Monday, June 01, 2009

Somalia News Update: 4 Police Officers Killed in Roadside Attack; Ethiopian Troops in Kalabeyr

4 police officers killed in Somalia roadside bomb

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Police in Somalia say a roadside bomb in the capital has killed at least four police officers and several civilians.

Somali police chief Abdi Hassan Awale said it was not immediately clear how many civilians died in Monday's attack in Mogadishu.

A surge of violence in Somalia since mid-May has killed nearly 200 people. Insurgents are trying to topple the country's Western-backed government and install a strict Islamic state.

The insurgency has killed thousands of civilians and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing for their lives in recent years. Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, and the U.S. worries that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground.

Minister Says New Somalia Administration Abhors Insurgent Killings

By Peter Clottey, VOA
Washington, D.C
01 June 2009

Somalia's new administration has sharply denied being behind the weekend assassination of a senior insurgent commander who recently defected from the government side to join an armed opposition group.

Abelkadir Hassan Abu Qatatow was reportedly shot dead by armed assailants as he walked on the street in the capital Mogadishu.

Qatatow was a commander of pro-government Islamist faction, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), but defected last week to the hard-line insurgent group Hezbul Islam.

Somali government spokesman Abdi Kadir Walayo told VOA that the government, which discourages the killing of any Somali citizen, condemns Qatatow's assassination.

"You know, since the government is the sole representative of the people of Somalia, the government doesn't encourage killing people without any justification," Walayo said.

He said the relative peace the capital is currently enjoying could be attributed President Sheik Sharif's administration's effort to restore peace despite insurgent attacks.

"Of course, the government is doing its best to pacify and to stabilize the country, especially the capital of Mogadishu, which was sometimes a bellicose area. But not it is quiet," he said.

Walayo said the government intends calming down tensions after weeks of deadly clashes between government forces and insurgents aiming to topple the new administration.

"Since two weeks ago, there were no armed confrontations, and it seems that this can be attributed to the government efforts to diffuse all tensions existing in the capital city," Walayo said.

He insisted that the new administration would not be swayed away from its open door policy of inviting all groups to participate in finding a lasting solution to the country's security challenges.

"The government is ready to meet anytime, anywhere with those opposition groups that are not happy with government," he said.

Walayo said despite government forces coming under insurgent attacks, which have often led to scores dead, the new administration would still hold talks with the opposition.

"The government's policy is based on the Djibouti agreement that envisages the accommodation of all political groupings, especially the opposition to be part of the mainstream of the government process," Walayo said.

He denied the government had a hand in the killing of insurgent commander Qatatow.

"You know that it happened somewhere, which is one of the strongholds of the opposition groups," he said.

Walayo said President Sheikh Sharif's administration wants to minimize fatalities of ordinary civilians.

"The government is now refraining from full fighting against the opposition to avoid casualties of the opposition population," Walayo said.

Hard-line Islamic insurgents currently control much of the south and center of Somalia, including nearly two-thirds of Mogadishu, while Somali government forces backed by nearly 4,300 troops from the African Union (AMISOM peacekeepers) control parts of the capital and the central Somali town of Beledweyn.

Qatatow's death follows clashes between insurgents and government forces battling for the control of Mogadishu.

Hundreds have reportedly been killed or injured in the clashes, while tens of thousands have fled their homes to seek refuge in camps for internally displaced people (IDP's) on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991 after former President Mohammed Siad Barre through a coup d'état.

Somalia: Ethiopian Troops Make Search Operations in Hiraan Region

31 May 2009

Baladweyne — The Ethiopian troops who have recently crossed into Somalia and were deployed in Kalabeyr key junction have made search operations in the area, witnesses said on Sunday.

Witnesses said the Ethiopian troops made the search operations in the mountains near Kalaberyr village which is about 20 km north of Beledweyne town in Hiraan region in central Somalia.

They have reportedly stopped the circulation of the traffic and the people in the area but the movement has returned to normalcy when they have ended their operations.

It is not known the reason behind their operations but some reports suggest that the Ethiopian troops were inspecting mines in the area.

The Ethiopian troops reached in kalabeyr on 20 May 2009 and made several search operations in the area but they have not arrested any one.

Somalia: Fighting Between Islamists Starts in Southern Town

31 May 2009

Jowhar — Fighting between the pro government Islamic Courts Union and allied Harakat Al Shabab Mujahideen and Hizbul Islam have started in Magurto village near Mahaday district about 23 km north of Jowhar, witnesses and officials said on Sunday.

Moalim Dahir Adow Alasow, the leader of the Islamic Courts Union told Shabelle Radio that they have been attacked and defended the invading forces as he said.

The two sides have recently fought in the area and more people fled from the region in fear for further clashes between the two sides.

There is no word from Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam about the latest clashes in Magurto Village.

Somalia: Pro Government ICU Forces Say They Will Solve Insecurity Situation in Hamarweyne

1 June 2009

Somalia — Pro-government Islamic Courts Union forces have said that they will solve the insecurity situations committing the government soldiers in parts of Hamarweyne district in the Somali capital Mogadishu, official told shabelle radio on Monday.

Abdirisak Mohamed Qeyloy, a spokesman for the ICU told Shabelle media that the ICU forces are going to start crackdown operations restoring the security situation in parts of Hamarweyne district in Mogadishu especially around Guriga Hoyoyinka (house of Mothers) in Mogadishu.

The spokesman also said that will start their security restoring operations to protect the problems of the Hamarweyne district residents who are complaining about government soldiers' threats in between Sayidka intersection and Hawo-Tako area in Mogadishu which is very close the presidential palace where the transitional government heads reside.

The situation of Hamarweyne district was normal earlier. But now parts of the district are where the government soldiers commit intimidations against the civilians like robbing, killing and torturing.

The statement of the ICU forces comes as many of the residents in Hamarweyne district are complaining about the insecurity situations committing the Somali government soldiers as Colonel Aden Dheg, member of the government military forces told the media.

Somalia: The threat next door


Sunday, May 31 2009 at 22:07

How Kenya’s hope of economic prosperity and peace is threatened by the land of unending war

The statement last week of Kenya’s intention to help “crush” the insurgency in Somalia is the strongest government response so far to the crisis in the troubled eastern neighbour.

Foreign minister Moses Wetang’ula did not specify what sort of intervention Kenya could make in support of the beleaguered Transitional Federal Government of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed Sharif, but the strong terms he used echoed the positions already taken by the African Union and the regional organisation, Igad (Inter-governmental Authority on Development).

Both have in recent days taken positions in unequivocal support of the Somali government and condemnation of the al Shabaab militia and the Islamist grouping led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.

Somalia has been Kenya’s most enduring security headache since independence, starting with the Shifta movement that waged a secessionist war supported by Mogadishu in the 1960s; onto the present threats posed by the infiltration of global terrorist groups like al-Qaeda into the governance vacuum in Somalia.

Al Shabbab, the Islamist militia group currently engaging government forces in Mogadishu, makes no secret of its links to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, and that would be a major concern to Kenya.

The devastating 1998 bombing targeting the US embassy that killed more than 200 people in the heart of Nairobi was traced to radicals who had infiltrated the country through Somali.

The Paradise Hotel bombing in Kikambala in which more than a dozen people died in 2002 was also coordinated from Somalia.

Some of the key leaders of the East African Al-Qaeda cell that planned the two bombings are believed to be still operating in Somalia and playing key roles in managing the Islamist militias that now threaten to topple the transitional government.

As of much concern to Kenya is that the militia leaders have also openly espoused the “Greater” Somalia dream that drove the shifta war, aiming at bringing under one flag all the Somali-speaking areas in the region including Kenya’s North Eastern Province, the Ogaden province in Ethiopia and the Republic of Djibouti off the Red Sea.

The possibility of a radical administration in Somalia that speaks proudly of its admiration for al-Qaeda and its methods and also covets the North Eastern Province and Ogaden presents a security nightmare for both Kenya and Ethiopia.

The two countries have been military allies since they jointly countered the shifta threat in the 1960s. They remained allies even in the 1970s and 1980 despite diverging sharply ideologically — Ethiopia under Mengistu was a Soviet client state while Kenya was in the western orbit — but remaining united by a common threat.

Kenya has always sought to play the honest broker in Somalia, hosting the lengthy talks that formed the transitional government (TFG), while Ethiopia has been more aggressive.

When Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia in 2006 to drive out the Union of Islamic Courts regime that had kept the TFG out of Mogadishu, Kenya officially remained on the sidelines, but covertly was deeply involved, particularly with a heavy military presence that virtually sealed the border in order to catch the fleeing militants.

Some of those arrested at the time were handed over to the Ethiopians or to the Americans, and those considered most dangerous were shipped off to the infamous US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay.

Some of the key Islamist leaders nabbed, particularly the political and religious leaders rather than military commanders, were however quietly allowed to fly out to exile in Eritrea and Yemen. Some of them, including Sheikh Aweys, now look poised to regain power as the TFG has become increasingly weaker since the departure of Ethiopian troops.

The mainly African Union forces in Mogadishu, mainly from Uganda, are unlikely to withstand a strong onslaught, but it remains to be seen whether the African Union will move beyond rhetoric to provide real military backing to the TFG.

Kenya and Ethiopia have been at the forefront of pushing for a sting African response to the Somali situation. At the Igad Council of Ministers meting in Addis Ababa on May 20, the two countries were key to the resolution that condemned “aggression” against Somalia by al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam (Islamic Party led Sheikh Aweys).

Igad called for the UN Security Council and foreign navies patrolling the Indian ocean to help enforce a sea and air blockade designed to prevent arms reaching the “insurgents” and also to arrest the influx of foreign fighters into the conflict.

Igad also condemned a member-state, Eritrea, for arming and training the militants, calling also for sanctions on the Red Sea country that has been at odds with Ethiopia.

The communiqué also called for member countries to provide all necessary help, including military, to the TFG.

The Igad communiqué was endorsed two days later by the AU Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa, which echoed the call for sea and air blockade and military help for the transitional government.

It is unclear, however, what kind of help can be provided. The AU peacekeeping force of less than 5,000 solders is a puny effort that is not a capable of resisting the militants. Previous pledges by many African countries to contribute troops have come to nought.

It is not clear whether Ethiopia might want to go in on its own, but it might be more than willing to go in as part of an Igad-African Union military force. Other countries that might be asked to join such a mission would naturally be Kenya, as well as Uganda, Djibouti and Sudan.

The complication is that such an intervention would consist of a combat force, not mere peacekeeping, and it remains unclear whether many countries would want to commit at that level.

Whatever happens, Kenya must be closely watching developments. The Greater Somalia dream and the terrorism threat aside, the two countries are bound together by an umbilical cord that cannot be easily severed.

Easy to police

The vast North Eastern Province is linked through religion and ethnic ties to Somalia. The vast border stretching all the way from northern Kenya to the Indian Ocean north of Lamu will never be easy to police.

Even now when the Kenya Somali border is officially closed, a thriving trade goes on.

Then there will the fear of an uncontrolled refugee influx if the security situation gets worse. In the early 1990s when the government of Siad Barre fell, Kenya hosted nearly 500,000 Somali refugees.

The number has gone down to around 150,000 according to UN estimates, but there has been an upsurge of fresh arrivals in recent weeks.

An enduring security problem is that many refugees are undocumented, having left the refugee camps to settle in urban areas, or never having registered at the camps in the first place.

Kenya has put up a massive military surveillance operation along the border, but the presence of troops is not yet as pervasive as it was in 2006 when Ethiopian forces ran the Union of Islamic Courts militants out of the country. In the border towns, even at Sinai border in Hulugho where the militants fled through, military forces are mostly confined to barracks.

But at Amumo and Liboi entry points in Fafi and Lagdera districts respectively, the military is actively patrolling the border. The rapid deployment unit of the Administration Police force is also manning Harhar Border point, which serves as an entry point from Dobley in Somalia to Liboi in Kenya.

Currently at Sinai, life seems almost normal, as pastoralists and traders from both sides cross the “closed” border with ease. Traders are daily transporting goods from Somalia into Kenya.

Seek refuge

Asked the difference between now and 2006, a local resident Mrs Habiba Ali said: “We are feeling safe unlike in 2006 when we fled from our homestead to seek refuge in Hulugho Town. Our children are learning in the three classrooms built by the government and life is very okay with our Somali neighbours in Kolbio.”

Currently, it is only in Amumo and Liboi where a high influx of refugees has been reported.

Pirates' glossy lives win admirers in Somalia

Mon Jun 1, 2009 4:34am EDT

* Pirate village awash with cash, but no electricity

* Lavish lifestyles attract more recruits

By Abdiaziz Hassan

HOBYO, Somalia, June 1 (Reuters) - An extravagant convoy of forty 4x4s and four motorbikes escort a young bride to her nuptials at a sandy beach in the Somali village of Hobyo and are used to light up the twilight celebration.

Her pirate commander groom has no eye patch -- but a sword and knife hanging from his belt do create a swashbuckling effect.

"I am proud to be the leader's wife," said Sahra Ali.

Piracy is a big draw for many in the tiny fishing village, awash with ransom cash but lacking running water or power.

The impressive returns and flashy lives of the pirates mean that even children and young women want to jump on the bandwagon, either by joining one of the sea gangs or marrying a well-heeled pirate.

Ali is the envy of local girls, but she is all too aware that one wrong move by her husband means she could be a widow.

"After a week, he will go to the high seas and I am not confident he will return safely," she said.

So far this year, Somali brigands have hijacked nearly 30 vessels, meaning 2009 could be even worse than last year, when pirates from the Horn of Africa nation seized 42 ships.

Foreign nations have finally taken notice and deployed their navies to the east African coast but even the threat of capture is not deterring some of the pirates or new recruits.

Walking along a sun-drenched beach in Hobyo, two men shake hands to seal a new joint venture deal in piracy.

They hope to combine resources and launch their own piracy outfit once they receive their ransom cut for the Greek-owned MV Ariana their gang is holding.

"This is a done deal. No more consultation," said 28-year-old Roble in a loud and excited manner. "When I become an investor and I am successful on two or three more attacks, then I will retire, but not now."


The village of Hobyo is awash with role models for aspiring buccaneers.

Roble said a former colleague retired early and invested his piracy dividends in the business of supplying khat, a mild leafy narcotic well-loved by many Somali men.

Flourishing business ensures he can afford the daily charter flights that deliver the perishable commodity from neighbouring producer Kenya.

"Thanks to him, we get khat everyday," Roble said.

The trade is lucrative but Roble has written it off as a business idea. Friends tell him that his face was broadcast on television while he was on the Ukrainian ship MV Faina, one of the most high-profile hijackings off Somalia.

"I would like to do the same and join him, but some of my former colleagues scared me. I am very afraid to travel."

The TV images also make it impossible for him to leave the country for Europe as a refugee. Another pirate forked out $16,000 to be taken to Sweden, he said.

While he wants to leave the dangerous trade after a few more attacks, there are others who will happily take his place.

Abdihafid, 13, dropped out of school, ran away from home and has taken up chewing khat and smoking cigarettes like the many brigands he sees in Hobyo.

"I want to be a commander of a pirate group," he said. "I know I am far too young, but I will wait until the right time."

Like many Somalis, Hobyo's mayor says piracy has been fuelled by illegal fishing and dumping off the anarchic country's coast.

Somalis say that because they have no navy or coast guard to protect their waters, trawlers from Europe and Asia fish there without permission and foreign ships carrying toxic waste dump their cargoes unchecked.

Although he agrees something needs to be done, Mayor Saed Aden said piracy is not the solution. "We have tried to expel them but we do not have man power or weapons to face them."

Meanwhile, local girls are finding it hard to resist the monied pirates.

"I don't want to marry a pirate but time is flying and pushing me to have a pirate boyfriend because he is rich," said Halima, who at 24 is considered a bit too old to be single.

(Writing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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