Monday, April 02, 2012

Somalia News Update: Tensions Escalate With Kenya; Clashes in Somaliland

Kenya casts suspicion on al Shabaab for blasts

Sun, Apr 1 2012

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya promised on Sunday to hunt down Somalia-based al Shabaab rebels following two blasts which killed one person and injured 31 in the coastal city of Mombasa, but stopped short of blaming the Islamist militant group outright.

Al Shabaab has staged attacks in Kenya since Nairobi sent troops into Somalia last October to pursue the group. However, Saturday's blasts were the first to target Mombasa, one of Kenya's top tourist destinations, and were staged just before the busy Easter tourist season in the coming week.

"We will not tire of hunting for these people (al Shabaab) until we finish them. They have ruined their country and now they have come here to ruin Kenya's economy," Internal Security Minister George Saitoti told reporters while visiting the scenes of the explosions.

Regional police commander Aggrey Adoli said al Shabaab was one line of inquiry, but not the only one. "Investigations are going on. Al Shabaab is among those being investigated," Adoli told Reuters.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who accompanied Saitoti, tried to reassure foreign visitors after the explosions whose victims were all Kenyans. "Kenya is safe. No one should threaten tourists. They should continue coming to Kenya and the government will protect them," he said.

A senior regional administration official told Reuters that makeshift bombs were used in the near-simultaneous attacks at an open air Christian meeting and a packed bar.

"These were what are known as Improvised Explosive Devices but investigations are still going on to establish exactly what type of IEDs," said Ernest Munyi, provincial commissioner for the coastal region.

Al Shabaab issued a statement that also fell short of claiming responsibility for the attacks, saying that Kenya's security depended on its military activities in Somalia.

"The more Kenyan troops continue to persecute innocent Muslims of Somalia, the less secure Kenyan cities will be; and the more oppression the Muslims of Somalia feel, the more constricted Kenyan life will be," it said.

Saitoti vowed that Kenya would chase members of al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-aligned group which controls large parts of Somalia, wherever they may hide to protect its people and economy.

The Kenyan military moved into south Somalia after two separate attacks on tourists in resorts on its northern coast.

Saturday's attacks created fears that the tourism business, one of the nation's big three hard currency earners, could be hit by cancellations during the Easter season.

(Writing by Duncan Miriri; editing by David Stamp)

Kenya blames Shabaab for Mombasa blasts


NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 1 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Internal Security Minister George Saitoti have linked Saturday’s twin blasts in Mombasa to the Somalia based, Al Shabaab terror group.

The leaders who visited one of the blast scenes in Mtwapa also called for increased vigilance among Kenyans.

“We shall not relax until we root out al Shabaab militia out of Kenya and their sympathizers,” said Saitoti. “I have directed the police commissioner to beef up security in all public places and increase their patrols.”

Odinga condemned the attacks and said the government will not allow a terror group to disrupt the nation’s security and economy.

“Our resolve to ensure safety prevails here forced us last year to send our security forces in Somalia to hunt and rid this country of terrorists that threaten our peace,” he said.

Odinga led a government delegation comprised of Saitoti, Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi and Police Commissioner Matthew Iteere to visit the scenes of the Mombasa blasts on the island and at Mtwapa.

The leaders also visited those who were injured and were still admitted to hospital on Sunday.

Meanwhile Coast Provincial Director of Medical Service Dr Anisa Baghazal confirmed Sunday that those who remained in hospital were out of danger, although some were in a critical condition.

“We received 14 victims from the twin blasts. Five are in critical condition but out of danger while eight have soft tissue injuries,” says Baghazal.

She confirmed there were six male patients, who included a 12-year-old boy and a police officer.

The injured police officer from the Criminal Investigation Department suffered injuries to his face in the second blast at a restaurant near the Mombasa stadium.

At least one person was killed and 18 were wounded in the attacks on the restaurant and a church gathering in the nearby town of Mtwapa, the Kenya Red Cross said.

In Mtwapa, an explosive device that police said was likely a grenade was thrown at a Christian gathering.

“Sixteen people were injured, two critically, and one died,” Nelly Muluka, a Red Cross spokeswoman, told AFP Sunday, adding that all the injured remained in hospital.

A second attack, minutes later, in Mombasa in which a grenade was hurled at a restaurant injured three people, including the police officer.

Two of those three have since been discharged but one remains in hospital, Muluka said.

“Our team in Mombasa has set up a tracing and information desk at the Coast general hospital and at Oasis hospital,” she added.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A survivor of the Mtwapa attack, Katana Kahindi, who sustained slight injuries to his right leg, said he saw a minibus swing towards the group of church goers before hearing a loud blast.

“I could not say whether the vehicle’s occupants had hurled the grenade that exploded,” he told AFP.

Top officials visited the victims in hospital, among them Environment Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere, who is also a local MP.

“Its bad that innocent Kenyans have suffered at the hands of attackers and we wish them quick recovery,” says the minister.

Since Kenya sent tanks and troops into Somalia late last year, a whole series of grenade attacks and explosions have taken place, both in Nairobi and in eastern towns and camps housing Somali refugees close to the border.

Targets have ranged from police vehicles to local bars and churches. The Kenyan authorities often blame such attacks on Somalia’s Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab rebels.

Somalia’s al-Shabab threatens Kenya of revenge attacks

Sun Apr 1, 2012 9:31PM GMT

Somalia’s al-Shabab group has threatened Kenya with revenge attacks on Kenyan soil, as a consequence for sending tanks and troops across the border into Somalia to combat the group.

Kenya sent in additional troops last October to fight al-Shabab in southern Somalia.

“The Kenyan public must be aware that the more Kenyan troops continue to persecute innocent Somalians, the less secure Kenyan cities will be; and the more oppression the Somalians feel, the more constricted Kenyan life will be. Such is the law of retribution,” a statement by the fighters’ group said on Sunday.

The statement comes a day after attacks in the Kenyan coastal cities of Mombasa and Mtwapa killed one person and injured 24 others. The Kenyan government casts suspicion on al-Shabab for the blasts. But the group did not explicitly claim responsibility for the attacks.

The statement further said that “the worsening insecurity in Kenyan cities is an embodiment of Kenya's misguided policies that place foreign interests above its national interests and the security of Western nations above the security of its citizens”.

Al-Shabab has staged attacks in Kenya since Nairobi sent troops into Somalia to pursue the group. However, Saturday's blasts were the first to target Mombasa, one of Kenya's top tourist destinations, and were staged just before the busy Easter tourist season in the coming week.

Somalia has been the scene of a decades-long civil strife that erupted after the ouster of former junta ruler Mohammed Siad Barre, which has left the country without a functioning government since 1991.

Last Updated: Apr 1, 2012 - 1:52:17 PM


19 killed in northern Somalia as Somaliland fights local militia

1 Apr 1, 2012 - 9:23:28 AM

BUHODLE, Somalia Apr 1 2012 (Garowe Online) – Clashes erupted in Buhodle and Las Anod towns in northern Somalia on Sunday between Somaliland forces and local militia, Radio Garowe reports.

Fighting erupted near Las Anod town and in the outskirts of Buhodle in two separate incidents involving Somaliland forces.

Somaliland media has reported that Somaliland authorities have in custody a minister of the newly formed "Khatumo" administration that claims ownership over Sool, Sanaag and Ayn (Buhodle) regions. The media did not release the name of the alleged minister in custody.

Khatumo officials claimed that they have confiscated soldiers and armed vehicles from the Somaliland forces.

Fighting at two locations

In Buhodle, local sources report that Somaliland forces attacked local militia. At least three Somaliland soldiers were killed, while Buhodle militia lost one fighter and one armed truck, sources added.

In Sool region, near Las Anod, armed clashes erupted in the east of the city.

According to local sources, self-declared "Khatumo" militia fought against Somaliland forces, whereby "Khatumo" militia reportedly sustained heavy losses. Sources reported that at least 15 persons were killed on both sides, while Somaliland forces reportedly arrested "over 40 civilians" near Las Anod.

“Heavy artillery could be heard throughout the city and telephone connections have been down all day,” said Mohamed Ahmed who spoke to GO after he left Las Anod Sunday afternoon.

Somaliland has faced armed resistance from residents opposing Somaliland's separatist administration in contested areas, in Las Anod and Buhodle areas. Clashes between Somaliland forces and local militia have been frequent in recent months.

Despite demands by Puntland government, Somaliland has failed to withdraw its troops from Las Anod town.

Somaliland, located in northwestern Somalia, unilaterally declared independence from the rest of the country in 1991 but has not gained international recognition.

Somaliland troops and separatists clash, five killed

Sun, Apr 1 2012

HARGEISA (Reuters) - At least four Somaliland troops and one rebel fighter loyal to the breakaway enclave's secessionists were killed during clashes on Sunday, both sides said.

The fighting first erupted in January after the leaders of the northern regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn decided to band together into a new state called Khaatumo and declared they wanted to be an independent region within Somalia.

Somaliland's troops have since clashed with militia fighters loyal to Khaatumo, with reports of dozens of casualties.

Somaliland is an internationally unrecognized state that declared independence from Somalia in 1991.

The newly declared Khaatumo state is near the border with Ethiopia and is a disputed area that Somaliland seized from Puntland in 2007, though relations between the two territories have improved since.

"Militia loyal to anti-Somaliland groups in Buhodle and South Sool simultaneously began (fighting) in the early hours of dawn. The army repulsed attacks on both fronts," said Osman Abdillahi, a spokesman for Somaliland's defense ministry.

Abdillahi said four Somaliland government soldiers were killed and 10 injured during the fighting. Mohamed Yousouf, a spokesman for the secessionists, said one of their fighters was killed and two were injured.

(Reporting by Hussein Ali Nur and Mark Anderson; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Karolina Tagaris)

Last Updated: Apr 1, 2012 - 1:43:00 PM


Somalia: Tensions grow between senior Al Shabaab officials

1 Apr 1, 2012 - 8:56:34 AM

MOGADISHU, Somalia April 1 2012 (Garowe Online) – A senior Al Shabaab official has openly disagreed with a statement made by the leader of the Al Shabaab terrorist group and spoke against civilian deaths, Radio Garowe reports.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys a senior Al Shabaab official disagreed with a statement made by the Amir or leader of the Al Shabaab Ahmed Abdi "Godane" aka Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr in which he stated that no Islamist group other than Al Shabaab can wage jihad inside Somalia.

The response from Sheikh Aweys, a former prison colonel, was: “One cannot limit or make jihad a membership, jihad is open to everyone who is willing to fight.”

Sheikh Aweys went to on to say that the statement made by the leader of Al Shabaab Ahmed Godane is not credible adding that one should not pretend to be what he is not. The difference between the two officials has reiterated a sense tension within the terrorist faction.

During a Friday sermon at a mosque in the outskirts of Mogadishu, Sheikh Aweys also spoke about the civilian deaths saying that it Al Shabaab was not formed to spill the blood of civilians but rather to fight against crusaders. “Whoever does not agree with Al Shabaab’s ideology should be wiped out is not a method of Islam. The organization has made the killing of civilians lawful by making up their own laws.”

There have been no comments made by other senior Al Shabaab officials. Tensions in the organization have risen recently after U.S.-born foreign fighter Omar Hamami also known as Abu Mansoor al Amriki released a video where he says that he is afraid for his life because he and other officials had disagreed over ideology and strategic issues.

Some reports say Godane stepped down as Al Shabaab leader in December 2010 but remains a very influential figure in the organization. A power struggle within Al Qaeda member group Al Shabaab has raged since Hizbul Islam faction, led by Sheikh Aweys, joined Al Shabaab.

Reportedly Godane opposed Sheikh Aweys’ rise in the Al Shabaab organization and opposed him receiving a role of importance in the organization. Sheikh Aweys who is prominent figure in the group, has had in the past, the support of influential Al Shabaab members like Mukhtar Robow "Abu Mansur" and Fuad Mohamed Shongole and is known as the group’s spiritual leader.

Al Shabaab insurgents have taken heavy losses in recent days as AMISOM and TFG forces have taken over the Mogadishu district of Deynile which has been an Al Shabaab stronghold for many years. Al Shabaab have denied that AMISOM and TFG forces have took control of Deynile, locals on the ground fear the denial and the break in fighting means Al Shabaab is preparing for an onslaught.


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