Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Somalia News Update: Resistance Forces Hit UPDF Unit

Somali resistance forces hit UPDF medical unit in Somalia

By Risdel Kasasira
The Uganda Daily Monitor
January 26 2010

The Defence and army spokesperson, Lt. Col Felix Kulayigye had earlier told Daily Monitor that the mortar missed the target and hit near the medical unit that serves at least 2,000 Somali patients every week.

Somali insurgents on Monday attacked the African Union Peace keeping Mission base in Halane, Mogadishu killing at least one person and injuring an unspecified number of mainly Somali patients who were receiving treatment at the Amisom clinic. It was not clear by press time whether the man killed was a peacekeeper or Somali civilian.

Amisom spokesperson Maj. Barigye Ba-Hoku said there was an explosion at the Outpatient department (OPD) but could not tell whether it was a motor attack or suicide bomber. "I have heard an explosion. A number of Somalis died in the OPD (outpatient department) of our base," Barigye was quoted by news agencies.

Uganda and Burundi contribute to the at least 5000 peacekeeping troops in Somalia. Uganda alone has at least 3200 soldiers serving in the war torn Horn of Africa country.

The base has always been targeted by the insurgents of the Al Shabaab. In September last year the insurgents attacked the base using two vehicles with United Nations insignia which they exploded inside the base killing at least 17 peacekeepers including the Burindian deputy head of mission. 11 of those killed were Burundian and the rest Ugandans.

The Defence and army spokesperson, Lt. Col Felix Kulayigye had earlier told Daily Monitor that the mortar missed the target and hit near the medical unit that serves at least 2,000 Somali patients every week.

“I’m aware that a mortar that was fired and hit near the medical unit,” Col. Kulayigye said.

However according to sources in Mogadishu who didn’t want to be quoted, one Ugandan soldier was killed and many Somali patients killed in the attack. The attack is the first assault on the African peacekeepers this year began.

But Kulayigye denied. “I’m not aware of any deaths of our soldier” he said.

The Ugandan peacekeepers’ medical unit is open to Somali patients on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

But Maj. Barigye told Daily Monitor recently that Somali militants are against the offering of these medical services to Somalis. “They think treating these people makes us popular among the Somali community,” he said in an interview with Daily Monitor.

Uganda and Burundi have deployed an estimated 5000 peacekeepers in Mogadishu to back the beleaguered government of president Sharif Ahmed Sharif.

However the Islamist fundamentalists have consistently attacked the peacekeepers whom they describe as occupational force.

Source: The Daily Monitor


It wasn't us: Somali militants disavow Kenya threat

Al Shabab, the Somali militant group with ideological links to Al Qaeda, says the threat to attack Kenya – posted on its website this week – is fake.

By Scott Baldauf Staff writer
posted January 22, 2010 at 9:49 am EST

Johannesburg—-By posting on its own website a threat to attack Kenya, and then disavowing that threat as a “fake,” Somali insurgent group Al Shabab may seem a bit confused.

But that doesn’t make either the threat or the people who made the threat any less dangerous, nor Kenya any less vulnerable, security analysts say. It may indicate a split among the group's leadership between jihadists and nationalists.

With hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees residing within its borders, and a sizable indigenous Somali ethnic community as well, Kenya must remain vigilant against potential threats such as the Islamist Al-Shabab militia, which professes close ties to and a shared ideology with Al Qaeda. Kenya’s vulnerability was seen plainly last week, after protests over the planned deportation of a radical Jamaican cleric turned violent in Nairobi’s Somali neighborhood of Eastleigh, and as protesters unfurled the black flag of Al Shabab to show their radical allegiances.

“If the Mungiki [an ethnic Kikuyu militia] can carry out attacks in Nairobi, anybody can,” says Richard Cornwell, a veteran Africa analyst from Tshwane (Pretoria). “Whether this is really Al Shabab or ordinary criminal elements pretending to act in the defense of Islam – we’re more than just bandits, we’re religious bandits – it doesn’t really matter. They can do bloody well what they want.”

'When we arrive we will hit, hit until we kill'

This week, after Kenya’s security forces detained hundreds of protesters in the Somali-dominated neighborhood of Eastleigh, Al Shabab’s official website carried an audio recording of a threat to attack Kenya.

"God willing we will arrive in Nairobi, we will enter Nairobi, God willing we will enter ... when we arrive we will hit, hit until we kill, weapons we have, praise be to God, they are enough," Reuters news agency quoted the seven-minute long chanting message from Swahili.

On Saturday, Kenya’s Interior Minister George Saitoti accused Al Shabab of infiltrating the demonstrations in Nairobi against the arrest and deportation of Jamaican-born cleric Abdullah Al-Faisal.

Al Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage later told Reuters that the audio recording was fake.

"We didn't threaten Kenya. That story is a false one,” Mr. Rage told a Reuters reporter. “We never posted that on the Internet. ... Everything needs to be checked first by the media to make sure they know what they are writing about."

Rashid Abdi, a Horn of Africa specialist at the International Crisis Group in Nairobi, says that the threat – even if disavowed by Al Shabab’s leadership – could indicate splits within top Al Shabab leadership.

“I think you have a nationalist group within Al Shabab, who are fed up with global jihadist agenda, and they saying our plate is already full with fighting the African Union and Western-backed transitional government, so we have no business taking on Kenya,” says Mr. Abdi. “On the other side you have the foreign jihadis, who say, ‘no, no, no, you signed up for global jihad.”

In any case, the threat against Kenya is likely to prompt Kenya to clamp down on Islamists in particular and the Somali community in general, which will likely push more young Muslims into the arms of Al Shabab. “If the jihadis don’t want peace, then this is good for their agenda. It will radicalize ethnic Somalis in Kenya, and boost their recruitment.”

'Measured response' is needed

Al Shabab – a militia that controls most of southern Somalia, including most of the capital of Mogadishu – has threatened to attack other countries before: against Ethiopia for its December 2006 invasion of Somalia, and against Uganda and Burundi for contributing troops for the African Union peacekeeping mission that supports the shaky transitional government in Somalia. As yet, none of its threats have been carried out, although Al Shabab has claimed credit for a series of suicide bombings throughout Somalia itself.

Security analysts say that the porous nature of Kenya’s borders with Somalia, and the fact that Al-Qaeda influenced supporters have carried out bombing attacks in Nairobi – most notably the 1998 bombing of the US embassy – are reason enough for Kenya to be on its guard. But Mr. Cornwell says that Kenya must be careful to be measured in its response.

“This called for a measured response and circumspection about one's foreign policy,” says Cornwell. “When the American government supported Ethiopia in its invasion of Somalia, for the first time the mullahs in Eastleigh were putting politics into their sermons.”

Strong actions can have unintended consequences and actually fan the flames of radical sentiment, Cornwell says, “but unfortunately, that isn’t the way people’s minds work” in the world where foreign policy is made.


Egypt: Somali women pay way into country

Bikya Masa
Courtesy of Wardheernews.com
January 26, 2010

CAIRO--Somali women are resorting to extreme measures to leave their war-ravaged country to find a new beginning by using Egypt as a stepping-stone to Europe and America. After Cairo tightened immigration laws in 2008, women have begun paying Somali diplomats to bring them into Egypt. Women pay up to $1000 to be brought in as members of the diplomat’s family. As a diplomatic passport is used, the women and their children do not need identification when entering the country.

“I am seeing many cases like this,” says Abdullah Osman, head of the Somali Development Organization (SODO) in Cairo. “She [women] must sell a car or farmland to raise the money [to get to Egypt],” he added. For the women, finding the money to come to Egypt for a single mother in Somalia can be a difficult task.

Often the women flee with their children after their husband has been kidnapped or killed in fighting. “The women say their husband went out to find food for the children, but they never came back,” adds Osman.

An effective government has not controlled the whole of Somalia since 1991, when President Barre was forced out of government by clans from the north and south of the country. Somalia has been steeped in civil war, creating instability, and has led many with means to seek a better life elsewhere.

Current President of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, told Germany’s Spiegel Online in 2007 that “Somalia is breaking up into several regions, where local interest groups have grabbed power for themselves and can operate without any kind of control.”

While the motivation to escape danger in Somalia is powerful, many find life in Egypt far from easy. Once they arrive in Cairo, the women must apply for refugee status with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR gives them a blue card, and the Egyptian government can then grant a residency permit. This process takes about six months.

Without a residency permit women cannot send their children to schools, use a hospital or work. Osman identified the refugee’s main problem as being livelihood. “Assistance they receive is very little and does not cover all of the rent and food.” In the first month of arrival, before qualifying for assistance, refugees must survive on their own savings.

Schooling presents another problem, as refugee children are not allowed to attend government schools, and so mothers are forced to pay high fees for private schools. This is despite the fact that Egypt is a signatory of the 1951 United Nations Convention for the refugees, whereby education cannot be denied to refugees. Egypt is also a signatory of the 1967 UN refugee protocol that further guarantees rights.

Mothers with large families are often not able to afford the costs of sending all of their children to school. This creates another barrier refugees face, learning Egyptian Arabic, where children attending school would be able to do.

Egypt is now a transit point for refugees looking to emigrate to Europe or America. “The mothers that come to me say they wanted to escape [Somalia] to give their children a better life, but they say that the life of the children is no better in Egypt,” Osman concluded.

Source: Bikya Masar


Bomb kills 4 policemen in breakaway Somaliland

By Hussein Ali Noor
Reuters
January 25, 2010

HARGEISA - A bomb hidden near a mosque killed four policemen in Somalia's northern breakaway enclave of Somaliland on Monday in the latest attack on security forces in the region, police sources said.

Somaliland is proud of its relative stability compared with southern regions of the failed Horn of Africa state, where hardline al Shabaab rebels control large amounts of territory and are fighting a weak Western-backed government.

Washington accuses al Shabaab of being al Qaeda's proxy in Somalia, and security experts say the group wants to extend its influence north -- aiming to destabilise Somaliland and the neighbouring pro-government, semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for Monday's blast, which came just days after unidentified attackers hurled hand grenades and fired at the main police station in Las Anod near the Puntland border on Jan. 12, wounding three officers.

The police sources said the device had been hidden among milk cans left near Las Anod's Grand Mosque, and it detonated as they inspected the cans. Two policemen were severely wounded.

In two separate violent incidents in the area late on Sunday, gunmen ambushed and killed a senior police operations officer as he returned home from evening prayers, and a woman was killed by an explosion near Las Anod's hospital.

Earlier this month, Somaliland's security forces said they had foiled an attack on a Hargeisa mosque where the imam had spoken out against suicide bombings carried out by al Shabaab insurgents in southern Somalia.

Al Shabaab hit Somaliland and Puntland with synchronised suicide blasts that killed at least 24 people in October 2008. A court in Hargeisa has sentenced five men to death in absentia for those bombings, and said they were on the run in other parts of Somalia. Somaliland has long sought international recognition as sovereign state. It declared itself independent in 1991.

Analysts worry a simmering political row between the president of Somaliland and opposition parties over delayed elections could trigger a re-arming among clan militias, further violence and more turmoil for al Shabaab to exploit.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Louise Ireland)

Source: Reuters


Somalia, Sudan top agenda of OIC meet in Uganda

Jan 25, 2010(Xinhua) - The volatile situation in Somalia and Sudan's Darfur region will top the agenda of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) meeting that started here on Sunday.

Hussein Kyanjo, a Ugandan lawmaker and also one of the organizers of the eight-day meeting of the Parliamentary Union of Islamic Conference, an affiliate of OIC, told reporters that the legislators will discuss foreign intervention in Somalia.

"The Somalia issue is a specific feature the political committee is going to discuss in detail," he said at Commonwealth Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo, on the shores of Lake Victoria.

African Union (AU) has deployed over 4,000 peacekeepers in Somalia where Islamic militants, al Shabaab, are fighting the Somali Transitional Federal Government.

According to AU, foreign fighters with links to al Qaeda have teamed up with the al Shabaab to fight the government there.

The over 500 delegates from 51 member states and 13 parliamentary union observer groups around the world will also discuss the situation in Sudan's Darfur region during the meeting.

Documents prepared for the meeting show that the delegates will discuss how they can stand by Sudan against what they called all international threats and to affirm its sovereignty and legitimate leadership.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for his alleged responsibility for crimes committed in Darfur in western Sudan.

Among other topics to be discussed include the Palestine-Israel question, Iraq situation and combating terrorism under the United Nations umbrella among others.

The conference dubbed the Sixth Session of the Conference of The Parliamentary Union of the OIC member states will be officially opened on Jan. 30 by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Source: Xinhua


FBI got 2,000 phone records with fake terrorism emergencies: report

The FBI illegally collected 2,000 phone records between 2002 and 2006 invoking nonexistent terrorism emergencies, according to a report in The Washington Post.

By Tom A. Peter
Christian Science Monitor
January 19, 2010

The Federal Bureau of Investigation used false terrorism emergencies to illegally collect more than 2,000 phone records between 2002 and 2006. A series of e-mails and memos obtained by The Washington Post details how FBI officials violated their own procedures and strained their communication analysis unit with non-urgent requests. In many instances, approval was granted after records had been collected to justify the FBI’s actions.

Later this month, the Justice Department is expected to issue a report that will find the FBI violated regulations many times with its terrorism-related phone record requests. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III did not know about the problems until late 2006 or early 2007 when they were brought to light by an inspector general investigation, reports the Associated Press.

The memos do not reveal whose phone records were collected by the FBI, but Bureau officials say that nearly all instances were related to terrorism cases. They added that agents were working under the stress of trying to stop potential terror attacks and did not intentionally violate the law.

The FBI, which previously admitted to illegally collecting phone records in 2007, has begun to publicly acknowledge this latest phone record collection abuse. In an interview with The Washington Post, Valerie Caproni, general counsel for the FBI, said that the bureau had violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in collecting the 2,000 phone records in question.

"We should have stopped those requests from being made that way," she said. The after-the-fact approvals were a "good-hearted but not well-thought-out" solution to put phone carriers at ease, she said. In true emergencies, Caproni said, agents always had the legal right to get phone records, and lawyers have now concluded there was no need for the after-the-fact approval process. "What this turned out to be was a self-inflicted wound," she said.

The FBI never obtained the content of telephone conversations through the program. Additionally, the Bureau has already taken steps to ensure that nothing similar will happen again, FBI spokesman Michael Kortan told Reuters. He added that no one in the FBI had used these methods to for “reasons other than a legitimate investigative interest.”

Previously, FBI agents required a grand jury subpoena or a “national security letter” related to a terrorism or espionage case to collect phone records. However, after Sept. 11, the Patriot Act loosened the restrictions required to obtain phone records. Lower-level FBI officials were given the authority to request phone records, but the Press Trust of India reports that the program soon expanded beyond the intent of the loosened restrictions with phone records possibly unrelated to terrorism cases being collected by the FBI.

Main Justice, a news agency devoted to covering the Department of Justice, reports that although this is not the first time the FBI’s improper collection of phone records has come to light, the e-mails and memos collected by The Post reveal the internal controversy behind the program.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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