Google+ Followers

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Swedish researchers explore Somali-autism link

Swedish researchers want to gain access to a databank of blood tests taken from all babies born in Sweden in order to shed light on an apparent heightened incidence of autism among the country's Somali population.

Sweden treats first case of deadly Lassa fever (8 Mar 11)
Spike in calls to Swedish kids help hotline (9 Feb 11)
Swedish breakthrough could slow Parkinson's (19 Jan 11)

The researchers at the Autism centre for small children in Stockholm want to see if the samples contained in the so-called PKU register, which is used on newborns to detect a slew of illnesses, can explain the differences in levels of autism between children of Somali and children of Swedish origin.

"We want to look at the vitamin D levels at a very early stage in children who are later diagnosed with autism," Elisabeth Fernell at the Autism centre for small children told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily.

If access to the database is approved, the tests will be conducted during the spring and include all of the autistic Somali children currently living in Stockholm, the newspaper reported.

The database is protected by law and access can only be granted on approval by an ethical council and then with the permission of each and every one of those to be tested, or if under the age of consent, their legal guardian.

Elisabeth Fernell argued that the study is unique and that results will first become known in the autumn when the samples have returned from the laboratory in Australia where they will be sent for tests.

The lack of sunlight in Sweden, combined with the use of sun protection creams and general precautions taken to avoid direct sun exposure is known to cause vitamin D deficiencies. Vitamin D deficiencies could be a contributing factor to the incidence of depression and some experts believe, autism.

Somalis living in Sweden have dubbed autism, "The Swedish disease," as it has become an increasingly common occurrence among Somali children that have moved to Sweden.

The incidence is far higher than for Somali children resident in Somalia, something which researchers theorize may be related to differences in the amount of sunlight between Sweden and the east African country.

The western world has seen a dramatic increase in autism in recent years and Sweden has followed this trend. Around 1 percent of the Swedish population suffers from this neurological condition. In the US, the diagnosis of autism is increasing at a rate of 10-17 percent per year.

Researchers have long struggled to explain the dramatic increase.

Some have focused on the incidence of mercury in vaccines, others have focused on the triple MMR vaccine, although the current scientific consensus has found no evidence to support either of these theories. Others have meanwhile blamed the sedentary habits of western children and modern food habits.

Another explanation may be that changes to how the condition is diagnosed lie behind the dramatic increase. Regardless, a more complex picture of the combination of genetic, environmental and social factors behind the condition is starting to emerge.

Elisabeth Fernell hopes that the results of their study will help to shed light on the situation and enable doctors working in maternity wards to act fast.

"We hope that the results get to the physicians and that the health authorities check vitamin D levels for those with dark skins as Sweden is a country with very little sun," Fernell said to DN.


Around 500 Somali migrants arrive

A day after Italian TV presenter Massimo Giletti claimed that Malta is known to shoot at migrants as they arrive on the island, claims which were later denied by the government, two overcrowded and rundown boats arrived in Malta yesterday evening, bringing with them around 500 Somali migrants; the first migrants to arrive in Malta since the start of the Libyan uprising just over a month ago.

The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) said in a statement that at 2pm, French maritime rescue officials informed the AFM that one of their naval vessels, La Meuse, had encountered a 60-foot long boat to the east of Malta.

After hearing this news, the AFM sent its Air Wing helicopter to investigate the report and shortly afterwards, patrol vessel P-21 was sent to escort the migrants to Malta. AFM officials on board the P-21 reported that they were informed that around 200 migrants were onboard, half of whom were women and children.

They added that some migrants were not feeling well, since they had drank a lot of seawater.

The boat arrived in Malta and berthed at Haywharf, Sa Maison, just after 6pm.

Scores of AFM personnel and several members of the Malta Red Cross were on hand to assist the migrants.

Women and children got off the boat first, carrying with them a handful of possessions they had brought along.

One woman immediately felt unwell, and was soon lifted onto a stretcher and taken away in an ambulance. A male amputee in a wheelchair was also led away from the crowd.

At the same time, another boatload of migrants with around 300 migrants onboard arrived at Daħlet Qorrot in Gozo, and was escorted back to Malta by the AFM’s P-51. This boat also berthed at Haywharf, Sa Maison, just after 7.30pm.

The migrants were later taken to rest at the detention centres.

‘Malta’s migration system needs to be in line with European standards’

Prior to the migrants’ arrivals, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, commented during his visit to Malta that the island needs to move away from a reactive approach to migration and establish a system that is fully in line with European standards.

He added that Malta and Europe need each other if the challenges of migration are to be met in a manner that respects human rights. He explained that “a much more generous and collegial approach” is necessary on the part of other European states, by accepting to host some of the persons to whom Malta has rightly accorded international protection.

“… With the exception of France and Germany – and further afield the US – this has not been the case so far,” he stated.

Underlining that the current uncertainty related to the events in Libya and possible forced migration towards Malta and Europe, he said this should not deter the Maltese authorities from undertaking the necessary reforms.

“Instead this is another reason for more European solidarity to support these reforms,” said the Commissioner, while also noting that the substantial decrease in the number of irregular arrivals in Malta over the last two years has taken considerable pressure off Malta.

In total, 7,800 asylum applications were submitted in Malta in the five years between and including 2006 to 2010.

Material conditions in the open centres, which currently house some 2,300 migrants, are substandard and need to be improved “as a matter of urgency” said the Commissioner, highlighting this as a further area where Europe could help Malta make further progress. The Commissioner found that the Marsa open centre and, in particular, the tent village in Ħal Far offered inadequate conditions for both short or long periods of time.

Migrants putting a great deal of pressure on Malta’s resources – Ministry

The Justice and Home Affairs Ministry released a statement last night in reaction to Mr Hammarberg’s comments, stating that whereas a number of EU states, particularly France and Germany, and the USA have, in the past, assisted Malta by resettling some migrants, “it is a fact that, contrary to what is stated by Mr Hammarberg, Malta is still under considerable pressure by the migrants who arrived in Malta in previous years and the ones who will be landing in Malta in the coming days”.

The Ministry said it does not agree with Mr Hammarberg’s views with regard to its detention policy.

“The open centres, which currently host some 2,300 migrants, were never intended to provide long-term accommodation, but rather to offer shelter only until migrants could find suitable independent accommodation.

“Moreover, although it is recognised that material conditions at the open centres would, in certain cases, benefit from improvement, current conditions are a direct result of the fact that the centres have practically always been at full capacity and beyond, making refurbishment of certain facilities difficult, if not impossible,” the Ministry said.

Source: The Malta Independent Online

Federal Officials Call Somali Man a National Security Risk

Federal officials are calling a Somali man a national security risk to the nation.

Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane pleaded out for making false statements about his association with two terrorist organizations.

According to court documents, he helped two east Africa terror groups smuggle people into the United States. They say Dhakane helped them get through Mexico and Texas. He was arrested in Brownsville on immigration charges back in 2008.

Authorities say they believe Dhakane helped violent jihadists slip across the border, but they don't know where they are now. Dhakane denies the allegations and hasn't been charged with those crimes.

He'll be facing as much as 20 years when he's sentenced April 28.


Italians Rescue Africans Fleeing 'Boiling' Libya

The sleepy off-season of Linosa, a tiny, picture-perfect Southern Italian island, was disrupted Sunday by the sudden arrival of hundreds of refugees from Libya — mostly Eritreans and Somalis.

The Italian coast guard had rescued about 1,000 people on three separate boats as they fled violence and discrimination in Libya.

The men were sheltered in a ruined port building and were eager to share their stories.

Muhammed Ali, a 33-year-old Somali, said each one paid up to $1,500 for the dangerous five-day crossing. They had no food or drinking water — all they were provided with was a satellite phone that didn't work.

"We did not have a proper route," he said. "Yesterday we were drifting. We did not [have] fuel; we [were] just drifting. ... When you look around, you only see water. The sea brought us here. It's by chance, it's by luck —we came here by luck."

'The Situation Is Just Boiling'

Ali was one of hundreds of thousands of foreigners who provided Libya with cheap labor — so cheap, he said, that often they weren't even paid. He, his wife and child experienced three years of discrimination and beatings.

But now, he said, Libya is even more dangerous than his homeland, Somalia.

"Even the young boys have guns there. Everybody has a gun there," Ali said. "Libya is not safe for anybody. ... [They] provide to everybody, every Libyan man who can carry and who even cannot carry a gun."

Ali said he had to leave because he was too scared even to go out.

"Because the situation is just boiling," Ali said. "You do not know who is with [Libyan leader Moammar] Gadhafi and who is not with Gadhafi. If you say Gadhafi is good, that's treason. If you say Gadhafi is bad, it's another, bigger treason. So you ... have to keep your mouth shut, and when somebody come and hold your shoulder and even abuse you and spit on you, you say thank you — what we say, 'malesh.' "

Shattered Dreams

A mile away, a schoolroom has been turned into a shelter for women and children. With colorful headscarves, the women look proud and dignified, despite their shabby clothes.

Grace Fields, 29, is from Nigeria. She ran an African foods business in Tripoli. As with the other refugees, it's impossible to independently verify her story, but she said the Libyans are using the war to turn against foreigners and make money.

"They go to everybody's house and take their belongings," she said. "Somebody with gun, with knife. ... They make sure they collect everything you have. It's too much. They are killing."

Nearby, Amina Alehashe, 30, from Eritrea, tells a story of shattered dreams. She and many others began their trek across Africa years ago in the hopes of reaching Europe from Libyan shores.

But their hopes were crushed in 2008 when Libya and Italy signed a treaty under which Tripoli agreed to block all migrant boats in exchange for $7 billion.

Like all illegal immigrants, Alehashe was sent to a detention camp for six months — some of her friends for as much as a year. They were regularly beaten and kicked and received only one meal a day.

"Bread and water, even no tea, even no ... medicine at all," she said. "We haven't rights; we haven't documents; we haven't anything."

'It's Fantastic'

The toll of life in Libya on these Africans' health is immediately visible to Italian aid worker Claudia Rossetti. She says many of the men are emaciated and undernourished.

"And there are many pregnant women in this group," she said. "Several of them had miscarriages during the sea crossing. They are full of sores on their backs. They haven't been able to wash in weeks."

Later, Rossetti says she has reason to believe many of the women were sexually abused while in detention camps.

Before the refugees were transferred to Sicily, journalists offered use of their mobile phones so the refugees could call home.

The mood changed suddenly, and the women's faces broke out in broad smiles upon hearing the voices of loved ones far away.

They said they had been rescued, that they were now in Italy and "it's fantastic."


Somali pirates had killed Pakistani, Iranian hostages

The 16 Somali pirates, apprehended by maritime forces on March 26, had killed a Pakistani hostage when the anti-piracy operation was on, 400 nautical miles off Lakshadweep Islands, the police said on Tuesday.

When the forces intercepted the vessel, the pirates put up a fight and killed the Pakistani, to strike fear among the other hostages. Deputy police commissioner (port zone) Quaiser Khalid said, "The pirates raised their hands to signal surrender after retaliatory fire by the INS Suvarna. However, they opened fire as the naval ship approached the Iranian trawler. They jumped into a small boat when their vessel caught fire, but continued to open fire, before jumping into the sea."

An Iranian hostage was also killed by the pirates, few days after the hijack of the Iranian trawler Al-Mortoza, which was being used as the mother ship for piracy operations, near Seychelles in November 2010. "There were 18 hostages, including five Pakistanis and 13 Iranians on board the Al-Mortaza," he said. The pirates, who were handed over the Yellow Gate police by the Indian Navy on Tuesday, have been booked on charges of murder, under the arms act, unlawful activities (prevention) act and foreigners' act.

Of the Suleman clan, the pirates, with AK-47 automatic machine guns and rocket launchers, had also hijacked the Al-Khalil, a fishing trawler from Iran. The joint operation by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard was carried out after a distress call from the MV Maersk Kensington around 11 am on March 26.

Source: The India Times

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

‘Kenya's sukuk ambitions must be tempered with reality’

Kenya has ambitions of becoming the Islamic finance hub of East Africa and has the first mover advantage. But contrary to recent reports that Kenya may pass legislation to eliminate tax barriers to sukuk issuance by the end of the year, Islamic bankers in East Africa's largest economy stress that it is highly unlikely that any major developments will occur in terms of tax neutrality and other legislation that is required to facilitate products such as sukuk in the local market.

"The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has been talking about changing the legislation to create an enabling environment for the origination of sukuk in Kenya. We know something is going on, but we are convinced that this would not become a reality in 2011. We do not think anything will happen this year because several; key laws need to be amended and this takes political will and parliamentary time. This time has not been allocated. Similarly, the current Banking Act of Kenya is not to the advantage of Islamic finance in its current form. These changes can only be affected if the Ministry of Finance and the CBK push these legal amendments robustly," explained one senior Islamic banker in Nairobi.

He commended the support of CBK Gov. Professor Njuguna Ndung'u in facilitating Islamic finance in Kenya. The CBK in fact has already licensed two Islamic banks - Gulf African Bank (GAB), which has a huge Omani investment; and First Community Bank (FCB), which is mainly locally-owned - under CAP 488 of the Banking Act of Kenya. In terms of capital and deposits, FCB, whose CEO is the experienced Islamic banker, Nathif Adam, formerly with Qatar Islamic Bank and Sharjah Islamic Bank, is the largest Islamic bank in Kenya with a capital of 1bn Kenya Shillings (KSh).

Both banks have been talks with the Ministry of Finance, the CBK and the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya (CMA) about the possibility of the Kenyan government issuing a debut sovereign sukuk and passing the enabling legislation through amendments to the existing laws to facilitate sukuk origination out of Kenya.

Since starting operations in June 2008, FCB was last year authorized by the CBK to launch FCB Capital, which will offer Islamic asset management business and capital markets products especially sukuk. Similarly, FCB has been authorized to act as an Islamic insurance (Takaful) broker for general Takaful products the bank is structuring in conjunction with the local Cannon Insurance Company.

According to Kenyan Islamic banking sources, the Debt Management Office at the Kenyan Treasury is studying ways of introducing tax neutrality measures for the issuance of sukuk, and it is likely that some local corporates may issue local-currency sukuk before a sovereign issuance. They agree that the business case for Islamic finance in Kenya and East Africa, is proven and that sukuk could be a vital tool for local corporates to raise funds to finance local projects and for balance sheet purposes.

Islamic banks in Kenya stress that Islamic banking is not only for Kenya's 4.5 million Muslims or so. Indeed, a handful of conventional banks also provide interest-free current accounts to compete with the fully-fledged Islamic banks, and the indications are that more conventional banks will follow suit as Islamic banking continues to make inroads as an alternative system of financial management, especially in the aftermath of the global financial crisis which saw the near collapse of the global financial system based on market capitalism.

In fact, banks such as FCB stress that a number of their staff and customers are non-Muslims. Another growing constituency that is driving demand for Islamic financial products in Kenya are the thousands of émigré Somalis who now live in Kenya and who have fled the internecine civil war in Somalia.

A briefing paper titled “Somali Investment in Kenya” published last week by Chatham House, the prominent London-based political and foreign policy think tank, surprisingly failed to analyze the growing role of Somali Kenyans in the growth of Islamic finance in Kenya. The author, Farah Abdelsamed, ignored demand dynamics of Islamic finance amongst Somali Kenyans and instead chose to concentrate predominantly on the Hawala (informal money exchange) system, which some of the Somali Kenyans have favored in building a "remarkably resilient 'parallel' economy based on traditional clan relationships, a lack of bureaucracy and well-established channels for remittance payments from the diaspora."

This model successfully has traveled with Somali émigrés to Kenya, albeit the CBK and the Foreign Exchange Bureau are now regulating these hawalas and putting pressure on them to merge with mainstream institutions as such to formalize them to increase transparency and disclosure.

"Somali businesses in Kenya," explains the Chatham House Briefing, "have created thriving enterprises in the retail, finance, import-export and transport sectors. Despite the negative perceptions in the Kenyan press and wider Kenyan community, the reality is that these enterprises offer much that is of benefit to Kenya. Eastleigh acts as a central point for the distribution of goods around East Africa. Somali businesses employ many non-Somali Kenyans and provide opportunities for other Kenyan businesses. Somali business people increasingly operate at least partially within the formal economy and are a growing source of revenue for the Kenyan exchequer."

The reverse is also true. For instance, the staff of First Community Bank (FCB), the Kenyan Islamic bank, comprises a staggering 85 percent Somali Kenyan staff and its customer base similarly comprise between 40 to 50 per cent Somali Kenyans and businesses. FCB has also opened branches in areas such as Mandera, Wajir and Garissa in the border areas with Somalia and in Nairobi suburbs such as Eastleigh where there is a high number of Somali émigré residents.

FCB, in the meantime, is expanding its retail products to serve growing demand in several new asset classes. Following approval from the Capital Markets Authority in Kenya (CMA), FCB is expecting to launch its first Islamic unit trust on April 17. The unit trust is aimed at retail investors and has a minimum subscription of 5,000 Kenya shillings (about $60) and will invest primarily in Shariah-compliant equities. It also forms part of the new product suite which FCB is introducing to give its customers a wider choice in Islamic financial products which in the future would include retail sukuk, Islamic exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and real estate investment trusts (REITS).

Source: The Arab News

Thriving Somali economy emerges in 'Little Mogadishu' in Kenya

Somali entrepreneurs have introduced new concepts of business in Nairobi. Instead of going to a bank, preparing a business plan and asking for a loan, as in the past, these entrepreneurs now prepare a business plan, sell shares and implement the project. Somali-owned businesses have also created jobs for local unskilled workers.

Despite the collapse of the formal economy and of central government in Somalia, a remarkably resilient 'parallel' economy has emerged. Once a predominantly Asian residential estate, Eastleigh has become the centre of Somali entrepreneurship in Kenya and is popularly referred to as 'Little Mogadishu'. Eastleigh is at the centre of a network of trade that connects the Arabian Peninsula, Somalia, Kenya and East and Central Africa, with the Somali business community as the common thread, says Chatham House.

Somali Investment in Kenya charts the rise of Somali entrepreneurship in Kenya in the context of economic breakdown in Somalia, its impact on the Kenyan economy and the advantages and challenges.

“Two factors characterise Somali business activities in Kenya. First, they operate largely outside the formal economy of the country. Secondly, they rely heavily, but not exclusively, on clan or kinship networks of trust in their business dealings,” Chatham House said.

Somali entrepreneurs have introduced new concepts of business in Nairobi. Instead of going to a bank, preparing a business plan and asking for a loan, as in the past, these entrepreneurs now prepare a business plan, sell shares and implement the project. Somali-owned businesses have also created jobs for local unskilled workers.

Growing Somali investment in Nairobi has also attracted banks and other service-providers, demonstrating that urban refugees are not necessarily a burden on the state and can be an economic asset.

“Although business rivalry often leads to overblown accusations that Somali businesses are funded from the proceeds of piracy or criminality, there are some genuine national security concerns about activities within the Somali communities in Kenya. The long, open border between the two countries provides easy access for the supporters of extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam to recruit and raise funds in Kenya,” Chatham House said.

“Eastleigh, Nairobi, Kenya and East Africa have benefited from the entrepreneurial activities of Somali business people. These activities have developed despite, or even because of, the collapse of Somalia. The experience has not been without problems. Governments in the region and internationally should think about ways of protecting investors and bringing more of these activities in the formal economy,” it added.


Reflections of New Minnesotans: Talking to Somali activists

Julia Nekessa Opoti and Siyad Abdullahi interview three Somali leaders in the premiere broadcast of Reflections of New Minnesotans on AM950, Voice of Minnesota.

•Dahir Jibreel is the director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in Minneapolis
•Ahmed Jama is a Somali community advocate from Eden Prairie.
•Ali Egal works with the courts as a Somali liaison officer.

Among the questions and answers:

Why have most Somalis settled in state of Minnesota?

"Minnesota is nice! The people, the legal resources, the education, the opportunities for entrepreneurship-it is the best."

"First group came for meat-packing factories, and others followed. It was employment that brought them here. Thus it was employment, a decent standard of living, and hospitality that brought them here. "

"Services provided in Minnesota are better than any state in United States."

What is going on in Somalia?

The northwest, which is Somaliland, is peaceful and has an administration, a government.

In the northeast is Puntland, one-third of country in area - there's an administration and peace.

In central Somalia - continuing fighting between radical groups and others. In Mogadishu, there is an African Union peacekeeping force.

In the south, almost all of the territory is under control of radical group, al-Shabab.

Other discussion ranged over the courts, education, and Somali food, including camel meat.

Source:: The Twin Cities Daily Planet

Rare lion cubs saved in war-torn Somalia

Their mother was shot and they were driven through a raging civil war, destined to be pets in the Middle East — until Somali authorities intervened to save two lion cubs smuggled aboard a ship in the chaotic country's port.

The two tiny cubs, a brother and sister, are believed to be rare Berbera lions because of their spotted coats. They were confiscated four weeks ago after Mogadishu's port manager reported his suspicions to Bancroft, an organization which is training African Union peacekeepers in the war-ravaged Somali capital.

It's not the first time animals have been spotted in the hands of traffickers, but it is the first time they have been confiscated, said Richard Bailey, who works in Mogadishu for Albany Associates. Trafficked animals are believed to be sent to private buyers in places like Dubai and the Far East.

Bailey's company has a contract to help the peacekeeping force with public relations.

Somalia has been mired in civil war for 20 years, and no one knows the extent of the animal trafficking trade. The two lion cubs are now being cared for by Bancroft staff, who have suitable facilities and veterinary care because they provide teams of bomb-sniffing dogs.

Mike Stock, the head of Bancroft, said "the plan is that (Somali President) Sheikh Sharif will give them to (Ugandan President) Museveni until Somalia is capable of taking them back."

He also said he had been in contact with the Smithsonian to see if the cubs could be involved in a sicentific breeding program.

Bailey said the 3-month-old cubs are eating a whole goat every three days.

Source: The Associated Press

India, Somalia agree to tackle Somali pirates menace jointly

India and Somalia on Monday agreed that there was the need to chalk out a common strategy to tackle the menace of the Somali pirates.

An understanding to this effect was reached during a meeting External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and the Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia, Abdirahman Ibbi, here today.

Krishna said that he had a good discussion with the Somalian Deputy Prime Minister over the issue of Somali pirates and the Indian hostages being held by them.

"I did bring about the issue of 53 of our hostages with the pirates. And I have requested the good offices of the Somalian Transitional Government to be used in the release of these 53 of our Indian hostages," said Krishna.

"He has assured me that he would do everything possible to get the release and we hope that things would be able to be sorted out," he added.

Abdirahman Ibbi said the menace of the Somali pirates needed to be handled by both the nations jointly.

"We should have a common strategy. We need to have a way to deal with this issue and not only the source of money, the source of funding, and the sources of documents. This piracy has now become not only a Somali problem," said Ibbi.

"It has now become a regional problem and it has also become an international problem. So, the solution lies not only with Somalia, but also with the Indian Government and the international community," he added.

Ibbi further said piracy was an outcome of economic restlessness in Somalia, and that the governments of Somalia and India would jointly open job opportunities in the coastal areas of Somalia, which are highly affected by piracy.

According to media reports, the Somali pirates had hijacked the vessel MV Suez in the Gulf of Aden. The ship's crew includes four Pakistanis, six Indians, four Sri Lankans and 11 Egyptians.

Source: Asian News International/

Somalia government extends its deadline

NATION Correspondent

Following an extraordinary meeting held in Mogadishu on Sunday afternoon, the cabinet of the transitional federal government of Somalia resolved an extension of one year for all the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs).

According to the government spokesman, Mr Abdi Haji Gobdon, the ministers considered the current situation in Somalia and decided to propose an extension for a period of one year for the parliament, cabinet, presidency and the judiciary, effective 21st of August this year.

The extension will last till August 2012 to give the Somali government an opportunity to deliver on promises made to secure a number of pending tasks.

Mr Mohamed Mohamud Bono, the Minister for Constitutional and Federal Affairs, told The Nation that the one-year extension for the TFIs will allow the Somali government to build on recent gains.

Mr Bono stated that the government will further improve in the defense staffs in terms of number, gear and quality.

Source: The Daily Nation

Somali pirates seize Kuwaiti crude oil tanker

Somali pirates on Monday hijacked United Arab Emirates (UAE) flagged and Kuwaiti owned crude oil tanker, approximately 250 nautical miles Southeast of Salalah in the eastern part of the Gulf of Aden, Somali pirates on Monday hijacked United Arab Emirates (UAE) flagged and Kuwaiti owned crude oil tanker, approximately 250 nautical miles Southeast of Salalah in the eastern part of the Gulf of Aden, Xinhua informed.

European Union Naval Force Somalia spokesman Paddy O'Kennedy said the MV Zirku which was seized early Monday was on its way to Singapore from Bashayer (Sudan) when it was attacked. "The vessel was attacked by two pirate skiffs firing RPGs and small arms. The MV Zirku has a crew of 29, O'Kennedy said in a statement. He said there is no further information about the crew at present.

O'Kennedy said the MV ZIRKU was registered with Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa MSC (HOA), and was reporting to The UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO).

The Horn of Africa nation has been without a functioning government since 1991, and remains one of the world's most violent and lawless countries.
Combined Task Force 150, a naval alliance dominated by the United States and based in the Gulf of Aden nation of Djibouti, is patrolling an area within the Gulf of Aden to help protect ships from pirates.

In its most successful anti-piracy operation on March 12, the Navy immobilized a pirate ship and arrested 61 Somali pirates who had been stalking merchant vessels in the Arabian Sea for more than three months.
European Union Naval Force Somalia spokesman Paddy O'Kennedy said the MV Zirku which was seized early Monday was on its way to Singapore from Bashayer (Sudan) when it was attacked. "The vessel was attacked by two pirate skiffs firing RPGs and small arms. The MV Zirku has a crew of 29, O'Kennedy said in a statement. He said there is no further information about the crew at present.

O'Kennedy said the MV ZIRKU was registered with Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa MSC (HOA), and was reporting to The UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO).

The Horn of Africa nation has been without a functioning government since 1991, and remains one of the world's most violent and lawless countries.
Combined Task Force 150, a naval alliance dominated by the United States and based in the Gulf of Aden nation of Djibouti, is patrolling an area within the Gulf of Aden to help protect ships from pirates.

In its most successful anti-piracy operation on March 12, the Navy immobilized a pirate ship and arrested 61 Somali pirates who had been stalking merchant vessels in the Arabian Sea for more than three months.

Source: FOCUS Information Agency

Somali terror suspect to ask US judge for release

A Somali man who has been in U.S. custody for more than two years on terror charges is expected to request his release pending sentencing.

Kamal Said Hassan pleaded guilty to providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and other charges. He will appear in federal court in Minneapolis on Monday.

Hassan has admitted he stayed at a Somali training camp for al-Shabab, a violent group that wants to establish an Islamic state in Somalia, in 2007. Hassan says he followed the terror group's orders after he left the camp.

He's one of roughly 20 men who are believed to have traveled from Minneapolis to fight for al-Shabab, but he's the only one in custody pending sentencing. Others are on supervised release while the court processes related cases.

Source: FOX News

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Yemeni Leader Would Yield Power Only to ‘Safe Hands’

As hundreds of thousands of demonstrators for and against President Ali Abdullah Saleh poured into the streets here in the capital for competing rallies on Friday, the Yemeni leader said he was ready to yield power if he could hand it over to “safe hands.”

His comments, to a rally of about 100,000 supporters in the center of Sana, hewed to his earlier promises to relinquish power conditionally and not immediately, terms the protesters demanding his ouster have rejected.

But as he negotiates his exit behind the scenes, talks he did not mention publicly on Friday, the rally appeared calculated to show both that he was reconciled to that eventuality and that he could still muster a strong show of support, giving him more leverage to negotiate his departure on his terms.

The antigovernment protesters, centered in front of Sana University about two miles away, also drew about 100,000 people, as they did last Friday. At the rally last week, government-linked snipers killed more than 50 protesters, prompting a wave of defections of high-level government officials. The rallies on Friday were largely peaceful, a result, analysts said, of the government’s recognition that the violence had backfired.

The pro-Saleh demonstrators gathered in Sana’s main square and in front of the president’s mosque, a grand structure commissioned by Mr. Saleh. A large number of pro-Saleh tribesmen, widely believed to be paid by the governing party, had been trucked in from the countryside over the last two days.

Mr. Saleh told them he would remain “steadfast” in challenging what he depicted as violent attempts to oust him, and took a swipe at the protesters as people who “want to gain power at the expense of martyrs and children.” But he also renewed an offer to open dialogue with the two-month-old protest movement.

“I will hand over the power to safe hands, and not to malicious forces who conspire against the homeland,” he said.

Political analysts said Mr. Saleh had come to accept his ouster, and that stating it in front of his supporters was a public acknowledgment. “But he gave himself a bit of a margin,” said Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani, a prominent political analyst here. By saying he would transfer power only to “safe hands,” Mr. Iryani said, the president reassured supporters that he was “going to leave on his terms.”

The efforts to draw a large crowd, analysts said, were aimed at reminding people of his substantial base, but also as a broad hint that his departure could precipitate a civil war. Hafez al-Bukari, director of the Yemen Polling Center, said that by “safe hands” Mr. Saleh meant his selected people, maybe even his relatives.

The negotiations over the terms of his departure, which have involved numerous political factions and military officials, paused Friday for the Muslim Sabbath and are expected to resume Saturday. They are being closely watched by Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s powerful neighbor to the north, and the United States, which has supported Mr. Saleh as an ally in the battle against Al Qaeda.

One Yemeni official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the date of Mr. Saleh’s departure appeared to be the biggest obstacle.

Mr. Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, offered last month to leave office when his term expired in 2013, and this week he agreed to leave by the end of the year. Neither proposal was acceptable to the protesters.

Mr. Saleh did not mention a date in his speech on Friday.

In the crowd before him, large posters with his picture were plastered on the windshields of minibuses, and men riding in the trunks of cars waved Yemeni flags.

“The opposition does not represent the Yemeni people,” said Haidar Suneid, who lives in Sana’s old city. “There are many people who want to follow the Constitution, and we are among them.”

Another demonstrator, Hashid al-Asadi, from Amran, just north of Sana, complained that the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera and other news media had focused only on the antigovernment supporters and had given short shrift to Mr. Saleh’s supporters.

He added, “There will be civil war if Saleh leaves early because they,” the protesters, “don’t want democracy.”

At the antigovernment protest, photos of some of those killed last week were hanging on tents and walls, and on the main door of the house of the governor of Mahweet, a nearby district, from which a sniper was shooting last Friday. But on the same stretch of street where gunfire broke out a week ago, men sat leisurely playing chess.

A group of men chanted, “The people want to prosecute Ali Saleh,” a variation of the chant heard in antigovernment protests in the Arab world, “The people want the regime to fall.”

Most people carried red placards that read “The Friday of Departure,” the name of the rally. An old man saluted the soldiers who belong to Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, the military leader who abandoned Mr. Saleh this week and directed his troops to protect the protesters.

“Our hope is always growing,” said Mohamed al-Sharafi, a son of a sheik from Hadramawt in the southeast. “Every day, we see an increasingly better future.”

He, too, carried a message about the prospect of war.

“The expectation that there is going to be a civil war comes from the government,” he said. “It is for sure that there will not be a civil war because the north and the south have never been united as they have now.”

A friend standing next to him, a northerner, kissed him on the cheek. “The Libyan scenario will not happen here,” Mr. Sharafi said.

Laura Kasinof reported from Sana, Yemen, and Scott Shane from Washington. Alan Cowell contributed reporting from Paris.

Source: The New York Times

Syrian Troops Open Fire on Protesters in Several Cities

Military troops opened fire during protests in the southern part of Syria on Friday and killed peaceful demonstrators, according to witnesses and news reports, hurtling the strategically important nation along the same trajectory that has altered the landscape of power across the Arab world.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators in the southern city of Dara’a and in other cities and towns around the nation took to the streets in protest, defying a state that has once again demonstrated its willingness to use lethal force.

It was the most serious challenge to 40 years of repressive rule by the Assad family since 1982, when the president at the time, Hafez al-Assad, massacred at least 10,000 protesters in Hama, a city in northern Syria.

Human rights groups said that since protests began seven days ago in the south, 38 people had been killed by government forces — and it appeared that many more were killed on Friday. Precise details were hard to obtain because the government sealed off the area to reporters and would not let foreign news media into the country.

“Syria’s security forces are showing the same cruel disregard for protesters’ lives as their counterparts in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The new round of protests and bloodshed came one day after the Syrian government tried to appease an increasingly angry popular revolt with talk of improved political freedoms and promises of restraint.

Instead, it unleashed its forces, firing on peaceful demonstrators in and near Dara’a, according to a witness. There were reports of security forces firing on civilians in cities around the country, as well. For the first time since the protests began, crowds called for the downfall of the government and in one instance tore down a billboard-size photo of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

Ahmed Sayasna, the imam of the Omari mosque in Dara’a, said the violence began after crowds set a fire under a statue of former President Hafez al-Assad, the current president’s father. Speaking by telephone, Mr. Sayasna said thousands of people gathered near the statue after Friday Prayer when officers from Syria’s central security forces lobbed tear gas canisters and opened fire with live ammunition. He said about 20 people were killed, and many more wounded.

In Sanamayn, a city of 27,000 people about 40 miles north of Dara’a, a video posted on YouTube showed at least seven bloodied bodies lying on stretchers, at least three clearly with gunshot wounds. Mr. Sayasna said 10 to 15 people were killed there, while residents told The Associated Press that as many as 20 people had been killed. These figures could not be independently confirmed. In the capital, Damascus, several hundred protesters tried to rally, but were quickly dispersed by security forces as pro-government supporters took to the streets honking car horns and waving photographs of President Assad. In the city’s majestic Umayyad mosque, some men rose from prayer shouting “God, Syria and freedom only” — a counterpoint to the chants of pro-government supporters. There were also reports of troops firing on demonstrators in the suburbs of Damascus.

In Latakia, President Assad’s hometown, two people died as protesters faced off against pro-government supporters, a witness said. A video posted on YouTube shows the body of a young man with a bullet wound being carried by protesters. There were reports of scattered protests and scores of arrests in several other cities.

On Thursday, a longtime minister and adviser to the president, Bouthaina Shaaban, appeared to edge close to an apology for the deaths, insisting that the president had ordered security forces not to fire. Ms. Shaaban then laid out what she framed as concessions, saying that the government promised to consider lifting a state of emergency in place for decades and would consider more political freedoms — offerings that were dismissed out of hand by the public because they had been put forth before, in 2005, and never carried out.

President Assad “doesn’t want the bloodshed at all, and I witnessed his directives on not using live bullets whatever the circumstances as he is keen on every citizen,” Ms. Shaaban said.

“This doesn’t mean that there are no mistakes or practices which were not unsatisfactory and not up to the required level,” she said.

Less than 24 hours later, witnesses reported that live fire was again turned on unarmed protesters.

“This is exactly what has been happening around the Arab world,” said Ayman Abdel Nour, a Syrian opposition activist who is living in self-imposed exiled in the United Arab Emirates. “Sixty percent of Syrian society is less than 24 years old, and they want to be part of drawing and designing their future.”

Mr. Sayasna, the imam in Dara’a, whose prominence in the community allows him to speak openly, unlike others there, said: “We are hoping for peace and quiet. The people only want freedom and dignity and an end to the emergency law.”

Syria’s emergency law, in place since the Baath Party took power in 1963, has long been a focus of critics, who say it grants the government license to jail anyone with little pretext.

Syria has few resources, but a strategic location bordering Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan that its leaders have often tried to use as leverage. It has rankled the West and its Arab neighbors by forging close ties to Iran and by helping to sponsor Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas, the militant group controlling the Gaza Strip.

The cascading events in Syria bear a remarkable resemblance to the course taken in other nations in the Arab world, where a relatively small incident — in this case the arrest of children who scrawled graffiti: “The people want the fall of the regime” in Dara’a — led to protests and a lethal government response. That in turn fueled wider rage, prompting government talk of concessions that were too little, too late.

“There’s a real change in attitude from a couple of months ago, when Syrians were watching this take place in other countries,” said one Western diplomat in Damascus. “Now it’s here, and the government is very concerned.”

The Syrian government “is sending a very mixed message — holding out carrots like the concessions announced on Thursday, and then beating and arresting and even opening fire on protesters,” the diplomat said. “I assume that indicates a lack of agreement or coordination in the government.”

Karim Émile Bitar, a researcher at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris, said: “They tried to use the classic Baathist method: You wave a few carrots with one hand, while the other one is holding a huge stick. But the massacres in Dara’a are only going to strengthen the protest movements.”

Syria has a liability not found in the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt — it is a majority Sunni nation ruled by a religious minority. The ruling Assads and their circle are Alawite, a sect of Shiite Islam. Hafez al-Assad forged his power base through fear, co-optation and sect loyalty. He built an alliance with an elite Sunni business community, and created multiple security services staffed primarily by Alawites. Those security forces have a great deal to lose if the government falls, experts said, because they are part of a widely despised minority, and so have the incentive of self-preservation.

The killings in Hama, when the Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative Sunni organization, moved against the government, resonate to this day — both for a resentful populace and for a government that fears revenge for its past actions.

“These minority regimes are galvanized against defections and splitting,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “They believe if the regime comes down, they fear being slaughtered by the Sunni majority after what happened in the past. It makes it likely if these protests get bigger, it will be very bloody.”

Sectarian tensions did not initially motivate this conflict. But they have begun to emerge. Mr. Tabler and Joshua M. Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said the demonstrators had started chanting: “No to Iran, to Hezbollah. We want a leader who fears God.”

That, they said, is a direct reference to the Alawite faith of the leadership.

“What makes this all surprising at this point is this is an area of Syria that is traditionally pro regime,” Mr. Tabler said. “So what the regime has been doing is suppressing a major Sunni base, all because a group of kids wrote graffiti on the wall.”

The government had initially insisted that the protests and deaths were the work of criminals brought across the border from Jordan. A vice president and former foreign minister, Farouk al-Sharaa, who is from the Dara’a region, said Thursday, “We are not opposed to the Islamic currents that are rational and broad-minded which understand their true roots, but as for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which take their instructions from America and pretend that they are against it, they are condemnable.”

And yet, even government supporters appeared taken aback by the decision to use lethal force. “The government believes we have to give people more freedom,” said Muhammad Habash, a moderate Islamist cleric and member of Parliament. But he added: “There was a very clear decision by the government to use guns. We are against using guns against people, there is no justification for using violence.”

But Syria state television behaved as if the violence and protests had simply not occurred: it broadcast images of government demonstrations in every Syrian city, with crowds shouting “God, Syria and Bashar only.”

Nadim Audi contributed reporting from Cairo, and Robert F. Worth from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Source: The New York Times

SOMALIA: Radioactive waste surfaces in the coastline – Minister

The general director of Somalia’s Ministry of Aviation and Transport raised toxic danger alert along the Somali coast on Friday days after a study was concluded.

According to Mr. Mohammed O. Ali, the once clean blue-water coast off Somalia is littered with a toxic-waste calamity of health and environment hazards that has been dumped by Western chemical and shipping firms.

He said during a field research visit to some of the shorelines of the war torn nation, he personally witnessed the untold effect it was having on marine life and the fishing community. He added, the toxic dumping, which includes highly radioactive nuclear waste, was destroying the fragile coastal ecology and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Somalis. Some residents in Mogadishu’s coastal areas already reported hundreds of dead fish washing ashore every day.

During the height of the Somali civil war, Swiss and Italian firms Achair Partners and Progresso, signed a secret agreement with the transitional government of warlord Ali Mahdi Mohamed. Taking advantage of the chaos and the fact that Ali Mahdi was desperate for arms and cash to oust rival General Farah Aideed– the European firms began to unload thousands of tonnes of toxic waste arriving in steel drums off the coast of Somalia. Some even made it to the mainland and were buried in 40 inches by 30 inches holes.

The main perpetrators are said to be Italian firms controlled by the mafia, whose job is to dispose Europe’s extremely hazardous waste. Locals also suspect German and Danish shipping companies are in the trade, with some contracted to transport thousands of tonnes of poisonous stockpile including 60, 000 hexachlorobenzene (HCB) barrels from Australia. They say, sometimes instead of taking the hazardous waste to Europe where it can be incinerated, they dump it in the Somali coast to save money and time and also they face strong opposition from Europe’s environmental action groups.

In 2010, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish port staff refused to unload a ship carrying 3000 tonnes of HCB waste from Sydney, Australia. Furthermore they said one gram of HCB was enough to contaminate one billion gallons (over 3 billion litres) of water.

The United Nation has in the past said it has reliable information that European and Asian firms have been dumping uranium radioactive waste, lead and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury off the coast of Somalia for the last two decades. The practice has infuriated many Somali fishing communities who took on the large foreign ships with their own fishing boats and small arms. Many fishermen hijacked ships demanding ransom to clean the coastline, this eventually led to the current piracy problem. They insist there was no one to safeguard the region so they had to take matters to their own hands.

The fishermen accused the 1000 strong Western naval force off the coast of Somalia of harassment and intermediations – they say they often robbed them at sea or dismantle their fishing nets. They are not the only group in Somalia that has complained about the foreign navies and their inappropriate conduct. Several times, Somali pastoral communities said they saw Western helicopters looting Somalia’s wildlife, often coming onshore to hunt.

Mr. Ali told media in Mogadishu, his government will take necessary steps against private firms polluting the Somali coast while it will request the United Nation to assist in cleaning up. He warned private companies against dumping any more toxic waste off Somalia saying they will be prosecuted and that it will no longer tolerate them.

This was the first time such case study has been carried out since the fall of the central government in 1991. The region has became too dangerous for international environmental groups and other concern bodies to visit and fully investigate the damage. Most people believe the real incalculable damage is below the surface and it is going to require a team of expert divers and equipment.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991, when armed militants toppled the central government of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The arms left behind by the government fell in the hands of warlords and have been fighting for control for twenty years.

Source: Somalilandpress

Prosecutors: Somali Smuggled Jihadists into U.S.

A lucrative and active human smuggling ring brought an undetermined number of potential Somali jihadists into the United States through Brazil, federal prosecutors say in court papers.
Those prosecutors are asking a federal judge in San Antonio to give the maximum sentence to a Somali man who pleaded guilty in November to two counts of making false statements on a 2008 asylum application. Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane failed to report his connections to Al-Ittihad Al-Islami (AIAI) and al-Barakat, both specially designated terrorist organizations.

When he is sentenced April 28, prosecutors want U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez to factor in a series of related and disturbing actions spelled out in this memorandum, including the human smuggling of potential terrorists. They intend to call several law enforcement witnesses and three people Dhakane smuggled into the country.

The smuggling was run through Brazil, aided by bribes paid to immigration authorities there, from June 2006 through March 2008. Dhakane instructed those he smuggled on how to make false asylum claims.

The sentencing memo was first reported by Patrick Poole.

In it, prosecutors say that a confidential informant will testify that Dhakane openly talked about being a member of the AIAI. Dhakane sees that group and other designated Somali terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab and the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) as one entity because of overlapping membership. The only distinction, he said, was between "supporters or fighters," but "all of these individuals are ready to fight and die for the cause."

Some of the people Dhakane smuggled into the United States were AIAI members. "Dhakane stated he did not know their exact reason for wanting to enter the United States, but cautioned that he believed they would fight against the US if the jihad moved from overseas locations to the US mainland," the memo said.

Dhakane "bragged on tape to the [informant] that he made as much as $75,000 in one day by smuggling Somalis. On tape, Dhakane stated his minimum charge for smuggling individuals was $3,000 per person," prosecutors wrote.

Dhakane smuggled in people he knew were violent jihadists "with the full knowledge that if the decision was made by the [terrorist group], for which he was associated with in the past, to commit terrorist acts in the United States, these jihadists would commit violent acts in and against the United States," they added.

Concerns over Somalis and terrorism have focused on activity in the opposite direction during the past two years. More than 20 young Somalis from the Minneapolis area are believed to have returned to East Africa to join al-Shabaab's jihad. Several of them have been killed. In addition, more than 20 people have been indicted throughout the country on charges related to recruiting Somali fighters.

One American, Omar Hammami, is considered an al-Shabaab leader. But reports indicate FBI officials are focused on possible domestic threats from Somalis.

The terrorism enhancement isn't the only reason prosecutors want Dhakane to receive the maximum 10-year sentence on each count – and to have those sentences run consecutively rather than the normal concurrent term, extending his time in prison to 20 years.

In admitting his guilt, Dhakane lied to the court by denying he was an alien smuggler.

In addition, Dhakane repeatedly raped and impregnated an underage girl who he was paid to smuggle into the United States. When he applied for asylum, Dhakane claimed the girl was his wife, thinking it would help his asylum chances to have a pregnant wife. She told officials he threatened to kill her if she denied this or mentioned the rapes. Prosecutors say that qualifies him for sentencing enhancements for using a minor who was vulnerable in advancing his crimes.

The girl now suffers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There also is a public safety concern that makes a longer sentence necessary. Though he is ordered to be removed from the country, he may one day be set free in the United States "because of the lack of a functioning government" in Somalia, prosecutors wrote. A witness from the Department of Homeland Security is expected to testify about that at the sentencing hearing.

As Poole reports, this is not an isolated example of terrorists trying to sneak into the United States. In one case, a Hizballah operative crossed the border with Mexico in the trunk of a car. Contributor Steve Emerson is an internationally recognized expert on terrorism and national security and the author of five books on these subjects, most recently "Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US." Steve also writes for the Counterterrorism Blog and he is the CEO of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.


East Africa and the Somali People: Much More Than a Pawn on the Chessboard

Most Westerners linguistically construe the word “Somali” to mean a group of individuals from Somalia. While this is partially true, it is also inaccurate. A Somali is an individual stemming from a specific ethnic group comprised of multiple tribes and clans in the East African region. The Somali people come from numerous locations throughout East Africa such as the country of Somalia, eastern Ethiopia, southern Djibouti and northern Kenya. It is this specific region in Africa that possesses a great threat to the United States.

Like most of Africa, but specifically the eastern portion of the continent, the Somali region has been ravaged with great turmoil. Since the region lacks firm government, civil unrest, lack of infrastructure, lack of security or law enforcement and a grave terrorist presence, Somalia is not just a pawn on the global chessboard. Because of the loss of government, there are no current census services for the country.

The region is poor, stricken with a severe food and water crisis and lacks any specific abundance of natural resources. According to the CIA Fact Book, the region has been plagued with disease and wars leaving the Somali people a median life span of only eighteen years of age. Today, vulnerabilities in regions such as East Africa have opened the door to Islamic extremists.

The Somali region is dominated by Islam. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact timeline for the introduction of Islam in the region, it is very clear when Islamic socialism conquered the region. According to Somali expert, Helen Chapin Metz, this specific region obtained a Sufi order of Islam in the early 1900’s. Needless to say, the people continued disorder throughout the region and a control mechanism was needed to retain some form of law and order. In the early 1960’s, during the height of the Cold War, radicalized Islamic Sunni dominance seized power of the region.

“Another response was to reform Islam by reinterpreting it. From this perspective, early Islam was seen as a protest against abuse, corruption and inequality; reformers therefore attempted to prove that Muslim scriptures contained all elements needed to deal with modernization,” Metz has noted. “To this school of thought belongs Islamic socialism, identified particularly with Egyptian nationalist Gamal Abdul Nasser (1918-70). His ideas appealed to a number of Somalis, especially those who had studied in Cairo in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Many Somali’s living in the region will claim a religious identity over their tribal identity. Interestingly, those who have fled the region to embrace a more peaceful abode remain true to their ethnic and tribal roots. Sadly, however, these individuals face a severe identity crisis that can eventually lead to a tipping point that can totally erase their tribal identity and replace it completely with Islam. In fact, today, that tipping point is in effect.

The Somali gang crisis in the United States

Between 1983 and 2004, 55,000 Somali’s have entered the United States. In 2004 alone approximately 13,000 Somali’s entered the United States. They have predominantly migrated to Minnesota, California, Washington D.C., Oklahoma and North Carolina. The majority of these persons came to the United States to seek a new life, and bringing with them their knowledge and will of survivability.

For most Somali’s, survivability comes from tribal livelihoods. Tribes are broken down into clans and these clans are predominantly used either as a source of solidarity or leverage to implement internal strife. As a society, Somalis are fundamentally democratic, although decisions that are traditionally made by counsel of man, and factors such as age, convenience, wealth and gender can influence decision making. This tribal concept has been engrained in today’s Somali youth residing in the US. They seek acceptance, protection and cultural unification.

The trouble faced by many Somali youth living in the US is that they have difficulty adjusting to American society. They often lack the necessary social skills due to social differences found among the Somali people and American society. These types of challenges attract them to one another for social acceptance - meaning they create their own tribes and clans even in the US. This has created social and cultural problems because often when they are seen in groups together, they are seen as loitering, a negative social activity, if not a crime. The cultural separations create tensions between acceptance into American society and holding onto Somali social traditions. Oftentimes, they inevitably turn to gang life.

Another factor that creates tension in Somali youth that leads them to gang life is the lack of parental influence. Somali parents neither understand American society, nor their children, leaving their youth to find understanding with people in similar situations. Related to this is the fact that most adults in Somali communities do not address the concerns their youth have pertaining to American culture. They often address their own issues and the issues concerning their Somalia motherland. Younger generations, though, are concerned about their future.

A multidimensional mechanism of social conditioning continues among Somali youth. Parents continuously condition their childrens’ minds about the turmoil and circumstances in East Africa, while traditional American youth residing in nearby epicenters induce mindsets that inevitably invoke illegal and illicit criminal activity. Somali American youth are often persecuted among traditional street gangs in a manner similar to how their parents were once persecuted among tribal militias. Out of survivability and kinship, Somali youth unify into their own gang enterprises in search of their own identity.

Today, the United States faces a detrimental domestic threat imposed by Somali American youth. Not only do Somali youth gangs engage in drug and human trafficking endeavors, they also commit fraud and a devastating series of inter-gang related violence. Simply put, Somali youth gang members have become ideal targets for Islamist recruitment. In fact, the United States has seen a serious rise in American Somalis’ return to their motherland or in assistance to those fighting among terrorist organizations like Al Shahaab deep inside East Africa.

Knowing such ethnic groups enter the United States, encounter difficulty transitioning into Western culture, then fall back onto their tribal endeavors, no security or intelligence professional will understand the magnitude of threat such groups present.

Until a greater appreciation of Sociocultural Intelligence (SOCINT) exists, not only will such entities pose grave danger to the society in which they reside, they also will cause international strife that hinders counterterrorism (CT) operations. Many CT and law enforcement professionals perceive that these groups have failed in making a new life for themselves. The real question to be answered though, is: “What have our own perceptions done to fix such problems?"

Kerry Patton served in both the US Defense and Justice departments and was a contractor for the departments of Homeland Security and State. He worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe focusing on intelligence and security matters. He personally interviewed current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban, and is author of, “Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies.” He's president of the SOCINT Institute and can be reached at: kerry(at)


Foreign ships warned against dumping toxic wastes off Somali coast

Somalia’s interim federal government on Friday warned foreign ships against dumping toxic wastes off the country's coasts.

Mohammed Osman Ali Dhagah-tur, the general director of Somalia’s ministry of air, ground and maritime transport, said they had received complaints from residents of seaside Mogadishu neighborhoods of dozens of dead fish floating offshore every day.

The Somali government is taking steps to learn what caused the deaths of the fish, Dhagah-tur told reporters while visiting Jazeera, a coastal village southwest of Mogadishu.

“There are vessels, which customized to bring factories’ poisonous remnants and unload to our porous coast. We could no longer tolerate vessels from other countries to come to our coasts and dump toxic waste off Somalia coasts,” the official noted.

He said the government has data showing the sea waters are contaminated, causing the death of large numbers of fish. Dhagah-tur added that if the contamination continues, it may bring about both social and environmental consequences, referring to Somalis, who consume large amounts of seafood.

Mohamed Ali, a resident in Jazeera, told All Headline News that the sea smells awful, particularly at night.

“When I ever I come to the shore, I see a lot of fishes died in the sea, so we are calling for the government of Somalia to tackle this calamity,” Ali recounted.

In a related story, Benadir region fishermen complained about foreign warships operating off Somalia's coasts to fight Somali pirates.

In a telephone conversation, Awil Salad, a fisherman, charged that when they caught a number of fish and sharks, foreign warships robbed them by cutting the boat’s net and taking it and the net's contents.

“Sometime, they open fire on us as they close to shores. What they (warships) are doing is blatant looting of our natural resources. We are not pirates and we don’t know why fire us,” Salad stated.


Somali pirates free Tunisian sailors

A four-month-long hostage ordeal ended for nearly two dozen Tunisian sailors after millions of dollars in ransom was dropped off by helicopter.

The crew of the Hannibal II arrived back in Tunisia on Tuesday (March 22nd) after being released by Somali pirates. A $2 million ransom was paid to free the sailors.

Their vessel was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on November 11th as it was heading towards Suez from Malaysia. The ship's 31 crew members, including 22 Tunisians, were released on March 17th.

"It was the worst time of our lives," ship captain Faouzi Fradi said. "We could have easily been killed if we did something rash or got involved in a fight with any of them. But we were quiet. I thought of my family and children and hoped to go home safe and my wish came true. Thank God, I am back and will see them again."

A unit of French Marines first had to find the ship, and later on, another unit had to ensure the ship's safety until it made it to Djibouti, explained Admiral Chedli Cherif, who was in charge of the negotiations with the Somali pirates. The Tunisian government also dispatched an aircraft with a military medical team to fly the crew home from Djibouti.

"We reached a solution nearly a month ago after long strenuous negotiations. Discussions were tough, because as time went by, their demands grew," Tunisian Transport Minister Yacine Ibrahim said.

Negotiations reduced the ransom demand from $10 million to $4 million, according to the vessel's owner, Farid Abbas. "This is a standard practice among pirates. They always demand huge amounts of money at the start. It happened in several incidents before. We estimated the ransom at around $4 million," Abbas said.

As for how the ransom was handed over to the pirates, a Tunisian foreign ministry official explained that it was dropped aboard the Hannibal II by a helicopter.

Crew member Haitham Ka'loul told Magharebia, "We had to fast for days because the food was not enough. They gave us their leftovers which were mostly boiled rice and in some cases very little fish. We ate, slept and prayed at their commands. We were slaves at their beck and call and they kept a close eye on us. We were constantly held at gun point."

Aws Al-Khashini said they suffered the worst kind of treatment. "Human life is worthless to them. The only thing they care about is money. I don't think they are Muslims. Islam cannot have anything to do with those practices because ransoms are unlawful in Islam."

Describing how the vessel was hijacked, he said, "On the night between November 10th and 11th, we saw boats which had pirates with heavy artillery on board. They fired at us in the beginning, then boarded our vessel and seized it. They also took possession of our money, clothes and phones and threatened to kill us if we did not obey orders. So we did."

He added that after they were kidnapped, they saw a number of other hijacked ships including the Algerian MV Blida.

"We went through fearful days. We were surrounded by danger. We lost all hope of being saved, especially when we saw that hostages from other ships were killed and thrown in the sea," Béchir Ghdaoui said.

Ghdaoui added that pirates also used them as human shields, hiding behind them during their raids on other vessels. He said that after their ship was released, it was nearly hijacked again. But a French warship drove off the pirates, allowing their safe arrival in Djibouti.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Dadaab refugee camps: 20 years of living in crisis

Somalis in Kenya's refugee camps find themselves far from the international spotlight, with no perceived solution to their plight

Twenty years after the first Somali refugees fled the crisis that ousted President Siad Barre, thousands of people continue to pour across the border from Somalia into north-eastern Kenya into the largest refugee complex in the world.

Today, the three refugee camps – Dagahale, Ifo and Hagadera – that make up the overcrowded and chronically underfunded Dadaab complex are home to more than 300,000 people and three generations of refugees.

Mohamad Ali was one of the first to arrive from Somalia when civil war broke out in 1991. He didn't expect to stay long, but in 20 years he hasn't set foot outside the complex.

Refugees aren't allowed to leave the camps unless they receive special movement passes. If caught without a pass, they risk arrest, detention or expulsion. Special buses can be taken between each of the complex's three camps, which are separated from one another by a few kilometres of dust and dry heat.

This is the second time Ali has been made a refugee. Ethnically Somali, he was driven out of his home in Ethiopia to Somalia by the war between the two countries in 1977.

He is now 79 years old, and calls Dadaab his home. It's Kenya's fourth-largest city, although no Kenyan lives there, he says.

The camps were originally designed to house 90,000 people, but with the ongoing crisis in Somalia, official estimates suggest that around 5,000 new refugees arrive each month. Richard Floyer-Acland, the UNHCR representative in Dadaab, put the number closer to 9,000.

After Afghans and Palestinians, Somalis constitute the world's third-largest refugee population.

Three years ago, the UN refugee agency declared the Dadaab complex full, and it continues to lobby Kenyan authorities for access to new land to extend it. For now, new arrivals set up camp where they can, gathering on the outskirts of the complex.

Floyer-Acland says plots ran out in August 2008. New arrivals now have to double up, with two families per plot, or seek land not officially cleared for settlement. More than 18,000 people have settled on the edges of the camps, he says, on land that technically belongs to local communities.

But while the extension of the complex could help solve the problem of physical space, it would leave the hardest questions unanswered: how long can a refugee camp exist, and for how many generations?

"Opening another warehouse to store more people is no solution to our plight. What we need is a lasting political solution for Somalia, and it's time the world focused efforts and resources to achieve this," says Ali.

For Elizabeth Campbell, of Refugees International, a US-based advocacy group, Dadaab represents a double failure – a failure of the international community to help bring stability to Somalia and to support the hundreds of thousands who have fled the crisis.

"Though Somalis constitute the largest protracted and unfolding refugee crisis, they are not a priority for anyone and do not garner the political attention necessary to change the situation," says Campbell. "There's no sense of urgency. Instead, there's a sense that Somalia's a disaster and that's it. The political imperative is counterterrorism, and nobody seems to care about an entire generation that has known nothing but war."

Two decades after the first refugees settled in and around Dadaab, the camps continue to operate on an emergency basis.

Part of the problem is that the Dadaab camps and the hundreds of thousands of refugees they house are caught in the middle of a complex institutional problem: when should emergency relief end and development assistance begin? For those in the field, this is sometimes called the "relief-to-development" gap.

"When people think about humanitarian issues, they think about Japan. There's a disaster, but then after a period of time, it comes to an end," says Campbell.

But what happens to those caught in crises that persist for decades? Camps can be extremely efficient in delivering aid quickly after emergencies, but they fail to mobilise the resources required for medium- and long-term development.

A 2010 report from Refugees International on the challenges of long-term investment in the Kenyan refugee camps noted that: "Half of the year UNHCR is scrambling to provide enough water to refugees, and the other half of the year UNHCR is responding to the raging floods that emerge from the rainy season."

According to Campbell "the humanitarian funding structure is simply not set up to deal with people who have been living in crisis for 20 years"."At the same time, the entire development industry is simply not responsive to what they consider a humanitarian situation."

This month, Unesco's Global Monitoring Report noted that only 2% of the world's humanitarian assistance spending goes towards education.

Last year, the UNHCR received only 20% of the $30m it needs to educate refugee children.

Protracted problem

But the situation in Dadaab also raises questions about the response of host governments to protracted refugee settlements.

In April last year, 162,000 Burundian refugees become Tanzanian citizens, the result of an internationally brokered solution to a decades-old crisis.

Since 1972, hundreds of thousands of Burundian refugees had made western Tanzania their home, and were repeatedly denied access to citizenship. But when the US and Canada agreed to resettle large numbers of refugees, and tens of thousands more decided to return to Burundi, the Tanzanian government agreed to grant citizenship to those who could not or would not leave.

Though such a solution could work in Kenya, says Floyer-Acland, "at the moment there is no sign that the Kenyan government is thinking about local integration".

More than $12m of donor funding had been committed for the extension of the Dadaab camps, to provide space for 80,000 refugees and relieve overcrowding in the complex. But Floyer-Acland says the Kenyan government told the UNHCR to stop construction in January.

The security ministry, says Floyer-Acland, is loth to see too much development in terms of infrastructure and improved conditions, for fear this might encourage Dadaab's refugees to stay in the country.

Though Dadaab is exceptional because it is the largest refugee complex in the world, and still growing, most of the world's refugees now live in such protracted, long-term, camps.

The global number of refugees has been in steady decline in recent years, but a growing percentage of asylum seekers are spending more and more time in exile, far from the international spotlight that accompanies the early days of a humanitarian crisis.

For Campbell, Dadaab is "a glaring example of the failure to provide development funding in protracted refugee situations".

Source: The Gurdian

Recognition for A* grade schoolchildren - Somali Youth Development Resource Centre (SYDRC) hosts awards ceremony

Published: 24 March 2011


HUNDREDS of Somali schoolchildren attended a glittering awards ceremony to celebrate their educational achievements over the past year.

Now in their tenth year, the awards were hosted by the Kentish Town-based Somali Youth Development Resource Centre (SYDRC) at the London Irish Centre on Thursday evening. Among the prizewinners for their clutch of A* grades at GCSE were Camden School for Girls pupils Sundas Mohamoud and Bilan Mohamed, and Aisha Isse from Haverstock School. Awards were presented by Deputy Mayor of London Richard Barnes and leader of Camden council Nasim Ali.

Pictured: from left Aisha Isse, Sundus Mohamoud and Bilan Mohamed, with Sundus’s father and Deputy London Mayor Richard Barnes.


YEMEN-SOMALIA: Deadly Red Sea migrant route now flows both ways

After years of perilous one-way trips by thousands of Somalis fleeing conflict at home, the tide has changed and they are now abandoning their once safe haven of Yemen following political unrest there.

An estimated 181,561 Somalis are refugees in Yemen, most in camps or in urban centres.

"I went to Yemen in June 2007 seeking safety and security and a chance to make a living in peace but I have now ended up returning to where I took the boat, with my hopes dashed," Zahra Ahmed told IRIN in Bosasso, three days after she returned to Somali soil.

Ahmed left Bosasso, a port city in Somalia's self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, to undertake a dangerous boat journey across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, thinking she had left the strife-torn country for a new beginning. But she is now back in Bosasso because of the instability in Yemen [ ].

Like hundreds of other Somalis, Ahmed had hoped to eventually settle in Saudi Arabia. She said most Somalis in Yemen were either in refugee camps or doing odd jobs.

"As soon as the troubles started [in Yemen], the security forces began harassing us or arresting us," Ahmed said. "I was picked up from the street coming from work and arrested. No-one knew where I was and I could not call anyone. We came here to run away from a war and now we are caught up in someone else's war."

Ahmed said some locals had started harassing Somalis after rumours that those fighting for the government had Somalis in their ranks. Consequently, she added, many Somalis decided they could no longer remain in Yemen because if things get worse, "we have nowhere to run to, so we decided to come back. Here [in Bosasso] I have nothing but at least no one is arresting me or harassing me because I am a Somali.”

Abdulakdir Abdirahman, who was on the same boat back with Ahmed, left Bosasso in January 2009 for Yemen. "At the time, my aim was to get into Saudi Arabia but I could not cross."

Abdirahman said life in Yemen was becoming "progressively dangerous" for everyone, but more so for Somalis.

He told IRIN the journey was very dangerous and he had not imagined he would have to do it again, this time from Yemen to Somalia.

"I think we [Somalis] are the most unlucky people in the world; it seems wherever we go violence follows us," Abdirahman said.

He said he would have to decide whether to leave Bosasso for his home town of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, or stay. "I don’t know what I will do; Mogadishu is even more dangerous than when I left."

He said that many more Somalis were likely to make the return journey. "I know of a lot of people, who if they get a chance, will return," he added.

Beginning of the exodus

"We have so far registered 255 Somali returnees from Yemen," said Mohamud Jama Muse, director of the Migration Response Centre (MRC) in the regional capital, Bosasso.

MRC was created in April 2009, under the office of the Bari [Bosasso area] governor, to "register and provide counselling and assist" the migrants. "Now we have to deal with those coming back," he said.

Muse said the organization had been informed by port authorities that another boat with 220 Somali migrants was due to arrive on 25 March. "I think this is the beginning of the exodus back."

Muse said Puntland authorities had allowed the migrants in "but cannot do much more".

Muse said the biggest problem was shelter. "They are joining thousands of displaced already here and they don’t have a place to stay or even a plastic sheet.” He said most came with "the clothes on their back".

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 53,382 Somalis and Ethiopians [] crossed into Yemen from Somalia and Djibouti in 2010.

Source: IRIN.

Conflict Risk Alert: Syria

Syria is at what is rapidly becoming a defining moment for its leadership. There are only two options. One involves an immediate and inevitably risky political initiative that might convince the Syrian people that the regime is willing to undertake dramatic change. The other entails escalating repression, which has every chance of leading to a bloody and ignominious end.

Already, the unfolding confrontation in the southern city of Deraa gives no sign of quieting, despite some regime concessions, forceful security measures and mounting casualties. For now, this remains a geographically isolated tragedy. But it also constitutes an ominous precedent with widespread popular resonance that could soon be repeated elsewhere.

The regime faces three inter-related challenges. First is a diffuse but deep sense of fatigue within society at large, combined with a new unwillingness to tolerate what Syrians had long grown accustomed to -- namely the arrogance of power in its many forms, including brutal suppression of any dissent, the official media’s crude propaganda and vague promises of future reform. As a result of events elsewhere in the region, a new awareness and audacity have materialised over the past several weeks in myriad forms of rebelliousness, large and small, throughout the country.

Secondly, at the heart of virtually any locality in the nation is a long list of specific grievances. These typically involve a combination: rising cost of living, failing state services, unemployment, corruption and a legacy of abuse by security services. In a number of places, religious fundamentalism, sectarianism or Kurdish nationalism also form an integral part of the mix. In others, the depletion of water resources and devastation of the agriculture sector add to the tensions.

The third challenge relates to the regime’s many genuine enemies, all of whom undoubtedly will seek to seize this rare opportunity to precipitate its demise. Authorities have ascribed much of the strife to the exiled opposition, home-grown jihadi elements, local “aliens” (notably residents of Palestinian and Kurdish descent) and hostile foreign parties (notably U.S., Israeli, Lebanese and Saudi).

As a result, the regime claims to be fighting critical threats to national unity, such as foreign interference, ethnic secessionism and sectarian retribution. It also stresses the illegitimacy of exiled Syrians they accuse of stirring unrest -- some of whom, in fairness, are suspected of crimes no less deserving of investigation than those of the officials they seek to replace.

All this unquestionably forms part of the picture. But these factors are intertwined with others, far more difficult to define or to manage -- a popular desire for long overdue, far-reaching change; the simultaneous expression of numerous legitimate demands; and a growing belief that the regime is incapable of shifting from a logic of entitlement and survival to one of accountability. The current blend of mounting repression, blatant disinformation, minor concessions and presidential silence is quickly hardening negative perceptions.

A window of opportunity still exists to change these dynamics, although it is fast closing. Unlike most of his peers in the region, President Bashar Assad has accumulated significant political capital, and many Syrians are willing, for now, to give him the benefit of the doubt. In fact, a broad range of citizens – including members of the security apparatus – are desperately waiting for him to take the lead and to propose, before it is too late, an alternative to spiraling confrontation. Although he has held numerous consultations and sent some signals of impending reform through the foreign media and other officials, he has yet to assume clear and palpable leadership.

Instead, faced with an unprecedented, multi-faceted, fast-paced and critical challenge, the power apparatus at best is implementing chaotic steps that convey a sense of confusion, at worst is reacting according to well-ingrained habits. Left to its own devices, it will send precisely the wrong messages to a population that will not wait much longer for the regime to get its act together and to put forward a comprehensive and credible vision. At this point, only one thing can change swiftly, dramatically and effectively for the better, and that is the president’s own attitude.

President Assad must show visible leadership and do so now. His political capital today depends less on his past foreign policy successes than on his ability to live up to popular expectations at a time of dangerous domestic crisis. Meanwhile, repression perpetrated under his responsibility is costing him dearly. He alone can prove that change is possible and already in the making, restore some sense of clarity and direction to a bewildered power apparatus and put forward a detailed framework for structural change. This should include several steps:

The President should speak openly and directly to his people, recognise the challenges described above, stress the unacceptable and counterproductive nature of repression, offer condolences to the families of victims, order a serious, transparent investigation into the violence in Deraa, present a package of measures for immediate implementation and suggest an inclusive mechanism for discussing more far-reaching reforms.
He should announce the following, immediate measures: release of all political prisoners; lifting of the emergency law; authorisation of peaceful demonstrations; opening of new channels for the expression of complaints, given lack of trust in local officials; and action on the many cases of corruption that already have been compiled by the security apparatus but lie dormant due to nepotistic intervention.
Upcoming parliamentary elections should be postponed pending a referendum on sweeping constitutional amendments which should be discussed with a wide and inclusive range of Syrians. Deeper change requires broad consultation and cannot be arbitrarily implemented.
Many within the regime argue against such a radical course of action. Their points might appear logical, but none should carry the day:

The regime has never responded to pressure, and this time-honoured principle has always served it well over the years, particularly in times of crisis.

While this might have been true in the past, the current situation involves an entirely different and unprecedented kind of pressure, one that is relentless and grounded in deep-seated popular feelings. If resisted, it will only swell. This is not a time for business as usual or for standing still when all around is moving.

Any concessions are likely to be viewed as inadequate and only fuel additional demands. This almost certainly will be the case. And it is why any initiative must go all the way, from the outset. Only by doing so might the president convince the people that change is real. The question, in other words, is whether the regime can accept fundamental change. If it cannot, it is headed toward a bloody confrontation.

People do not know what they really want and express endless demands, some of which are unacceptable.

Again, this likely is true and, after years of suppression, wide-ranging aspirations cannot but be expressed. But the lack of a clear popular vision for orderly change offers the president the chance to convince citizens of the merits of his own.

The regime’s enemies are stirring things up and must be subdued before they do more damage.

In reality, none of the regime’s enemies possess enough support or influence in Syria to mount a critical threat. At best, they can try to make use of broad popular anger and steer it to their advantage. But by focusing on “enemies”, the regime is giving them more space while deepening popular discontent.

There is, in short, reason to question whether a dramatic approach will prevail. But it is the only realistic way to avoid a perilous confrontation.

After decades of colonialism followed by authoritarian rule, the Middle East and North Africa are facing a new phenomenon: a demand for governments based on popular legitimacy. Rulers in Syria or elsewhere can pass this test of leadership, or they can fail it. Bashar Assad has important assets; he retains significant political capital measured by regional standards, and it is high time that he spends it.

As each day goes by, repression will both dissipate that capital and increase popular demands, making constructive action all the more difficult. Hunkering down and waiting for the storm to pass may have served the regime well in days past. But now, it must fight against those instincts if it wants to preserve the possibility of a peaceful outcome.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

TFG Troops Weaken Al Shabaab Forces in Somalia

Reports from southern Somalia say that positions of Al Shabaab have been under attack by government forces in the last few weeks.

Forces supporting the Transitional Federal Government have attacked the Shabaab militia positions in the Juba region last week. The forces managed to capture several villages such as Balad Hawo, El Wak and Dhobley from the Islamist militants.

The government troops have recently been trained in the Isiola region of Kenya where the government planned to attack the positions of Al Shabaab in order to capture the Jubba region.

The Somali troops backed by Ethiopian troops are planning to take their offensive further until they capture Al Shabaab from southern Somalia in regions such as Juba, Hiiraan and Gedo.

On Wednesday, officials of the Somali interim government invited journalists to watch the bodies of young mislead Al Shabaab fighters.

Somali army chief Abdikarim Dhegaban told the reporters that they accomplished great victories in the last fighting in Mogadishu and that they captured many positions in Hodan and Bondheere districts.

TFG and AMISOM troops with the help of the Ethiopian government and Ahlasunah, want to capture all Shabaab positions in southern Somalia and Mogadishu.


Terrorists behead teenagers as battle with Somali government heats up

On Tuesday, Somalia's answer to al-Qaeda, Al Shabaab, executed two teenagers in the central Somali region of Hiran. The executioners decapitated the young men during a public execution.

Insurgents loyal to Al Shabaab had captured 19-year old Abdikafi Mohammed Rashid, and his younger cousin Muhyedin Rashid Hajji, 18, and brought them to the regional capital of Hiran where they executed them.

Officials said they heard about the brutal killings of the teens, but didn't know why Al Shabaab singled them out for the vicious beheading. The young men are not believed to have been terrorists, insurgents or loyalists to the TFG (Transitional Federal Government).

During an ambush of a Somali government military base by Al Shabaab terrorists in Hiran, two Somali soldiers were reportedly killed, as well.

Generally, mostly Christians are publicly executed, while common criminals such as thieves will have their legs or hands or both amputated. Al Shabaab members reportedly force civilians, including children, to watch the gruesome executions, a U.S. intelligence officer told the Law Enforcement Examiner.

Al Shabaab, which loosely translates to “The Youth,” operates as a terrorist organization whose objective is the violent overthrow of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the ouster of African Union support, and the imposition of Shariah law in Somalia.

While Al Shabaab operates mainly in Somalia and North Africa, there have been suspects captured in the U.S. For example, American law enforcement officers nailed a Somali national after he attempted to blow up an improvised explosive device at a Christmas tree lighting celebration at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon in December 2010.

FBI agents and Portland cops thwarted the teenager's plot to blow up a van full of explosives at a crowded venue. According to a report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police's Terrorism Committee, the Somali teen's IED was a fake device supplied by undercover agents and civilians were never in danger.

The terror suspect, 19-year old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, was captured on late Friday afternoon after dialing a cellular phone he believed would detonate a large explosion at the Christmas ceremony. At that point, FBI agents and local police officers swarmed the suspect.

In their report, FBI agents stated that the Somali teenager was warned several times about the seriousness of his plan, that women and children could be killed, and that he could back out, but he told agents: "Since I was 15 I thought about all this;" and "It's gonna be a fireworks show ... a spectacular show."

In San Diego, in 2010, residents Basaaly Saeed Moalin, Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, aka Mohamed Khadar, and Issa Doreh were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, and related offenses.

The indictment, handed up on October 22, 2010, alleged that Moalin, Mohamud, and Doreh conspired to provide money to Al Shabaab. In February 2008, the Department of State designated al Shabaab as a foreign terrorist organization.

The federal indictment alleged that Al Shabaab has used assassinations, improvised explosive devices, rockets, mortars, automatic weapons, suicide bombings, and other tactics of intimidation and violence to undermine Somalia’s transitional federal government and its supporters.

Source: The Examiner