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Monday, February 28, 2011

Al-Shabaab warns of Kenya terror attack

Radical Islamist group al-Shabaab has warned of a “revenge” attack against Kenya for aiding the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia.

Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Raghe alias Sheikh Ali Dhere, the al-Shabaab spokesman on Sunday accused the Kenya Government of being behind “the trouble” in some Somali regions bordering its territory.

He pointed a finger at Juba and Gedo regions, south and southwest of Mogadishu, respectively.

“Previous warnings to Kenya were nothing compared to this one,” said the al-Shabaab official. “We are going to retaliate against it (Kenya), harshly,” he declared.

He accused Kenya of assisting the pro-government forces in their attacks against al-Shabaab positions.

About 600 Somali soldiers training in Kenya have been moved to a camp in Elwak in Mandera awaiting deployment into Somalia as war escalates between government forces and insurgents. (Read: Blast at Mandera hospital as border clashes rage)

They were relocated to the camp in two groups of 300 in Kenya military trucks over the past one week ahead of possible deployment to reinforce the TFG soldiers in Bullahawa town in Somalia, the Nation has learnt.

And in Mandera, the Kenyan military upgraded its alertness on the border to “amber” as fighting between al-Shabaab and the TFG forces, who are assisted by the African Union, continued on the fifth day.

The government has sent more personnel to the Kenya-Somalia border to stop al-Shabaab militia from crossing into the country.

The military has also cautioned parents living along the border with Somalia to watch out for al-Shabaab members who are recruiting youth to go and fight in Somalia.

“We have heightened security along the border and soldiers are on the lookout in case of any spillover from the fighting in Somalia.

“We are aware of Kenyan youth being lured by promises of large sums of money to go and fight alongside al-Shabaab in Somalia,” Department of Defence Spokesman Bogita Ongeri said on Sunday.

“We cannot allow the militia nor their associates on our soil, as they are a threat to humanity,” Mr Bogita added.

Meanwhile, thousands of refugees have been fleeing from areas close to the border. (Read: Fresh wave of Somali refugees flee to Kenya)

Kenya Red Cross Society spokesman Titus Mung’ou said the society has identified a camp that will accommodate 500 households of about 3,000 refugees.

Two Cabinet ministers from North Eastern Province said 35,000 residents had been displaced due to the fighting.

Mr Mohamed Elmi, the Minister for the Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands and Mr Mohammed Mohamud, the assistant minister for Energy, warned of a humanitarian crisis unless adequate security measures were put in place.

Additional reporting by Dominic Wabala, Issa Hussein and Hassan Huka

Source: The Daily Nation.

Editorial: Some steps to stop Somali pirates

The deaths of four Americans at the hands of Somali pirates marks a chilling escalation of violence in that corner of the world. The killings put a new challenge before the U.S. government to work with international partners to rebuff the hostage-taking and threats against pleasure boaters and commercial ships.

Jean and Scott Adam of Southern California, along with Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle were killed after the Adams’ 56-foot yacht was captured and they were taken hostage in the Arabian Sea. Ms. Macay is a former resident of Southeast Michigan who graduated from Michigan State University.

The four were the first U.S. citizens to die at the hands of Somali pirates. The pirates menace the seas in — and increasingly beyond — the Gulf of Aden. Stopping them is tough given the vast stretches of open water where they operate and the limited resources to repel them.

The number of attacks and the ransoms demanded are on the rise. A pirate tells USA Today that killing hostages “has now become part of our rules.” A few counter-measures:

-- International diplomatic steps to encourage a functioning Somali state, the only lasting solution to youthful lawlessness, though the toughest to accomplish.
-- Tougher retribution for captured pirates, who are too quickly released and too infrequently punished.
-- More armed guards on-board ships, or at least “citadels” within ships, secure areas to which crews can retreat to safely await help.
-- Guarded convoys for both commercial and recreational vessels.

For now, the best solution is an abundance of caution. Commercial ships have gathered in convoys and countries are sharing information and best practices to protect them. For reasons that aren’t clear, the Adams and their passengers separated themselves from a planned flotilla of fellow sailors. Their deaths are a tragic reminder of a growing problem.

Source: mlive.com

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Japan - One of the Top Pirates in Somalia

by ECOTERRA International

Japanese corporate kleptomania in bed with anarchic state
By Venatrix Fulmen (WTN)

Not only does Japan steal precious tuna from Somalia, now they robbed the country's top-level domain.
That piracy is all about business is known since the days of the Barbary wars, but in Somalia it has now taken on new dimensions.


DOMAIN-PIRATES
Japan just poached the impoverished country's top-level Internet domain, the so called Top Level Country Code (TLCC) dot SO (.so), at a time when the state of the embattled nation is at an all-time low.

"Governed" only for the sake of whitewashing the dealings of their UN-, US- and EU-masters by a Transitional Federal Government, which rules over two roads, a villa and the air-and seaport with he help of mercenary troops from US- and EU-paid African nations assembled in the African Union (AU), Somalia continues to be pillaged again and again by the UN, the U.S., the EU, the AU and other robber-baron-conglomerates. Under the oversight of a pseudo-governmental parliament, whose members were chain-selected by the UN, who is playing on the one hand the role of an overlord towards the Somalis and on the other the stir-up holder for the interests of the most powerful UN member states like U.S., France and the UK, the robbery continues even in cyberspace.

Japan - now closing shoulders with the U.S. in the emerging power-games with China and Russia - has a particular role and uses that window to fill their own pockets.

FISH-PIRATES
It has finally been accepted as fact even by those, who have a hidden agenda of different dimension, that fish-poaching and toxic-waste dumping prompted the helpless Somalis to take up arms against the foreign pirates. Somaalis are shot now out of these waters, but prosecution of the real culprits, especially British money-sharks in close liason with the shipping-insurance-industry is so far lacking. In turn not all but many Somali sea-shifta must now also rightfully be termed pirates themselves, because they learned and entered the game of internationally organized crime-syndicates, who have mastered the sea-jacking sector by targeting valuable merchant ships, which is then in turn used to foster the imperialist intentions of larger navies.

But what is still often denied and even covered up by the multinational armada of anti-piracy navies, is the rampant fish-poaching in Somali waters and the Indian Ocean at large. This continues unabated and is pseudo-mastered by corrupt, biased or incapable organizations like the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission IOTC, a sidekick of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and their voracious representatives of member states. Here colonial powers like France still have a lot to say, since island-states in the Indian Ocean like La Reuinion and La Moyette, were never returned to their original inhabitants. Not only do these provide for nice tax-heavens of La Francophonie, but these colonies constitute vast exclusive economic zones on the Indian Ocean and now even for the exclusive rights concerning the seabed extending for 350nm. A similar scam was just these dayss revealed by leaked U.S.-embassy cable, describing the fraudulent dealings of the UK concerning the Chagos islands with infamous U.S.base Diego Garcia and the British grand plan to robb the Chagossians of their homeland. All these neo-colonial games are the real background and agenda for the enhances naval presence in the Indian Ocean of a huge armada of warships dispatched under the disguise of anti-piracy operations.

Japan entered the anti-piracy games early, because it gave them the opportunity to deploy large P3 Orion marine-observation planes, paid for by their taxpayers, to assist their own, and affiliated, fishing fleets in the Indian Ocean to spot, track and catch the large tuna swarms that follow the millennia-old clockwork of the magnificent tuna migration in the Indian Ocean

From Fish-Poacher To Domain-poacher
The “sponsoring organization” of the top-level domain (TLD) is said to be the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications of Somalia, whose minister was just sacked, but people in Mogadishu speak of presidential-level involvement and a 10 million dollar sum which changed hands. In an interview with infamous domain investor Rick Latona, known also as the Tasmanian Devil of the domain industry and flopped auctions of domains like www.stripclub.com, the Director of the Japanese domain pirate GMO registry, Hiro Tsukahara, didn't shy away from invoking even the dirtiest of all corporate tricks by announcing "they will donate a portion of the
operating profit to provide necessary aide for Somalia, especially for children."

Somalis might have soon to attend one of Rick Latona's auctions, where he hawks promising domain names. There then domains like www.muslim.so will come under the hammer like www.stripclub.com. Latona even didn't shy away from plagiarism by grabbing T.R.A.F.F.I.C. as title for his sales-conferences, a term, which he obviously just copied from the wildlife trade monitoring network of the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature).

No wonder the domain-thieves from Japan found also a friend in Germany, who even before WWII served as the best partner for a fascist Japan. A domain-reseller in form of the Key-Systems GmbH located in St. Ingbert, Germany is a willing collaborator in the scam. Founded by Alexander Siffrin in 1998, and run by him as a defacto one-man show, he proclaims to hold subsidiaries in the war-run USA and drug-run Mexico. Key-Systems CEO, Alexander Siffrin, was "welcomed to their project" by the Japanese top-pirate and his U.S. backer.

The example of the former Yugoslavia after the break up and another one from similar chaotic Sudan shows that this fraudulent Japanese registration of the TLD of Somalia is a case for nullification, and people should be warned about buying anything from the Japanese for the time being.

The ICANN evaluation procedure was clearly bent, since it states:

1.The prospective manager supervises and operates the domain name from within the country represented by the TLD; (ICP-1 §a; RFC 1591 §3.1)

2.The prospective administrative contact must reside in the country represented by the TLD. (ICP-1 §a; RFC 1591 §3.1)

But the company GMOregistry is operating from Japan, and manages Somalia’s top-domain from Japan, and has no links with or presence in Somalia other than through this clandestine deal and their Somali accomplices. In short, the domain is administered
and technically managed from Japan.

It is obvious that the Japanese, and those who took the money, will now be quick to cover their tracks and set up something like an
administrative contact in war-embattled Mogadishu, protected by UN and AMISOM, but perhaps there is still hope that the vast majority of the internet community will expose this, and that the deal will finally be cancelled.

The case should be taken even further, and the intricate links between UN politics and the interests of the robber-barons, who run their own nation-states for personal gains, must be exposed. Japan set up a so-called "Trust-Fund" for anti-piracy activities, which so far, have mostly turned out to be just anti-Somali activities, and tries thereby to cover its own marine-resources. Stealing networks has provided large amounts of money from this fund to UN organizations like the IMO, the UNODC, UNDP and UNPOS.

How come earlier applications filed by a group of Somali scholars, intellectuals and university professors to ICANN, (the U.S.
self-appointed watchdog of the internet) was completely neglected? The academic group wanted to run the domain independently through the Somali National University in the spirit of a free Internet -- a just and non-profit body for the benefit of all Somalis, but their work circumvented with this deal, and the UN through their International Post and Telecommunications Union (IPTU) clearly has their hands in the dirty game.

The Somali youth, whose future is also with the Internet, might find their own ways to deal with corrupt officials and foreign fraudsters.
The first threats have already appeared on the Internet, which is a sea full of monsters worse than in the oceans infested with fish-poaching pirates from Japan or their vassals.

If there is any honour left with the Japanese - we should witness them now committing Seppuku (切腹) or harakiri for robbing the destitute.

Source: The Ground Report

Here is the agreement between MoPT and GMO Registry Inc.

Source: U.S. officials detained pirate negotiators before hostage executions

By the CNN Wire Staff



Before two pirate leaders departed the yacht where they held four Americans earlier in February, a maritime source says they left instructions: kill the hostages if we do not come back from negotiations.

U.S. officials took the negotiating pirates into custody -- a move which goes against standard negotiation practices, the source said.

The four Americans were later killed, but it is not clear why.

It is also not clear when during the negotiations -- or why -- the Americans reportedly detained the two pirates.

The pirates' detention goes against standard negotiating practices, as the pirates came in good faith to make a deal to hand over the hostages, said the source, who was briefed on the incident and has connections to British intelligence officials.

The source asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

United States Central Command declined to comment on whether officials detained the pirates and said the FBI and the Justice Department have the lead in the case. Officials at both the FBI and Justice Department did not immediately return calls for comment Saturday night.

Jean and Scott Adam, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle were found shot to death after U.S. forces boarded their hijacked vessel around 1 a.m. Tuesday, U.S. officials have said.

The 58-foot yacht, named the Quest, was being shadowed by the military after pirates took the ship off the coast of Oman on February 18.

The forces responded after a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a U.S. Navy ship about 600 yards away -- and missed -- and the sound of gunfire could be heard on board the Quest, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Mark Fox has said. The killings took place as negotiations involving the FBI were under way for the hostages' release.

When Fox spoke last week, he said two pirates boarded a U.S. Navy ship Monday for talks. He told reporters he had no information on details of the negotiations or whether a ransom had been offered.

Two pirates were found dead on board the Quest, said Fox. In the process of clearing the vessel, U.S. forces killed two others, one with a knife, he said. Thirteen others were captured and detained, along with the other two already on board the U.S. Navy ship. Nineteen pirates were involved altogether, said Fox.

He said authorities believe the pirates were trying to get the vessel and hostages to Somalia, or at least into Somali territorial waters.

Piracy has flourished recently off the coast of Somalia, which has not had an effective government for two decades.

Globally, more than 50 pirate attacks have already taken place in 2011. As of February 15 -- the most recent statistic posted on the International Maritime Bureau's website, pirates were holding 33 vessels and 712 hostages.

CNN's Zain Verjee contributed to this report.

Source: CNN

Somalia: UN voices alarm over plight of trapped civilians as fighting intensifies


A family of Somalis displaced by the fighting

The United Nations today voiced alarm over the plight of Somali civilians caught up in the fighting pitting forces of the country’s transitional government, who are backed by African Union peacekeepers, against insurgents of the Al-Shabaab armed group.
Some 300 Somalis fleeing the fighting have crossed the border into Kenya over the past few days, Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

“We have received reports from them of many injuries. Other civilians, including women, children and the elderly, remain trapped and unable to reach safety,” she said, voicing concern over what the agency said appears to be a coordinated offensive against Al-Shabaab militants on multiple fronts, namely in the capital, Mogadishu; Beled Weyne in Hiiraan region; and Beled Hawo in the Gedo region.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is following reports of the fighting, deplored the high human cost of the conflict. He sent his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives, including civilians and soldiers of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

“The current round of fighting underscores the need for all Somali and international stakeholders to redouble efforts to restore lasting peace and stability to Somalia,” the Secretary-General’s spokesperson said in a statement.

Mr. Ban expressed hope that the leadership of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Institutions will remain united and provide the necessary political guidance, support and encouragement to the forces of the TFG and AMISOM.

UNHCR said it fears that ongoing fighting could squeeze those displaced into three fronts where they will be unable to escape to seek refuge in either Ethiopia, Kenya or in Somalia’s north-eastern Puntland region.

“We again urge all armed groups and forces in Somalia to avoid targeting civilian areas and to ensure that civilians are not being placed in harm’s way,” said Ms. Fleming.

Some 2,000 emergency relief kits, comprising shelter materials, blankets and kitchen sets, have already been dispatched from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa for distribution to those displaced from Beled Hawo and other areas who have sought refuge in the Gedo region.

UNHCR and a local partner have also distributed 2,500 emergency relief kits in Mogadishu’s Dharkenley district and more relief aid distributions are planned in the coming weeks depending on the security situation, Ms. Fleming said.

Somalia generates the highest number of refugees in the world, after Afghanistan and Iraq. There are an estimated 1.5 million internally displaced persons inside Somalia and more than 680,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring countries, according to UNHCR.

Source: UN News Centre

Saturday, February 26, 2011

U.N. Security Council slaps sanctions on Libya

Resolution also calls for war crimes inquiry over deadly crackdown on protesters

The U.N. Security Council Saturday unanimously imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, members of his family and inner circle amid continuing attacks on anti-government protesters.

The council imposed an asset freeze on Gadhafi, his four sons and one daughter and a travel ban on the whole family along with 10 other close associates. The council also backed an arms embargo.

The resolution adopted by the 15-nation body also called for the immediate referral of the deadly crackdown on demonstrators in Libya to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for investigation and possible prosecution of anyone responsible for killing civilians.

The council said its actions were aimed at "deploring the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including the repression of peaceful demonstrators." And members expressed concern about civilian deaths, "rejecting unequivocally the incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population made from the highest level of the Libyan government."

Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi — one of the first Libyan diplomats to denounce Gadhafi and defect — said Gadhafi's government no longer has any credibility. "This resolution will be a signal in order to put an end to hisfascist regime which is still which is still in existence in Tripoli," he said.

Dabbashi added: "This is a leader who loves nobody but himself and he is prepared to take all necessary steps in order to continue this repression against his own people."

"When atrocities are committed against innocents, the international community must act with one voice — and tonight it has," said Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated council members for the unified vote. Earlier in the day, it appeared some countries would not sign on because of concerns about the war crimes investigation.

"The text sends a strong message that gross violations of basic human rights will not be tolerated, and that those responsible for grave crimes will be held accountable," said Ban. "I hope the message is heard, and heeded, by the regime in Libya."

Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's international justice program, said the council action "sends a powerful signal on behalf of justice for the people of Libya and all others victimized by mass force and violence."

The uprising that began Feb. 15 has swept over nearly the entire eastern half of the country, breaking cities there out of his regime's hold. Gadhafi and his backers continue to hold the capital Tripoli and have threatened to put down protests aggressively.

There have been reports that Gadhafi's government forces have been firing indiscriminately on peaceful protesters and that as many as 1,000 people have died.

The day was consumed mainly with haggling behind closed doors over language that would refer Libya's violent crackdown on protesters to the International Criminal Court, or ICC, at the Hague.

All 15 nations on the council ultimately approved referring the case to the permanent war crimes tribunal.

Council members did not consider imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, and no U.N.-sanctioned military action was planned. NATO also has ruled out any intervention in Libya.

The Libyan mission to the U.N., run by diplomats who have renounced Gadhafi, told the council in a letter that it supported measures "to hold to account those responsible for the armed attacks against the Libyan civilians, including through the International Criminal Court."

The letter was signed by Ambassador Mohamed Shalgham, a former longtime Gadhafi supporter who had a dramatic change of heart after the crackdown worsened. Shalgham pleaded with the council on Friday to move quickly to halt the bloodshed in his country.

Earlier Saturday, in Ankara, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the council not to impose sanctions, warning that the Libyan people, not Gadhafi's government, would suffer most.

Also Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Gadhafi needs to do what's right for his country by "leaving now."

The White House on Friday announced sweeping new sanctions and temporarily abandoned its embassy in Tripoli as a final flight carrying American citizens left the embattled capital. The U.S. put an immediate freeze on all assets of the Libyan government held in American banks and other U.S. institutions. The sanctions also freeze assets held by Gadhafi and four of his children.

"Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. "The Libyan people deserve a government that is responsive to their aspirations and that protects their universally recognized human rights."

Britain and Canada, meanwhile, temporarily suspended operations at their embassies in Tripoli and evacuated their diplomatic staff.

Gadhafi is no stranger to international isolation.

U.N. sanctions were slapped on his country after suspected Libyan agents planted a bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people, mostly Americans.

Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing in 2003 and pledged to end efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. and Libya in 2009 exchanged ambassadors for the first time in 35 years, after Libya paid about $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of the Lockerbie victims.

In Geneva on Friday, the U.N. Human Rights Council called for an investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Libya and recommended Libya's suspension from membership of the world body's top human rights body.

Talk of possible military action by foreign governments remained vague, however. It was unclear how long Gadhafi, with some thousands of loyalists — including his tribesmen and military units commanded by his sons — might hold out against rebel forces comprised of youthful gunmen and mutinous soldiers.

London-based Algerian lawyer Saad Djebbar, who knows a large number of Gadhafi's top officials, says that for Gadhafi staying in power had become impossible. "It's about staying alive."

"(Gadhafi's) time is over," he added. "But how much damage he will cause before leaving is the question."

This story includes information from AP, Reuters, NBC News and msnbc.com staff.

Source: The MSNBC News

Somali fighting spills to Mandera town

Until recently, Habiba Mohammed Hujale thought the sound of gunfire and boom of hand grenade in Mandera would no longer send cold shivers down her spines.

She has been on the line of fire as long as she remembers. But, the renewed fighting along the border is causing Habiba and her family sleepless nights.

Fighting between Al-Shabaab militant groups fighting the weak Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and Ethiopian troops have brought bloody confrontation to her doorsteps at the heart of the town.

"For the last five days, the two have been battling in the town and we are worried and scared. Most of the fire came from across the border, but now they have brought the fire outside my home. We haven’t slept," she told The Standard On Sunday on phone.

"As I talk to you, there are bombshells and spent cartridges around my home. I have never been shaken before like now," she said.

The district hospital has been hit in the incursion on Kenyan soils but no casualties were reported. The battle was sparked by the insurgents attack on a convoy of Somali troops that were returning home after training in Ethiopia.

Volatile powder keg

Mandera is perched at the tip of a triangular intersection of three international borders – the Kenya- Somalia, Kenya-Ethiopia and Somalia-Ethiopia.

The intersections are volatile powder kegs that have contributed to the town’s restive character over the years.

Mandera extends across Somali and Ethiopia. On the side of the border with Ethiopia, the town is called Suftu. The Somalia side is known as Bula-Hawa.

There are no beacons or anything to mark the boundaries between the towns. But it is easy to spot the demarcations by the characters of the residents. The only two storeys building in Mandera Town offers a good view of rows of puny buildings below of similar pattern, low with slanting iron sheet roofs that stretch into the horizon.

In Somalia’s Bulla-Hawa, almost every man carries a firearm. In Ethiopia’s Suftu there is evidence of business activities purred by commercial agriculture. Food from elsewhere in Ethiopia almost feeds the three towns.

On the Kenyan side, walking sticks and umbrellas, donkey carts and honking taxi are the defining features.

"There are risks of living with warring neighbours but bringing their fight here the smell of death has never been closer," Habiba said. The sound of gunfire is so common that locals say a 10-year-old can tell the type of gun.

"The noise we used to hear from across was when militia – and lately Al-Shabaab insurgents who have been in control of Somalia’s side – were testing weapons. But now, they have come to our doorsteps. We are an extended family and we have tolerated each other but I think they are now trying our patience by coming to our town," says nominated Councillors and former Mandera County Council Chairman Abdirahaman Hajji Ismail.

Mandera East MP Mohammed Hussein Qaras Mandera said the fighters have been terrorising residents.

"Why is this happening when Kenya is a sovereign State? Who is there to protect the citizens from the marauding gunmen?" he posed.

Despite the fighting, residents of these three towns have coexisted in a unique symbiotic relationship. Those from Ethiopia and Somalia cross into Kenyan towns for business and to socialise and generally enjoy some moments of peace away from anarchy in their countries.

Volatile border

In return, Bulla-Hawa is the entry point of imports from the ports of Kismayu in Somalia to Kenya. Suftu and Bula-Hawa also supply smuggled petroleum products, second hand vehicles, spare parts, electronics, textiles, satellite dishes and sugar among other products.

There is also cheap labour for menial jobs the locals despise. Goods and especially foodstuff are cheap because they come from Kismayu where no duty is paid.

It is common to find a Kenyan Somali with relatives in Suftu and Bulla-Hawa through intermarriage and or business associations. Somalis who cross into Kenya have to leave weapons behind and return to their country before sunset.

On paper, the Government indefinitely closed the Kenya-Somali border in 2007 after Islamic Courts Union militants toppled the Ethiopian backed Somalia government, but in reality people move freely. Many people on the move can have breakfast in Mandera, lunch in Bulla-Hawa and dinner in Suftu. Guns from the two war hardened neighbours are also easily available on the black market.

When it is calm, Mandera town alleys are clogged with humanity and moneychangers with wads of foreign currencies – Euros, Ethiopian Birr and US dollars – conduct brisk business. In the afternoons, the town people retreats to shaded verandas to chew the mild narcotic shrub (miraa) and watch satellite television as the sip tea and coffee.

But that lifestyle has been put on anxious hold as Al-Shabaab insurgents and Ethiopian soldiers turn the area to a battleground.

Source: The Standard Media

Somali Hawala; US Banks Uncooperative

By Sunni Said Saleh

Somali money transfer companies (Hawala) in the United States of America are complaining that the US banks do not want to cooperate with them.

A year ago, the banks refused to accept money from the companies who help Somalis living in America to transfer their money to Somalia and else where around the world.

The US banks were worried that the huge sums of money deposited by the companies better known as “Hawala” would risk US’ security.

In 2009, some members of the Somali community living in the US were accused of sending money through those companies to Somali insurgent group, Al-shabab militia which the US believes is linked to Al-Qaida network.

Abdiaziz Mohamed, who is the manager of Tawakal Hawala in Ohio region said although the banks do not want to associate with them, they will do all that they can to convince them to accept their deposits.

Source: SunnaTimes

SOMALIA 2011: FRENZIED DANCING IN PLACE

By Michael A. Weinstein

What does 2011 hold in store for Somalia’s politics?

That is the question that I will address here within the context provided by Somali intellectuals who witness their country's fragmentation and, like some, have compared Somalia to the English nursery‐rhyme character Humpty‐Dumpty...... Is Somalia salvageable? they ask.

To read the full article, click this link: SOMALIA 2011: FRENZIED DANCING IN PLACE

Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (I): Egypt Victorious?

Middle East/North Africa Report N°101 - 24 Feb 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
It is early days, and the true measure of what the Egyptian people have accomplished has yet to fully sink in. Some achievements are as clear as they are stunning. Over a period of less than three weeks, they challenged conventional chestnuts about Arab lethargy; transformed national politics; opened up the political space to new actors; massively reinforced protests throughout the region; and called into question fundamental pillars of the Middle East order. They did this without foreign help and, indeed, with much of the world timidly watching and waffling according to shifting daily predictions of their allies’ fortunes. The challenge now is to translate street activism into inclusive, democratic institutional politics so that a popular protest that culminated in a military coup does not end there.

The backdrop to the uprising has a familiar ring. Egypt suffered from decades of authoritarian rule, a lifeless political environment virtually monopolised by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP); widespread corruption, cronyism and glaring inequities; and a pattern of abuse at the hands of unaccountable security forces. For years, agitation against the regime spread and, without any credible mechanism to express or channel public discontent, increasingly took the shape of protest movements and labour unrest.

What, ultimately, made the difference? While the fraudulent November 2010 legislative elections persuaded many of the need for extra-institutional action, the January 2011 toppling of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali persuaded them it could succeed. Accumulated resentment against a sclerotic, ageing regime that, far from serving a national purpose, ended up serving only itself reached a tipping point. The increasingly likely prospect of another Mubarak presidency after the September 2011 election (either the incumbent himself or his son, Gamal) removed any faith that this process of decay would soon stop.

The story of what actually transpired between 25 January and 11 February remains to be told. This account is incomplete. Field work was done principally in Cairo, which became the epicentre of the uprising but was not a microcosm of the nation. Regime deliberations and actions took place behind closed doors and remain shrouded in secrecy. The drama is not near its final act. A military council is in control. The new government bears a striking resemblance to the old. Strikes continue. Protesters show persistent ability to mobilise hundreds of thousands.

There already are important lessons, nonetheless, as Egypt moves from the heady days of upheaval to the job of designing a different polity. Post-Mubarak Egypt largely will be shaped by features that characterised the uprising:


•This was a popular revolt. But its denouement was a military coup, and the duality that marked Hosni Mubarak’s undoing persists to this day. The tug of war between a hierarchical, stability-obsessed institution keen to protect its interests and the spontaneous and largely unorganised popular movement will play out on a number of fronts – among them: who will govern during the interim period and with what competencies; who controls the constitution-writing exercise and how comprehensive will it be; who decides on the rules for the next elections and when they will be held; and how much will the political environment change and open up before then?
•The military played a central, decisive and ambivalent role. It was worried about instability and not eager to see political developments dictated by protesting crowds. It also was determined to protect its popular credibility and no less substantial business and institutional interests. At some point it concluded the only way to reconcile these competing considerations was to step in. That ambiguity is at play today: the soldiers who rule by decree, without parliamentary oversight or genuine opposition input, are the same who worked closely with the former president; they appear to have no interest in remaining directly in charge, preferring to exit the stage as soon as they can and revert to the background where they can enjoy their privileges without incurring popular resentment when disappointment inevitably sets in; and yet they want to control the pace and scope of change.
•The opposition’s principal assets could become liabilities as the transition unfolds. It lacked an identifiable leader or representatives and mostly coalesced around the straightforward demand to get rid of Mubarak. During the protests, this meant it could bridge social, religious, ideological and generational divides, bringing together a wide array along the economic spectrum, as well as young activists and the more traditional opposition, notably the Muslim Brotherhood. Its principal inspiration was moral and ethical, not programmatic, a protest against a regime synonymous with rapaciousness and shame. The regime’s traditional tools could not dent the protesters’ momentum: it could not peel off some opposition parties and exploit divisions, since they were not the motors of the movement; concessions short of Mubarak’s removal failed to meet the minimum threshold; and repression only further validated the protesters’ perception of the regime and consolidated international sympathy for them.

As the process moves from the street to the corridors of power, these strengths could become burdensome. Opposition rivalries are likely to re-emerge, as are conflicts of interest between various social groups; the absence of either empowered representatives or an agreed, positive agenda will harm effectiveness; the main form of leverage – street protests – is a diminishing asset. A key question is whether the movement will find ways to institutionalise its presence and pressure.
•Throughout these events public opinion frequently wavered. Many expressed distaste for the regime but also concern about instability and disorder wrought by the protests. Many reportedly deemed Mubarak’s concessions sufficient and his wish for dignified departure understandable but were alarmed at violence by regime thugs. The most widespread aspiration was for a return to normality and resumption of regular economic life given instability’s huge costs. At times, that translated into hope protests would end; at others, into the wish the regime would cease violent, provocative measures. This ambivalence will impact the coming period. Although many Egyptians will fear normalisation, in the sense of maintaining the principal pillars of Mubarak’s regime, many more are likely to crave a different normalisation: ensuring order, security and jobs. The challenge will be to combine functioning, stable institutions with a genuine process of political and socio-economic transformation.
•Western commentators split into camps: those who saw Muslim Brotherhood fingerprints all over the uprising and those who saw it as a triumph of a young, Western-educated generation that had discarded Islamist and anti-American outlooks. Both interpretations are off the mark. Modern communication played a role, particularly in the early stages, as did mainly young, energised members of the middle classes. The Brotherhood initially watched uneasily, fearful of the crackdown that would follow involvement in a failed revolt. But it soon shifted, in reaction to pressure from its younger, more cosmopolitan members in Tahrir Square and the protests’ surprising strength. Once it committed to battle, it may well have decided there could be no turning back: Mubarak had to be brought down or reta­liation would be merciless. The role of Islamist activists grew as the confrontation became more violent and as one moved away from Cairo; in the Delta in particular, their deep roots and the secular opposition’s relative weakness gave them a leading part.

•Here too are lessons. The Brotherhood will not push quickly or forcefully; it is far more sober and prudent than that, prefers to invest in the longer-term and almost certainly does not enjoy anywhere near majority support. But its message will resonate widely and be well served by superior organisation, particularly compared to the state of secular parties. As its political involvement deepens, it also will have to contend with tensions the uprising exacerbated: between generations; between traditional hierarchical structures and modern forms of mobilisation; between a more conservative and a more reformist outlook; between Cairo, urban and rural areas.
•The West neither expected these events nor, at least at the outset, hoped for them. Mubarak had been a loyal ally; the speed with which it celebrated his fall as a triumph of democracy was slightly anomalous if not unseemly. The more important point is that it apparently had little say over events, as illustrated by the rhetorical catch-up in which it engaged. Egyptians were not in the mood for outside advice during the uprising and are unlikely to care for it now. The most important contribution was stern warnings against violence. Now, Western powers can help by providing economic assistance, avoiding attempts to micromanage the transition, select favourites or react too negatively to a more assertive, independent foreign policy. Egypt’s new rulers will be more receptive to public opinion, which is less submissive to Western demands; that is the price to pay for the democratic polity which the U.S. and Europe claim they wish to see.

With these dynamics in mind, several core principles might help steer the transition:

•If the military is to overcome scepticism of its willingness to truly change the nature of the regime, it will need either to share power with representative civilian forces by creating a new interim, representative authority or ensure decisions are made transparently after broad consultation, perhaps with a transitional advisory council.
•Some immediate measures could help reassure the civilian political forces: lifting the state of emergency; releasing prisoners detained under its provisions; and respecting basic rights, including freedom of speech, association and assembly, including the rights of independent trade unions.

•Independent, credible bodies might be set up to investigate charges of corruption and other malfeasance against ex-regime officials. Investigations must be thorough, but non-politicised to avoid score-settling. There will need to be guarantees of fair judicial process. Independent and credible criminal investigations also could be held to probe abuse by all security forces, together with a comprehensive security sector review to promote professionalism.
•The democratic movement would be well served by continued coordination and consensus around the most important of its positive and strategic political demands. This could be helped by forming an inclusive and diverse body tasked with prioritising these demands and pressing them on the military authorities.

One need only look at what already is happening in Yemen, Bahrain or Libya to appreciate the degree to which success can inspire. But disenchantment can be contagious too. Mubarak’s ouster was a huge step. What follows will be just as fateful. Whether they asked for it or not, all eyes once again will be on the Egyptian people.

Cairo/Brussels, 24 February 2011

Source: International Crisis Group

Friday, February 25, 2011

LIBYA: At Least Four Somali refugees Are Killed And Many Forced Out To The Desert

In areas where forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has been forced out, many angry mobs are targeting black Africans after reports that the government was using “African mercenaries” to repress the revolt was transmitted by Western media.

For long, Libya has been a gateway for young Africans seeking a better life in Europe and many of them have been stranded in the North African nation. Refugee and migrant workers from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Senegal, Chad, Nigeria and other sub-Sahara countries have came under attack according to human right groups.

United Nation refugee advocate agencies believe there are more than 8,000 registered refugees in Libya and a further 3,000 asylum-seekers with cases still pending.

The UN refugee agency said in Geneva on Tuesday it has become “increasingly concerned” about the dangers for civilians inadvertently caught up in the mounting violence in Libya, especially asylum-seekers and refugees with African origins.

Unconfirmed reports of Libyan government hiring “black African mercenaries” in Tripoli and Benghazi has fueled the anger.

Somali refugees
The Libyan public has accused the government of unprecedented use of armed forces and foreign “killers” against its own citizens. Due to absence of independent reporters and international observers make it difficult to verify these claims but according to Human Rights Watch more than 300 people are killed.

Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s chief spokesperson, told reporters in Geneva that they have no direct contacts with refugees in Libya but they were monitoring the situation through third-party sources.

“We have no access at this time to the refugee community. Over the past months we have been trying to regularize our presence in Libya, and this has constrained our work,” Ms. Fleming said.

She confirmed that Libyan protesters were now targeting black refugees. “One journalist passed information to us from Somalis in Tripoli who said they were being hunted on suspicion of being mercenaries,” she said. “He says they feel trapped and frightened to go out, even though there is little or no food at home.”

The UN refugee agency Ms. Fleming urged neighboring countries, including those in Europe to keep their borders open as it braced itself for a flow of refugees fleeing the conflict and angry mobs.

“We are referring to all countries: we’re saying please no push backs at this stage, this is a time to show your humanitarian spirit and generosity towards people who are going through some severe trauma,” she pleaded.

In August 2010, the crumbling regime of Muammar Qaddafi issued a decree ordering all Somali refugees to leave the country or face prison.

According to independent reports reaching Somalilandpress from Egypt at least four Somali refugees were slayed in Libya. The independent source added many Libyan prisons are over crowded with black African refugees and they fear a modern day genocide could unfold without the eyes of the international community.

Many Libyans also accuse the Somali refugees of occupying government funded apartments. Now there is mad land and property grabbing campaign going on in Libya. They are ousting refugees out only to occupy the property. Prior to this revolt many were expelled and forced to live in the Libyan desert without water or shelter. Many refugees from sub-Sahara Africa are been enforced on some of the ugliest of form of human practices by mobs and gangs.

Somalilandpress is working hard to get in touch with Somalis refugees inside Libya. Somali asylum seekers in Libya have always faced difficult circumstance and poor reception from locals.

Somalilandpress received the following statement appealing to all concerned groups from Dr. Yusuf Dirir Ali.

Hundreds of Somali refugees are stranded in Libya. There are reports coming from Libya stating that at least 4 Somali refugees were killed and many others wounded. The Libyan public is said to be confusing the Somali refugees with the Qaddafi’s mercenaries. Therefore, the Somali refugees are being attacked without rhyme or reason by rightfully fuming Libyan Mobs.

I have written emails to the CNN and both Aljazeera Arabic & English, highlighting the calamitous risks faced by the Somali refugees in Libya. I encourage all Somalis to do the same and to contact their legislators & administrations in EU, USA, Canada, Australia and as many news outlets as possible. Write and call the CNN and Aljazeera and specially Aljazeera Arabic million times.

PLEASE DO SOMETHING TO SAFE THE LIVES OF OUR FOLLOW BROTHERS AND SISTERS who are stranded helplessly in Libya. Why not contact the good office of the Amir of Qatar, he is currently the most respected and influential Arab leader.

Dr. Yusuf Dirir Ali, MD

Source: SomalilandPress

Somali Refugee Community protest against UNHCR

The members of Somali Refugee Community held a protest demonstration outside the Islamabad Press Club on Thursday against UNHCR and its attached NGOs for violation of the fundamental human rights of the Somali refugees in Pakistan.

A large number of refuges including women and children participated in the demonstration which lasted for four hours. The protesters raised slogans against UNHCR and its attached NGOs allegedly for not providing them assistance obligatory to them. They alleged UNHCR for not granting financial aid to many of them due to it was hard to meet both ends in Pakistan. They also appealed to the UN high ups to take notice of their concerns.

Abdul Rehman Haji, the organizer of the protest accused that UNHCR chooses not to uphold the rights of these refugees, and refugees to comply with its own mandate. Asylum applications take far too long to process, living condition for asylum-seekers are untenable, Somali refugees in Pakistan are subject to abuse and violence by gang groups, and many refugees are denied official status without any reason. They said Somali Refugees are one of the most long-state refugees in Pakistan since 1991 till now.

He said there were so many single wives whose spouse were died in violence in Somalia in 1991, were facing many problems such as accommodation, financial, health and social etc. He said due to security concerns UN has closed down all of its offices in Pakistan while UNHCR has given the refugee projects living in Pakistan to an NGO which he alleged discriminate with them and treat them unprofessionally. "Refugees from many countries are living in Pakistan who are being properly assisted by UNHCR but Somali community is neglected because we are 'Black'", he pointed out.

Somali refugees appealed to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon and other international observers to take serious notice of their plight and direct the UNHCR to help Somali refugees in Pakistan to either provide assistance to them according to the international laws or help them getting political asylum of any other country.

Source: The News International - www.thenews.com.pk

New approaches to Somali piracy

The clatter of bullets aboard a yacht off of the Gulf of Aden last week served as a sombre reminder of piracy's sustained threat to those sailing the region's seas.

Details remain murky as to why four Americans on the yacht were killed immediately before the rescue attempt by the US navy. Indeed, the violent end - instead of the typical exchange for ransom - runs counter to business as usual for Somalia's hostage takers, who have brought in millions of dollars to villages along the country's coast in recent years.

What remains clear, however, is the need for new approaches in one of the world's most tactically difficult conflict theatres. While the size of the international fleet patrolling waters - 34 warships from 15 nations - has improved safety, the entirety of the Indian Ocean remains impossible to secure.

As US Fifth Fleet commanders said last week, pirates have expanded their reach using captured mother ships to push east to India and south to Madagascar. Factor in the needle-in-the-haystack dilemma of finding small, fast vessels that evade radar, and it is easy to see why frustrated commanders are pessimistic about stamping out the threat.

The Maritime Security Centre - Horn of Africa, made up of European fleets, has tried to minimise risk by advising leisure sailors to avoid the area and take precautions when sailing alone. Travelling at night, in convoys and keeping within the protected Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor are some precautions vessels have taken.

But these measures alone have not been enough to stop attacks on large tankers and, as we saw last week, smaller vessels, even though the payoff from pleasure craft and small traders such as dhows can hardly be worth the risk unless ransoms are paid.

While the international coalition force is providing some respite, discouraging piracy in the region relies upon strengthening the GCC's maritime security architecture. A lack of vessels and training, not to mention the political will to coordinate efforts, have held back an effective force which could police the Gulf of Aden at least.

And the commanders' note of pessimism needs to be listened to. Endemic poverty, lucrative payoffs and continued chaos make piracy a career option despite the risks. Somalia's offshore threat ultimately has to be met with solutions on land.

Source: www.thenational.ae

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pirates could face trial in US over American deaths

A group of 15 suspected pirates captured after the killing of four Americans on a hijacked yacht off Somalia could be sent to the US to face trial, the US military says.

The group is being held aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

In the past year, at least six accused Somali pirates have been convicted in US courts.

US agencies are investigating the killings on Tuesday of Phyllis Macay, Bob Riggle, Jean and Scott Adam.

The US military, FBI and Justice Department are working on the next steps for their suspected killers, said Bob Prucha, a spokesman for US Central Command in Florida.

The four Americans were aboard the S/V Quest, the Adams' 58-foot ship, when they were hijacked on Friday in the waters off Oman.

Gunshot wounds

A convoy of Navy ships, including the Enterprise, sped to their rescue.

According to the US military, two pirates came aboard a US Navy ship to negotiate the release of the hostages. A rocket-propelled grenade later launched toward the US Navy ships, missing, and the Navy sailors heard gunfire from the Quest.

A team of Navy Seal special forces sailors then boarded the Quest and found the four Americans dying from gunshot wounds.

They regained control of the yacht, killing two pirates in the process and capturing an additional 13 pirates, and found the bodies of two pirates who were already dead, the US Navy said.

But the BBC's Will Ross in Nairobi says the pirates' telling of the encounter differs from the US Navy's. The pirates report the US warship attacked first, killing two pirates, and the hostages were killed in retaliation.

In November, five young Somali men were convicted of piracy in an April attack on a US Navy ship they mistook for a merchant vessel. One has been sentenced to 30 years in prison and the others face a possible life sentence.

And last week, a Somali man who pleaded guilty to the April 2009 pirate attack on a US-flagged merchant ship was sentenced to more than 33 years in prison.

Source: BBC News

Yemen: Somali refugees drown after boat capsizes

Fifty-seven Somali refugees have drowned off the coast of Yemen after a boat capsized earlier this week.

The UN Refugee Agency says it ran into bad weather.

The sole survivor, who lost his wife and three children on the vessel, swam for a whole day before reaching the Yemeni coast, the UNCHR said.

Yemen is a popular destination for Somalis fleeing fighting at home, but the trip can be risky as smugglers use boats that are not seaworthy.

The UNCHR says this is the largest loss of life between the waters of Somalia and Yemen since 2008, when 114 people drowned after smugglers forced them into the water.

The 42-year-old man who survived grabbed a plastic container from the wreckage to help keep him afloat.

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Will Ross says every day at least one boat is reaching Yemen - packed full of Somalis fleeing the conflict back home.

Over the past 24 hours the fighting in the Somali capital Mogadishu has been heavy.

African Union troops and government soldiers have managed to gain some territory from the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab.

About 20 people were killed during Wednesday's fighting.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since Siad Barre was ousted 20 years ago.

Source: BBC News

Qaddafi gathers forces, but rebellion gains momentum

Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi appeared to be refortifying his control over the capital of Tripoli, with residents reporting that thousands of his mercenaries and military units loyal to him were gathering on the roads outside the city. However, rebel gains and further defections from the military cast doubt on how long the Libyan leader could hold out.

Residents reported clashes in a number of towns surrounding Tripoli, suggesting that Qaddafi's forces were beginning to strike back. In the town of Zawiya, the minaret of a mosque, which protesters had been using as a safe haven, was destroyed by heavy weapons. Anti-Qaddafi demonstrators had previously declared that they had seized the town from government control.

But there were also signs that Qaddafi's grip on power was slipping further. The town of Misurata, 130 miles east of Tripoli, reportedly fell to the rebels on Wednesday. At least half of the Libyan coast to the east of Tripoli is apparently in the hands of anti-Qaddafi forces.

The protesters are also massing their strength for a massive anti-Qaddafi demonstration in Tripoli on Friday. A message reportedly went out to cellular phones across the country, urging them to take part in the effort to oust Qaddafi from power.

Obama condemns Libya violence: President Obama spoke about the unfolding crisis in Libya for the first time in four days on Wednesday. "The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable," he said of the government crackdown.

Source: FP - The Foreign Policy

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Clinton Deplores Killing of Americans by Somali Pirates

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday deplored the killing by Somali pirates of four Americans whose yacht was hijacked off the Somalia coast late last week. U.S. officials say the ultimate answer to the piracy problem lies in restoring security in Somalia.

Obama administration officials are urging a tougher international response to Horn-of-Africa piracy in the wake of the killings, but acknowledge that the key to the problem is restoring security and governance on the Somali mainland.

U.S. naval forces were trailing the hijacked American yacht, the Quest, Tuesday and trying to negotiate with the hostage-takers when Navy officials said a rocket propelled grenade was fired at a U.S. vessel and shots were heard on board.

U.S. Special Forces seized control of the hijacked yacht and found that all four hostages had been shot by the pirates and later died of their wounds.

The boarding party killed two pirates and detained more than a dozen others in the first known case of Americans being killed by pirate gangs operating off Somalia.

At a press event with Latvian Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States will honor the memory of the four slain Americans by strengthening the international anti-piracy effort.

"This deplorable act by the pirates that stalk vessels in the waters off of Somalia firmly underscores the need for the international community to act more decisively together. We’ve got to have a more effective approach to maintaining security on the seas, in the ocean lanes that are so essential to commerce and travel," she said.

Clinton said members of the international community concerned about piracy and stability in Somalia should provide material, financial and logistical support to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, AMISOM.

The 8,000-member force, consisting mainly of troops from Uganda and Burundi, has been fighting Islamist al-Shahab militiamen trying since 2007 to oust Somalia’s U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Governnment or TFG.

Coastal pirates have increased attacks in recent years despite an international flotilla of warships patrolling the region. The European Union says pirates are currently holding at least 32 vessels and nearly 700 hostages.

The State Department said the U.S. Justice Department will be consulted on the status of the pirates captured by U.S. forces Tuesday, who could be handed over to a Kenyan court or face justice in the United States.

Last week’s hijacking of the American yacht came only two days after a Somali pirate was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a New York court for his role in the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. merchant ship, the Maersk Alabama.

Source: VOA News

The Somali Pirate Threat Isn't Going Away

Katherine Zimmerman
Gulf of Aden team lead for the Critical Threats
Project, American Enterprise Institute

Today, Somali pirates killed four Americans taken hostage Friday off the coast of Oman. President Barack Obama authorized the use of force in the case of an imminent threat to the hostages Saturday. CENTCOM reports that during the course of negotiating the hostages' release, gunfire was heard aboard the captured yacht. The pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the USS Sterett, the closest U.S. naval ship, and small arms fire was heard on the yacht. U.S. forces responded immediately by boarding the ship, but discovered that the Americans had been shot.

Piracy has thrived off the coast of Somalia despite an international anti-piracy naval operation because of land-based conditions. Somalia's long coastline is essentially ungoverned -- the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) does not even have full control over the capital, Mogadishu. Armed groups have taken advantage of the lack of a sovereign government. Al Shabaab, a radical Islamist group with ties to al Qaeda, controls the coastline south of Mogadishu and has extended its control northward, further into the territory where the pirates operate. Last week, in the al Shabaab-controlled pirate town of Harardhere, al Shabaab and the pirates cut a deal for the release of pirate gang leaders: The pirates agreed to pay al Shabaab 20 percent of all future ransom payments and al Shabaab opened a marine office to coordinate with the pirates. Ransom payments run into the millions of dollars, which will serve as a significant source of funding for the terrorist group.

Al Shabaab uses the funds it secures to finance the insurgency that it is currently waging against the TFG. The past four days in Mogadishu saw a spike in violence. Monday, al Shabaab suicide bombers detonated a truck laden with explosives at a police training station in a government-controlled district. Newly trained TFG police were set to arrive at the police station that day. The peacekeeping force in Mogadishu, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), does not have sufficient forces to carry out its limited mandate of protecting primary government infrastructure. Of the 12,000 authorized troops, only 8,000 peacekeepers have been deployed.

The murder of four Americans should call attention to the increasingly dire situation in Mogadishu, which exacerbates the piracy problem. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that those concerned about piracy should "contribute to AMISOM by providing material, financial, and logistical support." The current situation in Somalia creates ripe conditions for piracy. These conditions have also contributed to the growth of al Shabaab, which has executed an international attack and threatened many more.

Katherine Zimmerman is the Gulf of Aden team lead for the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

Source: The Huffington Post

Four American hostages killed by Somali pirates

U.S. says killings occurred during talks; pirates say yacht was under attack.

Four Americans captured by Somali pirates while sailing in the Indian Ocean have been shot and killed, NBC News reported Tuesday.

The two couples, Phyllis Macay, 59, and Robert Riggle, 67, of Seattle, and the yacht's owners, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, California, were on an around-the-world sailing trip when they were captured by pirates Friday.

Military officials told NBC News that about 1 a.m. ET shots were heard aboard the yacht, called Quest. Negotiations had been under way with the pirates at the time.

The officials said U.S. military personnel boarded the yacht and discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors.

The officials said two pirates were killed and 13 others captured after a brief gun battle as U.S. forces took control of the boat.

"We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest," Gen. James N. Mattis, U.S. Central Command Commander, said in a statement.

Two pirates already dead
The statement added that in addition to the 15 dead or captured pirates, U.S. forces had found the remains of two pirates on the vessel who were already dead. It did not say how they had died.

The statement also said two pirates had been in U.S. custody before the Quest was boarded — as part of the negotiation process — and that in total it was believed 19 pirates had been involved. They are thought to have used a so-called mother ship to reach the Quest which was about 190 miles off the Oman coast.

The statement said U.S. forces had been "closely monitoring" the Quest for approximately three days with four Navy warships tasked to recover the yacht: the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, the guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett and USS Bulkeley.

Vice Adm. Mark Fox, Commander of the US Navy 5th fleet, told a news conference that negotiations were taking place between the U.S. forces and the pirates Tuesday morning when they suddenly fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Sterett, which was about 600 yards away. The RPG missed.

Fox said gunfire was heard "almost immediately" afterward and then several pirates appeared on the deck of the yacht with their hands in the air, wanting to surrender.

A boarding party of U.S. special forces was sent across to the Quest but "despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four American hostages died of their wounds," Fox said.

He said no shots were fired by the U.S. personnel as they boarded the yacht.

However, as the yacht was being cleared later, the special forces shot dead one pirate and killed another with a knife.

Fox said they had not planned to launch a military operation against the yacht.

"The intent always had been this would be a negotiated process and not ever go to the point where we had gunfire," he said.

Asked about the two pirates who were already dead when the troops arrived, Fox said he did not know the circumstances of their deaths.

"We've seen a growing problem here in terms of pirate activity off the coast of Somalia," he said, with the mother ships allowing the pirates to strike as far away as the coast of India.

After the yacht was captured off the coast of Oman, the pirates headed for waters between Yemen and northern Somalia.

Two Somali pirates who spoke with Reuters by telephone Tuesday said the hostages were ordered killed since the pirates themselves were under attack by U.S. forces.

"Our colleagues called us this morning, that they were being attacked by a U.S. warship," Mohamud, a Somali pirate, told Reuters. "We ordered our comrades to kill the four Americans before they got killed."

Pirate leader Farah, speaking from Bayla, a pirate haven in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland, vowed to avenge the deaths and capture of his comrades.

"I lost the money I invested and my comrades. No forgiveness for the Americans. Revenge. Our business will go on," he said, adding he had spent $110,000 so far in the hijacking, including on weapons and food and salaries.

Pirates have increased attacks on ships off the coast of East Africa, but Americans have rarely been targeted.

'Great sailors, good people'
The last attack against a U.S. crew, which happened in 2009, ended with Navy sharpshooters killing two pirates and rescuing the ship's captain.

The past commodore of Seattle Singles Yacht Club, Joe Grande, told the Associated Press that Riggle and Macay were "great sailors, good people."

"They were doing what they wanted to do, but that's small comfort in the face of this," he said.

The Adams kept a blog describing their travels. They started their journey around the world in December 2004, visiting numerous countries including China, Thailand, Fiji, Philippines, New Zealand, Mexico and El Salvador.

Scott Adam, who was in his mid-60s, wanted to combine his love of adventure with his faith by spreading Bibles around the world, Professor Robert K. Johnston, of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, said Sunday.

Adam last year earned a master of theology degree from the school, where Johnston was his professor. The two men also became friends.

"He was sailing around the world and serving God, two of his passions," Johnston said.

He said that despite an adventurous spirit, the Adams were meticulous planners who knew the dangers they faced.

NBC News, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: MSNBC News

Immediate International Steps Needed to Stop Atrocities in Libya

INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP - NEW MEDIA RELEASE

With credible reports of concerted deadly attacks against civilians committed by Libyan security forces, including the use of military aircraft to indiscriminately attack demonstrators, the international community must respond immediately.

For members of the world community, many of whom long condoned authoritarian regimes in the Arab world and only fully backed the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings once the outcome had become clear, Libya presents a critical test. So far, the Libyan regime has offered its people no prospect beyond submission, civil war or a blood bath; its actions have condemned it in the eyes of its own people and of the world.

Many have already denounced the violent acts, but actions must now follow words. Crisis Group recommends the following urgent steps:

Imposing targeted sanctions against Muammar Qaddafi and family members as well as others involved in the repression, including an immediate assets freeze;
Offering safe haven to Libyan aircraft pilots and other security personnel who refuse to carry out illegal regime orders to attack civilians;
Cancelling all ongoing contracts and cooperation for the supply of military equipment and training to Libyan security forces;
Imposing an international embargo to prevent the sale and delivery of any military equipment or support to Libyan security forces while refraining from any commercial sanctions that could harm civilians;
In light of the intensity of the violence and its likely regional effects, the United Nations Security Council should:
strongly condemn Libya's resort to state violence against civilians and call on the Libyan government and security forces to immediately halt all such attacks and restore access for humanitarian flights to Libyan air space;
call on member states to take the above-mentioned actions;
establish an international commission of inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity in Libya since 1 February 2011, tasking it to investigate the conduct of the Libyan government and all its varied security forces, as well as allegations concerning the involvement of foreign mercenaries. The body should provide recommendations on steps to be taken by national and international authorities to ensure accountability for any crime;
plan the establishment of a no-fly zone under Chapter VII if aircraft attacks against civilians continue.
Individual nations, particularly those with close ties to Libya, and international actors -- such as the African Union, the Arab League, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference -- should support these and other similar measures.

Moreover, Libya's neighbours should open their borders to provide humanitarian aid and safe haven to the wounded and to those fleeing violence.

People throughout the region are claiming their rights. In several countries, their actions have led to relatively peaceful transitions or to renewed dialogue toward reform. Libya's leaders have chosen a different path, with devastating consequences for their citizens. How the international community responds could help determine whether others opt to heed their people's demands or choose to cling to power at a high, and terrifying, cost.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Somalia: The Transitional Government on Life Support

Africa Report N°170 - 21 Feb 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has squandered the goodwill and support it received and achieved little of significance in the two years it has been in office. It is inept, increasingly corrupt and hobbled by President Sharif’s weak leadership. So far, every effort to make the administration modestly functional has come unstuck. The new leaner cabinet looks impressive on paper but, given divisive politics and the short timeframe, is unlikely to deliver significant progress on key transitional objectives, such as stabilising Somalia and delivering a permanent constitution before August 2011, when the TFG’s official mandate ends. Although the Transitional Federal Parliament unilaterally has awarded itself a further three-year-extension, urgent attention needs to be given to the government’s structural flaws that stymie peacebuilding in central and south Somalia. If the TFG does not make serious progress on correcting its deficiencies by August, the international community should concentrate its support on the more effective local entities, until a more appropriate and effective national government is negotiated.

To blame the TFG or Sharif solely for the continued catastrophe would be unfair. At the core of Somalia’s governance crisis is a deeply-flawed centralising state model. The international community has not yet learned the lesson that re-establishing a European-style centralised state, based in Mogadishu, is almost certain to fail. For most Somalis, their only experience with the central government is that of predation. Since independence, one clan, or group of clans, has always used its control of the centre to take most of the resources and deny them to rival clans. Thus, whenever a new transitional government is created, Somalis are naturally wary and give it limited, or no, support, fearing it will only be used to dominate and marginalise them.

The logical alternative is a more decentralised system of governance, but despite serious attempts, since 2004, to push transitional governments to devolve power away from Mogadishu, the political class – and much of the international community – has remained instinctively wedded to re-establishing a strong central government. The current TFG is even less willing to share power than previous transitional administrations, which explains the recurrent tensions between it and self-governing enclaves like Puntland, Galmudug, Ximan and Xeeb and local grassroots movements like Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ). Not surprisingly, many are going their own way. Indeed, Somalia today is experiencing a multi-faceted, chaotic, clan-driven and virtually countrywide revolt against the centre.

Nothing highlights the general ineptitude of the TFG in forging political alliances and achieving wider reconciliation better than the botched power-sharing agreement with the ASWJ. Originally, an alliance of clans seeking to protect their traditional version of Sufi Islam, ASWJ is the only group in south and central Somalia able to oppose the extreme Islamist movement Al-Shabaab effectively. It was a natural ally of the TFG but was only brought into a formal power-sharing agreement under tremendous pressure from regional and other international allies. That accord is now in tatters, though officials in Mogadishu insist it still officially holds. The movement is itself deeply fragmented, and no one knows which of the plethora of emerging splinter factions speaks for the “old” ASWJ. The TFG appears in no hurry to save what is left of the deal.

The level of corruption within the TFG has increased significantly, and many local and foreign observers regard the current government as the most corrupt since the cycles of ineffectual transitions began in 2000. A cabal within the regime presides over a corruption syndicate that is massive, sophisticated and extends well beyond Somalia’s borders. The impunity with which its members operate and manipulate the system to serve their greed is remarkable. They are not fit to hold public office and should be forced to resign, isolated and sanctioned.

TFG military prospects are not good, despite gains in Mogadishu since the end of Ramadan in late September 2010. The army is ineffectual, and the government’s survival is entirely dependent on some 8,000 troops of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the international community. The modest Western-led Security Sector Reform (SSR) initiative to train thousands of soldiers and revamp the army can only be meaningful and ultimately successful within a larger political plan and in concert with a TFG leadership that is able to imbue its soldiery with a sense of loyalty, patriotism and direction. The current government seems incapable of providing that.

AMISOM has in recent months extended its military positions in Mogadishu, and there are indications of an impending major military campaign to retake the city and then fan out to areas in central and south Somalia. Any offensive would undoubtedly put Al-Shabaab under considerable pressure. However, it is not clear how much planning or preparation has been dedicated to formulating a political strategy for holding and stabilising “liberated” areas. Some clan elders may be secretly supportive, but without adequate political preparation, assumptions of a groundswell of support for the invasion in the south may turn out to be overly optimistic, notwithstanding that Al-Shabaab is increasingly unpopular. As history demonstrates, Somalis tend to reject foreign military interventions, even those that may, potentially, be best for their long-term interest.

Yet, the situation is not as bleak as it may seem. Some parts of Somalia, most notably Somaliland and Puntland in the north, are relatively stable, and as the ill-fated Union of Islamic Courts demonstrated in 2006, it is possible to rapidly reestablish peace and stability in central and south Somalia if the right conditions exist. Contrary to what is often assumed, there is little anarchy in the country. Local authorities administer most areas and maintain a modicum of law and order. Somalis and humanitarian agencies and NGOs on the ground know who is in charge and what the rules are and get on with their work. The way forward needs to be a more devolved political and security structure and far greater international support for local administrations. Furthermore, if by August, the TFG has not made meaningful progress in coping with its internal problems and shown itself genuinely willing to work and share power with these local authorities, the international community should shift all its aid to them.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Transitional Federal Government:

1. Decentralise the system of administration – per the Transitional Federal Charter – as soon as possible, by providing delegated authority and resources to allied local administrations and groups.

2. Restructure and revive the High Level Committee and Joint Security Committee (negotiated during the Djibouti peace talks) to coordinate the activities of allied local administrations and their security forces.

3. Prioritise national reconciliation, as a first step by reactivating the moribund reconciliation commission, reconstituting its membership, broadening its mandate and giving it the resources to draw up a comprehensive national plan.

4. Constitute an inclusive consultative forum to amend the transitional charter, deliberate on the constitution and agree on reform of the transitional federal institutions for the post-August period, with the focus solely on governance, in particular the relationship between local administrations and the national government in Mogadishu, the structure of that national government and the division of power within it.

To the UN Security Council and the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS):

5. Give much greater attention than hitherto to local authorities that are providing some security and law and order in areas they control.

6. Support carefully and incentivise the emergence and growth of local, multi-clan administrations willing to cooperate with the TFG.

To the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM):

7. Prioritise recruitment and coordination of the security forces of allied local administrations rather than focusing on increasing the number of AMISOM troops on the ground.

8. Use the revived High Level Committee and Joint Security Committee called for above to coordinate the activities of allied local security forces.

9. Do not attempt a major offensive unless an appropriate accompanying political strategy has been developed.

To Donors:

10. Begin to provide assistance, including governance capacity building, directly to emerging local administrations, and calibrate and link it (as well as aid to the TFG) to realistic, transparent benchmarks.

11. Support efforts to create mechanisms in both the TFG and local administrations to combat corruption, such as by improving revenue collection and management, increasing budgetary transparency and strengthening internal auditing capabilities.

12. Investigate, stop supporting and sanction corrupt officials.

13. Withdraw support from the TFG – unless it clearly demonstrates by August 2011 (when its formal mandate expires) credible outreach to and reconciliation with other regions and administrations and willingness to share power with them; serious security sector reform; genuine anti-corruption efforts; and meaningful restructuring of the government – and direct it instead at those administrations that are serving the interests of the Somali people.

Source: The International Crises Group

Report: Yacht Hijacked by Somali Pirates Being Tracked by Warship

The four Americans hijacked on Friday off the coast of Oman in their private yacht are now believed to be somewhere between Yemen and Somalia. According to one of two pirates on board the vessel, “Quest” is moving closer to the Somali coast and is being shadowed by a warship, though the pirate’s claim has not been verified. The pirate who gave his name only as Hassan says a warship with a helicopter on its deck is near the Quest.

The hope is the warship will free them before the pirates reach Puntland, a haven for pirates on Somalia’s northern tip where the American hostages would likely be taken inland and a fast resolution would be much less likely.
An Embassy spokesperson does say officials are assessing options and “possible responses.” The Quest is owned by a California couple, Scott and Jean Adam. The other two Americans onboard from Seattle are Phyllis MacKay and Bob Riggle. They had been taking part in an international yacht race called “The Blue Water Rally” when the Quest left it on February 15th to chart an independent course from India to Oman.

The Adams have been sailing the world with a yacht full of bibles since 2004.

Pirates have increased attacks on ships off the coast of east Africa, but Americans have rarely been targeted. The last attack against a U.S. crew was in 2009 and ended with navy sharpshooters killing two pirates and rescuing the ship’s captain and a British sailing couple who were released in November and spent 388 days in pirate captivity.

Source: The Fox News Insider

Most Somali students are driven to get an education

THERE is a sizeable number of Somalis studying at public universities in Kuala Lumpur, and the number is growing.

Yasir Mohamed Baffo, a tourism graduate of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), said Malaysia was a choice destination because it was a moderate Muslim country.

He said there were about 1,500 Somali students studying a range of courses from information technology to management courses, including Islamic finance, business, accounting, economics and international affairs.

He said most of the Somali students were enrolled in UUM, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Teknologi Mara and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

"The students are funded by their families in Somalia and those who lived elsewhere," said Yasir, whose father works in the private sector in Saudi Arabia.

Yasir's 17-year-old sister is also studying at an international school in Kuala Lumpur. She has plans to pursue a degree in Islamic finance at a public university.

According to Yasir, the Somali community in Kuala Lumpur was close-knit and usually did not mix with those from the other African nations.

Yasir is proud of his Somali heritage and is quick to point out that award-winning writer Nuruddin Farah, well-known writer and Al Jazeera journalist Rageh Omaar and singer K'naan, who sang at the Fifa World Cup last year, are Somalis.

Yasir is hopeful that Somalia will have a stable government some day with a strong leader. He wants to return home after completing his master's next year and hopes to become a tourism minister one day.

He is also involved in youth movements worldwide, where he is striving to unite the educated Somali youth towards helping their country put into place a stable leadership.

On why he chose to study in Malaysia, Yasir said he was taken up by his secondary school teacher who studied in Malaysia.

"He painted such as wonderful picture of his time in Malaysia and I was so taken up, and made up my mind that I would come here."

Professor Dr Musse Mohamud Ahmed of the International Islamic University Malaysia's Engineering Faculty said he was also funded by his family when he came to Malaysia in 1996 to do his PhD.

Musse said Somali students were driven towards obtaining a good education.

"Almost 95 per cent of Somalis here are studying. You will never find a Somali going to a construction site to look for a job."

Ultimately, Musse said, all Somalis living out of Somalia had one goal: to return to Somalia some day.

Musse added that the crisis in Mogadishu was "purely political" and that there was no infighting among the people of Somalia.

It has been reported that Somalia has been without an effective central government since president Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

Although Somalia had been without a proper government for the past 21 years, the country was thriving, said Musse.

"How many countries could thrive under such circumstances? It goes to show that the Somali people are hardworking, which keeps the economy going. It is just that we have a bad political system."

Musse also said the Somalis in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and even in Kenya and Dubai were successful and well-known for their business acumen.

"In Dubai, the Somalis are the second biggest contributors to the economy."

As for Musse, Malaysia is not the sole option to pursue his studies.

"I was offered by the National University of Australia in Sydney to do a PHD, but they told me to come a year later. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia also offered me a place and told me I could start straightaway, so I decided to come here."

To keep the community together, Musse has undertaken the role of chairman of the Somalis in Malaysia, while Yasir is a member of the Somali Students Society in Kuala Lumpur.

Yasir said they held regular workshops and seminars to help the Somali students blend in and learn the culture of the Malaysians.

UUM's assistant director of Centre for International Affairs and Cooperation, Kartini Tajul Urus, said there were 180 Somali students pursuing business and information technology degree courses at the university.

She said many of them had transferred from another local private university because the fees at UUM were cheaper, which ranged from RM7,200 to RM7,500 for a four-year undergraduate course.

Most of them were self-financed, she added.

While there were the "usual social" issues concerning the Somali students, she said there were no major disciplinary problems.

Multimedia University director of International Students Recruitment, Ezral Mokhtar, said it was part of the university's ongoing marketing efforts to get more Somali students to study at MMU.

Source: The Asiaone

Suicide bomb kills top Somali footballer, wounds two

ONE of Somalia’s top football players, Abdi Salaan Mohamed Ali, has been killed in suicide explosions while returning from a training session near the Somali police academy on Monday morning.

Two other footballers, Mahmoud Amin Mohamed and Siid Ali Mohamed Xiis were wounded in the attack, according to a statement from the Somali Football Federation.

Witnesses said that two suicide explosions occurred on a highway leading to the So-ma-li poli-ce academy where the footballers had performed their early morning training session.

“They were walking on the road,” Farhiya Mohamed, who witnessed the explosions said.

The brutal incident has shocked the president of Somali Football Federation, Mr. Said Mahmoud Nur, who is currently in Khartoum for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) congress. “I am deeply shocked by the sad news of the death and injury of our young footballers,” Nur said in a statement issued on Monday afternoon.

“On behalf of the entire Somali football family I am sending my heart-felt condolence to the families, relatives and friends of the slain football player, Abdi Salaan Mohamed Ali. He was one of our best players and has recently been added to the national U-20 squad,” the statement added.

A condolence book has been opened at the Somali Football Federation headquarters in Mogadishu where thousands have registered since the sad news came to light earlier in the day.

“We are committed to continuing our duty in the war-torn country until we meet death."

In the past four years the Somali Football family has lost more than a dozen football players and top level officials including international football referee Abdi Abdulahi Alasow and executive committee member, Ali Hussein Kariye.

Source: The Nigerian Tribune

Somali pirates behind most kidnappings

Somali pirates hijacking merchant ships in the Indian Ocean frequently take more foreigners hostage in a single month than all other kidnappers in the world combined, information from a kidnap and ransom report reveals.

According to risk consultancy AKE, kidnap and ransom trends are in constant flux, and while the hostage-taking of foreigners in Colombia and Iraq is in decline, Somali piracy and the accompanying ransom demands is on the rise.

Piracy accounts for the kidnapping of approximately 95 foreigners per month, and with the average settlement estimated to be between £2.5-£3 million, shippers now warn that vessels may be forced to take a longer, more costly route around Africa.

Considering piracy is by no means a new crime, just why has it risen to such prominence in the last decade?

John Drake, a senior risk consultant for AKE Ltd, said: "Simply put, you will get piracy in areas where shipping passes by coastal communities with high levels of criminality.

"Never before have those conditions been so exaggerated as in Somalia. The government collapsed in 1991, levels of lawlessness are endemic, and the increasingly globalised world has seen a steady rise in the number of shipped goods passing through the Gulf of Aden between Europe and Asia.

"On a historical level you could possibly even compare it to an impoverished Cornwall or lawless Caribbean at a time when there were strong shipping routes between the Americas and Europe."

Second on the global hostage-taking risk list, with an average of 20 kidnaps per month is Mexico, although so far Western nationals have not tended to be targeted.

Representing a downward trend are kidnappings further south in Colombia, due to disarray amongst militant groups and better coordination by security forces.

Neighbouring countries however, namely El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, have all seen an increase.

Foreigners kidnapped and released alive can wait up to 300 days for release in Afghanistan, although a high proportion of the one or two monthly kidnappings result in violent death, either through execution or during special forces rescue missions. Ransoms are usually between £200,000-£600,000.

In the aftermath of the 2003 US-led Iraq invasion, kidnappings of both foreigners and local Iraqis soared but have since fallen sharply. Yemen is now seen as the Middle Eastern country in which foreigners are most at risk of kidnap.

Current hot spots in Africa include Nigeria and Sudan's Darfur region. Ransoms for the one or two foreign nationals kidnapped per month in the Niger Delta by militants and armed gangs range from £23,000-£180,000, with the longest period spent in captivity standing at 465 days.

Charity workers, United Nations staff and African Union peacekeepers have all been targeted in the Darfur region, where the average time spent in captivity is 100 days.

Within Europe, the former Soviet Union is seen as having the highest risk of kidnap for foreigners. Short duration "tiger kidnaps" are, however, becoming increasingly common in Western Europe due to the economic crisis, particularly in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Despite the worrying statistics, AKE's head of crisis response said: "I would say that the actual numbers of foreigners kidnapped from the late 1970s might have increased very gradually, but figures are not significantly higher today - just hot spots change."

Source: The Telegraph

Somalia: Clan Wars, British Tax Money And Somaliland's Aggressions

Violent clan aggressions, blatant lies of separatism, support for terror groups, and other crimes will not get Somaliland any closer to international recognition.

On Monday, Feb. 7, 2011, soldiers loyal to the separatist administration of 'Somaliland' fought fierce clashes against local clans over control of territory. Of course, explaining the tragic events of that Monday to a reader brainwashed by the 'Somaliland' separatist ideology is difficult, but one simply has to analyze the changing political rhetoric in Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared yet unrecognized 'Republic of Somaliland.'

Over the past few days, Somaliland's internal politics has been rocked by the events of Feb. 7th. Reliable reports put casualties suffered on the Somaliland army side between 52 and 65 soldiers killed, while local clan fighters lost an estimated 22 men during the day-long battles, when heavy weapons inlcuding tanks were used.

It is regrettable that clan fighting continues in this day and age in any part of Somalia. More worrisome, Somaliland's administration, which considers itself the West's 'democracy darling' of Somalia, is directly waging clan wars and benefiting from British tax-payers' money to fund violent aggressions, uprooting of communities and land expansion at the expense of civilians.

Some estimates put British aid to Somaliland at 60% of all British aid to Somalia. The separatist rulers in Hargeisa claim Sool and Sanaag regions, along with Buhodle district, based on defunct colonial-era boundaries. Notwithstanding this claim, local clans and the international community watched with silence as Somaliland troops militarily seized Las Anod, capital of Sool region, in Oct. 2007.

Such a violent military strategy was tried in Buhodle district. Monday's fighting is deeply rooted in Somaliland's aggression to advance its violent land expansionism in order to uproot local clans and import clans loyal to the separatist agenda. Insiders know that Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo ordered Somaliland troops to attack villages after his sub-clan, the Habar Jelo of the Isaaq clan, failed in their effort to uproot the local Dhulbahante clan from Kalshale village.

Since coming to power in July 2010, President Silanyo's administration has been seized by hardliners from the SNM rebel group of the 1980s. Unlike his predecessors, President Silanyo did the unusual step of allowing a subordinate, Mr. Muse Bihi, to become chairman of the ruling Kulmiye party. Every Somaliland president before Mr. Silanyo held the dual posts of Somaliland President and Party Chief, at the same time.

Mr. Silanyo's concessions to Mr. Bihi, himself another SNM veteran, has two key reasons: 1) Mr. Bihi's Habar Awal sub-clan, of the Isaaq clan that formed the SNM in the early 1980s, is the dominant clan in Hargeisa; and 2) Mr. Bihi and junior SNM veterans know quite well that Mr. Silanyo is a one-term president, given his old age.

The SNM veterans, who were intentionally kept out of Somaliland government for nearly 20 years, have returned with a vengeance. They are seeking to reunite the Isaaq clan and strengthen the separatist agenda by diverting intra-Isaaq disputes to the 'us vs. them' dynamic. In other words, the SNM veterans are seeking Isaaq clan unity by posing an equation for the Isaaq population that Isaaq political destiny is under threat of Dhulbahante clan, whic is a false pretense based on the SNM's historical hostilities and aggressions against neighboring clans.

Mr. Silanyo's predecessor, Mr. Dahir Riyale and his former administration, have been repeatedly accused of arming and funding Al Shabaab terrorist elements in Sanaag region. This strategy was fuelled by Somaliland's jealousy of Puntland, which is a stable region, with a functioning government, yet supports Somali national unity under a federal structure. In short, Puntland's historic stability became a threat to Somaliland's lies that the rest of Somalia is war-torn and lawless. But supporting terrorists, as similarly to raising snakes, is never a successful plan. Today, Puntland has militarily defeated Al Shabaab terrorists and flushed them out of the Sanaag mountains, while Al Shabaab remnants have fled to safety in Somaliland's major towns, posing serious security risks for Somaliland inherited by the Silanyo administration.

Peace, security and stability is for the interest of all communities in Somalia. Violent clan aggressions, blatant lies of separatism, support for terror groups, and other crimes will not get Somaliland any closer to international recognition. What readers should understand is that Somaliland has always played a villian role in Somali politics. It is Puntland's continued stability, and some success, that has brought Somaliland's crimes out for public scrutiny.

Even today, when Puntland remains quiet as regards the battles of Monday Feb. 7th, Somaliland officials continue to blame Puntland while it is Somaliland tanks that have targeted villages and uprooted communities. This fact is out for everyone to see.

It would be prudent for Somaliland's leadership to stop lying to their own population. After 20 years, there is no international recognition and an old man is the president, who has become a victim to SNM veterans motivated by clan hostilities. Creating new clan wars is not the path to seeking clan unity to bolster a long-failed secessionist agenda. It is heart-breaking to witness young men and women, travel by road for hours from Hargeisa to Garowe, capital of Puntland, seeking a Somali federal passport and the opportunity to be smuggled abroad. It is Somaliland's youth who are losing massively in this hopeless campaign of separatism, as they have very limited educational and employment opportunities commonly experienced by all youth across Somalia.

Finally, the British Government should carefully review its Somalia aid policy, because if British aid is used to fund clan wars, the reprecussions could be great for all parties concerned, as Britian and its record of human rights is well-respected in the community of nations.

Source: AllAfrica