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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Saudi Arabia, UK to work on Somalia problem


RIYADH: The United Kingdom, a major donor to African nations, has pledged to work closely with Saudi Arabia and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to solve a plethora of problems facing African countries, especially Somalia and Sudan.

The pledge was made by Henry Bellingham, British undersecretary for Africa, here Saturday evening after holding talks with senior Saudi officials including Nizar Obaid Madani, minister of state for foreign affairs.

Bellingham, whose areas of responsibilities include Britain’s overseas territories, Africa and the United Nations, said the Kingdom has assured participation and support to a major donor conference for Somalia to be hosted by London on Feb 23. Bellingham’s visit to Saudi Arabia, which coincides with the summit of African Union leaders in Addis Ababa, was aimed at holding consultations with the Kingdom and other Gulf states on issues affecting the African continent as a whole.

Bellingham was speaking about his talks with Saudi officials with special reference to the London donor conference. He said the UK had been working with African countries, particularly Somalia and Sudan, to restore peace and security. “We know that young British jihadis are also being trained in Somalia,” admitted the British undersecretary, while referring to the problems posed by the Al-Shabab extremist group in the country. “A large number of vessels were also captured by Somali pirates at sea for ransom … but we know that the figures are declining,” said Bellingham.

He called for Saudi and international support for Somalia, adding the Kingdom is a key regional player and a very important partner for Britain.

“We have invited Saudi Arabia to the London conference on Somalia,” said Bellingham. To this end, it is important to note that Saudi Arabia recently donated $60 million in aid to help the people with food and medicine. This is in addition to 500 million euros pledged by an emergency aid summit that took place in Istanbul late last year.

Referring to the situation in Somalia, Bellingham said extremist group Al-Shabab has been involved in several plots including the bomb attack in Somalia recently that killed 70 people. He said the London Conference on Somalia will articulate the unified determination and commitment of the key international actors on the formation of sovereign and effective governance in Somalia so that all corollary problems can be taken care off.

Asked about the Kingdom’s support to London’s initiative for Somalia and other African countries, Bellingham said: “We are very keen to have the support of Saudi Arabia … this country has a better experience in de-radicalizing extremist elements.”

He lauded the Saudi experience in counseling and rehabilitating terrorists and deviants. He observed cooperation between Somali militants and pirate gangs is growing as Al-Shabab becomes more desperate for funding

He also hoped for support from the African Mission for Somalia. “We believe Somali people have suffered for a long time and it is time we work together to alleviate this suffering that has condemned them to poverty and refugee camps,” he said. Somalia is a member of the Arab League and the international community, which have the responsibility to help and see the country come out from the ruins of war, he added.

Meanwhile, the UK Embassy in Riyadh announced that a delegation of 20 businesses from the UK’s southeast and southwest regions will visit Alkhobar, Jeddah and Riyadh from Feb. 4 to 8 as part of a multi-sector and health care market visit organized by UK Trade & Investment, the UK government’s support organization for companies wishing to internationalize their business.

The companies will be supported by UK Trade & Investment at the British Embassy, which will host a reception in both Riyadh and Alkhobar to allow local businesses to meet the UK companies during their five-day visit. The specific health care group will be visiting Jeddah and Riyadh. The British companies are already making appointments in advance of their arrival and are looking to identify business opportunities and develop long-term partnerships.

The group covers a wide range of products and services including construction industry software, a wide range of education and training services, health care products and diabetes management, glass interior design products, marine and aviation uniforms, military seating, road security barriers, project and program management solutions, key security systems and valves. Many of the companies are new to the Saudi market and are aiming to establish strong business ties for the future.

Source: Arab News

Monday, January 30, 2012

World Turns Blind-Eye to Somaliland's Savage Aggressions

What is painfully clear to all Somalis is the international community's deafening silence on Somaliland's savage attacks against Buhodle.

It is the painful sight of the young children. Some boys and girls look as young as 6 or 8 years of age. They were wounded during Somaliland's savage aggression against Buhodle district - military aggressions that began in February 2011, then again in May 2011, and now during the first month of 2012. The repeated Somaliland violent onslaught targeting Buhodle district and its inhabitants - including the mothers and their children - has forced thousands of nomadic clansmen to take up arms and courageously defend their liberty and their right to self-determination.

Indeed, those children did not commit any crime, perhaps other than to belong to a particular clan and region of Somalia that has become a target for Somaliland. In looking at the heart-breaking photographs of wounded civilians transferred to a hospital in Puntland's city of Galkayo, one aches to comprehend the reason and cause that motivates Somaliland's deep hatred and inherent complexities that lead to the committing of war crimes against civilian populations in Buhodle. In October 2007, when Somaliland seized Las Anod city, the situation was different: Las Anod was betrayed by her own sons, who allowed Somaliland forces to march in to the city and displace upwards of 50,000 civilians, according to UN estimates. But in Buhodle, despite bribing local officials, Somaliland has failed to infiltrate Buhodle society in a similar fashion to events in Las Anod. Each time the bribing effort failed, Somaliland provided even more bribes hoping that the situation would magically transform into the Hargeisa regime's favor. When all the exponentially increasing bribes did not bring results, Somaliland's tyrannical leaders who engaged in the 1990s genocides in northern Somalia could not believe their eyes - that the people of Buhodle are willing to die to defend their liberty and their right to self-determination. No man on earth has a right to impose a political or religious idea on any person or community.

It was the people of Somaliland, who in the 1980s, led the SNM struggle to liberate the northwestern cities of Hargeisa and Burao from the iron grip of the Barre dictatorship. The SNM and its supporters claimed the right to self-determination. Today, as if that memory was irrelevant, it is Somaliland's SNM leadership that has overlooked recent history and is now behaving in manner similar to the Barre regime. If Somaliland had warplanes, it can be argued that Somaliland would have conducted airstrikes against Buhodle.

The reason for Somaliland's repeated attacks against Buhodle is easy for any Somali to understand. The Isaaq-dominated Somaliland regime cannot fathom - and indeed their ego cannot accept - that a single Darod sub-clan (Dhulbahante) is able to face-off against the entire might of the Isaaq-dominated Somaliland forces. In all of Somaliland's savage attacks on Buhodle, Somaliland forces lost again and again - both manpower and equipment. We send our condolences to the young Somali men who were sent to their graves in Buhodle by power-hungry SNM politicians in Hargeisa who are still thirsty for the spilling of more blood in order to satisfy their ego damaged by inherent complexities.

In Somali minds, this reading of Somaliland's war losses damages the morale and self-perception of being "better" than fellow Somalis - and particularly the Darod whom Somaliland falsely brands as the foot soldiers of Barre dictatorship. Still, the resentment, enmity, hostility and hatred goes back even deeper into history, dating back to the anti-colonial struggle.

What is painfully clear to all Somalis is the international community's deafening silence on Somaliland's savage attacks against Buhodle. What Somaliland could not accomplish with policy, they will never accomplish with a gun. Every community in Somalia is armed. Despite all efforts to look like a "nation" it is very clear to Somalis what clans the families of deceased soldiers belong to. All Somalis fully know about the funerals at Somali homes in Hargeisa and Burao. All Somalis fully know what clan resides in Hargeisa and Burao. A few hired politicians, such as the unashamed warmonger from Las Anod Mr. Ahmed Abdi Habsade, will never constitute a legitimate representative of the aspirations of Dhulbahante people. The likes of Mr. Habsade is of lesser value than how Somaliland's views the Isaaq politicians who are part of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia.

The international community is recommended to immediately intervene and demand Somaliland stop its savage aggressions. The people of Buhodle have proven with their blood that they do not wish to be part of any separation from Somalia. That separation can never come at the high cost of blood and violent imposition where people's liberty and self-determination is taken away.

Secondly, Somaliland is reminded that the people of Buhodle are part of a larger Somali community that resides all over Somalia - in neighboring Puntland, in Galgadud region of central Somalia, and the Jubbaland regions of Somalia's deep south. What is happening in Buhodle quite clearly is a clan war - and if this clan war does not cease immediately, then this clan war might expand and ignite a bigger war that destabilizes the entire Somalia - and particularly Puntland-Somaliland regions of northern Somalia that have experienced stability for years.

Thirdly, the shameful warmongers who post online opinions and false information to mislead the world are reminded that the truth can never be hidden or silenced. Somaliland's savagery in Buhodle is now exposed - and history will demand answers.

And finally, Somaliland's SNM leadership has failed the people of Somaliland. International recognition as an independent country is not coming. Every time Somaliland looses politically, the Hargeisa regime changes the people's focus to the historic "enemy" - indeed a perceived enemy - to the east. This is shameful politics in the 21st century. There is now growing concern that battle losses, both politically and militarily, is widening internal discord in Hargeisa as Somaliland's aging leader Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo allows his ultra-powerful clan-cousin Mr. Hersi Haji Ali Hassan and allies like SNM warmonger and Kulmiye party chairman Mr. Muse Bihi conduct a policy of extremist violence to settle old scores. Internal discords includes the ongoing dispute between Somaliland President Silanyo and Vice President Abdirahman Abdullahi Saylici, a dispute attributed to Mr. Hersi and which is widely reported by Somaliland media, and even compared to the notorious TFG political disputes.

The world should pay attention.

Source: AllAfrica

Solutions: London Somali Conference & Somalia and Somaliland

The British Prime Minster, David Cameron announced that his government will be holding a conference on Somalia in London on 23rd February 2012 which will discuss a wide range of issues including:

Enhancing Security and Stability.Tackling Islamic Extremism and Piracy.Addressing the root causes of the Somali conflict.Agreeing on coordinated international package of support for Somalia’s regions.

Whilst, there have been a number of conferences held to revive the Somali state and install a working government in Somalia this is the first of its kind to bring all Somali stakeholders as well as important world leaders and Non-Governmental Organisations together, outside of the region. Moreover, the London conference proposes a substantially broader and arguably more focussed agenda, as set out above.

It offers all parties and stakeholders, exceptional opportunities in driving progressive change towards peace, security and stability. A negative outcome for either of the principle protagonists particularly and Somaliland, also presents the great risk of inadvertently escalating and widening the risk of regional instability, in a way not imagined by the international community. As hard as it is to believe for outsiders, the nightmare of South Central can actually get worse. Anticipation of the outcomes of the London conference has already raised the temperature in the Somali polity, both in country and across the various international diasporas. This article is an attempt to chart a way forward for Somalis and generate practical ideas/recommendations.

It is clear that piracy and extremism are the driving force for the London conference, with every other consideration, essentially a secondary afterthought, as they most directly impinge upon western economic and security interests. Particularly, Britain is worried that the impact may be felt on its streets as it hosts large Somali diaspora. However, it would be a mistake to give priority to these two subjects over the root causes of the conflict. Any outcome that does not address this will be patchy and unsatisfying. Piracy and extremism are not the causes of the Somali civil war but they are the product of it, and as long as the Somalis are engaged in civil strife the obvious implications would be a raise of piracy and extremism in the region.

Clearly the establishment of a viable working government which is able to exert its authority across the country would be a major step forward in security and stability. But the extent that this will happen will largely depend upon the agreements of this conference. Will it address the stark realities on the ground? Will it open up “new roads”? Will it facilitate an amicable negotiated settlement between Somaliland and Somalia? These are the obstacles and the barriers that sectionalise and fragment Somalis. A clear understanding of the existing conditions and the past failed conferences should result not of similar actions or outcomes. The culmination of cultural influences, tribal rivalries, individualistic ambitions and a bloody civil war rendered Somalis incapable of reconciling their respective positions with the practical way forward. So the issue of security and stability in Somalia has to be looked at in a two tier approach i.e., Somalia and Somalia and Somaliland.


Apart from the failure of the Somalia’s politicians, traditional elders, religious figures and intellectual group, the single most important reason why Somalia remained in conflict for over twenty years, is the international community’s inability to coordinate its policies and test them against tangible results. The policies thus far were aimed at achieving limited and short term objectives. Every government of the international community was taking its own measures in accordance with its own interests, and was happy to deal with any group that could assist the realisation of these objectives. Even the current military intervention was not well coordinated between the alliances from the beginning. Therefore, a close cooperation between the interested groups in handling the Somali affairs is essential. International community must coordinate its funding, military operations and its engagement with the representatives of the Somali people.

The UN and the other NGOs in Nairobi have failed on all these accounts, and as a direct consequence of their actions threatened the security of Somaliland and the stable places in Somalia. By engaging with anyone who claims the authority of his people and providing funds without accountability created the impression that establishing a mini state would generate more income for development in that area or offer an opportunity to fulfil leadership ambition.

Direct funding to Somalis and the Somali government should be conditioned upon positive results. They should not be used to create insecurity in the region. Also authority should not be extended to anyone who mobilises a few henchmen and the diaspora to cause instability. Pressure must be brought to bear on the Transitional Government to observe and reinforce security, and not deal with those who intend to destabilise the peaceful parts of the country or in Somaliland. The TFG is quick to extend a hand of friendship and treat as a representative to anyone from Somaliland, who opposes the Somaliland’s right to self-determination with violent means. That is not a good way to create harmony among Somalis.

The working relationship between the TFG and the other regional administrations must be improved. There has to be a clear picture of what Somalia should look like in their minds so that it becomes easier to see where the converging point is. Although they are all busy with fighting Al-Shabab, there is no guarantee that they all agree upon how Somalia should be run. The divisions may become more apparent when the unifying threat evaporates. This is even more critical for counter-terrorism and counter-piracy. Until now some regional administrations considered their economic interests to be aligned with piracy and allowed the pirates to operate in their areas at will. This is where the provisions of regional financial assistance that is dependent upon good governance and regional development becomes very important. In many ways, the introduction of a Joint Financial Management Board with the ability to scrutinise where/who is getting funds and how they are being spent is a very welcome idea.

These are remedies to increase the chances of recovery but as to the prevention of piracy, eradication of extremism and the mitigation of natural disasters, more far-reaching in its implication is the proper lack of authority in the country. Somaliland has shown, with functioning government, that these could be prevented or mitigated. In 1993, the extremists first attempted to set up a training camp in Somaliland but Mohammed Ibrahim Egal’s government raided their camps, confiscated their equipment and disbanded them. Somaliland fights piracy and has made it impossible for pirates to operate on its shores. The recent famine that has devastated Horn of Africa affected Somaliland too but the aid agencies had unhindered access and the government was in a good position to organise a relieve effort. These are clear evidence that proper authority works but achieving it in Somalia is proving to be a difficult challenge. This is why there is an urgent need for addressing the root causes of the conflict and settling the issue of Somaliland and Somalia.

Somalia and Somaliland

Most from Somalia would unhesitatingly cry out for Somali unity but their vision is coloured by twenty years of conflict to the extent that they have developed amnesia about how they got here in the first place. Somalia has never been internally united. After the initial emotionally charged euphoria of the unlawful union of the 1960, the real structures of the Somali way of life had emerged. As I mentioned in detail in another article, the cultural tribal formation of the Somali people means there has never been a natural bondage between the Somalis. Distrust and suspicion always replace the shared commonalities.

Somaliland people remember the civil war, the brutal legacy of the Siad Barre’s regime, the economic and intellectual oppression, the violation of their basic human dignity and the ethnic cleansing. These are grim memories which awaken opposition to remarriage with Somalia. If Somalia and Somaliland do not come to a negotiated settlement, it is more than probable that they may go to war again. The sense of uncertainty has already been exploited by those individuals who (with their short-sighted views and interests) are intent on piling new problems on top of the existing ones in the region. Somaliland is driven by grass root support and politicians risk their careers if they are seen to be accepting something detrimental to Somaliland’s independence. That support is the pillar and the guardian of the Somaliland’s existence. Given the confidence and the convictions of the Somaliland people in their independence, something has to give and that can only mean war or separation.

Charles De Gaul once said, “History does not teach fatalism. There are moments when the will of a handful of free men breaks through determinism and opens up new roads”. The Somali conference in London must think boldly and seek to find a new road. Somalis must understand they are rebuilding a nation from scratch and for the sanity of their children and the future generations accept that the conditions are against Somali unity. Therefore, peaceful coexistence in a two state solution is the only viable option. However, to give a chance to those who still dream about gaining Somali unity one day, the Somaliland recognition should be given on the following conditions:

A referendum must be held for Somaliland succession in thirty years’ time. This is to give the people an opportunity to cast their votes in a less emotionally charged atmosphere.The respective two states should treat their respective peoples as citizens of their own in respect of movement, residence, trade and business until the referendum takes place. Only voting should be excluded unless proven the person resided the said country for three years continuously and this should only apply in local and presidential elections but not in the referendum. This is to foster closeness and a sense of belonging between the two nations so when the referendum comes, the result is a representation of measured individual judgement.Somaliland must assist Somalia in its search for peace and form a close cooperation with her.

Both countries must establish a common historical narration (which is impartial and truthful) to teach their school children so that the young generations learn from the mistakes of their fathers.

By Ismail Ibrahim

Kenya court charges imam linked by UN to Somali Islamists with weapons possession

Kenyan court officials have charged an Islamic religious leader who is an open advocate of Somali militants with possession of weapons and conspiring to commit murder.

Abdi Rogo Mohammed was arrested Sunday by Kenyan police after they said they found a cache of weapons in his house.

Prosecutor Samson Kiptum said Monday that Mohammed did not have a firearms certificate and was concealing a rifle, ammunition, two hand grenades, two pistols and 102 bomb detonators at his house in the Kenyan coastal district of Kilifi.

Mohammed’s wife says the weapons were planted at his home.

A U.N. report said last year that Mohammed is an open advocate of Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militia.

He is currently on bail for other weapons-related offenses. Bail in the new case was denied and Mohammed will be in jail until Feb. 13, when his case is due to resume.

Source: The Associated Press

The Pseudo-Democratic State of Somaliland Is on the Verge of Collapse

Somaliland has enjoyed a relative degree of stability for the last 20 years, despite intermittent tribal conflicts and political tension that remain and is still simmering in the east and the west of the country. The problem originated from unbalanced ethnic-based consociation, inequality and discrimination created and left unresolved for a long time by the so-called politicians within the government.

Today’s statesmen, who are comprised of yesteryears henchmen of Siad Barre and a group of SNM guerrillas of yesterday, have incited the tribes each other for they have implanted the seeds of hatred, mistrust and suspicion between them by using divide and rule policy. They have pampered certain clans by providing them government jobs, contracts, community capacity building projects and infrastructure, which are only limited to Hargeysa, Burco and Berebera.

These development programs were granted in order to get political support from them; while, on the hand, other clans were marginalized and even deprived of their constitutional rights as citizens.

The Tribes in either end of Somaliland, as a result, have complained of brutal discrimination by the Isaaq rule, who dominate 80% of the administration.

For example, key ministerial posts such as: Interior minister, finance and foreign affairs were appointed to Isaaq, as they have also taken high-ranking officials in the Army, Police and Navy, including the two chairmen of the upper and the lower house. Above all, even the president is the same stock.

The authorities of Somaliland did not respond to these complaints as yet, nor will they endorse it wholeheartedly to make corrections in the future. But their silence, apparently, implies that they are not ready to do any better when it comes to inequality and the power sharing which are the key issues and the core of the problem.

Government officials, on one hand, brag about, how they have succeeded to thwart peace and stability in the country, the achievement they have made in the democratization process and other catch phrases intended to grab the world attention, in order to get recognition from the international community, specially, when they go to Europe and the West for official visits. While, On the other hand, people in ASG (Awdal, Salal, Gabiley) and SSC regions believe that Somaliland didn’t deserve international recognition at present, as long as there are barbaric crimes against humanity in the country.

A good example of this is the genocide that took place in Kalabaydh and Seemaal recently. In addition, they believe that Somaliland’s secession from Somalia is nothing more than a fool’s paradise and a Pseudo-democratic state run by an ill-fated coalition of an aggressive bunch of SNM tribal chauvinists and the erstwhile terror tools (Nabadsugid) of the late dictator of Somalia, Siad Barre.

Due to, these political and ideological differences between the tribes in Somaliland, people in ASG and SSC regions have announced autonomous states, which are totally separate from Somaliland. Each region formed a government consisting of a president, cabinet ministers and an ad hoc executive committee dedicated reunion with of Somalia soon.

Consequently, Somaliland has attached Buuhoodle, a province in Khaatumo state, last week, killed dozens of civilians and wounded others among them elderly people, women and children.

In retaliation, SSC militia attached Somaliland forces, killed many and recaptured a vast area in Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions for the last couple of days that was in the hands of Somaliland previously and the war is still ongoing.

In Awdal region, nothing of political significance has occurred, but it is believed that the people in this area are engaged in accumulation of arms and army to get the control f their land and put Somaliland in the garbage. Somaliland has, indeed, sustained political setback after these two groups, who has gained momentum ever since, have proclaimed their unconditional unification with Somalia and formed separate governments from Somaliland.

Further, the president of Somaliland, Mr. Siilaanyo and his vice-president Mr. Saylici, who is from ASG are reportedly in loggerhead on matters relating to the political scenario of the country, the constitutional rights, for the existing one is insignificant as it was tailored to the choice of the late president Cigal, as well as the power sharing.

Finally, Awdal and khaatumo states await the forthcoming apocalypse upon Somaliland and its disintegration soon; whereas Somaliland looks forward recognition from the international community. In my opinion, unless Somaliland acts now to mend the strained relations of all tribes, and share the power justly between the them, then, all is lost.

Source: The Dilla Press

Briefing Note on UK Conference Preparatory Meeting

United Nations, Conference Room 3, Nairobi

January 10, 2012

UK Introduction:

UK reintroduced the objectives of this conference: to galvanize international engagement, to inject fervor, to take stock on current progress. UK affirmed several times that this was not a conference that was intended to disrupt Roadmap efforts or to establish a parallel process.

Non Paper on the Political Track:

All parties acknowledged that this paper was written before the Garowe Principles were signed by the Somali stakeholders and as a result, many of its suggestions were moot. TFG OPM said that the London Conference should support the Somali decisions in the Garowe Principles. TFG also emphasized that Somalia was finished with transitions and interim political arrangements, and August 2012 was going to be the start of permanent government.

While all international community representative supported the Garowe Principles and affirmed that they did not want to see any new constructs, they did call for the following things:

By February, they would need to see visible signs of progress such as steps towards completion of the constitution, mechanisms in place for selection of the NCA and the new parliament. (USA)
Operationalization of the Garowe Principles and greater concensus around it. For example, broader participation in the Garowe Principles, i.e., support from elders, civil society, youth, etc. (Sweden)

Clarity around how we were going to avoid having the current political issue of the two speakers taint or pollute the London Conference? (France)

Deputy SRSG outlined his hopes for the London Conference to be a stock-taking exercise and a discussion on the resources required. He outlined these five areas:

1.Security consolidation

2.Governance, in terms of accountability but also in terms of administrative capability in managing the newly recovered areas.

3.Implementation of the new constitution

4.Elections – not just at the end of the next 4 year period, but consistently during these four years at the district/regional level. This will allow Somalis to build up their know-how, develop census, etc. (Last Somali election was in 1960)

5.International community’s involvement – the future of AMISOM, engagement of the UN, the Trust Fund arrangement, etc.

TFG OPM affirmed the territorial integrity of Somalia and raised the question of Somaliland and the UK’s intentions on this topic at the London Conference. UK affirmed their support for the territorial integrity of Somalia, reassured the group that the UK has not recognized Somaliland’s independence, but they did think that Somaliland had a lot to contribute towards Somalia’s future. They did confirm that Somaliland has been invited to attend the conference.

TFG Office of the President also expressed concern about the discrepancy between the UK non-paper’s interim period and the Garowe Principles. Simultaneously, they presented a position paper that includes recommendations on Reconciliation (e.g., facilitating a Somali-led effort, bringing Somaliland to the table), Security (e.g., rebuilding Somali forces, lifting UN arms embargo) and Financial Management (e.g., creating an independent Joint Financial Management Board). A copy is attached.

Non-Paper on Supporting Military Efforts in Somalia:

TFG OPM asked the group to support the NSSP, into which both the TFG and the international community had already poured a great deal of effort and resource.

TFG Ambassador to Kenya affirmed that Somalia condemns the pirates and asked the international community to condemn illegal fishing in Somali waters. A small discussion on the topic of the EEZ commenced, with the TFG OPM reemphasizing that the Cabinet of Ministers and the Somali Parliament have removed this topic from the Roadmap. It was agreed to take this topic offline.

AU gave a small update on the recent AU Peace and Security Committee meeting, affirming that they are working on defining the new resources and force enablers needed.

USA called for more donors to engage in supporting AMISOM and the TFG Forces as the resources base was too narrow.

Non-Paper on Financial and Asset Management in Somalia:

The discussion centered around the need to come up with clear TOR for the Joint Management Financial Board prior to the February Conference, answering difficult questions such as the relationship between this body and the new Parliament (i.e., whether this body’s decisions would have to be ratified by Parliament?)

Non-Paper on Promoting Local Stability in Somalia:

In introducing this topic, the UK emphasized the importance of supporting local development and stability, while avoiding balkanization and fragmentation. They emphasized the importance of the principle of “do no harm” when injecting cash into local environments.

TFG OPM emphasized that given the political nature of these efforts, the TFG would be the ideal party to coordinate these efforts. The TFG has developed a principles guiding the TFG are:

(1) Promoting social reconciliation and setting up political administrations

(2) Restoring law and order and justice

(3) Containment of heavy weapons, followed by comprehensive DDR

(4) Restoring humanitarian relief distribution; and repatriation of IDPs and refugees

(5) Providing basic services

TFG OPM also emphasized the importance of international community efforts in local areas not undermining the credibility of the TFG.

Deputy SRSG suggested that one of the principles to guide international community engagement with local areas or unit should be that (1) there should be a commitment to the Roadmap process by such unit, and (2) the units should be civilian and not military administrations.



The United Kingdom government has recently announced a conference on the Situation in Somalia to be held on February 23, 2012 in London. Subsequently, certain statements were made by British officials to pave the way for the said conference. The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said: “Somalia poses significant threats to international security, as a base for terrorists and pirates who threaten the security and prosperity of people around the world.” Furthermore, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, issued a statement calling Somalia a “failed state that directly threatens British interests.”

It is imperative to underline three particular facts. First, threats that have been emanating from Somalia are currently in declining trend. Second, these threats are symptoms, not the core problems. Third, political instability and underdeveloped and mal-equipped security apparatus are the real problems.

The aforementioned statements stand in sharp contrast to the current situation in Somalia and do not seem to take into considerations recent development that occurred in the latter half of 2011. Despite the enormous and agonizing difficulties encountered mainly on the security front, Somalia has certainly been bouncing back from the dark security challenges of the past two decades, thanks to the extraordinary determination and perseverance of the Somali TFG and AMISOM forces.

Though sporadic armed clashes still occur, the TFG and AMISOM forces have defeated Al-shabaab and cleared them from the capital city. As a result, today the ordinary residents of Mogadishu are able to get around and resume their normal lives in safety and security once again. Moreover, recent visits by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August 2011 and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in December 2011, demonstrate Mogadishu’s strides in security.

The Al-shabaab’s forces are now on the run and its reign of terror is precipitously withdrawing from many cities and districts under the coordinated joint military pressure. The process of eradicating Al-Shabaab is already underway, and the total liberation of the country from the clutches of Al-shabaab terrorism is soon to be a reality.

For the past year and half, the TFG faced the worst famine in Somalia in sixty years and with backing of the international community and our Turkish friends, we have made some progress in reaching those affected by the famine. This famine created new challenges and many TFG resources were diverted to tackling its consequences and ensuring effective delivery of aid.

Additionally, on the security front, Somalia has developed a comprehensive medium term National Security Stabilization Plan (NSSP) that outlines clearly benchmarks and responsibility for its implementation. The NSSP, which has been already passed by the TFG cabinet aims at stabilizing the country in the next three years 2011-2014.


In our view, the recently announced February 23, 2012 UK government conference on the Situation in Somalia should build on recent TFG accomplishments and support a more lasting solution for Somalia. The agenda should not be limited to the issues of piracy and international security. Rather, it should include addressing the root causes of those security concerns. For the London Conference to be successful we are putting forth the following recommendations:

1- Reconciliation:

We believe that a military victory leading to a durable peace is unlikely. Therefore, we seek a comprehensive peace process that includes all stakeholders at all levels and has international guarantees.

1.Primary focus should be on facilitating a Somali-led national all inclusive reconciliation effort.
1.The British government should use its diplomatic and political weight in bringing Somaliland to the table; not as an observer, but as a partner in peace.
1.Strategize ways to address the range of driving factors fueling the conflict in Somalia and help prevent recurring conflict.

2- Security: Highlight the importance of national security mechanisms to enhance the legitimacy of the national government.

1.The only lasting solution to the complex security problem is to rebuild a credible Somali national army, police, and intelligence security force capable of guaranteeing Somalia’s internal security and territorial water.
1.Lift the current UN arms embargo resolution to allow the Somali armed force import the required weaponry, mobility and military supplies that would enable their combat readiness to totally disrupt and defeat Al-shabaab and carry out their defensive mandate.
1.Build a viable Somali navy and strengthen the Somali national coast guard with efficient operational capacity, training; armed and equipped with adequate weaponry, technology and supplies (i.e. adequate patrol boats, ships, radar and radios) that would allow them to protect our coastal and maritime security, including piracy, toxic waste dumping, illegal fishing, and armed robbery in the Somali coast.
1.Finalize the enlistment and training of the 30,000 troops; guarantee their continuous and incessant stipend payment and the refurbishing of troops’ barracks, headquarters and training facilities, so that the command and control of the army units is secured, troops are provided with adequate quarters; the routine trainings programs are regularly and frequently carried out. All this will come to the same cost as 12,000 AMISOM troops.
1.Re-institute and revitalize the law enforcement agencies and their facilities, including the police stations in all urban centers, the custodial corps and court system. This to guarantee the competent fulfillment of law enforcement agencies responsibility.
1.While monitoring continuously any financial transactions to and from Somalia is critical and taking actions against terrorist financing is key to defeating terrorist organization, we should also refrain from a wholesale halting of the Diaspora remittance, which is today (in the absence of the national financial institutions) the lifeline of the country.

3. Financial Management:

1.Create an independent Joint Financial Management Board presided by a former Head of State to ensure and monitor mutual accountability between Somalia and donors.
1.Greater transparency and accountability on the financial management is required. Therefore, while developing and following the standard fiscal framework and improved budgetary process for the entire budget cycle is critical, it is likewise necessary to install internal financial control, accountability and reporting structures, as well as a parliamentary oversight of the budget process.
1.To that end, to show more accountability and transparency, the TFG should open its books for auditing to the International community and likewise, the UNOS, UNDP, WFP, etc., should also open their books for auditing to account how and where they have devolved and spent the money earmarked for Somalia. Bi-monthly financial reports should be published.


The timing of the United Kingdom’s conference on the situation in Somalia is critical. Consequently, while the British government and the International Community seek this opportunity to coordinate and improve their policy toward Somalia and bring about a lasting solution, we urge them to base their decisions on TFG’s recent accomplishments.

Second, as we recognize the AU countries’ brotherly sacrifices in blood and financial resources and their utmost role in enhancing security, which has certainly prevented our nation sovereignty to succumb under the pressure of the terrorist forces, we also believe that the only lasting solution to the complex security problem of our country and by in large to counter the piracy and terrorism question, is to rebuild a credible Somali security sector capable of guaranteeing the country’s law and order and internal security, secure good neighborhood, and provide a long-term deterrence to the issue of piracy and terrorism.

Notwithstanding the current difficulties, Somalia is striving to maintain its inalienable right as a sovereign state and territorial integrity; as such any attempt that would limit or denigrate its self-government will unnecessarily generate another dangerous cycle of conflict.



11 January 2012

Abu Dhabi, UAE


In advance of the London Conference on Somalia on 23 February, the UK chaired a senior officials technical meeting on 11 January in Abu Dhabi to discuss how best to promote local stability across Somalia. The UK is very grateful to the United Arab Emirates for hosting the meeting, and for their continued support to the London Conference on Somalia.

The Abu Dhabi meeting is one of several meetings that the UK is convening with Somali and international stakeholders in advance of the London Conference, to consult on the proposed agenda and the key areas for discussion. The meeting was attended by representatives of the London Conference core group[1].

The participants recognised the importance of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) and their successors for both local and national political reconciliation. It was also agreed that supporting existing and emerging local areas of stability in Somalia is a crucial part of building peace and security for the Somali people. The two tracks of supporting local (bottom-up) and national (top-down) stability should reinforce each other.

This agenda is important because:

(1) Greater local stability can have immediate benefits for ordinary Somali men and women;

(2) It is a key component of broadening support for the transition, reaching a national level political settlement and building a legitimate central authority in Mogadishu after August 2012;

(3) There is an opportunity at the moment to build on recent military gains, and the growing commitment within Somalia to reconciliation and outreach.

There was also recognition that this approach carries risks. It could jeopardise a sustainable national level political settlement. Providing resources without informed analysis could create perverse incentives and accelerate the emergence of illegitimate, irresponsible and/or competing local administrations.

There was agreement that the Garowe Principles[2] were a significant step in the right direction. They provide a useful guide to moving forward on various constitutional issues, including on local involvement in future national political arrangements, and they restate Somalis’ continuing commitment to federalism. Further consultation with wider Somali stakeholders will be needed on the Garowe Principles – notably on the nature of federalism – starting with the Garowe II meeting.

The discussion on current local interventions raised several important lessons learnt from existing work. Current programmes (such as the Joint Programme on Local Governance, and the Transition Initiatives for Stabilization programme) set out criteria for support to local areas (particularly communities and districts in more stable areas). These provide a useful framework for developing agreed principles for wider international engagement that could accommodate a range of entry levels (e.g. community, district, area-based).

On the basis of this discussion, it was agreed that it would be useful for the London Conference to endorse a set of principles of good practice on how the international community should support local stability in Somalia.

These principles could include the following:

1.Access: The security situation in any area must allow development partners sufficient access to assess support needed, to provide it, and to monitor and evaluate implementation.
2.Ownership: Local communities should determine interventions, and play a role in implementation.This process should be managed in a way which increases the incentives for stability, by responding to local needs.
3.Inclusion: Adequate attention should be paid to which local people are involved in decision-making, in particular to give under-represented groups a say, and to bind in those who may otherwise have an interest in restarting conflict.
4.Flexibility: Interventions should be based on in-depth understanding of local circumstances, and tailored according to context. Where a full package of support is not initially appropriate, an incremental approach to providing assistance should be used (rather than waiting for ideal circumstances).
5.Integration: Each region will require a differentiated approach that integrates political, security and development elements. Humanitarian aid should continue to be provided based solely on need, but issues around resettlement of refugees and IDPs also need to be factored in.
6.Transparency: Resources provided to local areas should be used and accounted for in a transparent manner. Costs of local stability work should be shared with local people through agreement on distribution of revenues.
7.Recognition of central authority: Local representatives should acknowledge the Transitional Federal Charter and related peace agreements, the role of the TFIs in Mogadishu, and the constitutional process.
8.Reconciliation: Local representatives should have a clear and demonstrable commitment to reconciliation between parties to the conflict in Somalia (including the TFIs).
9.Partnerships: Interventions should build and strengthen strategic partnerships between local institutions, civil society groups and the private sector, and between different Somali areas.
10.Sustainability: Support should be provided in a way which will allow the continuation of benefits over time, including when external assistance ends. Building the capacity of local people and institutions to engage with political processes, deliver services and address threats will be a critical part of this.11.Conflict sensitivity: When supporting new areas which have the potential for local legitimacy but lack widespread recognition in Somalia, the principle of “do no harm” should be a priority.These principles will be developed further to form the basis for further engagement with a wider group of Somali and international stakeholders. They should take account of previous work led by the UN on such principles.

It was agreed that Somalis themselves need to agree the principles of what local stability means in practice across the country, and manage the delivery of it. The new constitution should create the broader political vision within which this can be worked out. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its successor should prepare and maintain an overall strategic framework for supporting local stability.

There was acceptance that bringing local parties on board often takes time, but that this process is important in reducing the potential for conflict. However, when interventions begin they need to show clear and immediate benefits for local people. Further discussion is required on how to balance taking advantage of new opportunities to work in previously insecure areas as quickly as possible (e.g. through quick impact projects), with due caution in not rushing in too quickly in contravention of best practice.

It was agreed that dialogue could start with clan and other community leaders in areas where it is not yet possible for the international community to provide support due to insecurity, and that the international community should encourage the TFG and other Roadmap signatories to engage in such dialogue.

Participants discussed ways in which support to local stability could be financed and coordinated. There was agreement that current coordination arrangements were not adequate, and would become even less so if the amount of support increased. Better coordination was needed to improve coherence and efficiency in the provision of assistance. Participants also agreed that there was a need for better information sharing on existing and future work promoting local stability.

How coordination should be organised in future will need to be looked at in the context of wider work on revitalising international coordination on Somalia, which is one of the themes of the London Conference. Participants agreed that the TFG would need to be involved in coordinating this work, and that this should be through Roadmap structures in the short-term. This should also allow the contributions and interests of countries in the region to be taken into account.

Some participants expressed interest in a local stability fund, if it could be designed to respond in a fast and flexible way to emerging needs, and complement other delivery mechanisms. Others questioned whether an additional funding mechanism was really needed, and whether existing mechanisms could be adapted.It was agreed that further work was needed in the next two weeks on whether an announcement could be made on a local stability fund at the London Conference. The UK will circulate a more detailed proposal w/b 23 January.

The UK and other participants will consult further on these ideas during January and February with the TFIs, other relevant Somalis (including local representatives, and civil society organisations), and other countries and institutions attending the London Conference.


[1] African Union, Ethiopia, European Union, France, Italy, Kenya, Norway, Qatar, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Nations, United States of America

[2] Agreed on 24 December 2011 by the Roadmap signatories

Like Communism, the Idea of Somaliland is Dead

By Aman H.D. Obsiye

The winds of unity are blowing in the Northern Somali territories. Since the fall of the Siad Barre’s regime, there have been two fighting ideologies in the territory that was known as British Somaliland. The first ideology was the belief in one unified Somali Republic, led by Northern Unionists. The second ideology was the belief in dividing the Somali Republic on early European imperial boundaries, led by the SNM, also known as the Secessionist. The Secessionist strong holds are Hargeisa, Berbera, and Burco, what can be called the SNM triangle. The western and eastern regions, of what was known as British Somaliland, have decided to join the Somali Republic in the forms of two federal states:

1. The Awdal State and
2. the Khaatumo State.

These new federal states, within the Somali Republic, are following international law and policy towards the Somali territories which explicitly dictates that the Somali nation is one and that it must be federated. With the emergence of the Awdal State and the Khaatumo State the idea of two Somali nation-states, the idea of secessionism, is dead. Like Communism, the idea of Somaliland is dead.

Today the SNM military apparatus has decided to send hundreds of troops to the western and eastern regions to conduct armed suppression on the innocent Somali populace. There are currently 400 troops on the outskirts of Borama to violently suppress the emergence of the Awdal State. There are currently many hundreds troops on the outskirts of Buhodle to violently suppress the emergence of the Khaatumo State.

Currently, the Somaliland Army (the SNM Army) is committing crimes against humanity against the innocent Somali populace in Buhodle. The only crimes these people are committing are to be Unionist. The Awdal State and the Khaatumo State have declared their territories to be unionist territories, within the Somali Republic.

Therefore, the international community must recognize the breach of sovereignty the Somaliland Army is committing against the sovereign territory of the Somali Republic. Sovereignty is the main pillar of international law, and de jure sovereignty of the Awdal State and the Khaatumo State are solely with the Somali Republic, and not the illegal secessionist entity known as Somaliland.

Like Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the Soviet era, the Somaliland Army is seeking to suppress the will of the people, but like Communism, the idea of Somaliland is dead. With the emergence of the Awdal State and the Khaatumo State, the winds of unity are blowing in the Northern Somali territories.

The idea of a federalized central government for the Somali Republic is the widely accepted logical option. The Awdal State, Galmudug State, Khaatumo State, Puntland State, and an executive federal state of Benadir (Mogadishu), will be the foundation for the new Somali Republic. These five states, with the emergence of few more federal states in South-Central Somalia, will collectively provide personnel for the new Somali government that will emerge after August 2012. The post August 2012 Somali legislative and executive branches should be firmly inclusive to insure an organically accepted central government.

Source: Mareeg Online

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Factbox: Foreigners kidnapped in Africa

Here are details of foreigners held by kidnappers around Africa. Two hostages were freed in Somalia by U.S. helicopters on Wednesday.


April 2008 - Gunmen seized a Briton and a Kenyan working on a U.N.-funded project.

July 14, 2009 - Somali gunmen kidnapped two French security advisers in Mogadishu. One of them, Marc Aubriere, escaped on August 26.

November 8, 2010 - The European Union anti-piracy task force said it had rescued a South African yachtsman after he was left behind by Somali pirates. Two other South African crew members were taken ashore as hostages.

October 25, 2011 - Three aid workers attached to the Danish Demining Group were kidnapped in the north of the country, the group said. One is a Somali man, two are international staff members, an American, Jessica Buchanan, and a Dane, Poul Thisted. The foreigners were freed on January 25 after a raid by U.S. forces who killed nine pirates and captured another five.

January 2, 2012 - Gunmen kidnapped an American in the Somali town of Galkayo in the semi-autonomous Galmudug region. A senior military official said he was part of a two-man group who had been in the region under the pretext of being journalists.

January 21, 2012 - Michael Scott Moore, a U.S. writer with dual U.S.-German citizenship, was kidnapped by armed militia south of Galkayo in the Galmudug region in central Somalia.


September 11, 2011 - Gunmen raided the Kiwayu Safari Village, shooting dead British publishing executive David Tebbutt, escaping by boat taking his wife, Judith, with them to Somalia.

October 11, 2011 - Six armed men stormed a house on the island of Manda on Kenya's northern coast, grabbed 66-year-old wheelchair-bound Marie Dedieu and carried her to a boat that took her to Somalia. Paris said on October 19 that Dedieu had died.

October 13, 2011 - Two Spanish female aid workers employed by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Blanca Thiebaut and Montserrat Serra, were kidnapped at Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp near Somalia. They have since been moved to central Somalia.


-- The rebel Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) claimed responsibility on January 21 for the kidnapping of two German tourists and two Ethiopians in an attack by gunmen in northern Ethiopia's remote Afar region on January 17.

-- Two Germans, one Austrian, and two Hungarians were killed in the same attack. One Hungarian was also wounded. Ethiopia said the victims were part of a 27-member party that also included U.S., Australian and Belgian nationals.


November 23, 2011 - Two French men, an engineer and a technician who work for a local cement firm were abducted from their hotel in the town of Hombori, about 200 km (125 miles) west of the northern city of Gao in northern Mali.

November 25, 2011 - Gunmen seized three people and killed a fourth on a street in the northern Mali town of Timbuktu. Those kidnapped were from South Africa, the Netherlands and Sweden.

-- Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for both November kidnappings.


February 2, 2011 - A 53-year-old Italian woman, Maria Sandra Mariani, was kidnapped by al Qaeda insurgents while on a tourist trip to the Sahara desert in southeastern Algeria.

October 23, 2011 - Three foreign workers were abducted from a refugee camp near Tindouf in western Algeria. The kidnappers had crossed from Mali.

-- Spain named the two as Ainhoa Fernandez de Rincon and Enric Gonyalons. The Italian was Rossella Urru.


May 12, 2011 - Two engineers, a Briton and an Italian, working for Italian construction firm B. Stabilini in Kebbi State in northern Nigeria, were kidnapped in the town of Birnin-Kebbi.


September 16, 2010 - Seven foreigners were kidnapped in Arlit, in Niger's northern uranium mining zone. AQIM claimed responsibility and demanded a 90 million euro ($130 million) ransom. Earlier in January the group threatened to kill its prisoners if France and its allies attacked its bases in Mali.

-- Some of the foreigners, including five French nationals, worked for French firms and were taken by their captors to Mali the next day.

February 25, 2011 - A Togolese, a Malagasy man and the French wife of one of the employees were freed and handed over to authorities in Niger.

(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

Sources: Reuters/

Small Dutch city is hub for European khat sales

A small Dutch city less than 20 kilometres from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport has become the hub of Europe's sales of khat, a plant chewed for its stimulant qualities, soon to be banned in the Netherlands.

In a discreet warehouse tucked away in the city of Uithoorn, around a hundred Somalis and Yemenis were haggling over the latest delivery: a tonne of khat.

"The arrival of the delivery varies daily, depending on the flight from Kenya," said a khat importer of the plant which drug authorities say produces a natural amphetamine when chewed.

"As soon as we know when, we pass the word by telephone and the buyers arrive at the right time," said the Somali importer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Three khat deliveries a day, weighing about a tonne each, are taken to Uithoorn by truck from Amsterdam-Schiphol airport, 15 kilometres (nine miles) to the northwest. From Uithoorn it is sold to wholesale dealers and then resold throughout Europe.

But 15 of the European Union's 27 states and Norway have already listed khat as an illegal narcotic and the Netherlands too announced earlier this month it would ban khat.

Local businesses have also complained about the commotion at the "khat market," one of the reasons for the Dutch decision.

"Some days there may be more than 200 cars in the street," sighed Uithoorn mayor Dagmar Oudhoorn.

Residents are tired, she said, adding "there is a real fear of crime and traffic problems."

"Today it's relatively calm, but there are days when things heat up a bit," added one khat buyer, a Somali from Germany. "Three or four times a year, knives are even drawn, usually over unpaid debts," he added.

Smiling khat buyers left as quickly as they arrived, carrying two or three cardboard boxes in their arms.

Each box contained about fifty bundles made up of 20 khat stems of 30 centimetres (12 inches) in length, wrapped in banana leaves.

"I came to buy about 300 bundles of khat which I am going to get to Norway tonight," a 27-year-old Somali told AFP.

"I buy them here for 2.5 euros $3.3) a bundle and in Norway they are sold for 25 euros a bundle. Not a bad business, eh?" he said smiling, but like everybody else at the market, declining to give his name.

This buyer however is pressed for time. The khat needs to be consumed fresh, within 48-hours of being picked, he said.

Two-thirds of the khat at Uithoorn were exported illegally from the Netherlands, mainly to Scandinavia, the Somali importer told AFP.

The bundles will be sold mainly in khat houses where Somalis traditionally gather to chew it, while mulling over the latest news, including about friends and family back home in Africa.

Somali khat traders said they could not understand why the Dutch are banning khat.

"It's ridiculous. They put I don't know how many millions of euros in their pockets in import taxes," the Somali importer said crossly.

"Chewing khat is one of our traditions. Why ban it?" said another buyer, angered by what he called a "lack of tolerance."

But while some Somali khat buyers said they won't break Dutch laws, others seemed unconcerned.

"You know, we always find a solution," said one smiling buyer.

Source: AFP

US urges Kenya not to send back Somali refugees

Kenya has been urged to continue providing refuge to Somalis fleeing violence and hunger in their homeland, a US State Department official said on Tuesday.

“We continue to rely on and advocate strongly for the protection of Somalis inside Kenya, that they should not be sent back into Somalia in order to create some sort of a buffer zone,” declared David Robinson, acting assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.

Mr Robinson spoke at a press briefing in Washington on the status of the food crisis in Kenya and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa.

His comments came two days after Internal Security Ministry Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia suggested that Somali refugees might be returned home soon.

“The government intends to commence modalities for the relocation of the refugees back to Somalia in liaison with the UNHCR [United Nations High Commission for Refugees] and the international community now that safe havens have been created in Somalia following the ongoing Operation Linda Nchi,” Mr Kimemia had said in a statement on Sunday.

Mr Robinson acknowledged in the briefing that “there has always been a certain amount of tension about the presence of Somalis, large scale numbers of Somalis, in a protracted situation inside Kenya.”

Close to half a million Somalis are living currently at the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya.

Mr Robinson added that “clearly the goal of the international community is that at some point Somalis can voluntarily and safely return home.”

He emphasised, however, that Somali refugees “need to have their protection assured inside neighboring countries until they can go home in safety.”

Source: Daily Nation

Syria Activists: 'Terrifying Massacre' In Homs

Two days of bloody turmoil in Syria killed at least 74 people, including small children, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad shelled residential buildings and fired on crowds in a dramatic escalation of violence, activists said Friday.

Video posted online showed the bodies of five small children, five women and a man, all bloodied and piled on beds in what appeared to be an apartment after a building was hit in the city of Homs. A narrator said an entire family had been "slaughtered."

Much of the violence was focused in Homs, where heavy gunfire hammered the city Friday in a second day of chaos. A day earlier, the city saw a flare-up of sectarian kidnappings and killings between its Sunni and Alawite communities, and pro-regime forces blasted residential buildings with mortars and gunfire, according to activists.

At least 384 children have been killed, as of Jan. 7, in the crackdown on Syria's uprising since it began nearly 11 months ago, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF said Friday. The count, based on reports from human rights groups, included children under age 18.

Most of the deaths took place in Homs and most of the victims were boys, UNICEF said. It said 380 children have been detained, including some under age 14. The United Nations estimates that more than 5,400 people have died in the turmoil.

The U.N. Security Council met in a closed-door session to discuss the crisis, which diplomats said was a step toward a possible U.N. resolution against the Damascus regime.

However, any resolution faces strong opposition from China and Russia, and both nations have veto power. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Friday that Moscow will oppose any resolution because it does not exclude the possibility of outside military interference.

The Syrian uprising, which began last March with mostly peaceful protests, has become increasingly violent in recent months as army defectors clash with government forces and some protesters take up arms to protect themselves. The violence has inflamed the sectarian divide in the country, where members of Assad's Alawite sect dominate the regime despite a Sunni Muslim majority.

Activists said at least 35 people were killed in Homs on Thursday and another 39 people were killed across the country Friday.

The video posted Friday by activists showed the bodies of five young children, their faces bloodied, wrapped in orange plastic bags. It said the children were believed to be from two families, the Akras and the Bahadours. Brown cardboard placards with the children's names written in Arabic were placed on their chests, identifying them: Thanaa, Ali, Najm, Abdul-Ghani and Sidra.

The video could not be independently verified.

Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, said the spike in violence was linked to increasing pressure from the international community, the Arab League and the United Nations.

"The regime is trying to finish the matter through military means as soon as possible," and for that reason the level of violence increased," he said.

On Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem insisted that Damascus will continue its crackdown and said Syria would not accept any international interference in its affairs.

Assad's regime claims terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy by the U.S., Israel and Gulf Arab countries are behind the uprising, not protesters seeking change.

The head of Arab League observers in Syria said in a statement that violence in the country has spiked over the past few days. Sudanese Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi said the cities of Homs, Hama and Idlib have all witnessed a "very high escalation" in violence since Tuesday.

A "fierce military campaign" was also under way in the Hamadiyeh district of Hama since the early hours of Friday, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activists. They said the sound of heavy machine-gun fire and loud explosions reverberated across the area.

Some activists reported seeing uncollected bodies in the streets of Hama.

Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded Friday at a checkpoint outside the northern city of Idlib, the Observatory said, citing witnesses. The number of casualties was not immediately clear.

Details of the wave of killings in Homs emerged Friday from an array of residents and activists

"There has been a terrifying massacre," Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the AP on Friday. He called for an independent investigation.

Thursday started with a spate of sectarian kidnappings and killings between the city's population of Sunnis and Alawites, a Shiite sect to which Assad belongs as well as most of his security and military leadership, said Mohammad Saleh, a centrist opposition figure and resident of Homs.

There was also a string of attacks by gunmen on army checkpoints, Saleh said. Checkpoints are a frequent target of dissident troops who have joined the opposition.

The Observatory said at least 11 people, including eight children, died when a building came under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire in the city's Karm el-Zaytoun neighborhood. Some residents spoke of another massacre that took place when shabiha – armed regime loyalists – stormed the district, slaughtering residents in an apartment, including children.

"They are killing people because of their sect," said one Sunni resident of Karm el-Zaytoun, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Thursday's death toll in Homs was at least 35, said the Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella group of activists. Both groups cite a network of activists on the ground in Syria for their death tolls.

The reports could not be independently confirmed. Syria tightly controls access to trouble spots and generally allows journalists to report only on escorted trips, which slows the flow of information.

Also Friday, Iran's official IRNA news agency said gunmen in Syria kidnapped 11 Iranian pilgrims traveling by road from Turkey to Damascus.

Iranian pilgrims routinely visit Syria – Iran's closest ally in the Arab world – to pay homage to Shiite holy shrines. Last month, seven Iranian engineers building a power plant in central Syria were kidnapped. They have not yet been released.

The Free Syrian Army, a group of army defectors fighting the regime, released a video on its Facebook page claiming responsibility for the kidnapping and saying the Iranians were taking part in the suppression of the Syrian people.

AP writer Elizabeth A. Kennedy contributed to this report from Beirut

Source: The Associated Press

Help Somalia fight roots of piracy

By Jon Huggins, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Jon Huggins is the director of the Oceans Beyond Piracy project at One Earth Future. The Oceans Beyond Piracy project encourages close cooperation across the international maritime community to develop long-term, sustainable solutions to piracy. He previously served as NATO's operational liaison officer to the European Union Council Secretariat in Brussels.

The U.S. Navy Seals' dramatic rescue of Poul Hagen Thisted and Jessica Buchanan early Wednesday ended the hostages' three-month ordeal in Somalia. But why was it left to the United States to conduct this operation in a country thousands of miles away?

The short answer is that the United States has the military and intelligence capabilities to conduct the rescue of a U.S. citizen in pressing need of medical attention.

The longer answer is that Somalia lacks the capacity to suppress piracy and other organized crime without international support. This is evidenced by the failed attempt of Somali forces to rescue a Danish family in March 2011, where, as has so often been the case, local authorities found themselves outgunned by the organized criminals.

There are no Somali agencies that can effectively fight piracy and other crimes in Somalia, which has existed under a relatively impotent Transitional Federal Government since the central government collapsed in 1991. Most of Somalia is a patchwork of quasi-autonomous regions, across which neither governance nor law enforcement is coordinated.

While most nations recognize the transitional government in Mogadishu as the legitimate government of Somalia, its reach is extremely limited. Local administrations are thus left to manage issues of organized crime with little resources or support. The result: Citizens exist in a precarious truce with a well-armed and organized criminal element.

It is in this context of lawlessness that the United States opted to take direct action to release these two hostages. But such heroic and high-profile moves, by the United States or any other nation equipped for them, are not a long-term solution to Somalia's plague of organized crime, now spilling across borders. To break this cycle of crime, the international community must step up its commitment to investing in Somali stability and addressing the symptoms of the nation's governance vacuum.

A recent report by the Center for American Progress estimated that $9 billion in humanitarian and development aid went into Somalia over the past 20 years. This is a stark contrast to the billions that piracy costs the world each year. A forthcoming One Earth Future report finds that $7 billion was spent on measures to address Somali piracy alone in 2011.

If the international community does not shift toward building sustainable Somali law enforcement capabilities at sea and ashore, the only realistic options to resolve hostage situations will continue to be through military action or ransom payments.

Among the ways money used to combat piracy is spent:

1. International Navies support operations to patrol Somali waters and the Western Indian Ocean.

2. Nations fund suspect and prisoner transfer arrangements and "outsourcing" of prosecution within the region, as well as Europe, North America and Asia. (Even more will be spent to incarcerate convicted pirates.)

3. The maritime industry spends billions on armed guards, extra insurance, "ship hardening" and re-routing.

4. Shipping companies pay expensive ransoms, if other measures fail.

Somali criminal elements have proven themselves to be amazingly resilient and adaptable. And we can expect that this rescue may lead to an even greater escalation of violence and corresponding threats to innocent human life, including the estimated 190 hostages held (one of whom is a recently captured American writer) and the thousands of seafarers who continue to transit this dangerous area.

Indeed, the violence has been increasing as pirates confront private security teams and aggressive naval actions. They have changed their tactics to separate and conceal hostages and are re-investing ransom funds into criminal enterprises. Gangs are also becoming more sophisticated. Hostage takers now demonstrate a familiarity with international law that prohibits negotiation with international terrorist groups. Groups labeled as terrorists simply sell their hostages to middlemen who can legally negotiate.

Yet there has been surprisingly little investment from the international maritime community in a sustainable solution, although for a brief time last fall it appeared there might be a ray of hope. When the radical Islamist group, Al-Shabaab withdrew from Mogadishu in early fall 2011, many saw this as an opportunity to reinvigorate efforts to stabilize Somalia.

In September, key regional leaders from Somalia adopted a "Somali Roadmap" to improve security, the constitution, reconciliation and good governance. But with a fractured political system and roiling conflict between the country's regions, implementation has been slow.

Now the world's eyes are turning to a high-level conference to be convened by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in London on February 23 aimed at tackling the root causes of the problems in Somalia, including piracy. We can only hope that this conference will set the stage for a coordinated and forward-looking international effort that engages all the stakeholders in Somalia and looks past the symptoms.

Spurce: CNN International

Vermont juror's research on Internet about Somali Bantu culture prompts new sex assault trial

By LISA RATHKE - Associated Press

A Somali Bantu immigrant convicted of sexually assaulting a child will get a new trial because a juror may have been influenced by information he found on the Internet about the Somali culture, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The Somali culture played a significant role in the trial of Ali M. Abdi, who was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a 9-year-old member of the Somali Bantu community in Burlington after community elders went to police, the court said.

"It is simply impossible to conclude that outside information used by at least one juror — as the trial court found — to 'interpret the testimony of the Somali witnesses and to determine the credibility of these witnesses' could have had no impact on the verdict," the court said, noting a growing problem of jurors consulting the Internet for outside information.

"Although Vermont trial courts routinely admonish jurors not to consult outside sources, it may well be time to consider a stronger and more technology-specific admonition...," the court said.

Internet access by jurors is a big problem these days, said Stephen Saltzburg, professor of law at George Washington University.

Some judges are giving instructions at the beginning of cases so that jurors understand that it's unfair to access outside information that cannot be tested by both sides in the case.

But unless juries are sequestered, there's no way to assure that it won't happen. "All we can do is really urge jurors," he said.

In the Vermont case, the victim's brother first reported the sexual assault, telling his mother that he saw the defendant with his hand up his sister's skirt while he was at their house in December of 2006. The victim later testified Abdi had committed similar acts before and had sexually assaulted her, the court said.

The victim's mother told Abdi's wife. Together they referred the matter to the community's elders

Court papers did not say what the juror had researched on the Internet other than Somali culture and religion.

The leading elder testified that in their culture, the word of a child without an adult witness is generally considered to be insufficient evidence of sexual assault and that further investigation was needed, the court said. He said the law and culture required that Abdi be asked three times whether he had assaulted the girl, the court said.

The first two times, Abdi denied it, but the third time he responded yes. The elders contacted police. Abdi was charged with two counts of sexual assault on a child under age 13.

The leading elder explained that if Abdi had denied the assaults a third time, the defendant, his wife, and the victim's mother would have been asked to swear on the Quran, the court said. "Something bad will happen to the person who did something, who's lying" when swearing on the Quran, the leading elder testified.

A doctor examined the girl and found no evidence of sexual assault but said most young victims of sexual assault do not show physical symptoms, the court said.

In 2009, a juror disclosed during a hearing on another jury matter that a fellow juror had researched the Somali culture and religion on the Internet and shared the information with the rest of the jury.

Based on that disclosure, Abdi sought a new trial. The trial court denied the request, saying that the information did not influence the verdict and that the evidence of guilt was strong, the Supreme Court said.

Abdi then took his claim of jury misconduct to the Vermont Supreme Court. The court said on Friday that the defendant was entitled to a fair trial free of extraneous influences. His right is reflected in the Sixth Amendment guarantee that "the evidence developed against a defendant shall come from the witness stand in a public courtroom where there is full judicial protection of the defendant's right of confrontation, or cross examination, and of counsel," the court said.

"Consideration by a jury of facts outside the evidence strikes at the heart of these rights," the Supreme Court said.

Source: The Associated Press

U.S. policy on Somalia gets mixed reviews

By Deanna Pan
The Columbus Dispatch

Conference draws differing opinions

For decades, Somalia has been plagued by myriad problems — famine, violence, piracy and thousands of refugees — and not everyone agrees on how to solve them.

During a panel discussion yesterday at Ohio State University, centered on U.S. engagement in Somalia, speakers were critical of the current administration’s policy aims.

“The most-important part is the security of the Somali people themselves,” said panelist Jibril Mohamed, CEO and president of the Somali Community Access Network in Columbus.

“There’s no policy of securing the people; it’s the Somali people who suffer the most. It’s the Somali people who are the victims. Somali people are dying in droves from famine and violence. There needs to be a comprehensive policy that takes into account the Somali people’s needs.”

Mohamed helped organize the conference, “Somalia at Crossroads: Foreign Intervention, Humanitarian Crisis and Aspirations for Statehood.”

The Obama administration has pursued a dual-track policy toward Somalia since 2010. Under this approach, the U.S. supports the weak transitional government while simultaneously engaging local and regional leaders to cultivate peace and stability.

Deborah Malac, director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of East African Affairs, defended U.S. policy at a press roundtable after the panel discussion.

“We would argue that there is demonstrated progress and success for the dual-track policy,” Malac said. “But as we do with any policy … we look at the situation on the ground and make determinations on when and whether we need to make adjustments to that policy. It is going to be a painstaking process to move things forward in a positive direction.”

Malac was invited to give the keynote address last night at the conference, which will conclude today. She added that U.S. Somalis — many thousands of whom live in Columbus — “have an important role to play” in determining policy.

“We understand that having a connection to them is something we need to do to ensure that we have that flow of ideas or an understanding what the impact of what our policies might be,” she said, adding that violence is a major concern among Somalis. “They take every opportunity to try to get that message to us to put pressure on us to keep doing something.”

Mohamed said he was one of two Somalis invited to attend a 2010 forum at the White House, where the president unveiled his administration’s strategy in Somalia. Mohamed said he hopes Somalis will have the opportunity to actively shape alternative plans.

“Receiving the input of the Somali diaspora and Somali intellectuals, Somali activists and Somali technocrats would be essential to obtaining a policy that is feasible and sustainable,” he said.

Deanna Pan is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia ‘as soon as feasible’ : Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi

Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zenawi said Friday he would pull troops out of Somalia “as soon as feasible,” admitting for the first time that forces had crossed into the war-torn neighbouring country.

“The decision has all along been to help the TFG and we will withdraw our troops as soon as feasible,” Meles told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, referring to Somalia’s transitional government.

“We are not going to create a vacuum, we expect the AMISOM troops to be able to fill in the gaps before we withdraw,” he added.

Columns of Ethiopian soldiers rolled into Somalia in November to fight al-Qaeda linked Islamist rebels, but Addis Ababa had previously denied their presence.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has some 10,000 troops in the Somali capital Mogadishu to protect the fragile Western-backed Somali government.

On Tuesday, a Shebab suicide bomber blew himself at an Ethiopian army base in the central Somali town of Beledweyne.

Ethiopia first deployed troops in Somalia in 2006 to oust an Islamist movement that ruled much of southern Somalia, but withdrew three years later after failing to stamp out the group.

Armies from neighbouring countries are converging on the Shebab. Kenya sent in troops and tanks into southern Somalia in October to fight the rebels it accuses of carrying out cross-border raids and kidnappings.

The attack in Beledweyne was the latest in a string of blasts including roadside bombs and grenade explosions set off in recent months in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.

Source: AFP

SOMALIA: Yemeni and Saudi forces kill 11 Somali immigrants

At least eleven illegal immigrants from Somalia have been killed this week as they crossed into Saudi Arabia from Yemen according to the Somali embassy in Sana’a.

Hussein Haji Ahmed, Somalia’s Deputy Ambassador to Yemen, said the bodies of eleven Somali immigrants were recovered near Yemen’s border with the oil rich kingdom. He insisted scores of others were reportedly missing. Mr. Ahmed also informed local media that hundreds of Somali immigrants caught slipping into Saudi Arabia were systematically abused with many either killed, tortured or kidnapped by Saudi and Yemeni forces and sometimes by rebel groups.

The ambassador added women fleeing the conflict in Somalia were often sexually abused as they tried to cross the border. He said he discussed the matter with both Saudi and Yemeni security personnel. He claimed that the two countries pointed fingers, each claiming the other was responsible for the abuse.

Mr Ahmed declared that Arab security forces were behind the killings of the Somali immigrants. The ambassador also criticized Somaliland and Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland accusing them of refusing to accept southern-Somali refugees returning from Yemen.

Finally he called on international right groups to investigate the abuses and bring those responsible to justice.

Thousands of Somalis fleeing drought, famine and violence flood into Yemen every month despite its own humanitarian crisis. In total, the United Nations estimates around 200,000 Somali refugees are now in Yemen with many using the historical migratory route to else where to seek a better life.

Classified as a failed state, Somalia has not had a functioning central government for more than 20 years and has been wracked by fighting between various militias and the ever increasing list of mini-states.

Source: Somalilandpress

15 dead, 40 missing in sinking off Libya—Somali envoy

At least 15 Somali migrants were killed and 40 left missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya this week, the Somali ambassador to Tripoli told AFP on Saturday.

“Fifteen bodies, including one child and 12 women, were recovered off the coast of Misrata after their boat sank,” ambassador Abdelghami Wais said, adding the bodies were found Wednesday on the shore of the western port city.

The boat had been carrying 55 Somalis, Wais said, and the other passengers were still missing. “I’ve just returned from Misrata after the burials,” the envoy said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Britain may try and jail Somali pirates

Britain may put on trial and jail Somali pirates in the United Kingdom if its citizens are attacked at sea, but the government's priority is to help Somalia boost its inadequate prison capacity, a British minister said on Saturday.

Pirates operating from the Somali coast have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in ransoms from hijacking ships and currently hold up to 10 ships and 200 hostages.

International navies have struggled to contain piracy in the Indian Ocean owing to the vast distances involved. Even when suspected Somali pirates are captured, Western governments have been reluctant to bring them to trial in their own courts.

"If pirates harm UK citizens, and there's enough evidence, we have not ruled out those pirates being taken for detention and trial and then, if convicted, imprisonment in the UK," Henry Bellingham, Britain's Africa minister, told Reuters.

"If British crew members or naval personnel were harmed, of course we would consider it," he said in an interview in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he is attending an African Union summit.

More than 1,000 pirates have been imprisoned in the past few years, a few of them tried and jailed in European countries and the United States.

Earlier this month, a group of British lawmakers urged the government to try pirates in Britain if no other country was willing to jail suspects captured by British ships.


Though very few British merchant ships have been successfully attacked, experts say Somali piracy threatens Britain's banking, insurance and shipping industries and have called for more action from London.

Britain has said it will permit British merchant ships sailing off Somalia to carry armed guards. On February 23, London hosts an international conference on measures to tackle instability in Somalia and piracy, which cost $135 million in ransoms last year alone.

Somali authorities say their prisons are overstretched and would not be able to cope with an increase in inmate numbers.

Bellingham, acknowledging difficulties in Somalia and neighbouring countries such as Kenya, which has taken in some suspects, said priority was given to helping Somalia cope with the problem.

He added that authorities in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, intended to detain all their suspects in their homeland in the long run.

"That's why we are putting money into prisons in Somaliland and in Puntland and we are very keen to see the prison in Mogadishu reopen," Bellingham said.

Somalia descended into chaos after the 1991 fall of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre. President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government holds sway in the capital Mogadishu, but al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels control much of the rest of the country.

Cooperation between Somali militants and pirate gangs is growing as al Shabaab, which faces a cross-border incursion into Somalia by Kenyan and Ethiopian troops to flush out its members, becomes more desperate for funding.

Analysts say around 90 percent of pirates detained by naval forces are released without charge, often because of questions over which country has jurisdiction over them.

(Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)

Source: Reuters

Somali Pirates Make Hostage Threat

American threatened by pirates following Jessica Buchanan's Navy SEAL rescue.

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Director of Somali radio station shot dead: witnesses

Gunmen on Saturday shot dead the director of a major Somali radio station in front of his home in Mogadishu, colleagues and witnesses said.

Hassan Osman, who headed Radio Shabele, was stopped by two men as he was entering his gate who then shot him several times, said Mohamed Moalim, a relative who stayed in the area.

"We don't know who they are, but they shot him mercilessly in the head and shoulders," he said.

Colleague Adan Yare confirmed the attack.

"Two men armed with pistols shot the director several times and he died on the spot," he said. "We are very much worried tonight," he added.

Radio Shabele interrupted its programmes to broadcast several verses from the Koran as an expression of mourning for Osman.

Somalia, which has been devastated by 20 years of civil war, is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

Media rights campaigners Reporters Without Borders (Reporteurs Sans Frontieres, RSF), reported in December that 25 journalists had been killed there since 2007.

"(Hassan Osman) Abdi is the first journalist to be killed in 2012 in Somalia, Africa?s deadliest country for media personnel," RSF said in a statement.

"Our thoughts go out to his family and fellow journalists, who are yet again mourning a colleague?s death," it added.

He was the third director of the network to be killed, the group said, recalling the killing of Bashir Nur Gedi in 2007 and Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe in 2009.

"Violence against journalists in Somalia is sustained by impunity for those responsible," said RSF.

"It is quite clear that Abdi was deliberately targeted. We call for a serious and impartial investigation that leads to the identification of his murderers."

In December a man wearing a military uniform shot dead a journalist working for a local television station in a Mogadishu street.

Two months earlier, a Malaysian cameraman was killed in the city, the site of fierce fighting between Islamist Shebab fighters and the weak transitional government backed by African Union peacekeepers.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has some 10,000 troops in the Somali capital Mogadishu to protect the fragile Western-backed Somali government.

Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zenawi said Friday he would pull troops out of Somalia "as soon as feasible," admitting for the first time that the country's troops had crossed into the war-torn country.

Kenya sent in troops and tanks into southern Somalia in October to fight the rebels it accuses of carrying out cross-border raids and kidnappings.

Source: AFP

Tracking down Somali pirates

By Charlie D'Agata

Jessica Buchanan, the young American aid worker navy seals rescued from Somali pirates earlier this week, remains at a U.S. naval base in Sicily Saturday night. Eyes in the sky could play a crucial role in the fight against the pirates, as Charlie D'Agata reports from London.

Despite the military firepower of 30 nations patrolling the coast of Somalia, pirate attacks are on the increase. In 2011 alone, Somali pirates hijacked 28 ships and captured 470 hostages. Fifteen of those hostages were killed and 151 are still being held.

The ransoms paid out amounted to more than $250 million. It's an astronomical amount of money in one of the poorest countries in the world where the average salary is $300 a year.

Piracy is big business. And business is booming.

Dr. Anja Shortland has studied high-resolution satellite images to track the treasure trail with surprising results. Far away from the coastal villages from where they launch their attacks, the pirate safe havens of Garowe and Bossasa have become boomtowns.

"They happen to be the two cities that are very closely associated with piracy," said Shortland, "Garowe being the source of the militiamen that provide the firepower behind the pirate crews, [and] Bosasso being the boomtown through which all the pirate equipment would be imported."

Satellite images reveal the sprawl including a new mosque in a growing neighborhood and elsewhere a new hotel.

And even though just tiny specs not easily seen, Shortland also found images of nighttime light -- another giveaway. Electricity is a luxury in Somalia. Surprisingly the coastal towns are left in the dark

"What I expected to see was the pirate villages on the coast lighting up like a string of pearls," said Shortland. "And there is nothing. There is not no evidence whatsoever of electricity being used."

Coastal villages have failed to benefit from any pirate booty. The brains and muscle of the operations merely use the villages to launch their attacks and keep their hostages well away from the coast.

Among those still held in Somalia are American journalist Michael Scott Moore from California, who was abducted last Saturday. Somali pirates have threatened to kill Moore if the United States attempts another Navy SEAL rescue.

Resource: CBS News