Monday, March 26, 2007

Somali Update: Liberation Front Calls For Volunteers; Uganda To Review Presence; NJ Man Held By US-backed Occupationists

Somali fighters call for volunteers

The video given to Al Jazeera showed members of the Somali Liberation Front preparing to carry out attacks

The Somali Liberation Front, an otherwise unknown group, have called on Arabs and Muslims to come to Somalia to fight Ethiopian troops.

Speaking in a videotape aired by Al Jazeera on Wednesday, the group's spokesman also said that its fighters had begun a guerrilla campaign against the Somali government.

"We call on the Arab and Muslim countries to adhere to their responsibilities towards Somalis and to stand by their brethrens in their efforts to liberate their country," the Somali spokesman said, speaking halting Arabic with his face concealed.

The short video also showed armed men making plans and training to carry out attacks.

The group's self-proclaimed spokesman also said that the African Union should not send troops to support the Ethiopian military which has deployed in Somalia to support the countrys' weak interim government.

"We call on the African countries to refrain from sending troops to Somalia, as by doing this they legalize the Ethiopian occupation, harm the Somali issue and get themselves involved in a dispensable trouble," he said.

Cargo plane 'shot down'

Separately, the government of Belarus said that a privately-owned Belorussian cargo plane that crashed north of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, on Friday, had been shot down.

"The plane was shot down," Kseniya Perestoronina, a transport ministry spokeswoman said in Minsk, the Belorussian capital.

She said that the large Ilyushin-76 aircraft, in Somalia to assist struggling African peacekeepers, was hit at a height of 150 metres and that all eleven passengers and crew had died in the crash.

The statement appeared to confirm initial reports from both a local Somali radio station and an Islamist web site that a missile had hit the Russian-made aircraft just after takeoff from Mogadishu on Friday afternoon.

However Mohamed Mahamud Guled, Somalia's interior minister, said that although investigations were continuing, the crash was due to a technical fault.

"The plane took off at around five o'clock and as soon as it reached 10,000 feet altitude, the pilot reported an engine problem in engine number two and said he would turn back to the airport," he told a news conference in Mogadishu.

The plane had brought a team to fix another Ilyushin lying damaged at Mogadishu airport after flying in peacekeepers.

That plane caught fire on the runway in an incident the AU said was a technical fault, but Islamists said was a missile attack.

Source: Al Jazeera

Somalia: Ethiopians warned to leave Somalia immediately

Sun. March 25, 2007 05:43 pm
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) After having intensive meeting in the north of the Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, elders of Hawiye tribe, one of the four main tribes in Somalia, Sunday issued a communiqué over their position towards the best way to find solution for the crisis in the capital which has been stable for the second day.

The Hawiye elders agreed on late today several articles including to fully comply with the ceasefire deal they signed with the Ethiopian military officials, as Abdi Imam Omar, among the elders told the reporters.

The elders representing the Hawiye tribe said in their statements that they are suggesting the world community to provide support the ceasefire agreement and help it implemented and giving consideration to the human crisis in the capital that resulted from the latest clashes.

They called on the Somali people in Mogadishu not to give respect to the government’s warning that residents desert the targeted places but remain in the city.

The Ethiopian government should immediately pull its troops out of our country as it had already pledged to quit Somalia after the arrival of the African Union peacekeepers, the statement said.

The elders said Puntland militia should be withdrawn from Mogadishu and brought back to their home until a national government is formed.

The Hawiye chiefs agreed to release all the prisoners captured in the recent clashes in the capital saying what they called ‘the misled soldiers will be handed to their clans.

They made it clear that Hawiye is ready to fully participate the coming national conference in the capital on 16 April after the implementation of the ceasefire and appealed the Hawiye people within the interim government to come before the elders to them into accountability for the responsibility they are holding for the their constituencies.

The elders asked for all Somali people wherever they are to intensely attend in defending the religion and the country against the enemy.

Ugandan troops say they are being used as guinea pigs

Special Correspondent

The Ugandan government is reviewing its involvement in Somalia as its troops await the arrival of peacekeepers from other African countries.

“We are assessing the situation on the ground and the magnitude of the assignment before the government decides on the way forward,” Isaac Musumba, the State Minister for Regional Co-operation, said.

He added that he had not received any communication from the African Union regarding when the peacekeepers promised by other African countries would join the Ugandan troops.

Meanwhile, a Ugandan captain in Somalia, who asked not to be identified, said the countries that had promised to send troops were not ready to take the lead. “True, many have pledged to join us, but they are waiting for us to test the waters first,” he said, adding that the situation was complicated by the presence of terrorists and the warfare tactics adopted by the Islamists.

Uganda is the first African country to deploy troops to the war-torn country under the aegis of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). The 1,500 Ugandans were to be joined by 1,700 troops from Burundi in April, 850 troops each from Nigeria and Malawi in May and 300 troops from Ghana.

However, it seems like the additional troops will arrive much later than that.

Burundi says it lacks equipment for the mission while Nigeria, Ghana and Malawi have yet to deploy their troops.

And Sudan, one of the first African countries to offer to intervene in Somalia, says its statement was misunderstood.

“Sudan has never said it will send troops to Somalia. We offered to facilitate dialogue in that country and we still stand by that,” the Sudanese ambassador to Uganda, Hassan Ibrahim Gadkarim, said.

Besides, troops have to undergo special training before being deployed.

During a press conference in Mogadishu last week, the commander of the Ugandan troops, Maj-Gen Levi Karuhanga, appealed to the AU to push other African countries to keep their promise.

The AU’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Said Djinnit, appealed for financial and logistical help, saying the mission faced the greatest challenges in these two areas.

The shortage of peacekeepers is aggravated by outright opposition to the peacekeeping effort by some countries. Eritrea, for instance, has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops.

The AU mission was authorised by the UN to help the new Somali government find its footing, but its effectiveness is already in doubt due to foot-dragging by states that had promised to help.

Non-AU members have also pledged help: France will equip Burundian troops while the EU will give 15 million euros ($19,500,000) for refunding expenses incurred by Uganda. Britain and the US have pledged 6 million ($7,800,000) and 11 million ($14,300000) euros respectively.

The AU plans to send 8,000 troops to Somalia, but only half that number are on the ground and cannot make much of an impact.

The AU’s “White Helmets”, as the peacekeepers are known, are expected to provide security and help maintain stability in a country that has been at war for more than 15 years. Already, they have already been attacked by insurgents who had vowed to target the peacekeeping forces.

Two Ugandans have been injured and flown back to Kampala while an Ethiopian and a Somali working alongside Ugandan troops were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets.

The peacekeepers will remain in Somalia for six months, after which Amisom will evolve into a United Nation’s operation.

N.J. man being held as prisoner in Ethiopia

Sunday, March 25, 2007

TINTON FALLS -- The parents of a New Jersey man being held in an Ethiopian prison for allegedly fighting on the side of radical Islamists in neighboring Somalia say he's innocent and want the U.S. government to win his release.

Amir Mohamed Meshal, a 24-year-old U.S. citizen and community college dropout, went to Somalia last year to help build an Islamic state there. But when Ethiopian forces last December invaded Somalia to topple the Islamic government -- with tacit U.S. government backing -- Meshal and thousands of others fled to neighboring Kenya.

He was eventually taken into custody by Kenyan officials, and sent back to Somalia and later Ethiopia -- where he could be considered a prisoner of war for allegedly fighting for radical Islamists in neighboring Somalia.

Meshal's father, a computer engineer who is also named Mohamed, said his son had nothing to do with the Islamic fighters -- some of whom the United States have said are connected to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

"He's naive," Meshal's father told The New York Times for Saturday's newspapers. "His ambition is maybe he just wants to go there to pick up a wife and settle down. He has nothing against the U.S."

The U.S. government seems to agree. American authorities say that before Meshal was deported from Kenya, they had determined he did not fight for the Somali Islamists, and had requested that he not be deported to any country except the United States.

The State Department says Meshal was held for nearly a month in a jail in the Ethiopian capital before U.S. diplomats were able to see him on Wednesday. Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said a formal complaint had been made to the government of Kenya over the deportation.

Meshal's parents say the U.S. government hasn't done enough.

Another U.S. citizen who fled Somalia around the same time, Daniel Joseph Maldonado, was accused of al-Qaida affiliation and deported from Kenya to Houston, where he faces terrorism charges.

When asked if their son was involved with Maldonado, Meshal's said, "I'd like to get my son 10 million miles away from Maldonado."

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