US AC130 gunship which bombed Somali territory purportedly in pursuit of "terrorists". The attacks represent an escalation of American aggression in the Horn of Africa.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.
Event: Emergency Demonstration Against US Militarism:
Stop the Bombing and Occupations in Somalia and
Iraq, Thursday, Jan. 11, 9:00-10:00 a.m.
Location: Wayne State University Law School
Palmer Street Between Cass and Second, WSU Campus
Sponsor: Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice
Contact: Tel. (313) 680-5508 or URL: http://www.mecawi.org
Protest the US Bombing of Somalia and the Escalation of the Iraq War: Greet the Ethiopian and Iraq Ambassadors to the United Nations to Say 'No More Occupations and Proxy Wars'
Despite the overwhelming vote on November 7 to end the war in Iraq, the Bush administration is not only escalating the conflict but has embarked upon a new military adventure in the East African nation of Somalia. Utilizing the US-backed government of Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia, the Bush regime has engineered an occupation of Somalia, a sovereign nation. In addition, the American military launched a bombing campaign that has resulted in the deaths of over 500 Africans in Somalia since Monday.
Using the same old pretext of fighting terrorism, AC130 gunships bombed civilian areas in southern Somalia where these rural communities have no defenses against these deadly weapons of mass destruction. The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice is demanding the immediate halt of all military actions against Somalia and the withdrawal of American and Ethiopian military forces from the Horn of Africa.
The United Nations ambassadors from both the US-backed government in Ethiopia and the American-installed occupationist regime in Iraq will be visiting Wayne State University's Law School on Thursday beginning at 9:00 a.m.
We are calling upon anti-war activists, students and community people to come out and picket the appearance of these puppets in order to tell them and their Bushite sponsors that the people want peace not war. We support the Somali and Iraqi peoples' right to self-determination and independence. A policy of colonialism and imperialism is doomed to failure in the 21st Century.
MECAWI is calling on the US Congress to halt all funding for the Iraq occupation and the military interference in the internal affairs of Somalia. We need money for jobs, health care, quality education, senior services and affordable housing, not permanent war and colonial occupations.
For more information on this emergency demonstration and ongoing MECAWI projects just contact us at the telephone number and web site above.
Pan-African News Wire
UN raises Somalia bombing concerns
Ban Ki-moon called for the speedy deployment of African peacekeepers to Somalia
The United Nations secretary-general has expressed concern that US air strikes in southern Somalia could increase hostilities and harm civilians.
Ban Ki-moon's warning came as The Associated Press news agency reported more US attacks on suspected al-Qaeda fighters in the country on Tuesday.
A US intelligence official said that five to 10 people were killed in the latest attack.
"The secretary-general is concerned about the new dimension this kind of action could introduce to the conflict and the possible escalation of hostilities that may result," a UN spokeswoman said.
A Somali politician said 31 civilians, including a newlywed couple, died in Tuesday's assault by two helicopters near Afmadow, a town in an area of forested hills near the Kenyan border 350km southwest of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
A Somali defense ministry official described the helicopters as American, but the local witnesses told The Associated Press they could not make out the identification markings on the aircraft.
Washington officials had no comment on the reported air assault.
US forces carried out an air strike in southern Somalia on Sunday, targeting what it believed to be the "principal" al-Qaeda leadership in the area.
A US intelligence official told Reuters news agency that an al-Qaeda member suspected of involvement in the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania may have been killed in the raid.
Colonel Shino Moalin Nur, a Somali military commander, told The Associated Press that at least one AC-130 gunship had attacked a suspected training camp on a remote island at the southern tip of Somalia. Somali officials said they had reports of many deaths.
US defence department officials, speaking privately on Tuesday, suggested that the military was either planning or considering additional strikes in Somalia.
With the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower now positioned off Somalia's coast, commanders can call in strikes from fixed-wing aircraft such as the FA-18. Defence department officials said that, as of Tuesday, no carrier-based aircraft had conducted strikes in Somalia.
The UN secretary-general has also called for the speedy deployment of African peacekeepers to the country, and welcomed Ethiopia's statement that it intends to withdraw its forces "expeditiously".
Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said he told Ban on Monday that a UN peacekeeping force may be needed to guarantee security and stability in Somalia, which has not had a functioning government for 15 years.
Solana said Ugandan forces may be the first deployed to replace Ethiopian troops, but he said the African Union is already carrying a "very heavy" peacekeeping burden in Sudan, and the United Nations may have to step in instead of the AU and take over the next phase.
On December 6, the UN Security Council authorised an African force to protect the transitional government against the Union of Islamic Courts, which had taken control of the capital and most of southern Somalia. The council also committed to training Somali government troops, and lifted a UN arms embargo for the African troops.
The UN spokeswoman was asked by reporters whether the US bombing violated the arms embargo. She said the council would be discussing Somalia on Wednesday and that the UN is trying to gather more information about the action in southern Somalia.
Abdullahi Yusuf, the Somali president, said the US was hunting suspects in the 1998 embassy bombings and had his support.
More US Attacks on Somalia
By SALAD DUHUL, Associated Press Writer
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Attack helicopters strafed suspected al-Qaida fighters in southern Somalia on Tuesday, witnesses said, following two days of airstrikes by U.S. forces — the first U.S. offensives in the African country since 18 American soldiers were killed here in 1993.
In Washington, a U.S. intelligence official said American forces killed five to 10 people in an attack on one target in southern Somalia believed to be associated with al-Qaida. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the operation's sensitivity, said a small number of others present, perhaps four or five, were wounded.
A Somali lawmaker said 31 civilians, including a newlywed couple, died in Tuesday's assault by two helicopters near Afmadow, a town in a forested area close to the Kenyan border. The report could not be independently verified.
A Somali Defense Ministry official described the helicopters as American, but witnesses told The Associated Press they could not make out identification markings on the craft. Washington officials had no comment on the helicopter strike.
The U.S. is hunting down Islamic extremists, said the Somali defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Earlier, Somalia's president said that the U.S. was pursuing suspects in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, and that the effort has his support.
Somali troops and their Ethiopian allies were attacked in the capital late Tuesday by gunmen riding in two pickup trucks who fired two rocket propelled grenades, witnesses said.
The rocket attack was followed by several minutes of rifle fire. One Somali soldier was killed and two other soldiers and a bystander were wounded, said minibus driver Harun Ahmed, who took the injured to a hospital.
Col. Shino Moalin Nur, a Somali military commander, told the AP by telephone late Tuesday that at least one U.S. AC-130 gunship attacked a suspected al-Qaida training camp Sunday on a remote island at the southern tip of Somalia next to Kenya.
Somali officials said they had reports of many deaths.
On Monday, witnesses and Nur said, more U.S. airstrikes were launched against Islamic extremists in Hayi, 30 miles from Afmadow. Nur said attacks continued Tuesday.
"Nobody can exactly explain what is going on inside these forested areas," the Somali commander said. "However, we are receiving reports that most of the Islamist fighters have died and the rest would be captured soon."
In Washington on Tuesday, Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman spoke of one strike in southern Somalia, but would not confirm any of the details or say whether any al-Qaida militants were killed.
The assault was based on intelligence "that led us to believe we had principal al-Qaida leaders in an area where we could identify them and take action against them," Whitman said.
Somali Islamic extremists are accused of sheltering suspects in the 1998 embassy bombings. American officials also want to ensure the militants no longer pose a threat to Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government.
The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has arrived off Somalia's coast and launched intelligence-gathering missions over Somalia, the U.S. military said. Three other U.S. warships were conducting anti-terror operations.
U.S. warships have been seeking to capture al-Qaida members thought to be fleeing Somalia by sea after Ethiopia's military invaded Dec. 24 in support of the interim Somali government. The offensive drove the Islamic militia out of much of southern Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu, and toward the Kenyan border.
President Abdullahi Yusuf, head of the U.N.-backed transitional government, told journalists in Mogadishu that the U.S. "has a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania."
Other Somalis in the capital said the attacks would increase anti-American sentiment in their largely Muslim country. Many Somalis are already upset by the presence of troops from neighboring Ethiopia, which has a large Christian population.
The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday reissued a terror warning to Americans living in or visiting the Horn of Africa.
It was the first overt military action by the U.S. in Somalia since it led a U.N. force that intervened in the 1990s in an effort to fight famine. The mission led to clashes between U.N. forces and Somali warlords, including the battle, chronicled in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down," that killed 18 U.S. soldiers.
Mohamed Mahmud Burale told the AP by telephone that at least four civilians were killed Monday evening in Hayi, including his young son. His report could not be independently verified.
Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said it was not known how many people were killed, "but we understand there were a lot of casualties. Most were Islamic fighters."
Another attack by an AC-130 gunship reportedly occurred Monday afternoon on Badmadow island, in a group of six rocky islands known as Ras Kamboni — a suspected terrorist training base.
Thickets provide dense cover and the only road to the area is virtually impassable, locals said.
The U.S. military's main target on the island was thought to be Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who allegedly planned the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 225 people.
Leaders of Somalia's Islamic movement have vowed from their hideouts to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war, and al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden's deputy has called on militants to carry out suicide attacks on Ethiopian troops.
In an interview published Tuesday in the French newspaper Le Monde, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that suspected terrorists from Canada, Britain, Pakistan and elsewhere were among those captured or killed during recent military operations.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The warlords turned on each other, creating chaos in the nation of 7 million people.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that a U.N. peacekeeping force may be needed to guarantee security and stability in Somalia.
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor in Washington; Mohamed Olad Hassan and Mohamed Sheik Nor in Mogadishu and Chris Tomlinson in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.
Invasion of Somalia won't stabilize country
By Will Youmans / The Arab American News
Ethiopian and former Somali government forces have brought down the Union of Islamic Courts, Somalia's recently installed government. Humanitarian disaster looms. Aid agencies warn the fighting has prevented flood-relief efforts from reaching two million flood and conflict victims in south-central Somalia. Somalia's previous government requested that Kenya turn away Somali refugees at the border for fear that fighters may escape.
The Arab League and the African Union called on Ethiopia to withdraw its troops after the U.N. Security Council failed to come to a consensus on a resolution on the conflict.
One of Ethiopia's only backers, the United States, said it had security concerns about the radical UIC movement. They charge that the Union threatened Ethiopia and claimed some of its territory. A spokesman for the White House National Security Council stated Somalia's interim government, which was overthrown by the Islamic Courts Council last June, asked for Ethiopian intervention. The State Department urged the superior Ethiopian forces to show restraint.
The United States sponsored a U.N. resolution on Somalia in early December. It called for the formation of an East African protection force. It was intended to discourage Ethiopian intervention and to diminish its regional rival Eritrea's support of the Islamic Courts Union. The resolution is yet to be implemented, and now faces further obstacles due to Ethiopia's open military role.
The fighting caused relief agencies to pull out many relief workers. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, appealed to the fighting parties to respect "humanitarian principles and protect civilian populations." Mr. Guterres added that Somalia has suffered too many displacements and "relief workers in the region are already struggling to contend with huge obstacles, including security and natural disasters."
This is by far the worst fighting in more than a decade in central and southern Somalia. There are already an estimated 800 wounded people and nearly a dozen dead, as of late December, 2006. Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, claimed his forces killed 1,000 Islamist fighters and wounded 3,000. The Islamic Courts Union say they killed hundreds of Ethiopian and former government fighters. The fighting forced thousands to flee their homes, while hospitals are filling with people in need of care.
The Islamic Courts movement gained notoriety for its harsh, Taliban-like rule after it overthrew a barely functioning government. They closed cinemas, shut down the consumption of intoxicating substances, and banned Western music. With an alleged allegiance to Al Qaeda, America and its few pro-war allies were nervous about a new Afghanistan in East Africa.
This new invasion raises two questions.
What was the political plan after Ethiopia's invasion? Was it as simple as driving out the Courts Union? It probably was. They will simply reinstall the previous government. Like Afghanistan, a failed government will continue where it left off — barely ruling one city and having no control of the many warlords and drug growers and sellers running amok elsewhere.
The only difference is now there will be foreign peacekeepers. Ethiopia is trying to assemble an African force to stay in Somalia to prevent a revitalization of the Courts movement. Such a force will do little to bring about a self-governing Somalia. It is apparently better for the United States and Ethiopia if Somalia has no government than if it has an Islamic one.
The stunning Ethiopian victory and this peacekeeping force plan offer little hope of a better future for Somalia, which has not enjoyed a functioning government since 1991. The Courts Union was at least in the direction of a sovereign government, even if it was an extreme one. Countries' governments must begin with collective movements if they are ever to stabilize.
Interestingly, this is a view shared by a former U.S. Ambassador, Dr. David Shinn. He told Voice of America radio, "Putting aside Islamic Court ideology, then what the courts had installed in terms of security, at least in the greater Mogadishu area, I think most Somalis would say it's far preferable."
An Ethiopian victory will win it major bonus points with the United States. The last American military intervention in 1993 was a disaster, both militarily and politically. And when it was revealed publicly that the U.S. supported the former government over the Islamic Courts, the Islamic movement gained much support. Will the United States consider proxy wars a better future strategy? Why face all the trouble committing American forces when interested neighbors can do the dirty work?
This may reverse some of the reservations that sprouted from Israel's loss in Lebanon — which many saw as a case of an American proxy losing to an Iranian one. War by proxy has always been a strategy, from the Cold War to this "War on Terror." Given the loss of prestige and credibility the U.S. suffers around the world, it may find that having others fight the wars is better politically. This would mean even more invasions, and more violence. To what end?
Will Youmans is the Washington D.C.-based writer for "The Arab American News."