to Somalia are crucial because of the severe humanitarian crisis in Somalia.

Remittance is an essential lifeline for the Somali people and it is the only source of funding that sustains the livelihood of millions of Somalis, mostly women and children. Average remittance transaction is $100 to $200. Millions of Somalis depend on their family members in the U. S. for food, shelter, water, and other basic human needs.

Remittance Operators are by far the main facilitators of aid and development funds for Somalia. In addition to the needy Somalis, the Somali Government, International NGOs, UN, and US-AID use Remittance Operators to conduct their operations in Somalia.

SAMSA members believe that their businesses have been singled out and denied vital banking services that virtually no Money Service Business can operate without. SAMSA members are fully compliant with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations including all relevant provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act and the USA Patriot Act. SAMSA members are positive forces who significantly contribute towards peaceful Somalia by investing in Somalia and by creating jobs here in the U.S.

SAMSA members believe that the Sunrise Community Bank?s decision to close their bank accounts will result in a worsening of the humanitarian crisis in Somalia. At a time when President Barack Obama has boosted the U.S government?s emergency aid to the Horn of Africa by $113 million, cutting more than $100 million every year that the Somali Americans send their families will adversely impact the already fragile situation in Somalia and push millions to poverty. In addition, such action threatens the window of opportunity for a stable Somalia and the efforts of building an economy that offers alternative opportunities for unemployed youth in Somalia to prevent them from resorting to criminal activities including terrorism and piracy.

SAMSA requests that the Sunrise Community Bank reconsiders its decision and extends the December 30, 2011 deadline to allow for more talks with the regulatory agencies in order to find a viable solution to address its concern.

SAMSA urges the U.S Treasury to take a serious look at the issue of concern in the interest of all the stakeholders and work with the U.S. banks to save this vital lifeline which gives services to Somali Americans and their loved ones in Somalia. In addition, SAMSA urges the elected officials and other U.S government agencies including the State Department to continue their push toward finding a lasting solution to this crisis. SAMSA is committed to serving the communities here in the U.S and in Somalia in legal and transparent manners.

SAMSA is grateful to the incredible support of the elected officials, various government agencies, non-profit organizations, the Somali government, and the Somali people.

The world must assist AMISOM to complete the task in Somalia

Just beyond the terminal at Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulleh International Airport sits a rusty, hulking wreck of a plane. It has been there since 2007, shot down as it attempted to deliver equipment to the first batch of African Union troops deploying into the Somali capital. It was an inauspicious start to a mission that has today helped provide Somalia with the best opportunity it has had in two decades to achieve lasting peace.

Today, as sleek passenger jets taxi past, bringing ever increasing numbers of visitors, it stands as a reminder of just how much things have changed. One recent guest, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, summed it up perfectly. “A few years ago, people tended to think of Somalia as a place of famine or bloodshed,” he said. “We finally face a moment of fresh opportunities. We must seize it.”

Within the city, there is a palpable sense of hope. Ever since Amisom and the Somali National Army forced the Al-Qaeda linked extremist terror group, Al-Shabaab, to withdraw from the city, violence levels have come down markedly. For the first time in years, the people of Mogadishu can walk the streets at night and relax on the beaches with a measure of safety. As many who had fled the chaos and anarchy return, homes are being repaired and rebuilt and shops and businesses reopening.

Barely a month after the terrorists were defeated, political leaders from across the country gathered in Mogadishu and agreed on a roadmap to the eventual return of permanent government in August 2012. The improved security situation has enabled the delivery of emergency food aid to hundreds of thousands who came to the capital seeking refuge from the famine in Al-Shabaab controlled regions in the south, where access for aid agencies is severely limited.

It is easy to forget that when the United Nations Security Council, the body that bears the primary responsibility for the preservation of global peace, mandated the African Union to deploy a peace support mission to Somalia, few gave it much chance of success. Bigger and better resourced interventions had already failed to stabilise the country. Amisom deployed with few troops, and even fewer resources. For much of the time it has been in Somalia, it has been significantly below its mandated strength, initially 8,000 but now at 12,000 troops. This is still far less than the 28,000 deployed under the second United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II) with a similar task in 1993.

Force enablers

Even the way the mission is resourced is unique. For example, nowhere else is there a UN-mandated peace operation that has no support from the air, no aircraft for battlefield reconnaissance, transport or ground support. Though since 2009, Amisom has been supported logistically and technically by the UN, the funds do not always come from the UN-assessed budget. Rather the mission is forced to also rely on voluntary donations by individual nations that are neither predictable nor sustained or guaranteed. The Amisom Trust Fund, set up to receive such contributions, has for example not reimbursed contingents for the use of their equipment since March — an area not covered by the UN logistical support package.

As a result, the success in Mogadishu has come at considerable cost to the Ugandan and Burundian soldiers who have borne the brunt of the struggle to erase the menace of violent extremism from Somalia. The gains made, though remarkable, remain fragile, as the recent terrorist bombing campaign has shown. With the help of the local community, many of the improvised explosive devices and car bombs are being found and disposed of before they can kill and maim. However, Amisom must be urgently reinforced and given the resources it needs to adequately and effectively protect the population in the city and to expand the gains to other areas of the country.

Amisom commanders estimate that they will need up to 20,000 troops to secure the whole of Somalia and African countries are stepping up. This month, the mission welcomes its third contingent, a battalion from Djibouti. With Kenya, which already has troops in the south, accepting the AU invitation to rehat them as Amisom, and Burundi planning to insert another battalion, Amisom has now been offered more troops than currently allowed under the UN mandate.

It is therefore critical that the Security Council urgently considers raising the ceiling, as indeed it has committed to do once the limit is reached. Further, the mission needs to be financed in a predictable and guaranteed fashion and given the necessary force enablers, including air assets such as helicopters, a marine capability and military engineering capabilities.

As Amisom secures the ground, there is, too, an urgent need to continue to build up the capacity of the Transitional Federal Government to deliver services to its people and improve governance. Functional institutions are a prerequisite for long-term stability and support must be provided for budgets, training programmes and quick impact projects. Amisom’s civilian and police components have made strides in training and mentoring Somalia’s civil servants and police officers and these efforts need to be complemented by greater international engagement and assistance.

In his short and famous speech at Gettysburg honouring the sacrifices made on that great battlefield of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called on his young nation “to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” Those words are as true of Somalia today. The shattered wreck at the airport is a monument to the price fellow Africans have paid for Somalia’s “moment of fresh opportunities.” The sacrifices they have made on all our behalf must not be in vain.

Wafula Wamunyinyi is the Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on Somalia.

Source: Africa Review

Turkey Launches Efforts to Drill Water Well in Somalia

Turkey's State Water Works Agency (DSI) launched on Wednesday efforts to drill a water well in Somalia.

Seven-member DSI team, headed by geologist Musa Yilmaz, started to drill a water well near a Turkish Red Crescent tent-site in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

DSI experts said they would drill up to 100 meters below the ground to reach potable water, adding that they expected to complete the project within a week.

Somalia is facing with one of the worst droughts in the past 60 years.

The epicenter of the drought lies on the three-way border shared by Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, a nomadic region where families heavily depend on the health of their livestock. Uganda and Djibouti have also been hit by the disaster.

Tens of thousands of people have so far been displaced due to the humanitarian situation in the region.

Source: Turkish Weekly

Boko Haram Seen Linked to Other African Terror Groups

The Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has again demonstrated its capacity to inflict fear and terror on the people of Nigeria, with a series of bomb attacks that killed at least 39 people this past weekend. Analysts suspect the group also is working with other terrorist organizations in Africa, but it is not clear to what degree.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful,” has developed its own distinct brand of terror in Nigeria by carrying out acts of violence in crowds, seeking to inflict as much bloodshed and damage as possible.

The group has typically gone after domestic targets, including Nigerian police and government institutions, in what is believed to be an effort to create a Sharia-ruled state. But that all changed with a major suicide bomb attack on a United Nations building this year in the capital Abuja.

The strike against the U.N. raised suspicion that Boko Haram, which has a stated Islamist agenda, is now operating on a larger scale, and strengthened the idea that it may have direct ties to al-Qaida.

Greg Barton is director of the Center for Islam and the Modern World at Monash University in Australia. “Over the years they've changed their philosophy to focus on a more familiar jihadi world view that wants change in the country and sees itself as part of a global struggle. And they've made links with al-Shabab in Somalia and with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Algeria, which is very worrying," he explained. "So they've broadened their list of aims and it means it's almost impossible to negotiate with them.”

The top officer in the U.S. military's Africa Command, General Carter Ham, has expressed concern about Boko Haram's claim to be receiving support from other al-Qaida linked groups in the region.

General Ham told a group of defense writers in September that he is especially concerned with the stated intent of these groups to work together. He said that intent has been “voiced most clearly” between al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, and Boko Haram.

Last year (2010) AQIM publicly announced it would support Boko Haram with weapons and training. But the two groups have used different tactics. Operating in Mali, Niger and Algeria, AQIM is notorious for kidnappings - mostly of European workers and tourists - in alleged retaliation for foreign commercial exploitation of North Africa.

On the other side of the continent, there is also evidence of a relationship between Boko Haram and Somalia's militant faction al-Shabab.

Abdi Samad, a security analyst with Southlink Consultants, says he witnessed the link firsthand during a visit to Somalia in 2008, when he saw a Nigerian man leading an al-Shabab operation to excavate the graves of Sufi sheikhs in the Lower Shabelle region.

“I have no doubt whatsoever there is a link between Boko Haram and al-Shabab, because when I heard Boko Haram - what they're doing in Nigeria - I vividly remember, my memory goes back to 2008, when I saw that tall guy, Nigerian, who was in charge of such operations. So I have a strong suspicion about the Boko Haram they have a link with al-Shabab," Samad said. "But, [to] what extent, that's the question. I don't know it, to be honest. I don't know it.”

Nigerian security officials have also said that the man responsible for bombing of the U.N. building in Abuja, Mamman Nur, planned the attack after returning from a trip to Somalia.

Samad says the big question about Boko Haram is whether they are interested in a global jihadist philosophy, which would put the group more in tune with members of al-Shabab.

“The difference between the Boko Haram, al-Shabab they are saying, there are some elements who advocate what they call global jihad, they are going to spread Islam from China to Chile, from Cape Town to Canada, which means they are going to [assimilate] the entire world. That's what you call the ideology of al-Shabab - sorry, a section of al-Shabab -- but I'm not sure if that one they share with Boko Haram,” Samad stated.

The African Union commission on counter-terrorism presented a report earlier this month outlining the AU's efforts to confront regional threats.

The only group aside from the three al-Qaida linked terror organizations listed in the report was the Lord's Resistance Army, which operates in Central Africa.

The report called for a more coordinated effort to confront the groups saying their activities represent “alarming signals of the level of threat facing the continent.”

Source: VOA News

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

SOMALIA: US bank move highlights importance of remittances

The welfare of hundreds of thousands of Somalis who depend on financial assistance from the diaspora is at risk following a decision by a US bank to close down accounts of Somali money transfer companies in the state of Minnesota by 30 December, according to local and international sources.

Somalis, both in Somalia and in the diaspora, have reacted with dismay at the move by Sunrise Community Bank, arguing that money transfer companies are a lifeline to millions of Somalis who depend on remittances for their livelihoods.

"After suffering conflict and famine, cutting off the only lifeline left for Somalis is tantamount to a death sentence for [many] Somalis," Ilmi Gedi, head of Qaran money transfer company (one of the largest in Somalia), told IRIN. "If the closure goes ahead, it will not only hit those whose families used to get money but also drought- and famine-displaced people supported by other Somalis."

Laura Hammond, a senior lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said the problem was serious with regards to Minneapolis (the largest city in Minnesota and home to an estimated 60,000-80,000 ethnic Somalis) but potentially not critical to remittance-sending from the rest of the USA.

However, Hammond said, if other US banks follow suit and close their doors to Somali money transfer companies, the situation would be very serious.

"The diaspora is one of the main lifelines to [people in] the famine areas and their support is more effective than that of most aid agencies because they are able to deliver funds to precisely where they are needed almost instantly," she said adding: "Aid agencies have technical expertise, but when it comes to getting money to where it's needed quickly they can't begin to compete with the diaspora.

"One of the cruel ironies of this famine is that the worst-affected areas are also those most conflict-prone, so funding is vital to precisely the areas that make banks nervous."

Big impact

It is estimated that US$1.3-2 billion per year is remitted to Somalia from around the world, Hammond said.

"In a `normal’ year, probably 10 percent of that goes towards `collective contributions’ - relief and development. In an emergency year, the amount of remittances goes up - by how much, we don't know - both to individual recipients and to community-based relief for internally displaced camps, feeding centres, etc," she said.

The impact of such a closure will be felt the most inside Somalia, where the UN estimates four million are in need of assistance - three million of them in southern Somalia, with 250,000 in famine affected areas at risk of starvation.

Madino Ji'ale Farah, a 65-year-old grandmother and resident of Mogadishu, told IRIN she and 13 members of her extended family were living on the $200 a month that one of her children sends regularly.

"We have no other income except our monthly bill from my daughter. We survive on this money and if it stops we have no other means," Jama said. "We would be forced to either go to the camps [for refugees and displaced people] or beg."

She said her daughter had warned her that she may not be able to send money next month.

Abdisalam Abdinur, 55, a father of five, depends on the $200 his 21-year-old son sends from Minneapolis. "If it stops we will have nothing else to live on."

Abdinur told IRIN stopping money transfers will make most Somalis depend on food handouts. "We already have too many waiting for food handouts. Why add to it? It is very cruel. Maybe they want us all to beg."

In a statement on 27 December, the Somali American Money Services Association (SAMSA) said it was concerned by Sunrise Community Bank's decision to close their accounts. It is estimated that in an average year, over US$100 million is transferred to Somalia through SAMSA from the USA.

Aid workers worried

On 23 December, Oxfam America and the American Refugee Committee (ARC) issued a statement decrying the move by Sunrise Bank.

"This is the worst time for this service to stop. Any gaps with remittance flows in the middle of the famine could be disastrous,” Shannon Scribner, Oxfam America’s humanitarian policy manager, said in the statement.

She called on the US government to give the bank assurances “that there will be no legal ramifications of providing this service to Somalis in need”.

Ken Menkhaus, Somalia expert and associate professor at Davidson College, North Carolina, was quoted as saying: “The 2011 famine in Somalia would have been far worse had it not been for the extraordinary mobilization of remittances sent by the Somali diaspora to both their extended families and to local charities - and all those remittances were sent through the `hawala’ system.”

SAMSA said money transfer operators were by far the main facilitators of aid and development funds for Somalia. “In addition to the needy Somalis, the Somali government, international NGOs, the UN and USAID [US Agency for International Development] use remittance operators to conduct their operations in Somalia.”

SAMSA said its members were fully compliant with all applicable state and federal laws and regulations, including all relevant provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act and the US Patriot Act.

Source: IRIN News

FACTBOX-Ships held by Somali pirates

Here are details of ships held by Somali pirates:

* SOCOTRA 1: Seized on Dec. 25, 2009, in the Gulf of Aden. The Yemeni-owned ship had six Yemeni crew.

* ICEBERG 1: Seized on March 29, 2010. Roll-on roll-off vessel captured 10 miles from Aden. Crew of 24.

* OLIP G: Seized on Sept. 8, 2010. Maltese-flagged merchant vessel with 18 crew - 15 Georgians, three Turks.

* CHOIZIL: Seized on Oct. 26, 2010. South African-owned yacht hijacked after leaving Dar es Salaam. One crew member was rescued by an EU anti-piracy task force but two others were taken ashore as hostages and have not been heard from since.

* ALBEDO: Seized on Nov. 26, 2010. Malaysian-owned cargo vessel taken 900 miles off Somalia as it headed for Mombasa from UAE. Crew of 23 from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran.

* ORNA: Seized on Dec. 20, 2010. The Panama-flagged bulk cargo vessel, 27,915 dwt, owned by the United Arab Emirates, was seized 400 miles northeast of the Seychelles. Somali pirates rescued 19 crew members of the Orna after their hijacked ship caught fire last June.

* FAIRCHEM BOGEY: Seized on Aug. 20, 2011. The empty chemical oil tanker with its 21 crew was seized south of Salalah port in the Gulf of Oman. The 52,455 dwt Marshall Islands-flagged tanker is managed by Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern Ship Management.

* LIQUID VELVET: Seized on Oct. 31, 2011. The Marshall Islands-flagged Greek-owned chemical tanker was sailing from Suez and heading to India when it was seized in the Gulf of Aden. The 11,599 dwt, owned by the Greek firm Elmira Tankers, was carrying 22 people on board.

* ARIDE: Seized November 2011. The fishing vessel was captured 65 miles west of Mahe. The two Seychelles crew are being held hostage by Somali pirates.

* ENRICO IEVOLI: Seized on Dec. 27. Ship-owner Marnavi said that the 16,631-tonne chemical tanker had been seized by pirates off the coast of Oman in the Arabian sea. The tanker had 18 people on board including six Italians, five Ukranians and seven Indians. The vessel is carrying a cargo of caustic soda and had left the United Arab Emirates bound for the Mediterranean.

Sources: Reuters

Scotland Yard to aid Kenya terror investigation after Brit arrested

By Laura Heaton, in Nairobi and Duncan Gardham

A team from the Scotland Yard has been sent to help Kenyan authorities investigate a terror network after a British national was arrested on allegations that he is an explosives expert for the Somali militant group al-Shabaab.

Kenyan police arrested the suspect, who has not been named, in the coastal city of Mombasa, last week. Seven other suspects were also arrested and accused of plotting to carry out attacks in Kenya during the holiday season, a peak time for tourism in the country.

Kenya’s anti-terrorism police reportedly raided the suspect’s house and seized material and chemicals used for making explosives, including dynamite, detonators and timers, according to the Daily Nation, which first reported the involvement of Scotland Yard.

Police officers also questioned the suspect’s wife, a Kenyan of Somali origin.

A Kenyan police spokesman told The Daily Telegraph the name of the suspect was being withheld until Kenyan and British investigators synchronise the case.

Foreign Office sources told The Telegraph that a Briton was “involved” with a group of individuals found with bomb-making equipment in Mombassa. They could not confirm whether the individual was in Kenyan custody.

Scotland Yard sources said a team from the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command had already arrived in Kenya to help the local police.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “British counter-terrorism officials have offered assistance to the Kenyans in this case and a team from the Metropolitan Police is deploying to Kenya to assist in the investigation.”

MI5 and MI6 have become aware of an increasing number of young British men arriving in the East African country in order to cross the porous land border into Somalia.

In Somalia they have been joining up with the al-Qaeda affiliated group al-Shabaab and there have been concerns that they could return to Britain to launch suicide attacks.

Three suspected British al-Shabaab members who had arrived in Kenya through Mombasa were arrested in Garissa County in the North East of the country in May.

The three men were of Bangladeshi origin but holding British passports, according to reports.

In recent months, detectives from Scotland Yard have turned up in Kenya to assist a new investigation into the 1988 murder of British tourist Julie Ward and to help unravel the case of Judith and David Tebbutt, who were attacked by Somali pirates in September. The pirates shot Mr. Tebbutt and kidnapped Mrs. Tebbutt, who was taken across the border into Somalia and remains in their custody.

Source: The Telegraph

Somali MP protests against navy theft of Somali fishing boat equipment

"While we fully support the anti-piracy operations of the navies, if they are conducted in accordance with the provisions of the UNSC resolutions and with the specific consent of the Somali Government," Somali member of parliament Hon. Ashareh stated, "we, however, have not given permission to the foreign navies to transfer property from the Somali territory into the hands of the Djiboutian navy."

The legislator explained: Many of these outboard engines were stolen by the pirate gangs from poor local fishermen or from governmental fisheries projects," and demanded: "All the equipment confiscated by the foreign navies within the waters of Somalia or in connection with the stopping of boats from Somalia must be returned into the hands of the Somali authorities. Anything else is pure theft."

MP Ashareh demanded that the engines be handed back by the Chief of the Djiboutian Navy Colonel Abdourahman Aden Cher to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.

"The Somali sovereignty must be respected by all means," the Somali lawmaker concluded and urged the Somali Foreign Minister to follow up with his counterpart in Djibouti.

The European Naval Forces had reported earlier:

EU NAVFOR transfers pirates’ outboard engines to the Djiboutian Navy (EUNAVFOR)

In Djibouti on 7 December, RAdm Christian Canova FRAN, Deputy Commander EU NAVFOR, transferred six powerful outboard motors which had been confiscated from Somali pirates to Colonel Abdourahman Aden Cher, Chief of the Djiboutian Navy.

The engines were taken from small skiffs which had been stopped by EU NAVFOR units conducting counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and exchanged for smaller engines which have sufficient power to get the suspected pirates back to Somalia but would not allow them to intercept and board merchant ships, thereby preventing subsequent pirate attacks. The engines have been completely overhauled and will provide a very useful upgrade to the Djiboutian Navy Rigid Inflatable boats.

During the handover ceremony, attended by the EU Ambassador, Nicola Delcroix, RAdm Canova said how pleased he was to be able to assist the Djiboutian Navy and that EU NAVFOR would continue to work with Navies in the region to counter the menace of piracy

EU NAVFOR conducts counter-piracy in the Indian Ocean and is responsible for the protection of World Food Program ships carrying humanitarian aid for the people of Somalia and the logistic support vessels of the African Union troops conducting Peace Support Operations in Somalia. Additionally, EU NAVFOR monitors fishing activity off the coast of Somalia

Source: INTERNATIONAL.TO The Telegraph Group

UK censured over evil plans for Somalia

The British government has come under severe criticism from the country's anti-war campaign groups expressing concerns over the hypocritical decisions made within the British establishment.

Britain's anti-war activists have expressed great concerns over the British government's plans for invading another conflict-torn African country, Somalia, saying that the British officials are considering strategic interests while they picture themselves as agents seeking to resolve a humanitarian crisis.

Speaking with the Russian English news channel Russia Today, Labour MP and peace activist Jeremy Corbyn questioned the integrity of the British government saying military intervention is just an excuse for the British government to take control of the vast reserves of Somalia's oil and gas.

“You usually find when the military strategists are planning long-term intervention somewhere, they're looking at geological maps first and looking at political maps second; and, the oil, the gas is one of the biggest issues,” said Corbyn.

“There is a huge Somali community around here that I represent, most of whom from the South, but not all; and, they're not saying to me 'Please, intervene.' They're saying 'can we please have support to get a functioning system of government and peace in Somalia?'” added the Labour MP for Islington North.

Responding to the British government's claims that its intervention would help the humanitarian crisis in some African countries, John Laughland, British journalist and director of Studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, clearly announced such measures are driven by “strategic interests including oil.”

Several critics have maintained that the British government's plans for invading Somalia are the direct result of what British officials consider as a successfully accomplished campaign in Libya.

UN - FROM THE FIELD: Keeping hope alive in Mogadishu

It is a hot, dusty morning in Mogadishu, the war-ravaged capital of Somalia, and Ahmed Farah Roble is in a makeshift settlement for internally displaced persons (IDPs), listening to a mother tell him about her baby daughter.

Ahmed nods patiently, asks questions and listens attentively. He is in the camp to meet with its representatives, to learn more about their situation. Many have recently arrived from the country’s south, fleeing hunger and conflict. They have very little, and urgently need food and medicine, shelter and health care.

It is hard not to be affected by what he sees and hears, especially as the 45-year-old was born and raised in Mogadishu. As the longest-serving UN humanitarian affairs officer in the capital, Ahmed has heard many similar heart-breaking tales before.

“But it is painful, still. I can say that, before, this was a peaceful city. It was paradise. Now, these people living here have lost everything, their property, opportunities for education. There are not enough health services. There is no safe drinking water in some areas,” he says.

“I’m one of those who was here in the golden days, when the situation was good. These last 20 years, when the country was devastated by endless and continuous conflict, it is really painful for me.”

For much of the past four years, through some of Mogadishu’s heaviest fighting, he was the lone man on the ground for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – the part of the UN responsible for bringing together humanitarian groups to ensure a coherent response to emergencies.

The situation has been so dangerous that, until recently, OCHA was unable to deploy more staff to join him.

“It was not an easy task to work here then,” says Ahmed. “All of the humanitarian community was targeted, no matter whether they were international or national. You could be targeted, kidnapped and killed at any time.” “It was a critical time, and even for me it was very difficult to get access to the people most in need.”

National staff members like Ahmed make up more than 90 per cent of humanitarian workers around the world, working on the frontlines. Too often, they bear the brunt of violence, as illustrated today with the deaths of two staff members of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and a colleague working for a partner organization in central Somalia.

The dangers of working in Somalia, and restricted access for internationals, have led to a greater reliance on national staff, as well as local partners.

“International staff bring a wealth of technical experience to this crisis, but the role played by national staff is just as important,” says Marcel Stoessel, the head of OCHA’s sub-office in Mogadishu. “After all, nobody knows Somalia better than the Somalis – and without the local expertise of our national colleagues, international staff couldn’t do their jobs.”

“National staff speak the local language and often some local dialects as well, so they can more easily interact with people. They also understand the clan structure in Somalia, which is important if one wants to be successful in this humanitarian operation. They help us make crucial links with the government.

“Last, but not least, it’s much safer for them to move around Mogadishu than it is for international staff. People like Ahmed are our ‘humanitarian eyes and ears’.”

Ahmed’s family is in a neighbouring country for safety. For much of the time that he has been in Mogadishu, the city has been riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides – fighters belonging to the Islamist militant Al-Shabaab movement and troops belonging to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

The violence worsened the already dire humanitarian situation for the city’s existing residents, and well as the many new people who sought help and refuge there after famine struck parts of the south in mid-2011.

Since Al-Shabaab’s withdrawal from the central parts of Mogadishu in August, the frontlines have been pushed back to the city’s outskirts – but the situation is still far from secure. The use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers is a regular occurrence, and on the rise.

“The scale-up of humanitarian aid has done a lot for the situation here. Malnutrition rates and mortality rates have dropped, and access is better in some places – so I have been able to visit various IDP settlements. But there is a need for more help,” Ahmed says. “I see it and hear it all the time.”

Heading back to his car to make his way to the OCHA sub-office is no easy feat. IDPs try to grab his attention with every step. Finally back at his desk, now populated with two new national colleagues and three international colleagues, Ahmed starts preparing a report on what he has heard and seen during his visit.

The report will inform OCHA and its partners about the humanitarian needs of that IDP settlement, allowing the humanitarian system to direct essential aid to its residents.

“I have the sense of a humanitarian. That’s a real driving force which helps me to forget everything, especially when I feel so far from my family, when I am doing this night and day. I’m just happy that I am doing a good thing.”

Somali pirates hijack Italian tanker with 18 crew, including Italians, Ukrainians, Indians

An Italian shipping company says Somali pirates have hijacked a tanker with 18 crew on board.

A statement from the Marnavi company website says that the Enrico Ievoli was hijacked very close to the coast of Oman.

There were six Italians, five Ukrainians and seven Indians onboard when the ship came under attack in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The ship was carrying a cargo of caustic soda to the Mediterranean. The company says it has notified Italian authorities and is waiting for more information.

Ransoms for tankers often reach into the millions of dollars. The long coastline of war-ravaged Somalia provides a perfect haven for pirate gangs preying on shipping off the East African coast.

Source: The Associated Press

Somalia: Somalis Agree On Formula to Pick MPs

A United Nations sponsored consultative meeting on Somalia's Roadmap to Stability has concluded in Garowe town, the capital of the semi autonomous state of Puntland, 1,000 kilometres northeast of Mogadishu.

One of the thorny issues at the meeting was good governance, which included parliamentary reform before end of the shelf-life of the current government by August 20, 2012.

According to the Garowe Principle, the Somali parliament will be composed of 225 MPs that will be selected on the basis of the clan power sharing-formula of 4.5, that is an allocation for 'one lot' for each of four big Somali clans while 0.5 is allocated for a coalition of smaller clans.

It will mean a marked reduction from the current number of 550 MPs.

When the TFG was established in Kenya, following two years (2002-2004) of talks at Mbagathi, 275 individuals were selected as MPs.

The number was doubled at the end of another reconciliation conference in Djibouti in 2008, boosting the legislators to 550. The next parliament will have a Chamber of Elders (a sort of Senate).

Source: AllAfrica

Monday, December 26, 2011

Somalia: Garowe Principles

Garowe Online Editorial

Somalis from different clans and different regions intermingled, discussed, negotiated and eventually agreed to a set of principles that will guide the political and constitutional development in Somalia for the coming years.

There can be apology for victory. It comes to those whom Almighty Allah bestows His Mercy and His Honor upon.

The Somali National Consultative Constitutional Conference (21–23 December 2011) was held in Garowe, the capital city of Puntland State. The signed document, aptly entitled the Garowe Principles, is a historic record that will be referenced in future political developments in Somalia. In short, the Garowe Principles serve rightfully as a set of steps that guide the constitutional process in Somalia.

What happened in Garowe this week was incredible as far as the political turmoil with which Somalia is associated is concerned. Inside Somalia, a high-level conference was held – with Somali leaders and dignitaries debating openly and freely among themselves, with no foreign interference.

Our praise goes to the Puntland Government for hosting this conference and to the Puntland public for generously welcoming their fellow Somalis. We commend the brave step taken by the visiting delegations from Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), the Galmudug authority and Ahlu Sunna group. Somalia today needs a process that consolidate political and security gains, but our war-torn country does not need any more meaningless political wrangling.

Furthermore, we praise the key role played by Puntland security institutions and particularly the soldiers and police officers of Puntland State – who stood guard, day and night, to prevent terrorist attacks – even as Al Shabaab terrorist group issued public threats against the Somali national conference in Garowe. It is unfortunate – yet satisfyingly revealing of people’s inner intentions – that certain Somali websites reported AMISOM peacekeepers were in Garowe to secure the conference venue. Aside from 10 soldiers traveling with the TFG delegations, more than 600 police and soldiers who partook in security in Garowe and at the conference venue (Puntland State University) were Puntland government forces.

What is truly remarkable is the spectrum of debate and discussions during the constitutional conference. Somalis from different clans and different regions intermingled, discussed, negotiated and eventually agreed to a set of principles that will guide the political and constitutional development in Somalia for the coming years.

Yes, indeed Somalis have met in Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Djibouti, Cairo, London, and other world capitals before. But what is remarkable is the epoch-making conference was held inside Somalia for the first time in 20 years in an atmosphere of peace, respect and understanding.

What is more remarkable is that, when the delegates were bogged in negotiations, leadership emerged and a compromise deal was reached – purely among Somalis. Yes, the international community is frustrated and disappointed with developments in Somalia – insecurity, humanitarian crises, terrorism and piracy, poverty, illiteracy, disease. But today, the international community has a renewed faith and opportunity to glance at Somalia through a new set of eyes. Somalis are more than able to talk among themselves and to work out their differences in a civilized and respectful manner.

The political dispute in Mogadishu among the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) was created simply to oppose the conference being held in Garowe. Perhaps the world forgets, but we Somalis know that clan hostilities persist and the genocidal maniacs who massacred civilians, mothers and children since 1991 are today Members of Parliament. They want to retain their parliamentary seats because they have the cover of legitimacy to protect them from war crimes prosecution. It is natural that such warmongers oppose parliament reforms – as the Garowe Principles declares the reduction of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) from a bloated 550 MPs to 225 MPs, a reasonable number for Somalia’s 8million population. One wonders: is it any surprise that the MPs who have engaged in fistfights inside parliament this month in Mogadishu are led by Mogadishu’s notorious warlords – Yalahow, Caato, Xaaran-ku-naax, Seeraar, just to name a few.

The cover of legitimacy and immunity from prosecution, as MPs, will fall apart as of mid-2012. The taste of justice is the air.

So they opposed the conference to be held in Garowe. But now that the conference was held and ended in success with the signing of the Garowe Principles, the opposition camp – led by Mogadishu’s bloodthirsty warlords – will now try new tricks.

But the doors are closing in fast. The TFP unanimously ratified the Kampala Accord in Sept. 2011 – as such, the Roadmap process and the Garowe Principles are borne out of the Kampala Accord, which extended the mandate of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) in Somalia. It is the Kampala Accord which gives the TFIs legitimacy today.

The international community wants to see results in Somalia. Yet, the spoilers are relentless in their efforts to derail every attempt at consolidating national peace and security. Indeed, as the world focused on the war against Al Shabaab terrorist group, we forgot about the warmongers and spoilers within the TFIs, who are attempting to destroy the system from the inside.

All the resources spent in Somalia will go to waste if the international community remains unable to take strong actions against spoilers.

On the Garowe Principles, there is need for cautious celebration. More importantly, there is need for us all to remember fellow Somalis who are dying, who are starving, those who are facing daily intimidation and death threats, those in refugee camps, and those suffering at the high seas as they escape their homeland in search of a better life.

The Roadmap process is ambitious with clear timelines and benchmarks. So far, Somalis have been able to keep up with the requirements of the Roadmap – showing commitment to a cause. However, with spoilers running free and the availability of an unregulated sensational media, there is growing risk to derail the ongoing peace process.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s visit to Mogadishu on 9 Dec 2011 and UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement of an international conference on Somalia, scheduled for 23 Feb 2012, emphasizes the growing international interest in Somalia. But the time to act robustly is now, not only in the ongoing campaign to defeat Al Shabaab terrorists and piracy gangs, but also to act robustly against spoilers of the peace process.

Source: Garower Online

Probe Civilian Abuses In Somalia Human Rights Watch

By Adow Mohamed

An international human right lobby group, the Human Right Watch (HRW) has decried the continued civil right abuses inflicted on civilians in Somalia following the Kenya’s incursion into the horn of African nation in October. HRW asked Kenya to investigate the death of villagers during an air strike by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) where an unconfirmed number of people were killed and scores injured.

The government of Kenya should investigate the death of as many as 11 civilians during a Kenyan air force raid on Hosingow village in Somalia on December 20, 2011, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

According to witnesses, KDF bombed makeshift huts including a school killing seven children and a woman. A second fighter jet attacked ground targets from low-flying aircraft using machine guns, killing one woman and at least two men, all civilians.

“One of the bombs struck near a street where people were running their businesses,” another witness, Ahmed Yusuf, told AFP.

“A prompt and impartial investigation is needed into what happened in Hosingow village,” said Ben Rawlence, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, obliges the parties to an armed conflict to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to the civilian population.

Attacks that target civilians or civilian objects are prohibited, as are attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and military objectives, or that were expected to cause civilian harm that was greater than the anticipated military gain. The laws of war require governments to investigate credible allegations of violations,” read the statement seen by the Africanews.

Kenya military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir confirmed the air strike by denied any civilian casualties. He however warned civilians to keep away from Al-Shabaab territories.

“We call on peace loving Somalis not to interact Al Shabaab as KD intensifies air attacks in South-Central Somalia,” the major said in his tweeter account.

Hosingow is in a territory manned by the terror group Al-Shabaab but HRW could not confirm whether its forces were there when the Kenya military attacked the village.

It is not the first the Human Right Watchdog is raising the red flag about the civilian attacks by Kenya defence forces. On October, Daniel Bekele, Director, Africa Division, Human Rights Watch, wrote to Kenya’s defence minister Yusuf Haji when Kenyan air force bombarded an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp on the outskirts of the town of Jilib in Somalia.

The international humanitarian organization Médecins sans Frontières reported five civilian deaths following the aerial bombardment.

“International humanitarian law applies at sea and prohibits deliberate attacks on civilians. It requires that warring parties take all feasible precautions to ensure that objects attacked are valid military targets. International human rights law, which was also applicable, permits the use of lethal force outside of zones of armed conflict only when it is strictly and directly necessary to save human life,” he said.

“The Kenyan Armed Forces have an international legal obligation to conduct any and all operations, both within and outside of Kenya, in accordance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” he further said in the letter.

In the same months Kenyan fishermen were killed and their boat sunk by Kenya army in the Indian Ocean waters when they “defied” orders to stop. Those who survived the ordeal were allegedly beaten at the army base by Kenyan military personnel before being transferred to local police custody before being released.


USA: Minnesota bank says if no relief is available, it must close Somali wire transfer accounts Dec. 30

The bank that handles most of the wire transfers Minnesota’s Somali community send to relatives back home says that without legal relief, it must close its accounts with the money transfer companies next week.

Sunrise Community Banks in Minnesota plans to close its accounts with the hawalas Dec. 30 out of fears it is at risk of violating rules designed to clamp down on terror financing.

In a statement Friday, the bank says it is working with lawmakers, the Somali community and other groups to come up with a new solution to satisfy complex laws dealing with remittances to Somalia.

An unknown number of Somalis depend on small remittances sent from family members in the U.S. Even small amounts can make the difference between a dignified life and homeless poverty.

Source: The Associated Press

Intervention tension: UK eyes ‘failed state’ Somalia

With the Libya campaign seen as mission accomplished, Britain reiterates it is eyeing another conflict-torn African country – Somalia. The UK cites threats to its national security, but some analysts say this hides a self-interested strategic agenda.
­Earlier this week, the UK’s international development minister, Andrew Mitchell, called for “urgent action” in the impoverished country, as “Somalia is a very direct threat to the security of the United Kingdom”, as quoted by Agence France Press.

It’s not the first time that Britain has highlighted the dangers emanating from the conflict-torn African state. In November, the British Prime Minister has called Somalia a “failed state that directly threatens British interests.” David Cameron has scheduled a London summit in February to bring together the countries currently active in the Horn of Africa to discuss how to address the situation. Key decisions are expected to be made on a number of issues, ranging from humanitarian aid to a possible military mission.

International development minister Andrew Mitchell, however, has ruled out any “intention of putting boots on the ground.”

But fears of an intervention have escalated against the backdrop of a claim by Britain's secret services that Somalia, one of the poorest states in the world, is a new training ground for terrorists. According to The Independent newspaper, MI5 chief Jonathan Evans has warned that Somalia has become the next destination after Pakistan for terrorist training.

Mitchell appeared to confirm MI5’s assertion, saying “there are probably more British passport holders engaged in terrorist training in Somalia, than in any other country in the world.”

The would-be jihadists residing in Britain are not just of Somali origin, but also hail from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yemen and North Africa.

There is a real risk, according to Jonathan Evans, that returnees from Somalia could carry out bomb attacks in British cities.

However, some analysts doubt that UK is motivated purely by concern about British tourists and aid workers being attacked and kidnapped in Somalia and the rise of piracy in the region.

Somalia holds vast oil and gas reserves and other natural resources, including uranium, which the US and other countries have had their eyes on for years.

Many also point also to Somalia’s strategic position, with critical oil transport roots crossing its territory to the Gulf of Aden.

Jeremy Corbin, Labour MP and UK “Stop the War” coalition activist, gave RT his explanation of the latest rhetoric.

“You usually find when the military strategists are planning a long-term intervention somewhere, they are looking at geological maps first and looking at political maps second,” he told RT’s Laura Smith. “And the oil, the gas is one of the biggest issues.”

Given the country’s status as the poorest in the world, the MP believes a very different strategy is called for.

“There is a huge Somali community round here that I represent, most of whom are from the South, but not all,” he said. “And they are not saying to me, ‘Please, intervene!’ They are saying,’Can we please have support to get a functioning system of government and peace in Somalia?’”

Source: RT News (

Somali pirates still hold 200 hostages

Somali pirates are holding 200 hostages for ransom, the European Union's anti-piracy mission says.

The EU anti-piracy mission released a statement noting, "There are currently 199 men and one woman held hostage in Somalia following the pirating of their ships in the Indian Ocean and all are being held against their will to be used by criminal gangs as part of a ransom business."

The EU report said the fate of kidnapped crew members, unless they are high-profile individuals, "is not often considered or reported."

During the period January-September of this year, Somali pirates attacked 199 ships, a sharp increase from the same period in 2010, when 126 international vessels were assaulted.

Despite the increase in assaults however, the pirates have been less successful, as they only managed to commandeer 24 vessels that were hijacked by the end of October, compared with 35 for the same period in 2010, Shabelle Media Network news agency reported Friday.

Source: The United Press International