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Thursday, July 31, 2014

What’s Drawing Somali-American Teens To Foreign Militant Groups?

What’s Drawing Somali-American Teens To Foreign Militant Groups?

Abdi Mohamed Nur, a 20-year-old Somali-American, reportedly left his family in Minnesota to travel to Syria to join and fight alongside the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS) last month.
Earlier this month, the FBI’s office in Minneapolis said Nur and about 15 other people from Minnesota drove to New Jersey, where they boarded a flight to Turkey. From Turkey, Nur then allegedly made his way to Syria, and the others to Somalia.
Despite the size of the group and the FBI’s involvement, though, few organizations have acknowledged the situation. The leader of the Somali Citizens League, based in Minneapolis said the FBI has not discussed details of the case with the organization.
“About these kids that left [Minnesota], as a community and citizens, of course it concerns us. The security and protection of our country, the U.S., it is our obligation,” said Jibril Afyare, president of the Somali Citizens League, to MintPress News. “Therefore, these alleged 15 kids that left — we don’t know. We have not seen any evidence that, indeed, they have left. We have not seen any evidence that, indeed, they are there.”
 Joining distant wars
After Nur left home, his sister, Ifran Mohamed Nur, contacted the FBI to report her brother missing. Two days later, the FBI told her that Abdi Mohamed Nur was in Turkey and that he was suspected of joining jihadist groups in Syria.
The news has unsettled Minnesota’s Somali community, which is also grappling with rumors that teens are being recruited by sheiks in Somali-American mosques in the Twin Cities. Earlier this year, it was also reported, though not yet confirmed, that Somali-American youths were involved in the Kenyan shopping mall attack claimed by al-Shabab.
For years, the large Somali-American community has served as a recruitment ground for terrorist groups — a trend that is now a major challenge for both the FBI and the Somali-American community in Minnesota. Since 2008, more than 20 Somali-Americans have left the Twin Cities to join the Somalia-based al-Shabab militant group.
This is eroding the positive image of many Somali-Americans who are simply trying to settle down after fleeing the years of political instability and carnage that have plagued their homeland. Many born in the U.S. are caught between two cultures: one that is politically chaotic — Somalia — and another that is organized and has laws in place for redress — America.
“The Somali-Americans in the U.S., especially in Minnesota, have contributed a lot in terms of the economy and the political process,” said Afyare. “We just elected the first Somali councilman to the City of Minneapolis. … We are a better society, we have brought a lot into this state and into this country — the U.S.”
Many teenagers — unemployed and lacking money — are targeted by Islamist militant groups with religious and patriotic appeals. Many Somali-American teens still call Somalia home, and they are urged to return and help fight for their country and against its perceived enemies.
This is why Afyare says now is the time to unite Somalis in Minnesota to fight against militant recruiters such as al-Shabab.
“We need to come together as a country and work on what unites us instead of what divides us,” he said.
 A lost generation
Known to the community as a “lost generation,” many Somali-American teenagers want to be part of the changes in Somalia but still embrace American life. Most of them are the children of Somali refugees who fled the country’s long bloody war in the 1990s, and the new generation of Somali-Americans are having trouble assimilating in their adopted home.
Community leaders believe Somalia’s long civil war, clan politics, and resettlement program to the U.S. have all contributed to a disruption in the traditional Somali family structure. For example, many of the young Somali-Americans — like their peers still in Somalia — lost their fathers in the civil war.
“The family structure is broken down,” said Saad Samatar, chair of the Horn Development Center, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit. “Single mothers are running the families, thus they can’t control the boys. [T]he father-figure is missing in the equation of the Somali family.”
In recent years, there have been many changes — both socially and politically — in Somalia and in the U.S. It’s now a race for many young people to catch up with developments in both countries, fit into both systems, and simultaneously satisfy the needs of both countries.
“They are part of this country [the U.S.], but fighting in other countries,” Samatar said. “For many of these teenagers, they are being indoctrinated and brainwashed by some of the extremist groups.”
Ka Joog, a group that promotes the arts in Minnesota’s Somali-American community, told MintPress last year that al-Shabab and other militant groups manipulate disaffected teenagers. These militant groups have employed a mix of religious propaganda, nationalism, and, to some extent, deception to recruit the more than 20 Somali-Americans youths from the Twin Cities to fight against foreign troops in Somalia in the past.
Analysts in the U.S. and abroad have also observed that it will be difficult for Western authorities to stop recruitment, since al-Shabab and other groups constantly try to reach out to youths that feel unwelcome, insulted, and discriminated against in the West.
“They feel that people don’t respect their culture and their values and their beliefs,” Mubin Shaikh, a Canada-based Muslim scholar who infiltrated radical groups while working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told Voice of America. “So it’s very easy for them to push away, to not feel they are citizens here [although] they live here. So the lure is with this group that offers them some meaning, some identity, something to be proud of.”
Meanwhile, Samatar also added that the lack of understanding of what it means to be a U.S. citizen contributes tremendously to the identity crisis felt by younger members of Minnesota’s Somali community.
For Somali activists, the question now is: How are the community’s young people slipping away from the Twin Cities to participate in faraway wars? A week before the FBI turned its focus on Somalis in Minnesota, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, of Florida, was reportedly the first American citizen to have carried out a suicide bombing in Syria’s three-year civil war.
In light of the recent string of disappearances, the FBI, through its website, has asked the public to provide information on anyone known to, or suspected of, traveling to a foreign country to participate in armed combat — for example, those traveling to Syria to participate in the fight against President Bashar Assad.
Division and chaos boost recruitment efforts
This has all weighed heavily on Somalia’s political problems, as the international community continues to pressure the Somali government to contain al-Shabab and al-Qaida affiliates. In the Twin Cities, however, the Somali-American community is more concerned about their children and the trend of young people leaving to go fight wars abroad. Some have different views and perspectives on how the young people of the Somali community are being recruited by local and foreign terrorist groups both formerly and currently affiliated to al-Qaida.
“[A]s concerned citizens, we would like to cooperate with the authorities to help the parents. As a community, we would like to come together for the protection of our children, and our country — the U.S.,” Afyare, of the Somali Citizens League, said.
Within the community, there are signs of a division that is making it difficult for many to work on common ground to contain foreign extremist organizations recruiting Somali youths from Minnesota. Many in the community, including Afyare, believe that reconciliation for Somalis at home and abroad needs to take place.
The unstable situation in Somalia drives Somali youths in the U.S. and abroad to join warring factions in Syria and other countries in political turmoil, according to Afyare.
“Somalis need to come together. We need to work on our problems. We need to work on the security of our country. We need to make sure our youths are educated,” said Afyare. “To reach that, true reconciliation must take place. There are victims, there are people that have been hurt. Like South Africa, everybody has been through this.” 
FBI investigates
As the FBI continues to investigate whether young people from the Somali-American community are fighting in Syria, leaders in the community say the FBI met with some of of them at the Brian Coyle Community Center on June 12.
“We are reviewing the information… to identify persons who may have traveled, and persons who may have intention to travel [to Syria],” Kyle Loven, FBI chief division counsel in Minneapolis, told the media. “We plan to actively engage with the community to identify at-risk youths who may be considering travel to fight in Syria.”
The FBI stressed that most of the young Somali-Americans are reportedly recruited to join foreign terrorist organizations. Thus, according to Loven, the FBI is trying to ascertain if Minnesotans are involved.
On May 25, when Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha died in a suicide attack in Syria, the FBI stepped up its investigation of youths in the Somali community in Minneapolis. Many now believe the FBI is focusing heavily on their activities, including wiring money to relatives in Somalia and Kenya. Many Somali-Americans, such as those involved with the Somali Citizens League, say they have not been contacted by the FBI to discuss the missing young people — the group that allegedly included Abdi Mohamed Nur — who disappeared from the Twin Cities.
“They [the FBI] have not contacted me, but they have contacted a few in our community,” said Afyare. “My message to my community is to cooperate with the authorities because it is our interest to help them if there is such a case. … Our kids are missing, we’ve not seen it [the community's cooperation with the FBI] — none of it — yet.”
Loven, however, explained to MintPress that Nur’s case is part of an “active investigation,” and therefore, details of the case can not be discussed. He said the FBI is working with the Somali community in a “collaborative effort” to address the issue.
 Pressing questions, but so far, no answers
Federal law prohibits American citizens from taking up arms in foreign countries. The law also bars citizens from joining militant and terrorist groups in any part the world. As the list of young people leaving the Somali community in Minnesota to fight foreign wars continues to grow, many are still wondering what could compel their children who were born or who grew up in the U.S. to leave home to join militants and terrorist groups overseas.
Al-Shabaab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia. The new al-Shabab video, called “The Path to Paradise,” promises more in a series spotlighting recruits from Minnesota who abandoned the comforts of home in order to wage jihad against foreign troops in Somalia.
Talking to Somali-American organizations, many describe a cold feeling and uncomfortable relationship among many members of the community. They say the authorities now monitor their mosques and activists without addressing the reasons why their children are leaving: lack of resources; high unemployment rate; and a dearth of social and educational programs.
The community is concerned and wants to know who is recruiting the young Somalis to engage in foreign wars. Somali-Americans say they do not know who is luring the youths to join terrorist groups, but strongly believe that a lack of opportunities plays a major role.
“The high alarming rate of unemployment — the worst in more than ten years — and a lack of investment in the community is the problem,” said Abdirizak Bihi, director of the Minneapolis Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center.
He also noted that the young Somali-American population is growing, but there are limited resources for engaging them.
“Somebody is mentoring them in the wrong direction,” said Bihi, whose organization has tried to provide such engagement for six years, requesting funds for after-school projects, but hasn’t received any assistance. “We can’t do anything, we have used all our resources.”
Shaikh, the Canada-based Muslim scholar, said that those who join the extremist groups do so because they have relatives or friends who have also joined. It’s in those networks where he believes recruitment occurs.
Meanwhile, although there is suspicion that most of the youths are influenced by mosque preachings, Bihi disagrees and says this can not be confirmed.
Though the FBI is working with the Somali community and seeking information, it is still difficult to determine the links in the “terror pipelines.” The pressing questions about who is recruiting the Somali youths from Minnesota to join al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab in East Africa and the Islamic State in Syria have not yet been answered.
Abdimalik Askar, a candidate for state representative, told MintPress that most of the young people who left years ago surprised their parents, who, like many other Somalis, just want their children to learn about their muslim faith and be religious. When parents and family members learned that the young people had travelled abroad to fight, he said, they were puzzled and couldn’t find help.
“We want to know what they [teenagers] were learning in the mosques. They [parents] never saw that,” said Askar. “Who is behind this [recruiting young Somali-Americans] is the million-dollar-question? We never find the answer.”
Askar, also a doctoral student in leadership and education, added that the young Somali-Americans were sent to study the Quran in a few mosques in Minneapolis. The community was devastated to learn that some had abandoned the community to fight with al-Shabab.
“They are to be very careful and we’ll open our eyes. We want the children we bring to the United States to be able to learn. They need to be engineers, doctors, etc., and not go back. Though it is difficult to raise children in the U.S., we don’t want to lose anyone for nothing.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

UN envoy hails agreement to form new administration in central Somalia | GlobalPost

UN envoy hails agreement to form new administration in central Somalia | GlobalPost

The UN secretary-general's special representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, on Wednesday welcomed an agreement in principle to form a regional administration in central Somalia, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters here.
Under the leadership of the Somali Federal Government, representatives from the region signed a document earlier Wednesday, in which they stated that they would work together toward the establishment of a new administration in central Somalia.
The signing was witnessed by envoys and senior representatives of the African Union, the European Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations. The agreement contains 11 points that pave the way for the creation of new regional state in central Somalia, reports said.
"Kay called this move the first step in a process of state formation in central Somalia and a sign of the country's progress towards meeting the goals set out in Vision 2016 and the Provisional Federal Constitution," Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.
"He added that the UN remains committed to supporting the Federal Government's peace-building and state-building efforts," the spokesman added.

Somali women 'untapped resource' in fight against al-Shabaab -

Somali women 'untapped resource' in fight against al-Shabaab -

For years women in Mogadishu have been on the side-lines in the fight against al-Shabaab, but more recently they have begun to play a more active role by providing critical information about suspicious activity and people to security agencies, officials told Sabahi.
Women are an untapped resource and could play a more decisive role in defeating al-Shabaab, but have been so far underused in security efforts, said Jawahir Barqab, the director of the Benadir Women's Association, a Mogadishu-based non-governmental organisation that works to advance women's issues such as equal representation in politics and job opportunities.
Barqab said her organisation has been trying to change that situation since last December by facilitating the collaboration of security agencies with civilian women, and training women on how to monitor and report suspicious activities in their neighbourhoods.
"[So far] we have trained about 500 women who are reporting if they witness suspicious activity that could jeopardise [public] safety. We have also established a women's group in each of the 17 districts of Benadir region to manage security and cleaning efforts in the districts," Barqab told Sabahi.
The women, selected with the help of district commissioners, underwent a three-week training on the basics of what to look for when monitoring for suspicious activity, and how to use mobile text messages to report information, she said.
Barqab said the programme has been a success so far with trainees aiding security forces with actionable information that helped foil attacks and apprehend suspects. However, she said, more women are needed to join the fight against al-Shabaab to ensure security.
As responsible members of their communities, women should report anyone who appears willing to endanger the public, even if that person is her own brother or son, she said, adding that mothers should pay particular attention to their teenage sons to make sure they are not falling prey to al-Shabaab.
"A mother should befriend her son and observe his activities and every step he takes especially when he is going to school or going out of town," Barqab said. "She has to guard him against being brainwashed, which would lead him to inflict harm on the public."
Al-Shabaab militants value their distorted ideology more than anything and will not show mercy to their own relatives, she said. "If you hide them today, they will just kill you tomorrow. Therefore, it is better if you hand them over to the police so that you can save yourself, save your family and save the public in general," she warned women.
Warta Nabada District Commissioner Hussein Nur Issa said district security officials are now actively using the women trained by the programme and that their reports have saved lives.
"I greatly welcome these [training] efforts, and we have really taken advantage of them. The women have given us information on people who were engaged in destabilising actions such as planning explosions or preparing to assassinate a person, and we captured those people," Issa told Sabahi. "We have arrested individuals who came from regions far away and who were sent by al-Shabaab to create chaos in the city during Ramadan. This came about as a result of the women's efforts as they provided a lot of intelligence."
He called on the general public to develop a working relationship with the security agencies, especially with the police so that their security can be ensured and they can live in peace. Progress in the security situation in Benadir region and the rest of Somalia cannot be achieved without collaboration from the public, he added.

Government should provide incentives to women

Colonel Sharif Hassan Robow, who served in the National Security Service, Somalia's intelligence agency during the Mohamed Siad Barre regime, said al-Shabaab's actions can be prevented and Somalia can attain lasting stability if the government invests in types of efforts spearheaded by civilian women.
"The efforts of the women are great, but the government has to encourage those people and pay them so that they can forward accurate information," Robow told Sabahi.
"If the people who share information about al-Shabaab receive a monetary incentive and receive proper training on collecting intelligence, it will result in al-Shabaab's defeat," he said. "However, if there is no incentive, no one will volunteer information."
For her part, Fadumo Osman, a 22-year-old from Mogadishu's Hodan district, said she welcomes the news that women are working with security agencies on safeguarding security. However, she said, more women would consider joining if the government would take responsibility for their safety and promise the prosecution of any al-Shabaab member arrested as a result of their reports.
"If that promise is given, I would take part in these efforts myself," she told Sabahi. "My only worry is [if] al-Shabaab members who the women report [to police] are released back to the streets. [This] could result in many women being killed [by al-Shabaab in retaliation] and losing their lives that way."
"We are always ready to work for the security of our country so that Somalia can once again stand on its own feet. That can only come about if al-Shabaab and all the people who support them are eliminated from the country," she added.

Hani Garabyare's Journey From Somalia to the Senate : Roll Call Hill Life

Hani Garabyare's Journey From Somalia to the Senate : Roll Call Hill Life

When Hani Garabyare was a little girl, she prayed that she would be an American.

The 27-year-old Somali native is now a U.S. citizen and finds herself walking up Capitol Hill each day to work in the Senate.
When Garabyare was 3 years old, Somalia descended into civil war. Both her parents were members of the warring clans, so the ensuing chaos forced her family to flee the country.
“Everything that I knew collapsed,” said Garabyare.
Her mother recalled Garabyare praying each night to become an American. Even at a young age, Garabyare believed she would have a better life in the United States.
“America is always put on this high pedestal,” said the young Senate staffer. “It’s a land of freedom with an opportunity to rise.”
Garabyare and her family lived in the Utanga refugee camp in Kenya for four years. Her older brother had previously been sent to New York for schooling, so he helped the family through the asylum process that brought them to the United States.
With the additional help of Christian missionaries, the Garabyare family emigrated. They traveled first to Arlington, Va., and eventually settled in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Garabyare credits the U.S. government with helping to bring her family to America, which is why she wanted to work on Capitol Hill.
“I wouldn’t be in this country had it not been for United States legislation and people putting in an effort for immigration, especially refugees,” she said.
After receiving a master’s degree in public policy at Queen Mary University of London, Garabyare came to D.C. to intern for Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, D-N.Y. In 2012, the Somali native jumped at the opportunity to work for her home state’s senior senator: Democrat Carl Levin.
As a legislative aide with a focus on foreign policy, Garabyare relishes the opportunity to work on policies she is passionate about. She described meeting with various human rights groups as a fulfilling part of her job. “I feel like I have a role in helping them,” she said.
Garabyare is also active in the Congressional African Staff Association and said she feels a unique responsibility in being the only Somali staffer on the Hill.
“People can say a lot about Somalis or Somalia,” she said, noting that people often talk about her native country in the context of piracy, terrorism and anarchy.
“I want to give them a different perspective of what it is to be a Somali,” Garabyare said. “We are resilient people; we’re hard working and we’re also, if given the opportunity, we can excel very well in this country.”
Garabyare hopes to continue excelling on the Hill, although her future remains a bit uncertain with Levin retiring at the end of the year.
“I do want to stay on the Hill,” she said. “I feel like there’s more I can do.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Somali Refugees Find an Unlikely Home … In Istanbul

Somali Refugees Find an Unlikely Home … In Istanbul

Among the labyrinth of winding narrow streets just outside a major shopping centre in the Kumkapi neighbourhood of Istanbul is a rundown road, congested with shops and apartments stacked atop one another.

Cars somehow manage to come barrelling down the street as people slowly move to the narrow pavement already full of food carts and clothes strewn out on blankets for sale. Trash lazily rolls past groups of men engaged in conversation while sitting on buckets or leaning against shop windows. The area feels oddly serene.
This street is host to a community of African refugees, with the majority comprising Somali natives, and aptly named “Somalia Street”. Through word of mouth and family ties, Somali refugees seek a temporary home in this nook of Istanbul, in order to find some respite from the political and natural disasters that have devastated Somalia for decades.
Istanbul has become a staging post for Somalis hoping to eventually travel on to Australia, Canada or the United States, migration trend watchers say.  Because of the constant population flux, it is difficult to estimate the number of refugees actually living on the street at any given moment, but street residents say that there are a few hundred Somalis living there.
Dalmar, 30, a Somali refugee, has only been in Istanbul for a month with his brother Amet, 20, and lives in a small apartment with 12 other refugees. This arrangement is very common here. Often, refugees will live in small apartments with 20 or 30 other people.
“Istanbul is very temporary,” said Dalmar. “The living conditions are poor. Istanbul is expensive, and it is very hard to find work here.”
Turkish labour laws require a passport and residence card for employment, neither of which refugees can easily obtain. This has led to much illegal work, usually consisting of manual labour and odd jobs.
A refugee who has lived in Turkey for many years, Liban, 31, said he worked in various manual labour jobs when he first arrived in Istanbul. He pointed out that that the language barrier between Arabic and Turkish makes it “difficult to get jobs in the first place.”
Yet inhabitants appear to have established a unique community along the littered, cobblestone street. Most Somalis interviewed said they enjoy life in Istanbul. The community takes care of them as they arrive in droves. Often, refugees will find work with Kurdish shop owners, who seem rather protective of them.
During one interview with a group of refugees, a Kurdish man popped his head of his shop out to make sure they were not being harassed.
The Katip Kasim mosque stands on Somali Street, its low brick wall recently painted white and orange. The mosque is rather unassuming compared to the grandiose and elegant mosques around Istanbul.
Muammer Aksoy has worked as Katip Kasim’s imam for 19 years, and has seen the community change significantly. This area of Istanbul has always been a refuge for minority groups in Istanbul, beginning with Kurdish migrants from Turkey’s east. Romanian refugees arrived in the 1980s and 1990s. There has since been an increase in African refugees to the area, the majority arriving within the last five years.
During the holy month of Ramadan, Somalia Street unites. Somalis are very devout Muslims. Once the sun begins to set, the Katip Kasim mosque courtyard fills with people waiting in line to receive their dinner to break the fast, oriftar.
Imam Aksoy began the community iftar dinners eight years ago, after seeing a Somali refugee attempt to break his fast with a small piece of bread, and by drinking soiled water from the fountains used to wash feet before entering the mosque.
“It is my responsibility as the imam to take care of my community,” said Aksoy. “I don’t discriminate between people here. Everyone is welcome.”
The imam has enlisted a different shop owner on the street each evening to provide the iftar dinner for 300 people.
A long-time resident and family friend of the imam, Arzu, has also seen the change in the community. “Refugees come because they heard people take care of them here,” she said proudly.
Turkey and Somalia have an unlikely partnership. According to a 2013 report by the Norwegian Peace Building Centre, Turkey has established networks in Africa, Somalia in particular, to enable peace-building efforts and humanitarian initiatives. In turn, says the report, this “strengthens Turkey’s international image as a global peace actor.”
“The relationship between Somalia and Turkey is very recent. It was just in 2011 that this relationship began,” said Dalmar. “Now there are scholarships and programmes for students.”
Somalia receives more aid from Turkey than any other African nation, with 93 million dollars in 2011, and 1,500 Somali students received scholarships to study at the public Istanbul University in 2013.
Abdifitah, 25, who has been living in the community for one year, was a scholarship recipient. To take advantage of the opportunity, Abdifitah and his family moved together from Somalia. His family cannot find work, but has moved with him in order to support him.
“Istanbul gave me a chance to learn,” said Abdifitah.
Recently, Somali refugees have been moving to Turkey’s capital, Ankara, because work is easier to find, and housing is cheaper than in overcrowded Istanbul.
Liban lives with his family in Ankara, but makes a living as a translator for the local African football league in Istanbul. When asked if he would like to go somewhere else, he shook his head.
“When I was younger, I really wanted to go to America. Now, if someone handed me an American passport, I wouldn’t take it,” said Liban. “I have everything I want here.”

Freelance writer Hannah Tayson was a foreign correspondent intern with the Institute for Education in International Media (ieiMedia) in Istanbul during the summer of 2014. She can be contacted at

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ethiopia eyes regional integration through highways | Economy | Worldbulletin News

Ethiopia eyes regional integration through highways | Economy | Worldbulletin News

A total of $610.6 million has been allocated for the implementation of the Ethiopian part of the project, with the funds coming from the Ethiopian government, international financial institutions and donor organizations.

Ethiopia is pinning high hopes that the construction of a network of inter-state highways that connects it with its East Africa neighbors would help achieve the aspired economic integration in the region.
“The roads would link Ethiopia with Sudan, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti,” Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) Communication Director Samson Wondimu told Anadolu Agency.
The inter-state highways, which would stretch through 2000 kilometers, are expected to "play a significant role in bringing about economic and social integration in the region,” Wondimu added.
According to the official, the network would also be instrumental in creating more access to maritime ports for Ethiopia, a country that became landlocked following the 1991 cessation of Eritrea.
A total of $610.6 million has been allocated for the implementation of the Ethiopian part of the project, with the funds coming from the Ethiopian government, international financial institutions and donor organizations.
One of the highways is Assosa-Kumruk road, which would help Ethiopia get access to Port Sudan, Samson said. Another is the 324-kiolomter Shire-Adigosh-Humera-Lugdi, which also provides a shortcut to Port Sudan from the northern part of Ethiopia.
The roads would help Ethiopia export agricultural products to Sudan and import petroleum and other goods on the other way around, he said.
“Ethiopia has also constructed 122-kilometer Gambella-Etang-Jikawo asphalt road linking it to South Sudan,” Samson said. “This road is believed to attract investment to the nascent country and also enhance socio-economic development [in South Sudan].”
He said a 260- kilometer Mizanteferi-Boma concrete asphalt is yet another inter-state highway linking Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Meanwhile, well under construction in the southern region is also the Mombasa–Nairobi–Addis Ababa road corridor.
“It is an important part of the Trans-African Highway Corridor project stretching from Cairo in Egypt to Cape Town in South Africa,” Wondimu said

Sunday, July 27, 2014

UAE, Saudi Arabia announce first day of Eid Al Fitr | The 971 Report - Yahoo Maktoob News

UAE, Saudi Arabia announce first day of Eid Al Fitr | The 971 Report - Yahoo Maktoob News.

The first day of Eid Al Fitr has been announced in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Monday, July 28, will be the first day of Eid Al Fitr, the three-day festival to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The UAE moonsighting commitee said Sunday, July 27, was the final day of Ramadan, making Monday the first day of Shawal.

''After exhausting all legitimate methods and making contacts with neighbouring countries, the Shawwal moon was sighted and therefore Sunday, 27 July 2014, is the completion day of Ramadan and Monday 28 July, is Shawwal 1 1435, is the first day of Eid Al Fitr,"  state news agency WAM quoted Sultan bin Saeed Al Badi, Minister of Justice and Chairman of the Committee, as saying.

UAE, Jordan say Eid begins Monday - Al Arabiya News

UAE, Jordan say Eid begins Monday - Al Arabiya News

Both the United Arab Emirates and Jordan announced on Sunday that Eid al-Fitr would begin on July 28, as Muslims around the world awaited official announcements from other states including Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam.
Iraq’s Grand Mufti Rafi al-Rifai also announced Sunday that Eid Al-Fitr would begin Monday.
Eid Al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan and lasts three days.
Determining the exact date depends on observing the Shawwal moon.
The moon sighting committee in Saudi Arabia was meeting Sunday to witness the moon.
Most of the Arab, European, American and Canadian Muslims celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr on the same dates as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

U.N. warns of alarming malnutrition rates in Somali capital | News by Country | Reuters

U.N. warns of alarming malnutrition rates in Somali capital | News by Country | Reuters

The United Nations has reported alarming rates of malnutrition in the Somali capital where aid agencies cannot meet the needs of 350,000 people due to insufficient funds, drought and conflict.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the Somali government had compared the situation to the run-up to a 2011 famine that killed 260,000 people.
The United Nations has sought to improve its early warning mechanisms after its failure to spot indications of crisis in 2010 was blamed for the scale of the famine that followed in a nation torn apart by years of conflict."Alarming rates of malnutrition have been observed among displaced communities in Mogadishu," OCHA said in a report released at the weekend, citing a study by a unit of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation.It said aid agencies were unable to meet the needs of 350,000 people who had fled to Mogadishu, saying the aid organisations faced a shortage of funds and violence in the capital that could restrict deliveries.Al Shabaab rebels, seeking to topple the Western-backed government and impose their own strict interpretation of Islam, have staged a series of attacks in Mogadishu during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which ends this week."The humanitarian community is mobilising resources to address the serious situation, but the significant shortfall in funding for humanitarian activities has undermined the capacity to respond," OCHA said of the challenges in Mogadishu.Because of drought and continued conflict, it said food shortages were expected to worsen in areas mainly in the south and southeast of Somalia.Earlier this year, African Union forces launched a new drive to push al Shabaab militants out of other towns and cities. Many people fled their homes in the fighting. Officials have said aid convoys sometimes struggled to reach newly retaken towns.A U.N. emergency fund had allocated more than $21 million to support humanitarian work in Somalia, including funding a campaign to combat an outbreak of measles, OCHA said.Overall, OCHA said it had raised less than a third of the $933 million required for its relief work in 2014, which ranges from food provision to health work and basic education. (Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

FGM: two young women who woke up world and forced politicians to act | Society | The Guardian

FGM: two young women who woke up world and forced politicians to act | Society | The Guardian

Fahma Mohamed in UK and Jaha Dukureh in US have led global debate on female genital mutilation and movement to end it
Jaha Dukureh at the Girl Summit, hosted in London by the UK and Unicef to mobilise international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian
In February this year Fahma Mohamed was a 17-year-old student studying for her A-levels in Bristol. One of nine girls from a British Somali family she was, by her own account, not one for the spotlight. Over in Atlanta, Georgia, Jaha Dukureh, a 24-year-old woman originally from the Gambia, was juggling a full-time job in a bank with motherhood.
Six months later these two young women, who have led Guardian-backed campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic, have found themselves at the heart of the movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM) – a movement that in recent months has, astonishingly, put girls' issues at the very top of the political agenda.
At the historic Girl Summit in London this week, the prime minister, David Cameron, announced that the government would legally oblige teachers, doctors and social workers to report FGM, train professionals and criminalise parents if they failed to protect their children. Ministers from Somalia to Burkina Faso vowed to stamp out FGM – a traditional practice that involves the removal of a girl's outer sexual organs – while the Obama administration confirmed it would be carrying out the first study for 17 years into the number of girls and women living with FGM in the US.
So, how did the fight against FGM, described by Germaine Greer in the late 1990s as "an attack on cultural identity", become front page news, endorsed by the prime minister and acknowledged by the White House?
"I think there was a collective dawning that this was not a cultural issue to be tiptoed around – we were talking about girls having their genitals cut off," says Lib Dem international development minister Lynne Featherstone, a staunch campaigner in the government's ranks. "The sisterhood marched, the media marched with them, and the men joined in behind."
Fahma Mohamed
Fahma Mohamed became the face of the campaign against FGM in which the Guardian teamed up with Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian
On the wall of the Orchid project, a London charity dedicated to ending FGM, is a series of newspaper cuttings that reveal how the movement to stamp out the practice – which affects more than 130,000 women in England and Wales, according to new figures – has gained momentum. "On the UN's international day against FGM in 2011 we got one story in the Observer, and that was it," says Ruthie Taylor. "This year, it was everywhere, including the front page of the Guardian. It's unbelievable how things have changed."
Mohamed, who found herself on that front page as the face of a ground-breaking campaign in which the Guardian teamed up with, says it took on a life of its own. The petition became's fastest growing UK petition and within days had gathered more than 230,000 signatures. "I was just in awe of how many people supported us," she says. "In the past it was such a slog fighting against something that people didn't even know existed. Lots of people denied it was happening – they didn't like girls speaking up for one another. Now finally people were listening."
Within days of the launch the then education secretary Michael Gove had agreed to a meeting, and soon met demands to write to all teachers in England and Wales about FGM. Then Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who called Fahma her sister in a fight for girls' rights, backed the petition, and Fahma received a call to meet UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who called her an inspiration.
Appearing this week with fellow members of Integrate Bristol at the Girl Summit was a "beautiful moment", she adds. "It really made me feel like we are part of something, and together we can do it."
Keen to enhance the success of the UK campaign, the Guardian contacted Dukureh, a survivor of FGM in Atlanta who had started her own petition in the US with Equality Now, calling for action on FGM from the Obama administration. When the petition was relaunched on May 12 the impact was immediate.
"Before the Guardian got on board we were getting maybe 10 signatures a day, then suddenly it was 1,000, " says Dukureh. "It was exactly what we needed." Within a month more than 50 members of Congress joined the campaign and Dukureh met with officials at the departments of justice and education. This week, while Dukureh was in London for the Girl Summit, the Obama administration quietly announced that it would carry out a study into FGM and had set up a working group – a key demand of her campaign. Fellow campaigner Mohamed was one of the first to fly into her arms. "I went crazy with her," says the teenager. "As soon as we met it was like there was a bond between us, like we were part of the same sisterhood."
(Left - right) Prime Minister David Cameron, Chantal Compaore the First Lady of Burkina Faso, Sheikh Hasina the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and activist Malala Yousafzai during the Girl Summit 2014 at Walworth Academy, London.
David Cameron, Burkina Faso's first lady, Chantal Compaoré, PM of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, and education activist Malala Yousafzai. Photograph: Oli Scarff/PA
That youthful energy – palpable at the Girl Summit when Malala was welcomed on stage like a rock star – has played a critical role in getting politicians to listen, said Equality Now's Efua Dorkenoo, a long-time campaigner. "A lot of strategic work has been done for many years behind the scenes," she says. "But I think it is that second generation requesting to be protected that has pushed it on to a higher agenda and emboldened the politicians to take action." News organisations that have campaigned on the issue, including the Guardian and the London Evening Standard, as well as broader media coverage, has also caught the attention of the public and politicians, she said.
One such second-generation campaigner is Nimko Ali, a co-founder of charity Daughters of Eve. She also credits female politicians, such as Featherstone and Justine Greening at Dfid at DfID and Jane Ellison in the Department of Health, who have passionately taken up the cause. "Those gutsy women have made a difference," she says. "At the Girl Summit Nick Clegg and David Cameron just came along and announced the policies they'd fought for. People said it was just a political move getting more women into the cabinet, but it does make a difference."
While the push to end FGM has been welcomed by campaigners, some have urged caution at rushing through well-intentioned but potentially ill-thought out policies. The Royal College of General Practitioners wrote to the Guardian this week warning that legal sanctions against health professionals who fail to report FGM could be counterproductive, and may discourage women who have been cut from seeing a doctor. "FGM is a terrible crime, but we must think about the unintended consequences and whether this could be driven underground," said Nigel Mathers, secretary of the RCGP. Sarah McCulloch, who runs a grassroots FGM support service in Sheffield, has already received worried calls from professionals. "What worries me is that after the hard work of encouraging young people to challenge the issues, they may be driven them back into silence if they feel that they may put their parents at risk or arrest," she says.
But campaigners are confident that, while huge challenges remain – more than 130m women are living with FGM around the world and another three million every year are at risk – the global community as a whole is moving in the right direction. Campaigning from grassroots organisations, agencies such as Unicef, and larger NGOs such as Equality Now and Plan International are getting results throughout the world.
A UN resolution banned FGM in December 2012, and by the time of its Status of Women conference in March 2013, 25 African countries had outlawed cutting. Mohamed, who will continue to push for FGM awareness to be taught in UK schools, is optimistic about the future. "I know great things are going to come after this," she says. "It's like being on a rollercoaster, but we just keep on going up. There's no going back down for us now."

Fahma Mohamed

Fahma Mohamed was born in Bristol in 1996, the eldest of nine girls born to Somali parents. The 17-year-old student at City Academy Bristol (CAB) is a trustee of Integrate Bristol, a Bristol-based charity set up by teacher Lisa Zimmermann. She was not cut herself, but comes from an affected community. Fahma agreed to becoming the face of the Guardian's campaign, because she wanted people to take more notice of FGM. "I don't think any of us realised how big it would be," she says. "We were just so happy that people were finally listening." Since starting the campaign Mohamed has spoken to press around the world, has met Michael Gove and other senior politicians and was recently invited to Buckingham Palace to meet princes William and Harry. "A few months ago I would have fainted," she says. "But now I'm not intimidated by anyone and, if it's possible, I'm even more passionate than before."

Jaha Dukureh

Jaha Dukureh was born in Gambia, and went through the most severe form of FGM as a baby. Her clitoris and labia were removed, and she was sewn up so that only a small hole remained. The 24-year-old mother of three was pushed into an arranged marriage at 15 and moved to New York, where she was "re-opened" so that her husband could have sex with her. She fled the marriage and moved to Atlanta, where she remarried, put herself through college, and set up her own NGO, Safe Hands for Girls. She recently gave up her job as a banking adviser, after receiving her first grant of $20,000, but does not yet receive enough funding to pay herself. "The day after the campaign launch I went home and blasted Beyoncé's I Was Here," she remembers. "I felt like my whole life was out there but it was worth it – suddenly people were talking about this. I could see the impact it was having, not only in the US but with people in Africa and back in Gambia. I felt fortunate to make a difference. You know – I was here."

Celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr

Eid Mubarak!

Happy and peaceful Eid-ul-Fitr

I wish all a very happy and peaceful Eid
May Allah accept our good deeds, forgive our
transgressions and mistakes.

One of the most joyous Muslim occasions, Eid-ul-Fitr is widely celebrated in all those nations wherever there is a presence of a Muslim community.

Marking the conclusion of the fasting month of Ramadan is Eid-ul-Fitr. This is related to the communal aspects of the fast, which depicts many of the basic values of the Muslim community, for example charity, empathy for the poor, steadfastness, patience, worship, etc.

It is believed by some scholars that fasting is done to extol fundamental distinctions, praising the power of the spiritual realm, simultaneously acknowledging the subordination of the physical realm. It also teaches a Muslim to strafe away from worldly desires and to focus completely on the Lord and acknowledge Him for His blessings.

It is a revival of the religion and it enables a stronger bond between the Muslim and his Lord. At the end of Ramadan, is the big celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Eid Al-Fitr 2014: USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia celebrate Eid on Monday

Eid Al-Fitr 2014: USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia celebrate Eid on Monday

Eid Al-Fitr 2014 is here and Muslims in USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia and many other places are going to celebrate this occasion in a big way. But many people will celebrate it on Tuesday if crescent moon is not sighted later today.
But not everyone in United States will be celebrating the occasion as Fiqh Council of North America, an ISNA sub group has decided to celebrate the occasion much in advance based on astronomical location of the moon. The Fiqh Council of North America had announced the date of Eid and Ramadan much in advance.
But this has created fissures among Muslims of the United States many of whom believe that they need to see the new crescent moon by their naked eyes as has been the norm since the days of Prophet Muhammad. But ISNA and many other organizations and groups say that the unwanted confusion caused by the sighting of the moon in traditional ways is avoidable by using the technology that was not available during the time of the Prophet.
Fiqh Council of North America directive on ISNA website says, “The Astronomical New Moon is on July 26, 2014 (Saturday) at 22:41 Universal Time. (1:41 a.m. on July 27, Makkah time). On July 26, Saturday, sunset at Makkah is 7:03 p.m. and moonset is 6:33 p.m. Moon is born after sunset in Makkah and moon sets before sunset. On July 27, Sunday, sunset at Makkah is 7:02 p.m. and moonset is at 7:14 p.m. Moon is born before sunset, while moonset is after sunset. Therefore, first day of Shawwal, i.e., Eid al-Fitr is July 28, Monday, insha’Allah”.
Eid Ul-Fitr is one of the two main festivals celebrated by Muslims across the world. From Mecca to Washington, New Delhi, Jakarta, Istanbul and Tokyo, the festival is celebrated by Muslim communities in a big way. It marks the end of the fasting period of the Islamic month of Ramadan and ushers in the month of Shawwaal. For Muslims, Eid Ul-Fitr not only signals the breaking of the fast, but also signifies the attainment of communication with the divine spirit and religious virtue, characterized by sacrifice, self-discipline and acts of charity. This is marked by high level of charity (sadqah) and prayers by Muslims throughout the month.
Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Eid is an Arabic word meaning‘festivity’,while Fitr  means “to break fast”; and the day symbolizes breaking of the fasting period. It is celebrated after the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan, on the first day of Shawwal. The believers across the world are commanded by the Qur’an to complete their fast on the last day of Ramadan and then recite the Takbir all throughout the period of Eid. The fasting begins with a special Eid prayers or Salatul Eid that is offered in huge congregations across the world.

Eid Al-Fitr 2014: How Muslims Celebrate The End Of Ramadan Around The World

Eid Al-Fitr 2014: How Muslims Celebrate The End Of Ramadan Around The World

Eid Al-Fitr is one of the most celebrated occasions in the Islamic calendar, and after a month of fasting, Muslims around the world have a good reason to celebrate.
While dates can vary, this year most Muslims will begin celebrating Eid on July 28, to mark the end of the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast each day from sunrise to sunset.
Eid, meaning festival in Arabic, has different names around the world. In South Asia, it’s often called Choti Eid, meaning small Eid, in comparison to the larger Eid Al-Adha. In Turkey, it’s referred to as Ramazan Bayrami, meaning Ramadan holiday.
While the names may vary, Eid holds the same value for Muslims everywhere. It’s a day of celebration, meeting loved ones, and after a month of fasting, eating lots and lots of food.
In Muslim countries, Eid is a three-day celebration and generally a national holiday. In most Western countries, Muslims tend to take a day or two off from their busy schedules for the special occasion.
Whether they are in a predominantly Muslim country or living around the world, Muslims look back to the religious and cultural customs of their ancestors when celebrating Eid. Some of the basics, such as giving charity and attending Eid prayers, are common among all nationalities, while many practices are unique.

10 countries spending the most on the military - MSN Money

10 countries spending the most on the military - MSN Money

The US still spends more – far, far more – on its armed forces than any other nation. But as American defense spending slows, some countries are catching up.

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson © Petty Officer 2nd Class Dusty Howell/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Monetary might
Global military spending continued to decline last year. Although arms expenditure has actually increased in much of the world, military spending in the United States — which still accounted for 37 percent of total global military spending in 2013 — has declined in recent years.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) measures annual military spending for most of the world's armed countries. According to SIPRI, the U.S. spent $618 billion on its military last year, more than three times the $171 billion budget of second-place China. Based on SIPRI's 2013 data, these are the countries with the largest military budgets.
According to Dr. Sam Perlo-Freeman, senior researcher and head of the SIPRI Project on Military Expenditure, austerity measures account for the majority of the declines in military spending, particularly in Western Europe.
In the U.S., lower military spending was partly the result of efforts to reduce the deficit, but mostly due to the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the peak of U.S. military expenditure in 2010, defense spending has fallen 14 percent amidst growing concerns about the national debt. Similarly, the United Kingdom has dramatically reduced military expenditures following Prime Minister David Cameron's call for financial responsibility.
In other countries -- especially those where military spending was on the rise -- military budgets were dependent on a number of factors. A country's economy, for example, often mirrors military spending. "You need to have GDP growth to be able to afford higher military spending," Perlo-Freeman said. This was evident in China, where military spending has grown in proportion to the country's economic growth.
Regional conflicts have also prompted countries to increase the size of their military. Algeria, where the Arab Spring began in 2010, also became the first country in Africa with a military budget that exceeded $10 billion last year, likely due to instability within the country and unrest in the region. Similarly, mounting tension between Pakistan and India may have contributed to India becoming the world's largest arms importer last year.
China's significant military budget and the modernization of its armed forces have contributed to tensions in Southeast Asia and the East Asian Sea. Territorial disputes, combined with high spending, as Perlo-Freeman explained, have induced countries to expand the size of their military expenditures. Japan, for example, increased its military budget for the first time in 10 years due to recent territorial disputes with China.
To determine the 10 countries that spent the most on their military in 2013, 24/7 Wall St. examined SIPRI data on military expenditure in over 170 countries. We reviewed SIPRI data on military exports, imports and military expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product. We also reviewed GDP and GDP growth figures from the International Monetary Fund.
Read on to see the countries with the highest military expenditures.
No. 10: Brazil
Military expenditure: $36.2 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 1.4 percent (tied, 62nd lowest)
1-yr. spending change: -3.9 percent (26th lowest)
Total arms imports: $254 million (24th highest)
Total arms exports: $36 million (12th lowest)
Perhaps due to strong oil revenue, which can help bolster military spending without the need for unpopular tax hikes, Brazil's military spending, along with many other developing nations, increased dramatically in the 2000s. In recent years, however, Brazil's military spending has leveled off somewhat, decreasing by nearly 4 percent last year.
The socioeconomic conditions in Brazil may account for some of its more than $36 billion military budget in 2013. The Brazilian military is often used to help keep order inside the country, especially in the favelas. These sprawling, impoverished neighborhoods are typically crime-ridden and often ruled by local drug lords rather than the nation's formal laws. Similar conditions and ongoing drug cartel-related violence can be seen in several Central American countries where military spending has continued to rise in recent years.
No. 9: India
Military expenditure: $49.1 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 2.5 percent (31st highest)
1-yr. spending change: -0.7 percent (46th lowest)
Total arms imports: $5.6 billion (the highest)
Total arms exports: $10 million (10th lowest)
India has been among the world's foremost arms importers for decades. The country continued to expand and modernize its military in 2013, importing $5.6 billion worth of arms. This drove military expenditures to account for 2.5 percent of GDP in 2013, among the higher proportions worldwide.
High military spending was likely due to ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan that threatens the stability and welfare of people in both countries. While the country invests large amounts of money in its military, per capita GDP in India is among the lowest worldwide.
No. 8: Germany
Military expenditure: $49.3 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 1.4 percent (tied, 62nd lowest)
1-yr. spending change: 0.0 percent (53rd lowest)
Total arms imports: $129 million (36th highest)
Total arms exports: $972 million (6th highest)
Germany's estimated GDP per capita was more than $40,000 last year. As one of the world's strongest economies, Germany has the means to maintain a well-supplied military. But while Germany spent among the most in nominal terms, its military expenditure accounted for just 1.4 percent of its GDP, one of the lower proportions.
Since World War II, Germany has maintained a relatively passive role in global military affairs. However, like a majority of high-spending nations, particularly those in the West, Germany was one of the world's top exporters of military goods. Germany exported an estimated $972 million in military supplies in 2013, more than all but a handful of countries.
In addition, while most European countries cut military spending as part of their severe austerity measures, Germany increased its military expenditure by 2 percent between 2008 and last year.
No. 7: United Kingdom
Military expenditure: $56.2 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 2.3 percent (34th highest)
1-yr. spending change: -2.6 percent (34th lowest)
Total arms imports: $438 million (15th highest)
Total arms exports: $1.4 billion (5th highest)
Despite deep cuts to military expenditures after a defense review in 2010, U.K. military spending was still among the highest worldwide. Prime Minister David Cameron began implementing fiscal austerity measures, including military spending cuts, shortly after he took office in mid-2010. Critics of Cameron's efforts assert that further military cuts will make the U.K. less reliable to its allies.
Despite the cuts, military expenditure comprised 2.3 percent of GDP in 2013, one of the higher proportions worldwide. Additionally, the U.K. was the fifth largest arms exporter in 2013, providing $1.4 billion of arms to foreign allies.
No. 6: Japan
Military expenditure: $59.4 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 1.0 percent (31st lowest)
1-yr. spending change: -0.2 percent (52nd lowest)
Total arms imports: $145 million (34th highest)
Total arms exports: N/A
A recently ignited territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea pushed Japan to increase its military budget in 2013 for the first time in more than 10 years. While Japan's 2013 budget called for a 0.8 percent increase in military spending, total military expenditure remained fixed at 1 percent of GDP.
As is often the case, an increase in military spending means reduced funding in other areas. In the case of Japan, high military spending may affect the country's ability to bring down its national debt, which stood at 243 percent of GDP in 2013, the highest worldwide. By contrast, U.S. debt levels -- which have come under political scrutiny in recent years -- were at 104 percent of GDP in 2013.
No. 5: France
Military expenditure: $62.3 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 2.2 percent (39th highest)
1-yr. spending change: -2.3 percent (35th lowest)
Total arms imports: $43 million (55th highest)
Total arms exports: $1.5 billion (4th highest)
Like much of Western Europe, France's military expenditure has fallen in recent years. France spent nearly $70 billion in 2009, versus more $62 billion last year. This decrease, however, was relatively small given the country's weak economic growth and implementation of the austerity measures after the global economic crisis. France passed the Military Programming Law in 2013, which aims to keep the current level of military spending through 2019.
France exported nearly $1.5 billion in military goods last year, more than all but three other countries. French arms exports have historically ended up in Africa, where France maintains ties with many of its former colonies.
No. 4: Saudi Arabia
Military expenditure: $62.8 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 9.3 percent (2nd highest)
1-yr. spending change: 14.3 percent (16th highest)
Total arms imports: $1.5 billion (4th highest)
Total arms exports: N/A
Situated in an increasingly unstable region, Saudi Arabia hiked its military budget by 14.3 percent in 2013. Saudi neighbors include Iraq and Yemen, which are currently in turmoil. Saudi Arabia has also had historically poor relations with another neighbor, Iran, which could become an even bigger threat if it acquires nuclear capabilities. The large increase in military outlays is likely a direct response to these threats.
The House of Saud aims to replace its current 20-year old weapon stores, including a heavy investment in missile defense systems. Like many of the countries with the biggest military budgets, Saudi Arabia benefits from one of the world's largest oil reserves. At 9.3 percent, the country's spending as a percentage of GDP was second only to Oman, another oil-rich nation in the Middle East.
No. 3: Russia
Military expenditure: $84.9 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 4.1 percent (10th highest)
1-yr. spending change: 4.8 percent (48th highest)
Total arms imports: $148 million (33rd highest)
Total arms exports: $8.3 billion (the highest)
Russia leads the rest of the world in military exports, with more than $8 billion worth last year, well above the U.S.'s $6.2 billion in exports. While total military spending in Russia remains a fraction of what it was in the late 1980s, it has been on the rise in recent years as a result of Russia's involvement in various regional conflicts. With the more recent ongoing Crimean crisis, this spending trend may likely continue.
The country's military expenditure was roughly $85 billion last year compared to just $64.5 billion in 2009. Russia now spends 4.1 percent of its GDP on its military, exceeding that of the U.S. for the first time in over a decade. The dramatic increase is likely due in part to Russia's stated plans to invest more than $700 billion to modernize its weapons system by 2020. According to some onlookers, making these improvements may be difficult given Russia's low birth rates, poverty and lingering Soviet-era corruption problems.
No. 2: China
Military expenditure: $171.4 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 2.0 percent (45th highest)
1-yr. spending change: 7.4 percent (36th highest)
Total arms imports: $1.5 billion (3rd highest)
Total arms exports: $1.8 billion (3rd highest)
Military spending often mirrors economic growth, and this is especially true in China, where military spending has increased in each of the past five years roughly in line with economic growth. Military expenditure grew 7.4 percent last year alone, far more than any other country in the region, and among the larger annual growths worldwide. The value of China's military exports trails only the U.S. and Russia, at around $1.8 billion last year.
Unlike most other countries, China imported nearly as much in military goods as it exported, at $1.5 billion last year. According to Dr. Perlo-Freeman, a combination of increased Chinese military spending and rising regional tensions have encouraged higher military expenditures among neighboring countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan.
No. 1: United States
Military expenditure: $618.7 billion
Expenditure as pct. of GDP: 3.8 percent (14th highest)
1-yr. spending change: -7.8 percent (12th lowest)
Total arms imports: $759 million (8th highest)
Total arms exports: $6.2 billion (2nd highest)
The $619 billion military expenditure in the U.S. nearly outpaced the combined spending of every other country on this list in 2013. At the start of 2013, the U.S. had nearly 8,000 nuclear warheads in reserve. Since 2001, U.S. defense spending has risen from $287 billion to $530 billion.
In recent years, however, U.S. military outlays fell from 4.8 percent of GDP in 2009 to 3.8 percent in 2013. Reduction in military expenditures was due to a greater emphasis on fiscal austerity and the winding down of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, military expenditure fell nearly 6 percent in 2012, followed by a 7.8 percent reduction in 2013.
Despite efforts to curtail the size of the military, the U.S. supplied nearly $6.2 billion in arms to foreign allies, a figure second only to Russia. The U.S. was also a large arms importer, bringing in $759 million worth of arms, among the higher rates worldwide.

Somalia: Deteriorating food security

Somalia: Deteriorating food security

Three years after the last severe food crisis that affected Somalia, rising numbers of the population are once again suffering acute problems and even more are at risk. Mohamed Sheikh Ali, who coordinates ICRC efforts to develop food production and relief efforts in the country describes the situation.

Why is food insecurity increasing again in Somalia?

The answer is complex. There are a number of different factors that are contributing to a series of localised problems in both the centre and south of the country, but also in the far north of Somalia; but the populations worst affected are those suffering an overlap of climactic and conflict SHOCKS.

By climactic shocks you mean drought?

Not just, but yes – drought is part of the problem. Over the past few months, rains have been poor and erratic in some parts of South and Central Somalia, for instance in Beletweyn, Lower and Middle Jubas and areas of Lower and Middle Shabelle, as well as in areas of Puntland in the north. However, on top of this, a sizeable population affected by severe flooding in the south and a similar population hit by a devastating cyclone in the north at the end of 2013 had been struggling to recover their economic means already before this drought problem struck

But conflict has also contributed to the problem?

Somalis have been enduring perpetual conflict and absent or limited state services for the last 2 decades, leaving a large proportion of the population generally at high risk to such shocks. In the South and Centre, changes in the conflict situation and military clashes in 2014 have resulted in population displacement, as well as blockades of a number of towns, to which many have been moving. This has disrupted MARKETS, restricted trade and increased food prices in these urban centres. In the regions of Sool and Sanag in the north, recent political tensions and some insecurity have also led to population displacement.

Who is most at risk in this situation?

Whilst the combination of these different elements reduces productivity and income overall in these areas, those most at risk are the displaced populations, and in particular young children and pregnant and lactating mothers. Severe acute malnutrition rates amongst the Somali population were already amongst the highest in the world over many years, but the numbers facing acute problems are rising again in 2014.

What do you make of reports that the region may be facing a recurrence of El Nino?

El Nino is a cyclical climactic phenomenon whereby a warming of the Oceans results in drier-than-normal, and or wetter-than-normal conditions.  Meteorologists are predicting a high likelihood of a strong El Nino hitting Somalia and the broader region later this year. Should this occur it would add a further layer of drought and/or flooding problems on top of those I already described, and result in a significantly elevated humanitarian crisis. However, this has not occurred yet. We are therefore monitoring these meteorological developments closely and preparing to respond in case this scenario does materialise.

Can we talk of risk of famine three years after the last severe food crisis as some aid agencies have warned?

In our view, there is no generalised famine in the country today. The situation at this stage is not what Somalia faced in the early 1990’s. However,  that is little comfort to the growing population that are suffering severe FOOD SECURITY problems in the specific areas mentioned earlier. Their acute problems come on top of the chronic poverty and vulnerability severely affecting around 1 million Somalis resulting from the 20 years of conflict and climactic shocks. We are taking the situation of these people very seriously, and are concerned that the problem could worsen substantially later in the year.

What is the ICRC doing to help Somali to go through this difficult time?

It’s important to stress that we distribute emergency food only when needs are acute and urgent, as we did during the food crises drought in the 90’s and during the crisis of 2011-2012.  Recently, more than 80’000 displaced people have received food in Beletweyne, and Sool and Sanaag, areas affected by conflict or insecurity. Otherwise, we support a stabilization centre in Kismayo, which has treated more than 900 children under 5 with severe acute malnutrition with complications since the beginning of 2014. In addition, our partners from the Somali Red Crescent Society run outpatient therapeutic feeding programs in 21 of their mobile and fixed clinics in South-Central Somalia with our support, which aim specifically at assisting malnourished young children and mothers.

Beyond these emergency activities, we also concentrate a large part of our efforts to support the recovery of economic self-sufficiency. We are for instance helping twenty agricultural cooperatives with agricultural inputs and tractors, five coastal communities with fishing material, and livestock authorities to resume the delivery of VETERINARY SERVICES . We consider of utmost importance to help Somalis to produce their own food and develop their capacities to overcome further food crises. - Dutch Somali woman faces deportation to US over terrorist funding - Dutch Somali woman faces deportation to US over terrorist funding

A 30-year-old woman who lives in Terneuzen faces extradition to the US on charges of helping finance the al-Shabaab terror group.

The woman was arrested on Wednesday on the request of the US authorities, the public prosecution department said.

The woman, who was born in Somalia, has Dutch nationality. She will appear in court on Friday and the US has requested her extradition, the prosecution department said.

The US department of justice said in a statement that two other women from Kenya and Somalia were also arrested in the US on Wednesday and two more remain ‘fugitives’.

Three defendants who were arrested face charges of providing material support to al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organisation that is conducting a violent insurgency campaign in Somalia’, the statement said.

The statement said the women referred to the money they sent overseas as ‘living expenses,’ and they repeatedly used code words such as ‘orphans’ and ‘brothers in the mountains’ to refer to al-Shabaab fighters, and ‘camels’ to refer to trucks needed by al-Shabaab.

The money transfers often were broken down into small amounts as low as $50 or $100, and the funds were intended for use by al-Shabaab insurgents operating in Somalia.

If convicted, the women could spend up to 15 years in jail.

Somali Ostrich and 360 Other Newly Discovered Birds Added to List of Threatened Species | Extinction Countdown, Scientific American Blog Network

Somali Ostrich and 360 Other Newly Discovered Birds Added to List of Threatened Species | Extinction Countdown, Scientific American Blog Network

Did you know there are two species of ostrich? Don’t worry if this is news to you—scientists didn’t know that for sure either until this year, when the Somali ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes) of Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya was declared a separate species from the common ostrich (S. camelus). Previously considered a subspecies, the Somali ostrich has now been added—along with 360 other newly discovered bird species—to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. The Red List update come from an assessment of the world’s birds of prey, seabirds, water birds, owls and similar species (collectively known as nonpasserine birds, because all other birds come from the order Passeriformes) by the conservation organization BirdLife International.
The Somali ostrich and the other 360 new species were effectively hidden in plain sight for decades. Because they were not recognized as species until now, no one had ever assessed their conservation risks. And they are definitely at risk: According to BirdLife, 25 percent of these newly recognized species are considered threatened and have been added to the Red List under its vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered categories. That’s compared with just 13 percent of all bird species that have been identified as being at similar risk.
The Somali ostrich and other birds were finally recognized as new species because BirdLife created a new system to categorize bird taxonomy in order to create a more consistent approach for determining species’ conservation risks. “The new species criteria are basically a scoring system of physical characteristics—plumage, song, etcetera—that are used to distinguish between closely related species,” says Martin Fowlie from BirdLife’s communications team. The new criterial focus on mating signals, songs and plumage because “they play a role in setting real biological species limits, by determining whether interbreeding can or will occur,” University of Oxford zoology lecturer Joseph Tobias explained in a recent issue of World BirdWatch magazine (pdf). It does not, however, use molecular data because “there is currently no agreement about a surefire threshold of genetic divergence indicative of species status,” Tobias wrote.
The Somali ostrich faces numerous threats—egg collection, hunting and habitat loss among them—but at least it’s still around. Other new (and previously hidden) species added to the Red List may not be so lucky. They include the Belém curassow (Crax pinima) of Brazil, which hasn’t been seen since 1978. It lives (or lived) in what is now the most heavily deforested region of the Amazon rainforest. The blue-bearded helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus), meanwhile, hasn’t been seen since 1946 and is only known from museum samples. The Colombian hummingbird lived in a forest that has since been burned down to make way for agriculture.
Bugun liocichla
In addition to the new species the Red List update also provides new information on several previously known birds. The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), which faces threats from diclofenac poisoning and collisions with power lines is now listed as near threatened. The Bugun liocichla (Liocichla bugunorum) of the Himalayas (shown to the right) has been reassessed as critically endangered following the construction of a road through its only habitats, which have also suffered fires.
The second half of BirdLife’s comprehensive review of the world’s feathered species is due in 2016 and will cover all 5,000 or so passerine birds—including, no doubt, a few more new species.

International Arrests Show Women Are Playing an Active Role in Al Shabaab | VICE News

International Arrests Show Women Are Playing an Active Role in Al Shabaab | VICE News

Members of the Somali terrorist group al Shabaab might be ruthless, oppressive killers. But, at least when it suits them, they aren’t chauvinists.
On Wednesday, the FBI announced the arrests of three women — one in Washington State, a second in Northern Virginia, and a third in the Netherlands — on charges of running a conspiracy to funnel money to al Shabaab. Two other women who were allegedly part of the ring are now fugitives in Kenya and Somalia, an FBI press release said.
It might seem odd that an al Qaeda-affiliate espousing an extreme version of Islam that severely curtails women’s rights would arrange for women to help pay their bills. In fact, it’s more common than many Americans would expect, said Mia Bloom, a security studies professor at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, speaking to VICE News.
“We associate women’s involvement with women’s liberation,” said Bloom, author of Bombshell: Women and Terror. “That’s precisely not the case. We are seeing women involved in terror in places that are the most conservative, the least progressive when it comes to women.”
Al Shabaab fighters might speak a good game about segregating and protecting women in accordance with their twisted religious views, Bloom said. But ultimately they’re users who’ll compromise their so-called values to hurt people.
“These groups are very instrumental,” she said. “They will bend the rules and find a justification somewhere if at the end of the day it’s expedient.”
The FBI didn’t explain how or why the women sent money to al-Shabaab. The details they provided, however, conformed to previous cases in which immigrant women make handicrafts and raise funds for nefarious ends back home.
The FBI claims the women sent $50 to $100 at a time to al Shabaab members using code words like “living expenses” on their illicit wire transfers so as not to raise suspicions among authorities who track untold numbers of cash transfers between immigrants and their native lands. “Orphans” and “brothers in the mountains” referred to fighters. “Orphans” and “brothers in the mountains” referred to fighters. “Camels” referred to trucks.
Bloom also noted that, increasingly, women are being used as suicide bombers — in Iraq, male terrorists rape women in order to shame them into believing they have nothing to live for and can redeem themselves as martyrs. Women are particularly suited to attacking civilian targets like malls, restaurants, and hotels because male security forces tend to overlook them, she said.
History tells us that women are perfectly good murderers, however. Women were active in the Irish Republican Army, Italy’s Red Brigade, and Germany’s Baader-Meinhof Group, for example. Chechen rebels and even the Taliban have deployed female terrorists.
“There’s a perception that women are weaker, women are the gentler sex, even though we’ve seen time and time again women at the frontline of activities,” she said. “A lot of these terror groups are using this stereotype to their advantage. The women are an ideal kind of stealth weapon.”
Bloom sees al Shabaab’s use of women to finance their operations as a sign of weakness. Since 2012, when the group lost control of the lucrative port of Kismayo, and a year later, when a group of African nations joined forces to oppose them, al-Shabaab has been on the ropes.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in Washington, D.C. wasn’t so sure. In addition to sporadic attacks in Somalia, last year al Shabaab gunmen (not women) staged a high-profile attack in the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya that killed and injured more than 200 people. They’re still a force to be reckoned with, he said.
“These are actually very difficult organizations to kill,” Gartenstein-Ross told VICE News. “They have their weaknesses, but delivering a killing blow is really, really hard. Al Shabaab has been consistently carrying out attacks. And they’ve gotten somewhat better at doing so, compared to where they were in 2012.”