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Monday, May 30, 2011

Somali Traditional Game (SHAX)

The board used for Shax. Pieces are placed on the intersections and players try to get three in a row

Shax (known as Jar, "Djelga" or Mororova in some areas) is a board game played in the Horn of Africa (especially in Somalia). Its origins dating back centuries, it is still popular today.

Shax is popular among men in Somalia, where it is also known as Jar and Mororova and is usually played by marking a board on the ground and using stones or sticks as pieces. The game has a large influence on Somali literature, which often mentions gameplay and strategies. In the historical nomadic lifestyle of the Somali people, Shax was a method of communication between different clans.

Rules
Shax is similar to Nine Men's Morris and uses the same board, but in Shax, mills formed during placement do not immediately result in the removal of opposing pieces. When placement is finished, if any mills have been formed, the player who formed the first one may remove one opposing piece, and the other player may do the same whether they formed a mill or not. Play then continues as before. If no mills were formed during placement, the second player to move during placement is the first to move after it.

If at any time a player has no moves, they do not lose; instead, their opponent is required to open an intersection for them by moving. If this freeing movement happens to form a mill, no piece may be removed. The "flying" rule is not used.

External links:


Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Why we must defeat Somali piracy

by Joshua Sinai

The proliferation of piracy in the waters off the East African state of Somalia has constituted a severe threat to international shipping since the early 1990s. The United States, its European allies, Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and even China and India are gravely concerned about this threat to their vessels’ safety. Piracy has led to an increase in shipping costs through the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden because of the hijacking and holding for ransom of the vessels’ crews, who are held hostage in pirate-held towns along the Somali coast. These pirate-infested waterways have led to increased patrols by Western and other navies, including private security forces, but with no effective solution in sight.

Martin Murphy’s important book “Somalia, the New Barbary?: Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa,” is an authoritative and comprehensive account of how Somalia has become the epicenter of one of the world’s most dangerous piracy hot spots and the measures that are required to defeat it.

Based in Washington, D.C., Mr. Murphy is one of the world’s leading experts on maritime security, having written several highly acclaimed books on this subject.

In this book, he sets out to examine the factors driving the proliferation of piracy emanating from Somalia, ranging from the congenital disorder of the Somali “state” to the takeover of the country (if it can be termed a country) by politically linked criminal networks that are embedded in the society’s dominant clans.

Even al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s Somali affiliate, is linked to piracy. While publicly condemning the pirates for hijacking ships, especially Saudi Arabian Muslim vessels, it reaps financial gains from its share of the ransom proceeds.

The bounties generated by the multimillion-dollar ransoms paid by ship owners and their insurance companies have brought illicit affluence to the coastal towns where the leaders and operatives of the criminal networks thrive. As Mr. Murphy writes, in these towns, the pirates are “identifiable by their cellphones, Western cigarettes and access to plentiful supplies of khat [a popular narcotic].” Many of the young aspire to become pirates, with piracy becoming “socially acceptable,” enabling them to marry “the most beautiful girls.”

Mr. Murphy provides an account of someone “who in one year went from being a poor fisherman to a man of substance with three houses and a second wife who he married in a wedding so extravagant that the house was surrounded by the 150 cars owned by the guests.”

The influx of wealth into these communities has led to the establishment of new businesses that provide the pirates with the goods and services they require, such as new boat building, GPS systems, satellite phones, night-vision goggles, construction, restaurants, money-changing and car dealerships. But this has been accompanied by rampant inflation, “bad culture” in the form of alcohol, drugs, the commercial sex trade and its accompanying AIDS epidemic, street fights and killings.

Even the previously thriving legitimate maritime businesses such as fishing, fish processing and stevedoring have been affected negatively, with owners of fishing boats having difficulty hiring crews, losing out to piracy’s easy money.

This illicit economy thrives because of its protection by government authorities in regions such as Puntland, piracy’s epicenter, with its officials handsomely paid off, including through the wider community along clan lines.

How can Somali piracy be stopped? Mr. Murphy proposes a comprehensive strategy based on political measures that would compel a policy change by Puntland’s political leaders who benefit from piracy, accompanied by a more robust international naval force than the one currently operating in those seas in order to safeguard maritime security at vital points.

Even such a strategy, Mr. Murphy cautions, has built-in limitations. First and foremost, the anarchy in Somalia as a “failed state” makes it virtually impossible to negotiate with any political leader. Second, although naval action and shore bombardment against the pirate strongholds along the coastal areas might have some effect, a land campaign that could root out the problem in the long term “is to be avoided” because of its high costs, mainly in placing the lives of the hostages at risk, and in having the pirates simply move the hostages farther inland, where they would be difficult to locate.

With Somalia’s neighbors, especially Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, also experiencing turmoil and state failure, it is even more crucial to end Somali piracy. As Mr. Murphy warns, if al-Shabaab and al Qaeda in Yemen both took control over their countries, maritime security in the geostrategically vital Gulf of Aden would be compromised. Mr. Murphy’s book is an invaluable and authoritative account of how Somali piracy has become such an entrenched and growing security threat to the international maritime vessels transiting those dangerous seas.

Joshua Sinai is an associate professor for research, specializing in counterterrorism studies, at Virginia Tech.

Source: The Washington Times

Help Somalis rebuild their country by ensuring world attention and peace

By WAFULA WAMUNYINYI

The civil conflict that has reigned over Somalia for more than two decades has generated problems, not just for that country, but for its neighbours as well.

Kenya has been particularly affected. She has not only had to cater for a huge number of asylum seekers, but also deal with al Qaeda-linked extremists who have brutally shelled Kenyan towns on the border and recruited adherents from Kenya’s population.

We at the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) recognise the effort and resources that Kenya has expended in providing a safe haven for the refugees.

We also appreciate the part that Kenya played in the search for peace in Somalia. Amisom is grateful for the tremendous support and assistance we have received in our mission to support the Somali peace process and to help the government rid the country of the foreign-led extremist menace.

Kenya has hosted numerous Somali reconciliation conferences as well as the original Transitional Federal institutions and continues to offer assistance in training of the Somali police force.

Further, Kenyan ports provide a crucial hub for supplies to our troops in Mogadishu and the country has been a valuable and effective ally in lobbying for greater international attention to Somalia’s plight and support for our difficult mission.

We also appreciate the effort and resources that the country has expended in providing a safe haven for Somali refugees. Currently, nearly 350,000 asylum seekers are housed at the Dadaab camp.

While accommodating such a huge number of refugees undoubtedly poses significant security challenges, it is important to note that the majority of Somalis seeking asylum in Kenya and elsewhere have no connection to the extremists.

In fact, a recent poll in Mogadishu showed that the insurgency is unpopular within Somalia. Many abhor both the alien ideology the extremists seek to impose and their brutal methods.

Evidence suggests that Kenya has benefited economically from the resources, talents, and skills of Somalis.

According to a March 2011 report by Chatham House, a London-based think tank, while most of the refuges are poor, a substantial number come with money readily available for large investments.

Accustomed to decades of political uncertainty, these Somalis have been able to turn political and social challenges into unique business opportunities.

The report states that “growing Somali investment in Nairobi has attracted banks and other service-providers, demonstrating that urban refugees are not necessarily a burden on the State and can be an economic asset.”

Somali businessmen, active in the areas of transport, real estate, finance, import-export, and livestock, have invested over $1.5 billion (Sh129 billion) in Nairobi’s Eastleigh suburb alone, giving the lie to the accusation that these were profits from piracy, which is rampant off the Somali coast.

In 2009, when the vice was at its height, total proceeds from ransoms amounted to less than a tenth of that figure.

The above illustrates the potential impact the refugees can have if they are given an opportunity to turn their attention to rebuilding Somalia.

Already, Somalis in the diaspora send upwards of $1 billion to their relatives and friends back home. Still, it is in Somalia that their energies and talents are needed if the country is to rise from the ashes of its turbulent past.

However, for them to return, the Somali government must be assisted in re-establishing peace and stability. Our troops on the ground have shown that this is possible, given adequate resources and personnel.

We, their civilian counterparts, are proud to join them in Mogadishu and ready to continue playing our part to consolidate the gains they have made.

This past week marked the passing of Africa Day, which is dedicated to fostering solidarity in the continent.

In that spirit, it is only right that the world recognises the extraordinary help and solidarity that Kenya has shown to Somalia despite the strain this has put on her.

Going forward, let us give thought to what we on the continent, and in the rest of the world, can do to ensure that the remarkable Somali entrepreneurs can return home and replicate their successes in Kenya for the good of Somalia, the region, and the entire globe.

Mr Wamunyinyi is the Deputy Special Representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission on Somalia.

Source: The Daily Nation

Suicide attacks hit Somali capital

At least three people have died after a suicide bomber attacked an African Union peacekeeping base in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

Incidents on four other bases which were at first feared to be co-ordinated attacks now appear to be false alarms, a Nairobi-based diplomat said.

The diplomat said the four other bases had sent reports that they had been attacked and were hearing explosions. The African Union is still investigating what those blasts were, with fears that they were a result of rocket-propelled grenades or land mines.

AU soldier Captain Prosper Hakizimana said a minivan had pulled up at one base and four men got out of the vehicle. One suicide bomber was shot when he attempted to enter the base and blew up.

Mr Hakizimana said two others were shot by AU forces and one was eventually captured. Two AU soldiers were killed and five others wounded in the attack. One soldier from a militia allied to the Somali government was also killed.

Source: The Herald (www.Herald.ie)

Captain of hijacked Taiwan boat died in crossfire

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry says the captain of a hijacked Taiwanese fishing boat was killed in crossfire between U.S. Navy personnel and Somali pirates.

The ministry says the USS Stephen W. Groves and pirates aboard the hijacked Jih Chun Tsai 68 fishing trawler exchanged fire over the Indian Ocean during the U.S. frigate's anti-piracy patrol mission earlier this month.

The ministry said in a statement late Saturday that three pirates and Taiwanese captain Wu Lai-yu were killed in the incident.

The ministry said pirates hijacked the boat off the Somali coast in March 2010 and used the vessel to launch maritime attacks.

Confrontations with Somali pirates have turned increasingly violent in recent months.

Source: The Associated Press

Pirates Fought The Law, And The Law Lost

India has gone head-to-head with Somali pirate leaders, and lost. From now on, the Indian navy will no longer arrest Somali pirates it encounters, even those caught in the act of attacking a ship. Instead, the pirates will be disarmed and allowed to go back to Somalia. If the pirate vessel is not seaworthy, the Indian warship will take the pirates back to Somalia, where they will be left on the beach. This is the same "catch and release" method used by most European navies, mainly because the legal systems back home make it difficult for the pirates to be prosecuted, and easy for the pirates to claim asylum if brought back.

The Indian policy change began on April 15, when the pirates released a tanker, after the ransom was paid. But seven of the eight Indians on the 15 man crew were not released. The pirates demanded that India release 120 pirates held in India, if they wanted these seven Indian sailors freed. This outraged the shipping companies, who expect the pirates to keep their promises to free ships and sailors once the ransom has been paid. India first reacted by sending a warship to where it was believed the seven Indian sailors were being held. This did not impress the pirates. Negotiations ensued.

Meanwhile, another 53 Indian sailors were being held on five different ships, and there was fear that not all of these will be released, even if ransom was paid. The TNG (Transitional National Government) ordered its ambassador to India to speak to the 120 pirates, to determine if all of them are actually Somali. They were. The police in Mumbai had found the prisoners uncooperative, and none of them have any Identity documents. The TNG offered to take the prisoners, if they were Somali. But the Indians were not sure that was a good idea, as the deported pirates could be freed in Somali via bribes. At the same time, India did not like the idea of prosecuting, and imprisoning the captured pirates, and perhaps hundreds, or thousands, more. This may be why Indian warships off Somalia are more frequently opening fire on pirates they encounter, rather than arresting them. It’s not known if India has agreed to refrain from firing on Somali pirates as well.

What India is most concerned with here is the safety of Indian sailors (who comprise about ten percent of the merchant ship sailors operating in the Indian Ocean). Then there's the media angle. If the pirates murder the seven Indian sailors still held, the Indian government will be blamed. The new policy (and probably having the 120 imprisoned pirates quietly shipped back to a Somali beach) is much less likely to generate unflattering headlines for the government.

Source: StrategyWorld.com

Campaigns for Somalia’s presidential poll kick off

Presidential campaigns for the Somali Transitional Federal Government have started in earnest after the UN Security Council ordered that the elections be held in August.

On Sunday, hundreds of Somali MPs and other leaders attended the launch of businessman Haji Mohamed Yassin’s campaign at the Laico Regency Hotel in Nairobi.

Expressing optimism of winning the seat, Mr Yassin said that unlike past presidents who contested the seat to acquire wealth illegally, he had enough resources which he wants to invest in restoring peace and stability in the Horn of Africa country.

“I want to be given a chance to take Somalia back to where it was two decades ago,” he said.

Somalia has experienced internal strife since the overthrow of dictator Siad Barre in 1991.

On Wednesday, a UN Security Council meeting in Nairobi opposed the extension of the term of the current Somali president and said the elections should be held before August 20.

Mr Yassin said it was unfortunate that he was launching the campaigns outside Somalia due to insecurity in the country.

He said more than a million people have been killed, 1.5 million displaced from their homes and others maimed since the fighting began.

The businessman, who first launched opposition against Siad Barre in 1978 and was defeated in the 2004 elections in Nairobi by former president Abdullahi Yusuf, accused past leaders of failing the country.

Source: The Daily Nation

Somali gov't authorizes foreign firm to run Mogadishu airport

He noted that the firm will handle the Somalia’s Airline Companies in accordance with their services and it can’t make any double in the handle.

Reporter: Abdi Hajji Hussein

The transitional federal government of Somalia on Sunday officially authorized SKA Air and Logistics, based in Dubai, to run all the activities of Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport.

Ahmed Abdurrahman, the minister of Somalia's ministry of air, ground and maritime transport made the announcement after a ceremony at the airport.

Government officials including parliamentarians, ministers, Mohammed Osman Ali Dhagah-tur, the general director of Somalia’s ministry of air, ground and maritime transport as well as some officials from Somalia’s airline companies attended the ceremony.

“Today, we are here to announce that SKA Air and Logistics will run all the activities of this airport including handling services” Abdurrahman said.

Martin Bill, the project coordinator of SKA, spoke at the occasion and said his company will create opportunities for Mogadishu’s airport staff and Somalia in general.

SKA have been operating in Iraq since 2003 and has expanding its operations in Kuwait, the UAE, Afghanistan and the African continent.

Source: www.allheadlinenews.com

A Pirate Friendly Cannon

A British firm has developed a non-lethal (most of the time) weapon for keeping Somali pirates from getting close enough to board your ship. The $23,000 "Somali Stinger" is a compressed air cannon that can fire a "shotgun shell" full of golf ball size projectiles, moving at up to 210 meters (650 feet) per second at targets up to 550 meters away.

When hit by one of these projectiles, the victim will be hurt, but not seriously injured. The cannon can also fire nets (to entangle the propeller of the pirate's speedboat), or smoke grenades. If all this does not stop the pirates, it will at least entertain them.

Non-lethal weapons are important when you are dealing with Somali pirates, as these fellows are very media savvy. Kill some of them, and you will be criticized by a growing chorus of journalists who do not tolerate that sort of behavior. Maybe that's just professional courtesy, but it is the way it is.

Source: StrategyWorld.com

DIY volunteers pitch in to help North Minneapolis recover from tornado

By Sheila Regan, TC Daily Planet

When the tornado hit the Twin Cities May 22, many outside of the affected areas watched in horror as the news stories and Twitter updates followed the devastation in North Minneapolis. Some felt compelled to help, even if they weren’t connected to a nonprofit or a church on the North Side. Among the champion volunteers: information expert Peter Kerre, Somali relief organizer Nimco Ahmed, and the Pet Project's Kim Carrier.

Peter Kerre (DJ XPCT) was in his New York apartment when his sister called from Minneapolis to tell him that a tornado was going down. “Oh Damn, damn, damn,” is what he thought to himself. A previous resident of Minneapolis, he has many friends on the North Side.

After he heard the new, Kerre just snapped. He decided to put something together where people could centralize information. He comes from an information security background, and it was an instant reaction. “I just stepped into that mode,” he said.

He quickly set up a Facebook group, called North Minneapolis Post Tornado Watch. And he started posting all of the links that he could find—videos, pictures, news, updates, ways for people to get help, and ways for people to volunteer.

As a DJ and nightclub promoter, Kerre had over 4,000 Facebook friends, so it wasn’t hard to get a lot of people to join the page initially, and then “word just went around”. The FB page became a place where people could share information.

Then Kerre began creating a document, with all the resources available, and he decided to create a Google site, so that he could update it in real time. “I didn’t really expect this page to be the main source of information for the whole city,” he said, but that's what it has become.

When the word spread about Kerre’s Facebook page and Google site, there was a bit of confusion. What shook him up the most was an email from the Minneapolis Police, demanding that he identify himself. Some other emails from city officials seemed confrontational. Initially, he was a bit confrontational back. “It’s none of your business who I am,” he said.

“I’m a nobody,” he said to the people inquiring about his identity. In a way it was true, but even though Kerre wasn’t connected to an official organization, his efforts have effectively provided information to people who need it.

“There were two things that worked in my favor,” he said. “The first is that I come from an information security background. I even went through FEMA training. The other is that for about 12 years I was a promoter in the Twin Cities. I promoted night clubs and music concerts. I built up the reggae scene in the Twin Cities, so my connections are really deep.”

The website has been an effective way to get information out to people, connecting resources and finding help for people who need it.

“We’ve become the new 911 hotline,” Kerre said. “We are getting stuff done fast.” For example, a woman with an eight-week old baby and a four-year old child needed help finding a place to stay. The Facebook page facilitated getting Hennepin County to help her within a couple of hours of her need, and the next day someone from the county had contacted her to provide her housing for after Sunday.

“The first responders are overwhelmed,” Kerre said. “There is so much information still coming.”

Tapping into the Somali Community

Nimco Ahmed, a Somali-Minnesotan, also wanted to help, but she didn’t want to be in the way or a burden to the work that was being done in North Minneapolis. On Monday, when she called around trying to find a place to volunteer, many organizations said they were full to capacity already.

Still, she knew there must be something she could do to be of use. She also knew that Somali people are very generous, but they have to be asked. So she and a group of friends took it upon themselves to reach out to Somali individuals and businesses and gather donations to distribute to the Masjid An-Nur, and other places in need in Minneapolis

She got in contact with the mother of the Imam and Masjid An-Nur, asking what was needed. Then, she and her friends have begun asking for donations from restaurants.

She’s gotten donations from Safari, Fagal, Sahara Restaurant, Hamvi Grocery, Boolaai, Ali's Catering, Marina’s Grill and Deli, Holy Land, Afro Deli, Abraham Restaurant, Urobo Resaurant, Cairo Grill, Karmel Restaurant, Dur Dur bakery and Afriik Grocery. They’ve also gotten cash donations from Somali businesses.

Because Ahmed works during the day, she’s been doing all of her phone calling in the evening, with her friends volunteering to pick up the food and distributing it during the day.

Ahmed found that her effort was something that she could do because she had so many contacts in the Somali community, and it was much more effective than going to volunteer on the ground, where she would have had to be taught about what to do. “What I was doing was safe and was making a huge difference,” she said. “I didn’t want to burden anyone, but I wanted to help.”

Ahmed has also been out door knocking, passing out city pamphlets that give resources to people on the ground.

Saving the pets

Kim Carrier runs The Pet Project, a nonprofit that helps people keep their pets by providing pet food and basic supplies to those who are struggling. She runs The Pet Project in her spare time when not doing her job as a hair stylist.

During the last week, she’s been working 16 hours a day on the North Side handing out supplies to pet owners. “The need has been pretty overwhelming,” Carrier said. “I’ve never done any disaster relief type stuff before.”

On Tuesday morning, Carrier along with 30 volunteers headed over to North Minneapolis. She connected with other groups concerned about animals after the tornado, including a couple of people who started a North Minneapolis Pets Facebook page.

The Pet Project set up a table at Farview Park. Carrier said she went to the park and pretty much told the woman staff member that she was setting up a table. They began volunteering on Tuesday, and after seeing the need, began reducing the amount of food they gave out so they could help more people. They also found there was a need not just for food, but for supplies. Many people she found didn’t have leashes or bowls. One man had his dog shut up in his room because he didn’t have a leash to take him out. Carrier said they served between 200-300 pet owners last week.

Pet Project has been getting a lot of community support from rescue organizations, but Carrier found that her group has been the main pet food supplier in the disaster relief effort. Shiloh Temple, she said, is also giving pet food.

“The people in North Minneapolis have been amazing,” she said. “I really admire the spirit over there—it’s been such an amazing experience. Now I’m determined to get them the help they need because I love them now.”

Organization, Communication and Strategic Planning

Check back later this week for our story about how Minneapolis fared in coordinating efforts between government, non-profit groups and religious organizations. If you would like to contribute to this story, email sheila@tcdailyplanet.net

Sheila Regan (sheila@tcdailyplanet.net) is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.

Source: The Daily Planet

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Millions in cash payments missing in Somalia

Somali politicians are returning from Arab nations with briefcases of cash, and a Somali government watchdog report obtained by The Associated Press found that more than $70 million of it is missing instead of being used to fight terrorism, piracy or hunger.

The large cash payments encourage politicians to hang onto power while paying little attention to crucial needs in a country devastated by two decades of war. A lack of attention to constituents' needs may also be fueling an al-Qaida-linked insurgency, officials say.

"Politicians want to keep the status quo. They're profiting from it," said Abdirazak Fartaag, the head of the Public Finance Management Unit, a Somali government body charged with overseeing the country's financial management. "We have to hold these big shots accountable."

Somalia's prime minister told AP the government is trying to be more transparent by working from a budget and making records public.

In a 22-page report due to be released Wednesday and obtained exclusively by AP, Fartaag documented cash payments that came from Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and other donors in 2009 and 2010 totaling more than $75 million. Only $2.8 million was accounted for by the government. He based his report, which was written for the Somali government, on interviews with politicians who witnessed the payments or received money in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital.

Fartaag said in his report that the Somali government is missing more than $300 million once internal revenues from the port, airport, khat trade and telecommunications are added to the Arab millions that have vanished.

A separate AP investigation established that cash payments from Arab nations continue amid a lack of transparency over how much money politicians accept and what happens with it.

Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed told AP in an interview in Mogadishu in April that his government received one payment of $5 million dollars from a Middle Eastern country this year that he "believed" to be the United Arab Emirates.

But Finance Minister Hussein Halane told AP in April that he accompanied the prime minister twice to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, this year and had seen Mohamed personally receive $5 million in cash each time. After more than 50 phone calls and e-mails from AP over six weeks, the government produced documentation showing that only one payment of $5 million was deposited into the country's Central Bank. The other payment remains unaccounted for.

Politicians in position to receive such payments have little incentive to reach out to armed groups to end conflict because then they'd have to share the money, Fartaag said in an interview in Nairobi on Tuesday.

The weak U.N.-backed Somali government is fighting the al-Shabab Islamist insurgency that has control of much of central and southern Somalia. Al-Shabab kidnaps children to use as soldiers, carries out public stonings and amputations and claimed responsibility for bombings that killed 76 people in Uganda last July.

The government is constantly appealing for more cash to fight the insurgents, even as it fails to account for money already received.

Both Western and Arab nations pour aid into Somalia to try to combat piracy and terrorism and provide social services. The government gets very little cash directly from the West. Most goes to aid agencies. The U.S. and Italy even insist on paying wages directly to Somali soldiers after it turned out that commanders were stealing soldiers' salaries.

Oil-rich nations like Sudan and the United Arab Emirates have a tradition of cash diplomacy in which visiting officials are handed stacks of $100 bills to take home.

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates told AP he had no specific details at hand about funding for the Mogadishu government.

"I really cannot recall what the financial aid that's been given to the Somali government (is) from the UAE," said Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. "We are just, frankly speaking, trying to solve ... the Somali conflict."

Somalia's prime minister and the finance minister say the government deposits these donations in Somalia's Central Bank, a newly renovated building in downtown Mogadishu whose fresh coats of paint stand out from the smashed gray concrete rubble around it.

"We are trying to be more transparent. We have a budget. We have public records of our finances," Mohamed said.

Halane said that not all cash was necessarily deposited in the government's account because some was spent on "legitimate and documented" expenses by officials before being deposited. The AP was not able to get details of these expenses. Officials did not respond to repeated requests for further documentation.

The sums are a fortune, especially in impoverished, war-ravaged Somalia.

The cratered streets of the capital are filled with rail-thin Somalis, rifles slung across their backs, wandering past thorn bushes and roofless homes pocked with bullet holes. Families fleeing the violence camp in domes of cloth tied over bent twigs. Most people in camps scrape by on less than $1 a day.

"There's no government here," said 31-year-old Hassan Ahmed as skinny, ragged children played around him in the sand under the watchful eyes of women in long, drab robes. "There's nothing to eat. There's nothing to drink."

The government says it uses the money to win over citizens like Ahmed by providing services and security. Some small progress has been made since the current Cabinet took power in November. Revenues from the port and airport have increased, a budget was created, civil servants paid, streetlights erected in one neighborhood and along the main road of Maka al-Mukarama. Some roads have been repaired and garbage collected.

It's not clear how much is paid for by donors and how much by the government, which raises revenue from the port, airport, and other sources. There are no public records.

The government's term expires in August and it wants to extend for another year. It also wants more cash, but Western nations appear reluctant to give for now.

"Transparency and accountability are critical," said Cheryl Sim, counselor for Somalia affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya. "Donors have a right to know their taxpayers' contributions are being used as intended. Constituents have the right to know how their government is spending the aid it receives. Unaccounted-for assistance funds are troubling, especially in Somalia."

Associated Press writer Adam Schreck in Abu Dhabi contributed to this report.

Source: The Associated Press.

Ruling by Way of Deception

By Nuradin Jilani

The Israeli foreign intelligence agency – the Mosad – had a very apt motto describing its activities: “By way of deception thou shalt wage wars,” it read. It was Mr. Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mosad operative, who the first revealed to the world the murky activities of that agency in a book he wrote in 1990 by the title By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer. Mr. Ostrovsky chronicles in the book his account of the inner workings of that agency at the time he was serving it and lays bare its methods and tactics. The book reads like a good spy novel and was dismissed as such by the Israeli historian Benny Morris. To this day however, the Mosad did not confirm or deny Mr. Ostrovsky’s claims – an act which was consistent with that agency’s reputation.

Since coming to power in Ethiopia in 1991, the ruling TPLF led EPRDF regime has borrowed the motto of the Mosad and transformed it into something of a praxis.

Their first move upon assuming power was to declare that Ethiopia, would henceforth, be a Federal Democratic Republic consisting of ‘nations and nationalities’. These nations and nationalities will have equal rights. Each of them shall have its own flag, language, borders, and parliament. Those that are unhappy with the union have the right to secede.

According to Article 39, in section 3 of this constitution which deals with the rights of nations and nationalities: “Every nationality in Ethiopia shall have the full right to administer itself .This right shall include the right to establish government institutions within the territory it inhabits and the right to fair representation in the federal and state governments.”

The TPLF further undertook to end the highlander domination of Ethiopian politics in the past and promised that every Ethiopian will enjoy his/her share in the economic and political sun of the country. Many rejoiced when they heard these from the TPLF – which was, itself, a highlander guerilla party founded on secessionist platform - and wholeheartedly welcomed it.

But it was not to be so. The Somalis in Ogaden were the first to discover this treachery when their political organization, the ONLF, which had won over 80% of the votes cast in the first free and fair elections held in Ethiopia in September 1993 was banned; their leaders either arrested, killed or made to flee the country, when they tried to get their rights using the legally allowed provisions in the TPLF drafted constitution.

After the ONLF was dealt with the Oromos followed, then Gambellas, and later Amharas; one by one, each political or ethnic group that disagreed with Zenawi’s TPLF was led to the slaughter house and chopped down. The provisions of the constitution which guaranteed freedom of thought, speech, association, and other fundamental human rights, took a holiday.

Insides and Outsides
The regime devised a subterfuge campaign to divide the ruled along ethnic lines in order to dominate and exploit them. When they were fighting the ONLF they sold a vile propaganda to other ethnic groups, specifically to the highlanders, and said that the Somalis in the Ogaden are stubborn people; they’re Islamic extremists and secessionists who must be crushed before they pose a greater threat to the rest of Ethiopia or secede. Many listened to this nonsense as it echoed historically held perceptions about Somalis in the other Ethiopia.

Within the Somalis, they selected from the non Ogaden Somali clans stooges and installed them as leaders of the region after the ONLF vacated the political space and was forced to start a guerilla war.

The TPLF invented a surrogate party for this purpose in 1994, The Ethiopian Somali Democratic League; and made its leadership and that of the region, these stooges. A census was held in 1997 whose purpose was to tip the clan demographic balance of the region in favor of those clans that were working with the regime. The Ogadens, who constituted over 60% of the population of the region, were reduced to less than 40%. The regional parliamentary seats and budget was redistributed according to these numbers.

For a while this game of playing the music to the tune of the ones ‘inside’ at a given period and vilifying the ones ‘outside’ continued and no one seriously questioned where it was it heading to.

Then came the crash in 2005 when the regime organized elections thinking it will win. Surprising however, an umbrella opposition grouping which consisted of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), and others, had outperformed the EPRDF coalition and won the election. But the regime did not honor its word, and as was expected, rigged the election and declared itself winner of the vote. The people took to the streets and protested against the election swindle. The regime, again as was expected, but not so harshly, resorted to brute force by gunning down the peaceful protestors right in center of the metropolitan city of Addis Ababa in the full view of the whole world.

The regime declared the protestors as anarchists, thugs, violent mobs, arsonists, criminals who were instructed by their party bosses to cause chaos and illegally topple the government. Subsequently, the leaders of the opposition were rounded up, charged with trumped up accusations and thrown into jails. The opposition parties were dealt the same way as the ONLF in 1994 when they won the election but were declared ‘illegal’, ‘anti-peace’ and the rest of the clichés. The raw ugly power which was exercised on the Somalis in Ogaden was finally unleashed in the streets of Addis Ababa.

After the crackdown of the opposition many Ethiopians realized they could not unseat the TPLF democratically and started agitating for an armed struggle, like the ONLF before them, and created such groups as the Ginbot 7 and others.

In the so-called Kilil5, Melez Zenawi devised another plan when the military crackdown he ordered to crush the ONLF rebellion by collectively punishing the civilian population in Ogaden did not succeed: he appointed an uneducated, ignorant Ogaden creature who once beat his own mother in the city of Dhagahbur as ‘president’ of Somali Region, to reward him for the stellar job the mother-beater had done for the regime as head of regional Security Bureau.

In turn Abdi Iley has filled - or was order to fill - important positions in the regional cabinet with collaborationists he recruited mostly from his clansmen who were his trusted friends during his time as a junior spy; or, as we famously say in Ogaden, “people he had ‘fingers’ from”.

It is important to note that Abdi Iley was not the first appointed lackey from the Ogaden clan to head the Somali Region; there were others before him. But he was the first to break all norms and values sacred to the Somalis in Ogaden – these included, among other things, being a pimp for the Tigre army and intelligence officers and bribing them and their wives with money he siphoned off from the covers of the regional budget to remain their favorite ‘man’. According to some insider sources, the so-called Tigrey advisers who manage everything in the Somali Region, Abay Tsehaye and Towelde, had both boasted: we have finally found ‘thee one’ we were looking for all these years from the Ogaden clan. He is no doubt someone with no values to betray, after all a hypocrite or traitor has to have values to betray.

The elders of the clans that were ‘inside’ when the late Abdi Majid’s party ESDL was running the regional government cried foul and begun to complain to Zenawi about the actions of Abdi Iley and his tribalism. Zenawi did not reply to their concerns and in fact referred them back to Iley. These clan elders took to the airwaves after the door to Zenawi had been shut in their face.

If you listen to the complaints made by these elders in the BBC Somali Service these days you would think the leader of the regional administration in Jigjiga – and by extension his clan, the oppressed and massacred Ogadens - is more powerful than the man who put him there, Meles Zenawi!

In a plot reminiscent of the days of Abdi Majid, Iley announced the establishment of new Kabeles, most of them in the areas of his clan. Those clans who felt to be ‘outside’ the corridors of power carried foul again as usual about this move. Some Ogadens rejoiced and said this ‘president’ has finally brought back our denied rights. And the charade continued. A deja vou and a rerun of the1994 movie!

As a result Zenawi has managed, to some extent, to divert attention away from himself and his troop’s genocidal onslaught in Ogaden and put it in the doorsteps of the victims – that is in the mediocre minds of those who do not read between the lines of his lies and maneuvers.
But the ONLF understood from the begging the TPLF’s gimmickry and ploys. Instead of taking the route their supposed clansmen were going and joining the clannish caravan of Iley et al, they chose to side with the forces of democracy and change in Ethiopia.

On Apr 26 2011 a meeting of Ethiopian opposition groups was held in the city of Atlanta, Georgia in the US. This gathering brought together representatives from the ONLF’s Abdul hakim, Mr. Jemal Gelchu of OLF, and Dr. Berhanu Nega of Ginbot 7.

After deliberations the representatives of the parties solemnly agreed to unite against the current TPLF tyranny in Ethiopia and to forge a common future vision to salvage the country.

This meeting and the other similar gathering which was held in Toronto on May 07, 2011 aptly titled ‘Unity is Power’ were a watershed events, and if their recommendations are implemented, there is no doubt it will pave the way for the toppling of the Meles Regime. As a result of the efforts made by the opposition groups to unite their ranks, the regime can no longer sell to the Western countries that fund it the lie that its opponents are a shabby lot consisting mostly of separatists who want to dismantle Ethiopia and make it, as the cliché has it lately, ‘a giant Somalia’.

Already the regime had panicked had even started sending, through backdoor channels, emissaries to representatives of the parties concerned. The message of the TPLF emissaries is again the same old tired clichés. To the Amharas, they say: the Ogaden Somalis are not genuine; they want to use you to further their secessionist agenda. To the ONLF: the Amahars will not allow you to break away from Ethiopia; they’re only using you and the Oromos to get to us, after all they’re unwilling to forfeit their ‘Ethiopia Andinet’ concept, and so on. The same old game. It seems the TPLF has run out of ideas and is still regurgitating the only thing it knows best: the ethnic and clan cards.

However all things deceitful will eventually run aground and be exposed, perhaps a victim of their own success - like the way the Mosad was caught red handed last year in the assignation of Hamas man Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai - or will become too familiar to the extent that its future course of action can be predicted. It is time to say in unison: Bes, Enough, Beka, to the TPLF and its rule of deception!

Source: www.ogaden.com

South African police blame business feud for anti-Somali violence

Some Somali shopkeepers are returning to their businesses in the South African city of Port Elizabeth after two nights of violence saw 58 shops attacked and looted.

Police are adamant the attacks were caused by a business feud and not the xenopbia that killed more than 60 foreigners in South Africa three years ago.

The country’s Human rights Council has condemned the violence.

Police spokesperson Andre Beetge describes it as business rivalry.

Local traders in these areas complain that there are too many shops owned or run by Somalis and that they are being driven out of businesses.

The looting rampage started on Wednesday afternoon and continued until after midnight. Police were pelted with stones by some of the residents when they arrived

Beetge insists the incidents are not xenophobic attacks.

While some of the Somali shop owners who had fled the area have returned to open their businesses more than 100 others packed their belonging and left the townships under police guard.

In some incidents, foreign shop owners were assaulted but no injuries or deaths were reported to the police.

Beetge says they’re waiting for charges to be laid. No arrests have been made.

Several Somali nationals who have moved in to take over recession-hit South African businesses have lost their lives in the past.

Source: Radio France Internationale - English Service

U.S. attorney general gets mixed response from Somali-Americans

Optimism. Skepticism. Distrust.

Depending on the perspective of those who came to hear, address and question U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Friday, any of those words could fit.

To the young Somali-Americans who helped organize an afternoon event at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Holder's visit is a sign of bridges being built and trust being cultivated.

"I'm very optimistic because, finally, they are talking to us," said Sharmarke Jama, one of the young organizers.

Some older Somalis, who watched 20 or so of their young return to their homeland to fight violent jihad, were more wary — waiting to see if Holder's words will be matched by the deeds of the FBI and U.S. Attorney General.

Those holding protest signs outside the auditorium — people who have been searched and investigated for alleged support to terror groups abroad? Holder's visit proved another frustrating example of not getting their concerns addressed.

Such is the complex intersection between the federal government and the people whose lives it enters.

Protesters shadowed Holder much of the day, from his morning appearance at the University of Minnesota's McNamara Alumni Center to his afternoon "town hall" meeting with Minneapolis Somalis. Several were led out of the morning meeting after repeatedly standing to shout protests and interrupt his speech about preventing youth violence. Another 50 to 75 stood outside banging on drums and chanting for the FBI to stop investigating people who have met with groups the U.S. has defined as terrorist.

The contrast between those activists and the young people who emerged almost giddy from their meeting with the attorney general could not have been more stark.

"Having this engagement with us makes all this better for us," said Hidia Ali, a member of a Somali youth advisory committee.

At the same time, protesters were not engaged at all. Those who came to Augsburg to hear the attorney general were not allowed into the auditorium.

In many ways, the drum-beaters and the children of refugees face similar issues.

Some young Somalis have been at the heart of a massive counterterrorism investigation in which several have been arrested, indicted and convicted for providing material support to terrorists. As many as 20 people left to fight with Al-Shabab, an Islamist group fighting civil war in Somalia that the U.S. State Department has labeled a terrorist organization.

Many of the anti-war protesters' homes were raided and searched by the FBI on Sept. 24, 2010, for alleged ties or association with State Department-defined terror groups in Colombia and the Middle East. Their questions Friday went unanswered.

"We have sent emails, letters, made phone calls," said Colleen Rowley, a former FBI agent and one of the protesters. "No one has responded."

But for Jaylani Hussein, one of the Augsburg organizers, Friday's meeting was another example of a Department of Justice engaging young people. It marks a new and positive ongoing relationship, a cause to feel good about the future of his community in Minnesota and the U.S., he said.

"The effort has been there for a while," he said of the youth council formed by U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones. "Holder being here is incredibly important. He wanted to meet some of the future leaders of the community."

Holder met with young people and elders, community leaders and students. He took questions and promised a commitment to civil rights, said Abdirizak Bihi, director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center whose nephew was killed in the fighting in Somalia.

Overall, Bihi said, the meeting was promising. But how well Somali concerns are addressed, "I will have to see."

Jama, however, said it is time to write a new chapter for Somali youth and America. No more should young people look upon the government with suspicion.

"This wide veil of mistrust has to go away."

Source: The Post Bulletin

My life as a Somali pirate hostage

In 2008, the Sunday Telegraph’s Chief Foreign Correspondent was kidnapped in lawless Somalia. Luckily, he lived to tell the tale…

The cave must stretch about a hundred yards into the mountain. Its mouth, which catches the sun from mid-morning to late afternoon, is as wide as a house, while its innards taper into a narrow passageway that plunges downwards into pitch darkness – a meandering, cobwebbed tunnel that grows danker and gloomier with every step.

A few days ago, on a particularly idle afternoon, the man we call the Old Bastard and some of the other guards went exploring; they must be the only potholing team in the world to carry AK47s, but no helmets or ropes. They found an exit on the far side of the mountain and walked back up the valley, triumphant, hours later. I did not share their excitement. I’d hoped never to see them again.

Forgive my malice. Plotting unpleasant ends for my captors is one of the few ways to pass the time in this grim place, where every minute seems like an hour – except for those when I’m savouring one of my precious cigarettes. Since the Old Bastard began threatening me a few days ago, I’ve had him bitten by a poisonous scorpion, struck by lightning, murdered by his own men, and eaten alive by the baboon pack down in the valley. If a rescue mission was to shoot him dead, that would be good too.

Sadly, I don’t believe that armed rescue missions are on the agenda. We are being held in a mountain range on the pirate coast of northern Somalia, stashed away like buried treasure, but without the map where “X” marks the spot. Northern Somalia is one of the remotest, emptiest places on the planet. I’ve barely seen a village, road or other human landmark since the day we were kidnapped.

Besides, even if someone did know where we were, I don’t fancy the prospect of another shoot-out in the cave. As we learnt last week, solid stone walls are terribly prone to ricochets.

My stomach is feeling queasy. Probably the result of last night’s goat stew, or possibly our drinking water, which comes out of an old diesel can. Caveman’s Belly is one of the drawbacks of modern Stone Age life, not something they ever mentioned in The Flintstones. I can’t understand how they could have left it out: with so little else to do, answering the call of nature is one of the big events of the day around here.

So, the drill: first I grab my shoes, checking for spiders, scorpions or other poisonous vermin that might have climbed in. Then, stand up, with care. Lying on a thin mattress all day, you often get dizzy when you first get to your feet. Now, off to the bathroom, or at least the spot at the back of the cave that is reserved for that kind of thing. Thankfully, we still have a few tissues. The gang has told us that we will soon have to start using sticks and rocks.

On the way back, I pause halfway down the tunnel, where a section of the rock wall runs flat and smooth. If I were a caveman living here thousands of years ago, this is where I’d paint a picture of my clan out hunting an antelope. I pick up a shard of rock. I too am going to leave my mark here, something more permanent than a few cigarette butts. What shall I draw? A matchstick-men version of the kidnappers, with José and me as the quarry? Sadly, that will take a while, and if I linger here, the gang will think I have tried to flee down the pothole. Instead, I settle for some bog-standard graffiti: “CF was here, 18/12/2008”.

I stagger back to the mattress, and tell José what I have done.

A good move: we manage to squeeze at least 10 minutes’ worth of conversation out of it. This is the longest we’ve talked for a while.

Perhaps some archaeologist will discover my scrawl here in thousands of years’ time, I say. Or perhaps some other poor hostages will be dragged up here in years to come, and add their name to mine. Or, maybe, in 10 or 20 years’ time, if Somalia becomes a safe place to visit again, I will be able to come back, hire someone to help me find this cave, and see it for myself.

If I ever get free, that is.

A month earlier

One thing you notice when flying to Somalia is that no airline risks spending much on the plane that takes you there. Daallo Airlines, which flies in from neighbouring Djibouti, lays on a rusting propeller-driven Antonov, a Soviet-era relic custom-made for the world’s less accommodating airports. The Antonov’s rugged engines need no sophisticated ground maintenance staff, yet have sufficient lift to fleahop on and off very short airstrips, which made it ideal for ferrying arms and mercenaries around during the Cold War. Sure enough, our own craft was being piloted by an unshaven Russian in a white suit and sunglasses, who looked like the Man from Del Monte gone to seed. Inside, everything except the plywood toilet cubicle was upholstered in a leopard skin pattern. Combined with the pilot’s aviator shades, it felt like clambering into the airborne equivalent of a Ford Capri.

Even getting this far was something of a triumph. After being asked by The Sunday Telegraph to report on the increase in piracy along the coast of Somalia, I’d spent the last 36 hours booking a complex chain of last-minute flights to Bossaso via Islamabad, Karachi, Dubai and Djibouti, and touring various money wire offices to withdraw $6,000 in cash. The paper trail I left would have resembled that of some terrorist on a major suicide mission.

Sat alongside me was a Spanish freelance photographer called José Cendon. All I knew about him was that he was aged 34, had black hair and a beard, and travelled under a Spanish passport number 823345 – the details he’d supplied to the office in case he wound up dead or missing during our trip.

Geography has not done Somalia many favours – its harsh, sun-scorched scrubland offers precious few natural resources, animal, vegetable or mineral. What it does offer, however, is plenty of prime locations for piracy, its coastline of 1,900 miles being the longest in Africa. Particularly well-placed is the northern region known as Puntland, which forms the lower lip of the Gulf of Aden, the channel of water that leads to Egypt’s Suez Canal and links Asia with Europe.

More than 20,000 vessels push through the Gulf every year, carrying 80 per cent of the world’s trade. Seen from a plane, the sea is flecked with vessels: sleek Arab dhows; quarter-mile-long oil tankers; Chinese and Indian freighters; the odd luxury yacht.

Seen from a pirate skiff, crewed by men from one of the poorest and most desperate nations in the world, it must seem a rich and almost limitless hunting ground.

Piracy had been a problem in these waters ever since the early Nineties, when Somalia’s government had first collapsed and the country descended into almost complete anarchy, a mosaic of clan factions who fight and pillage each other with a ferocity that defies all attempts at mediation. But since 2005 it had become much more organised, and in autumn 2008, the number of attacks had rocketed.

There’d been 70 attempted hijacks between August and November, compared to 30 for the previous year. Nobody really had a good explanation as to why; it just seemed that word had spread that piracy was an easy game to get into. Apart from a couple of motor launches, all that you needed was a few Kalashnikovs, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a hand-held GPS system and maybe a heavy machine gun, and you were in business.

There was, however, one important difference between the pirates of old and the pirates of new. Whereas the storybook buccaneers of my childhood would steal a ship’s treasure and make its crew walk the plank, today it was the opposite way round. Somali pirates weren’t really interested in the ship’s cargo. They were after the ship’s crew, whom they would take as hostages for ransom. That effectively made the pirates professional kidnappers rather than robbers.

Our aim was to try to meet one, and tell the story from his point of view. That point of view, though, would prove to be that a pair of Western journalists would make far better hostages than a few Filipino deckhands.

Each day in the cave, the routine was identical. We’d wake up to the low hum of our kidnappers’ dawn prayers, followed by the crackle of firewood being lit and the murmured exchanges with those coming off night guard duty.

Around 8am we’d have tea and smoke the first of our daily cigarette ration. And then the rest of the day would start. If you could call it that. There was, frankly, nothing to do.

Early on in our kidnapping, when our spirits were still strong, I’d vowed that if we were stuck here for weeks or months, I would use the time constructively. Daylight hours would be one long round of self-improvement. As well as mastering the basics of Somali, I would ask the gang to help me with my Arabic, and José to drill me in Spanish. I would keep fit with press-ups, and devote allotted times to careful, structured discussion with José about the great issues of the world. Combined with the mental exercise of regular chess matches, such a routine would keep us occupied, focused and healthy.

When eventually freed, we would emerge fit, erudite and multilingual, modern-day Renaissance men who’d triumphed over our primitive circumstances. It wasn’t quite working out like that.

While José and I were bone idle, the rest of the camp hummed with activity. There were round the clock rotas of cooking, cleaning, tea-making, weapons maintenance and guard duty.

The gang brought a certain ingenuity to life in the cave. They powered up their mobile phone by cutting the wall plug off a charger, paring the flex down to its bare wires and attaching them to several HP2 batteries taped together. It took most of the day to charge a phone on, but it worked.

Flavour for the cooking pot came from crystals of rock salt sourced from the nearby mountain slopes, the sort of stuff people paid a fortune for in my neighbourhood deli back home.

Bread they would make by running up a dough of flour and water, fashioning it into large, flat pancakes, and then sticking it in the embers of a fire made from brushwood. Somehow, the fine ash did not stick to the dough, and half an hour later it would be served up like naan-bread from a curry house.

It was quite palatable – unlike the cloudy beverage they concocted from the fat that rose to the top of the goat stew, which they relished as some kind of health drink. A goat smoothie.

In those first couple of weeks of captivity, we found ourselves coping better than expected. At the same time, our world shrank rapidly, as did our expectations of it. It soon felt surprisingly natural to wake up each morning on the stone floor, nod good morning to José, and contemplate another long, empty day.

Even the gang seemed relaxed. On day 12 they held a party to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Ahda, marking the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. A goat was sacrificed and cooked up, guard duty kept to a minimum, and extra prayers said all round.

Then, during the afternoon, the gang had a kind of “Puntland’s Got Talent” contest, featuring Koranic recitals, a jumping-over-a-stick game, and a press-up contest. Noticing that they were all fairly useless at press-ups – even the super-fit Sherpa – I entered myself and won with 25 in a row. It wasn’t quite Paul Newman winning the egg-eating marathon in the prison movie Cool Hand Luke, but it drew a generous round of applause anyway.

It was mid-morning on day 15. José and I were sitting out in a small, rocky hollow that led down from one side of the cave.

It was our equivalent of a stroll in a prison exercise yard, in that it got us away from the gloom of our stony cell, while still reminding us there was no chance of escape. Steep slopes surrounded us on all sides, preventing us seeing or being seen by the outside world, and there would always be a row of guards watching us from a nearby ridge, staring down like a Somali version of Mount Rushmore. There was nowhere comfortable to sit, but it was a chance to bask in the sun, smoke, and get some distance from the noisy chatter of the gang, even if it was only 20 yards.

By this time, we were running low on things to talk about. We’d done work, politics and girlfriends past and present. And we’d held endless seminars on favourite books, films and music, to the point where we’d had to introduce rationing. If we hit on a movie that we both had plenty to say about, we’d save it for the evening and expand it into a discussion about the entire genre.

That morning we were interrupted by a group of the guards returning from an expedition into the surrounding valleys. They had their guns slung over their shoulders and carried small wicker baskets in their arms, chattering gaily among themselves like a team of armed Red Riding Hoods. The guard we called Skullface – due to his resemblance to a Jolly Roger – gestured at us to come and look. He and some of the other younger guards had begun to warm to us a little, especially after my triumph in the press-ups contest.

I peered inside Skullface’s basket. It was brimming with pieces of torn-up bark, clinging to a thick white resin. He pointed to a tree growing halfway up a nearby cliff. It had a curious, stumpy trunk, bulging and grey-brown like a massive hunk of ginger, with a few spiky branches sprouting out of it. He made a chopping gesture.

“Parr-foom,” he said.

Parr-foom?

He held a piece of the bark to my nose. It had a strong antiseptic odour, like eucalyptus. It was the first clean-smelling thing I’d come across in weeks. Then I realised what Skullface was saying. Parr-foom was perfume. Later, we would learn that it was probably either myrrh or frankincense, both of which came from trees found mainly in Somalia and Yemen.

Until the invention of modern detergents, they had been in huge demand as fragrances, and to this day, they were still popular in Chinese medicine. Our hosts were probably planning to sell the stuff next time they sent a party back to civilisation to buy supplies, probably the only kidnap gang in the world with a sideline in aromatherapy.

At the time, though, I knew nothing of this, and so stuck a piece into my mouth, thinking it was some kind of gum. The Somalis guffawed. I flashed a grin all round, like a comedian breaking a winning gag with a tough audience. I didn’t mind acting the fool. If it made us harder for them to kill, like a pair of cuddly rabbits, so be it.

But our attitude changed after a particularly fraught phone conversation with Ali, our intermediary between the gang and the office in London. Apparently the pirates were incredulous that nobody had yet met their demands. New death threats were being issued.

As we’d wandered back to the cave, the elder gang member we’d begun to call the Old Bastard had sniggered and chanted “Morto”. My grasp of Italian wasn’t much better than his, but from the way he drew a finger across his throat, I had a feeling it probably meant “dead”.

Throughout our time, we’d had a steady stream of visitors to the cave. They would drop past every few days, sometimes greybearded elders, sometimes kids in their mid-teens. We guessed they were either clan emissaries bringing in news from outside, or local herders who were being paid to turn a blind eye, and whose curiosity about the hostages had to be tolerated. Many would stare at José and me like a pair of zoo exhibits.

I’d barely registered our two latest guests that day. But as they got up to leave, voices were suddenly raised. José and I looked up to see an argument in progress, the visitors jostling with Skullface and the Mirror Man. Others joined in, shoving and shouting. Then a shot rang out, deafening in the confines of the cave.

Someone, I couldn’t tell who, had pulled a pistol and fired into the roof. José and I cowered on the floor as the pair were chased out of the cave at gunpoint. Other guards came running in. The bullet had hit the cave ceiling just above our mat and ricocheted several times, carving white bite marks in the beige rock. It was a miracle that the “assets” hadn’t been hit.

Outside the cave, there were shouts. Another shot rang out, echoing around the valley, followed by what sounded like return fire. The gang were grabbing their guns and rushing outside, leaving a few to guard us.

“My God, we are going to war,” José said, as one of the gang ushered us over to a bundle of boulders just to the left of the cave’s entrance.

He’d grabbed one of the belt-fed machine guns, the bullets coiled around his neck, Rambo-style. On a clifftop overlooking us, maybe 50 metres up, we could see the outline of a man with a gun. He fired a shot in our direction, kicking up dust right next to the mat where we had been sat seconds ago. José had said he liked Sam Peckinpah movies. Now he was in the middle of one.

We huddled down amid the boulders, which was also a spot we’d been using as a toilet, with coils of evil-smelling tissue littered everywhere. Further down the slope, the gang was fanning out, directed by the Old Bastard, who was sneaking along with his gun like a Somali John Wayne. He looked in his element.

Another shot rang out. I squatted down as low as I could, trying to avoid the filthy tissue. After a couple of minutes, it felt like one of those stress positions that CIA interrogators used. For the first time since we’d been grabbed, I began wondering if we might die here. I glanced at José, who looked – for the first time – as scared as I felt. Now, we were not only prisoners, we were being fought over.

The gunfire stopped, and the gang filtered back, yakking excitedly and tracing the various bullet grazes on the cave walls.

That afternoon, they convened what looked like some sort of council of war. They took turns to say their piece, the rest listening as each man spoke uninterrupted for 10 minutes or more. We listened in too, straining to hear some recognisable nugget that might give us a clue as to what was going on. Most often it just made us nervous. Hubud or bullet, came up a lot, as did mushkilleh (problem), and sajarra (car). Could the visitors be emissaries from the pirate clan that the gang had threatened to sell us to, arguing over the price? And if so, how many more were lurking in the mountains?

Whatever was being discussed, though, I was surprised by how calm the gang seemed. At no point did anyone raise their voice in any way, nor was there any sign of tension or argument.

José reckoned that what we were seeing was the clan system at work. It was the flip side, he theorised, of all the quarrelling and feuding that had torn Somalia apart as a nation. Just as members of different clans seemed born enemies, members of the same clan were predisposed to get along. It was true that we had no way of telling whether this particular bunch were all related. But it was hard to think of any other explanation as to how they all co-operated so well.

It wasn’t just about their behaviour when under fire. It was also evident in their everyday interaction around the camp. There were endless tedious jobs to be done: guarding, cooking, cleaning, fetching, yet there was never so much as a sharp word or raised voice between them.

That night, I suggested to José that we say prayers before bed. They were for the gang’s ear, rather than the Almighty’s. I wanted them to be aware that we knew we were now in potential danger, and remind them, in case we were to be sold to new owners, that we were God-fearing souls. We knelt ostentatiously at the foot of the mat, as I said what I could remember of the Lord’s Prayer and José mumbled some Catholic incantation. None of the gang paid the slightest attention, and we retired to bed feeling slightly foolish.

As I lay smoking a cigarette, though, I began to see why people might end up believing in God. It wasn’t so much about the spiritual side, the afterlife and so on. It was more the here and now, of yearning to see that there was someone, or something, who represented justice and decency in the world. Back in Britain, we had at least had a functioning system of law and human rights, however imperfect people might say it was. Here I was getting a taste, albeit a mild one, of the misery that millions of ordinary people in Africa and elsewhere had every day of their lives.

If you lived in a country with no decent government, where thugs ruled and evil deeds went unpunished, I could see why you might believe in some higher power, taking notes on who was behaving and who wasn’t, and making plans for some judgment day. Atheism, surely, was a luxury for the comfortably off, for that upper strata of the world where mankind did a reasonable job of standing in for God.

I didn’t think I’d ever become religious, no matter how long we spent here. My atheistic instincts were far too strong. But right now I wanted a vengeful, angry God, an Old Testament type who’d melt the Old Bastard with a blast of righteous hellfire in front of all his pathetic buddies. Just as well I wasn’t cooped up with Terry Waite.

‘Kidnapped: Life as a Somali Pirate Hostage’ is published by Monday Books.

Colin will be speaking at the Telegraph Hay Festival on May 30; http://www.hayfestival.co.uk/

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Somali couple charged in S.A. with lying

Government says couple tried to thwart terror investigation.

A Somali couple have been arrested in a federal terrorism investigation in San Antonio in which the pair are alleged to have lied to FBI agents and an immigration court.

Abdullah Omar Fidse, 22, already was in custody in Texas, and his wife, Deka Abdalla Sheikh, who's in her 20s, was taken into custody Thursday in Wisconsin.

A federal grand jury in San Antonio indicted the pair Wednesday on charges of conspiring to obstruct a proceeding before a federal department or agency, and conspiracy to make false statements to the executive branch during a terrorism investigation.

Neither is charged with acts of terrorism. The indictment states that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force tried to glean whether Fidse planned any harm to the United States.

During the investigation, an undercover source secretly audio-taped Fidse on June 3, 2009, claiming that “he bought an armed technical, that is a battle vehicle with weapons, for $100,000 that was destroyed in a battle and all aboard were killed,” the indictment states.

The document doesn't say where that happened but states Fidse claimed it wasn't his voice on the recording and that the FBI manipulated the tape to make it sound like his voice.

The indictment also alleges Fidse had told another individual that he was supportive of Osama bin Laden, though Fidse denied ever making that statement.

Among the allegations are that Fidse and Sheikh, in an effort to prevent Fidse from being deported, tried to stonewall a U.S. immigration court during asylum proceedings from collecting information about Fidse's true identity and marital status; about the manner, circumstances and timing of leaving Somalia; about his actual residency before coming to the United States; and about his prior associations.

The indictment also alleges Fidse coached Sheikh about what to say during the proceedings, right down to using hand signals to get on the same page during the asylum hearing.

It further alleges the pair agreed to make false statements to throw off agents as they looked into Fidse's “potential international and domestic terrorism ties.”

Fidse was first detained by Border Patrol agents in South Texas in June 2008 and later made a bid for asylum. He was being held at an immigration detention facility in Pearsall when he was indicted.

At a hearing late Friday, Fidse listened as U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Nowak and a Somali interpreter outlined the charges. He was ordered detained pending a bail hearing June 7.

It wasn't immediately clear where or how Sheikh entered the country, but she was arrested in Madison, Wis. A federal judge there ordered her transported to San Antonio to face the charges.

The obstruction conspiracy charge carries a maximum of five years in prison. The false statements in a terrorism investigation carries a maximum of eight.The couple's arrests follow the sentencing in April in San Antonio of another Somali, Ahmed Dhakane, 25, an alleged member of Somali-based groups the government considers terrorist organizations. Prosecutors also allege he arranged from Brazil to smuggle hundreds of people, including “violent jihadists” from East Africa, into this country via Texas.

Dhakane, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison, denied those allegations, but pleaded guilty to two counts of lying to try to get asylum.

Authorities wouldn't say Friday if Fidse and Sheikh had been clients of Dhakane, or if the two cases were connected.

Source: www.mysanantonio.com

Defense lawyer says Somali client investigated under illegitimate federal law

Calling it "the most discouraging memorandum" he'd ever penned as a lawyer, a defense attorney for a woman accused of aiding terrorists asked a federal judge Thursday to stop the government from using the electronic surveillance it gathered against his client.

Defense attorney Daniel Scott contends that much of the evidence against Amina Farah Ali was gathered through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and that government agents had no reason to use a law aimed at gathering foreign intelligence to eavesdrop on the Minnesota woman.

"The government sits secure in its knowledge that it can now wiretap, video tap, search and invade the privacy of anyone in the United States for months if not years on end for basically any purpose, so long as at least a 'significant' purpose is to search for foreign intelligence," Scott wrote. "The reason for that security is that the application, authorization, and method of privacy invasion will remain forever secret from prying eyes."

Under FISA, federal agents can ask a special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for warrants to eavesdrop and collect evidence. Unlike a normal criminal case, the proceedings and affidavits are kept secret - a "Star Chamber system," Scott wrote.

"The evidence is brought in secret, its significance is determined in secret and the verdict is arrived at in secret," he wrote. "The Star Chamber system was abandoned because the secrecy led to abuses. It may well have been the catalyst for the Bill of Rights. This particular Star Chamber has not been abandoned."

Ali, 34, is one of two Rochester women charged in connection with the exodus of 20 or more men from the Twin Cities to Somalia, allegedly to fight for al-Shabaab. She and co-defendant Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 64, were indicted last July for conspiracy and three counts of making false statements to the FBI.

Ali faces 12 additional counts of providing material support to al-Shabaab. The government says that between September 2008 and July 2009, she sent $8,608 to people connected with the organization, which was fighting to seize power from a U.N.-backed transitional government in war-torn Somalia.

In all, federal authorities have charged 17 men with Twin Cities ties in connection with the exodus.

All allegedly played some role in recruiting young men to return to Africa to fight for al-Shabaab, or lied to federal agents when questioned about it.

In his motion, Scott told Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Minneapolis that there weren't enough safeguards to make sure the government was using FISA correctly, noting that agents tapped Ali's phone for 10 months, intercepted 30,000 calls and searched her garbage two times a week.

"For what purpose? To establish that she and other Somali women went door to door collecting clothing and raising some tens of thousands of dollars for relief for victims in the Somali civil war, a portion ($8,608) of which went to provide relief for one of the factions that the government had recently declared to be a terrorist group," Scott wrote.

Scott also raised the specter of whether the Somalis were being selectively prosecuted; it is the second time this month that a defense attorney has raised the issue.

"One questions whether there would be criticism of an equivalent expenditure of scarce investigative resources to go after an Irish bar that was raising an equivalent amount for the IRA," Scott wrote.

Earlier this month, the attorney representing another Somali immigrant charged with aiding al-Shabaab argued that his client was being selectively prosecuted because the government never goes after Israeli-Americans who enlist to fight for the Israeli Defense Forces.

In a reply to that, federal prosecutors said the comparison was flawed because Americans who enlist in the IDF are fighting for a government, while the men who traveled to Somalia were fighting against a government.

In asking Davis to review the propriety of the FISA warrant, Scott said that because of the secrecy surrounding the process, a judge "must adopt the role of critic, normally reserved to the advocates."

"All counsel can do is place trust in the court that the court will hold the government's feet to the fire, only approving the fruits of the wiretap interception if it is convinced that the laws and Constitution of the United States have been upheld," he wrote.

No trial date has been set.

David Hanners can be reached at 612-338-6516.

Source: The Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Marriage over the phone thrives among Somali community

The bride, 19-year-old Khatra Haret, made her way down the aisle, but there is no groom to meet her. The only people waiting by the podium are bridesmaids and a few female relatives.

It's a far cry from a traditional Somali wedding, which is usually long and intricately planned, with an array of activities that stretch over a seven-day period. Marked with pomp and pageantry, the festivities are held at the bride's home, and are designed to display the host's hospitality, warmth and culinary skills - all considered pivotal in Somali culture.

But Haret's is a modern-day Muslim marriage. With increasingly cheap cellular technology combined with a seemingly unending humanitarian crisis in Somali, a growing number of Somalis are how phoning their way down the aisle.

All the details of Haret's wedding,including the marriage proposal, the acceptance and even the dowry payment, were done via phone, Haret said, without her knowledge.

Haret said her mother, Kusa Onle, spent three days planning the ceremony with the groom's family, before Haret was even told what was going on. Over the course of just 11 days, Haret said, her dream of studying sociology at a local university was dashed. Now, she said, her biggest worry is how she will manage a marriage to a 46-year-old cleric who lives in Canada.

Haret and her family settled in Nairobi in 2001 after fleeing war in Somalia.

There has been a surge in "phone marriages" in Somali communities in the recent years. As more Somali men leave Africa to find work abroad, unmarried young women become financial liabilities for their parents. In most phone marriage cases, parents marry their daughters off to supplement their income, as long as their daughters remain in their homes.

The men often spend three-quarters of the year overseas. Some are in constant communication with their in-laws, and send regular remittances to help pay the bills. Many men dream of building up a savings account that will one day fund a new business at home in Africa.

Most phone marriages are facilitated by families - including supervision by a hawk-eyed mother of the bride - who want an economic gain. The groom follows the order of events, thousands of miles away, from the comfort of his own home.

As a long-simmering humanitarian crisis continues in Somalia, suitors who live abroad are welcomed by families as a steady source of income, even by families who live in neighboring Kenya.

The legality of the union is guaranteed when the families observe a set of conditions, including the presence of two witnesses and the bride's father, and the payment of a dowry, said Mohammed Swalihu, an imam at Jamia mosque in Nairobi.

Swalihu, whose office issues marriage certificates, added that a representative of the groom should be present to oversee the engagement ceremony.

“Should the three elements be observed, the marriage becomes legal and binding,” he said. “The contract does not have to be written. It can be verbal and will have the full force of (Islamic law)."

Right now, Swalihu said, his mosque is asked to register about eight phone marriages every month. He expects that number to increase.

“The procedure is cost-effective for the groom in the current economic crisis and many people are taking up this new phenomenon to escape unnecessary expenses and cost,” said Abdul Qani, who married the mother of his twin boys when he was in London two years ago. The ceremony took place via telephone.

Even among the poorest Somali refugees, phone marriages are becoming more popular. About 350,000 Somali refugees live at Kenya's squalid Dadaab refugee camp, said Emmanuel Nyabera, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Mohammed Abdi-Odhowa, a 54-year-old refugee based in Dadaab, said cheap mobile phones make it easy to communicate across continents.

"As an elder, I was was once called to witness (an) engagement ceremony over the phone," Odhowa said.

Odhowa said he was startled at first, but then realized that phone marriages are an effective way for Somalis to work around the realities of economic hardship.

Even so, Haret said, success stories are rare. Suspicions of infidelity quickly set in because of the distance.

On the day of her wedding, Haret solemnly held her bouquet of flowers and gazed and the pile of gifts laid before her.

She said she doesn't believe her union will prosper.

“I’m literally being sold out,” she said.

As she left the rented hall, an entourage of women sang about the marital bliss ahead of her.

Source: United Press International, Inc

South Korean court jails four Somali pirates

A Somali pirate has been jailed for life by a South Korean court, after being convicted of the attempted murder of the captain of a hijacked ship.

Mahomed Araye was one of several Somalis seized in January when South Korean special forces stormed a cargo ship hijacked in the Arabian Sea.

Another man was sentenced to 15 years; two others received 13-year terms.

The trial marks the first attempt by South Korea - a major seafaring nation - to punish foreign pirates.

The court in the port city of Busan ruled that only Araye had been involved in the shooting of Capt Seok Hae-Kyun, who is still recovering in hospital.

Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for Araye, and life imprisonment for his accomplices, saying the pirates had used the captive crew as human shields during the raid by South Korean forces.

Eight pirates were killed and five were arrested during the mission to recapture the South Korean-owned Samho Jewelry on 15 January, six days after it was seized.

Defence lawyers argued the ballistic evidence linking Araye to the shooting of the captain was thin, and that no one saw him fire.

In the course of the trial, prosecutors also said that a British man working in the insurance industry contacted the Samho shipping company shortly after the kidnapping, allegedly to broker a possible deal with the hijackers.

A fifth suspect is being tried separately, and will be sentenced next week.

The Gulf of Aden, between Yemen and Somalia, is one of the world's busiest shipping routes and has become a hotspot for pirate attacksSource: BBC News

Somali Lawmaker Urges Foreign Nations to Rehabilitate Pirates

A lawmaker from the Transitional Federal Parliament of Somalia has said foreign nations should use part of the 12 million U.S. dollars that navies spend yearly in patrolling the Somali coastline in rehabilitating pirates as a way of ending the threat.

Awad Ahmed Ashareh, who is also the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Information, Culture, Public Awareness and Heritage, told Xinhua on Wednesday that despite this show of might, 450 ships and 500 crew members are under the control of Somali pirates thereby rendering it an exercise in futility. "Piracy cannot be fought by use of force. It is a dangerous occupation the young men are embarking on due to lack of alternative and which can only be solved from the hinterland of Somalia," he said in Nairobi. "To fully eradicate the menace from the waters of Somalia requires enormous sums of money that will go towards creating employment and the psychological rehabilitation of the pirates conducted by Islamic scholars."

He said dumping of toxic waste and illegal fishing of the Somali coast are the genesis of piracy, with the pirates saying the ransom they demand goes towards cleaning up the waste.

"The pirates believe the Somali coastline has been destroyed, and this money is nothing compared to the devastation they have seen on the seas," the Somali lawmaker added.

Source: Xinhua

Somali authorities seize pirate ransom money

Somali authorities on Tuesday detained six foreigners and seized two aircraft and 3.6 million dollars in cash they were carrying, assuming that the money was a planned ransom payment to pirates, said NGO Ecoterra, citing Somali police sources.

The two US citizens, two Britons and two Kenyans were arrested at Mogadishu's Aden Adde international airport after their aircraft made an unscheduled stop due to a shortage of fuel.

The Somali transitional government does not approve of the payment of ransoms for piracy, which is rampant off the shores of the chaos-ridden country. The government said it called an emergency meeting, adding that the money was taken to the Central Bank of Somalia for safekeeping.

Citing informed sources, Ecoterra stated that the money was probably intended for the release of the Egyptian-owned MV Suez and the Chinese-owned MV Yuan Xiang and their crews.

The government did not make any statements as to how it would help obtain the release of the many ships and their personnel held off the Somali coast.

The NGO estimates that there are currently at least 44 ships and almost 700 crewmembers being held by pirates off Somalia.

Source:

Somali Forces Hit Rebel Positions

Amid heavy gun battles, African Union peacekeepers and Somali government forces hit a rebel stronghold in Mogadishu on Monday.

Regaining control of the heavily populated Bakara market is critical to flushing the al Qaeda-affiliated militants out of Mogadishu.

But analysts warn the fight is likely to be hard and messy.

Several strategically important streets have been seized from the al Shabaab insurgents.

Among these - Wadnaha Road. It's seen as a critical supply route into the market.

[Mohamed Hassan, Deputy Military Commander]: "The fighting continues into the third day as you can see and we captured Wadnaha Road and more bases from this radical group of al-Shabaab."

Residents report African Union tanks deployed at the southern edge of the market.

Military helicopters have also been seen flying low over rebel bases in the past few days.

The African Union mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, says it will not battle its way through Bakara.

Instead they'll try to squeeze the insurgents out to protect traders and their property.

At least 22 Al Shabaab operatives are said to be dead with scores injured. The AMISOM forces have suffered one fatality and eight injured peacekeepers.

[Major Paddy Ankunda, AMISOM Spokesman]: "So, 22 al Shabaab were killed, we lost one soldier and eight, were wounded."

Considered by Washington as al Qaeda's proxy in the region, al Shabaab is fighting to topple the U.N. backed government.

Somalia has been plagued by violence and anarchy since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 and has had no effective government since.

Western security agencies say the country has become a safe haven for Islamist militants, who are using it to plot attacks across the region and beyond.

Source: New Tang Dynasty Television

Somali refugees in Italy demonstrate over poor living standards

Reports from the Italian city of Firenze indicate that scores of Somali refugees there on Tuesday held demonstrations in the city in protest over poor living standards.

The demonstrators, including women and children, called on the international community to help them leave Italy, where they said they have been experiencing hard living conditions.

“We are demonstrating here to try to attract the attention of the world so that the international community may have full understanding of the terrible living standards we have,” a demonstrator, Fardowa Ighe, told a gathering.

Meanwhile, the Somali ambassador to Italy, Nur Hassan Hussein, said that Somali refugees in Italy are living under hard circumstances and need a change of living conditions.

“When they were leaving from Somalia their dream was to get a better life than that in homeland, but that did not happen—so many of them came to the Somali embassy demanding to be repatriated home,” the Somali diplomat said in an interview with the VOA Somali service on Wednesday.

He said that his embassy will look for a lasting solution for the Somali refugees in Italy who are complaining about poor living conditions.

Thousands of desperate Africans, mostly from Somalia, annually enter Italy, which they use as a gateway to England and Scandinavian countries in search of better lives and jobs. The refugees reach Italy on smuggling boats across the Mediterranean Sea.

Source: www.allheadlinenews.com

Edmonton, Canada: Family of homicide victim frustrated by case

No charges laid yet after Somali man beaten to death

The family of a young Edmonton man who died after being severely beaten last week are frustrated no charges have been laid.

Yusuf Abdirahim, a 20-year-old Somali-Canadian, was found by police unconscious on the boulevard at 149th Avenue and 70th Street, near Londonderry Mall, around 3 a.m. last Thursday.

He is the city's 12th Somali-Canadian man to be killed in the past three years.

He was taken to hospital, where he died Saturday morning. Abdirahim’s death was the latest in a series of homicides involving young Somali-Canadian men in the city over the past several years.

In broken English and with the help of an interpreter, Farida Adam said she was frustrated by a lack of information offered by detectives investigating her son’s murder. She pointed to a nearby laptop, saying she has been watching and reading media reports since the attack happened, hungry for any new detail.

Adam immigrated to Canada from Somalia in 1999. She lived in Edmonton before eventually moving to Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto. She got on a plane to Edmonton as soon as she learned her son was attacked. Since last week, she has been staying with a cousin at a northeast townhouse, and said she’ll stay until she has some answers.

Edmonton police have spoken to witnesses, including a man involved in the incident. Detectives are not looking for any other suspects, a police spokesman said Wednesday.

Adam said she was told that police have not taken anyone into custody.

“At night time I can’t sleep,” she said, her voice tired. “I’m too stressed. We want justice.”

Her son travelled four days by train to visit her in Etobicoke three weeks ago, Adam said. During the visit, he told her he was working to become a certified mechanic and promised he would move back to Toronto within months.

“He said, ‘We’ll have everything, mom. Don’t worry,’” Adam said.

Her son returned to Edmonton on May 6. His funeral was held Wednesday afternoon.

Abdirahim’s sister, 18-year-old Hamida Abdirahim, came back to Edmonton a day after her brother did, to look for employment and work toward finishing her education.

She didn’t have the opportunity to see him before he was killed.

“He was a really good brother,” she said. “He was protective and he was always there for me.”

She said her family want to see someone held responsible for the death.

“We just want to know why it happened,” she said.

For Adam, the idea that she fled with her children from Somali in search of a safer life only to have her son beaten to death, is hard to comprehend.

“What do I want? Just answers,” Adam said. “My son is lost already. He’s not coming back.”

His death marked the city’s 23rd homicide this year.

mibrahim@edmontonjournal.com

Source: The Edmonton Journal