Sunday, April 15, 2007

Somalia Update: UIC Offers To Negotiate After US-backed Withdrawal; American Sponsored Genocide Charged, etc.

Union of Islamic Courts Offers to Negotiate After US-backed Military Withdrawal

19:13 MECCA TIME, 16:13 GMT
Islamic Courts offer Somali talks

Mogadishu has been the scene of increasing anti-Ethiopian and anti-government violence

A senior leader of the Union of Islamic Courts has offered to negotiate with Somalia's interim government if its Ethiopian allies leave the country.

In a phone call to Al Jazeera, Sheikh Dahir Aweys, chief of the Supreme Islamic Council of the Somali Islamic Courts, also threatened on Saturday to launch attacks against African peacekeepers.

Ugandan troops are in Somalia as the vanguard of an African peacekeeping force to try to stabilise the country and allow Ethiopian troops, who helped oust the Islamic courts, and who are disliked by many Somalis, to leave.

"The Somalis are now more united that before proving that they are one nation against the Ethiopian invaders," Aweys said.

"Somalia is a 100 per cent Islamic nation and Somalis do love Islam and like to deal with Islamists."

Aweys, who told al Jazeera that he was in hiding "somewhere in Somalia", accused Ethiopian troops and the forces of the Somali interim government of committing what he described as "genocide" against Somali civilians in Mogadishu.

Violence continues

Sporadic violence, meanwhile, has continued in Mogadishu the Somali capital, where most of the foreign peacekeeping forces are based.

On Saturday, unidentified armed men ambushed Somali troops on patrol, fatally shooting two soldiers in the back, witnesses said.

Late on Friday, a mortar fired by Ethiopian-backed government troops landed on a camp for people whose homes have been destroyed in the fighting, witnesses said.

Hundreds of makeshift homes built of sticks and canvas burned to the ground.

The violence came soon after senior tribal leaders from the Hawai, Somalia's largest clan, declared war on Ethiopian troops and called on all Somalis to join them.

Eritrean support

On Friday, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the other main leader of the Islamic courts fighters, met with Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea's president, in Asmara, the Eritrean capital.

It was the first time an African leader has met with the group since it was driven out of Mogadishu.

Ahmed was seeking support from the Eritrean government, which has supported the Islamic courts in the past against Ethiopia.

Aweys welcomed the move played by Eritrea on the Somali crisis, saying: "We welcome any effort by any party to support the Somali people in the face of the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

AU calls for inclusive talks in Somalia

Sat. April 14, 2007 09:08 am.
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) The African Union (AU) on Friday called for broad-based talks to promote reconciliation in Somalia, saying it was the best chance for the transitional government to chart out its democratic future for decades.

Speaking at the opening of the regional meeting of ministers from Eastern Africa, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Said Djinit appealed to the transitional government to make the upcoming reconciliation conference inclusive by reaching out to the country's ousted Islamic militants.

Djinit said peace would not be realized in the war-ravaged Horn of Africa nation unless the United Nations-backed transitional government pursue the path of reconciliation and warned that further instability would hold back the wider region.

"We therefore, appeal to the TFG to include all the Somali people in the national reconciliation congress which seeks to bring about peace and reconciliation in Somalia once and for all," Djinit said.

"This will subsequently pave the way for lasting peace, stability and the reconstruction of the country as a whole," he told a meeting of foreign ministers from the seven-nation regional bloc, the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

"However, our efforts to assist the Somali peace process will not succeed unless the TFG leads the process of reviving Somalia from the ashes of the painful and prolonged conflict which has displaced millions and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somali citizens."

The transitional government has been under intense pressure from the , the European Union and the United Nations to expand its support base by bringing all Somali parties, including moderate Islamists and powerful clans to the negotiating table.

But so far only clan leaders, warlords and religious leaders have been involved, while ousted members of the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) have been excluded.

Exiled Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who is considered a moderate of the once powerful SCIC that had controlled Mogadishu and much of the south and central Somalia until late last year, is one of the figures western nations see as crucial for reconciliation.

Regional analysts have warned that the talks can only have a lasting effect if they are held in a spirit of forgiveness, true reconciliation and with the participation of all the parties involved including the ousted SCIC.

The AU has agreed to send a force of nearly 8,000 troops to the Horn of Africa nation, which has been the scene of fighting between warlords and their militias for much of the last 16 years.

But Djinit said the deployment has been held up as only a handful of countries have agreed to contribute troops, partly due to concerns about finance and of getting bogged down in a country, which has been an epitome of anarchy.

"The deployment of the AMISOM mission in Somalia is to ensure that the TFG is afforded an enabling environment to spearhead the efforts for reconciliation and dialogue amongst the Somalis with the view to strengthening national unity and consolidating the transitional federal institutions," he said.

The Italian government has pledged to finance efforts to stabilize Somalia, with an additional donation of 10 million euros (about 13.46 million U.S. dollars) for peacekeeping operations through the African Union.

"We are expecting that such process would be developed within a secure environment; that is why Italy decided to add a direct contribution of 10 million euros to the AU for AMISOM," said Armando Sanguini, personal representative of the Italian President for Africa.

"We trust AMISOM to reach rapidly the necessary dimensions for its full deployment, leading to the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops from Somalia," Sanguini said.

The AU has so far deployed two battalions of just over 1,200 Ugandan peacekeepers, out of a planned 8,000, for six months. Burundi, Nigeria, Ghana and Malawi have also pledged to contribute but have been held back by logistics and finance, Djinit said.

The government pledged to secure and stabilize the city within 30 days. But thousands of residents, who have borne the brunt of daily mortar and small arms fire from insurgents, continued to flee Mogadishu.

The United Nations and the AU all want to deploy African peacekeepers to stop Somalia from returning to the clan-based violence and anarchy that has characterized the country since 1991 when warlords overthrew a military strongman and then turned on each other.

But analysts said no country was likely to send peacekeepers into Somalia while there is fighting, which has continued sporadically since the government took over Mogadishu.

Nigeria puts off peacekeeping deployment to Somalia

Sat. April 14, 2007 09:09 am
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) Nigeria has postponed the deployment of troops to the war-ravaged Somalia until presidential elections are done and the new commander-in-chief authorizes the deployment, Kenyan Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju said here Friday.

Benin has also delayed the deployment of troops to the African Union Peace Support Mission for Somalia, which expects to deploy 8, 000 troops to Somalia, Tuju said.

Speaking after an Intergovernmental Authority on Development ( IGAD) Council of Ministers meeting on Somalia and Sudan ended, the Kenyan minister said the delay in the deployment of African troops was due to a "conspiracy of factors."

Nigeria, the first African country to pledge troops to Somalia, is awaiting the country's forthcoming presidential elections due on April 21, before it could reconsider the deployment of the troops, Tuju said.

Nigeria, he said, was one of the most experienced African nations on the peacekeeping initiatives. He said the Nigerian authorities have notified the African Union of the delay.

Burundi is ready to deploy two battalions to Somalia as soon as funds and other logistical support is availed for the process, Tuju told journalists.

Tuju said the situation in Somalia is volatile but with key financial support, the Horn of African nation could stand on its feet if funds were available for it to train its own troops.

"Several people do not know this, but the Somali Transitional Government has trained 4,000 troops and another 4,000 troops have been recruited into the force, if these are properly trained, they could provide the security that is needed," he explained.

Kenya and Tanzania have offered to help train Somali forces to help in post-conflict security issues of the country, Tuju said.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has pledged to fund the deployment of troops to Somalia and contribute funds to support the forthcoming national reconciliation conference in Somalia. Italy has also agreed to provide 10 million euros (13 million U.S. dollars) to Somalia.

"The fund-raising for Somalia has been fairly reasonable in terms of commitments," Tuju told Xinhua.

He said the delays in the deployment of the troops was not just funding, but had to do with other political complications.

Somalia: Ethiopia accused of 'genocide' in Somalia

Sat. April 14, 2007 02:15 pm.-
By Aaron Kirunda

(SomaliNet) A member of Somalia's transitional government and former warlord Hussein Aideed has accused Ethiopian troops in the capital Mogadishu of committing genocide since arriving in December.

Ethiopia dismissed Mr. Aideed's comments, deputy prime minister of the transitional government as an absolute fabrication.

Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands forced to flee since Ethiopian troops arrived in Mogadishu.

The Ethiopians arrived at the request of the transitional government, to oust the Islamist militia that was then in control.

The comments of Hussein Aideed underline not only the deep divisions within Somalia's transitional government but also the strength of opposition in the Somali capital to the Ethiopian forces backing it.

Many in Mogadishu are opposed to any foreign military presence - and view neighbouring Ethiopia in particular as a longstanding rival.

An offensive by Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu last month has only increased that opposition.

Former Somalia speaker asks for Ethiopian withdrawal

Fri. April 13, 2007 02:18 pm
By Mohamed Abdi Farah

(SomaliNet) Former parliament speaker in the transitional federal government Friday said he met with the Eritrean president Isias Afawerki over Somalia issue.

Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden who is now in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea condemned the Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia as illegal and in violation of international laws.

“In fact the Ethiopian forces had forcefully occupied the country of Somalia claiming that it is helping the interim government,” said Sheik Aden speaking to Shabelle Radio this morning.

Mr. Aden also criticized the recent comments by the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs Jendayi Frazer in her speech at the federal parliament in Baidoa. He said she ignored that Ethiopia had illegally entered Somalia.

“The Ethiopian troops did not enter Somalia with the approval of the Somali people and the international community,” added Aden.

He has explained a meeting with Somali government members of his group and the president of Eritrea as the meeting was organized by officials of the ousted Islamists including the leader of executive council of Islamic Courts Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.

Mr. Aden said they have discussed in their meeting how to speed up the deployment of African Union peacekeepers in Somalia to replace the Ethiopian forces.

He urged to the Somali people to help restore peace and stability in the country.

62 Somalis missing after capsizing


SAN'A, Yemen -- A smugglers' boat carrying Somali migrants capsized off Yemen's coast and at least 62 were feared dead, officials and local media said Saturday.

Survivors told authorities that the human traffickers forced them into the sea after seeing the Yemeni coast guard. It was not immediately clear when the boat, which was believed to be carrying 96 Somalis, capsized.

About 32 Somalis were rescued, a security official in the coastal Abyan province said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Another local official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said survivors were taken to the Kharaz refugee camp in the city of Aden, 200 miles south of the capital San'a.

The local Al Ayman newspaper, quoting unnamed witnesses, reported that 16 bodies had washed ashore since Friday night and more could be seen floating in the sea.

Thousands of migrants try to reach Yemen from the Horn of Africa, where violence has escalated since Ethiopia intervened in the armed struggle between Somalia's U.N.-supported interim government and Islamic groups.

A week ago, Yemen said that about 5,000 illegal migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia had arrived here since January and that 395 had died while trying to cross by boat in the same period.

Many migrants drown or are killed by pirates and smugglers in the treacherous Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia, authorities have said.

Two Eritrean journalists captured in Somalia held with “foreign fighters”

Reporters Without Borders called today on the Somali and Ethiopian governments to explain why two Eritrean state TV journalists had been held in secret after being arrested late last year along with several Somalis and foreigners near the border with Kenya.

“Like many other foreign journalists, they were reporting on the situation in Somalia and were not foreign fighters, as those arrested with them appear to be,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “They were journalists from one of the world’s most closed-off and repressive countries and we fear for their safety, whether they continue to be held or are returned to their own country."

“The Ethiopian and Somali governments must explain why they are not giving any information about them and must intelligently handle this dangerous situation for both journalists.”

Saleh Idris Gama, of the Eritrean state-run Eri-TV, and cameraman Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi, vanished in Mogadishu late last year while covering fighting between the Union of Islamic Courts and the federal transitional government. The Somali government did not reply to a Reporters Without Borders request in February as to whether they were being held or had been killed in the fighting.

The Eritrean foreign ministry asked Kenya on 5 April to speedily obtain the release of three Eritrean citizens and send them home. It said Kenya had handed them over to the Somalis on 20 January after arresting them in late December and detaining them illegally for more than three weeks. It did not say what they were doing when they were picked up or where they were.

The third Eritrean, said by Eritrea to be Osman Mohammed Berhan, is not an employee of the state-run Radio Dimtsi Hafash, contrary to earlier reports. In a letter to the opposition website from prison in Kenya on 18 January, he said his name was Samson Yeman Berhan and that he had been sent to Somalia by the Eritrean government under a false name along with other Eritreans.

Reporters Without Borders asked Somalia’s National Security Agency on 4 April for information on the Eritrean journalists and for a phone number to call them, but the request was refused. They and the Somalis and foreigners arrested near the border have reportedly been transferred to a prison in Addis Ababa.

Govt Soldiers Killed in Mogadishu

Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)
April 14, 2007

Two soldiers belonging to the transitional federal government have been shot dead today by unknown gunmen in south of the Somalia capital Mogadishu.

The shootout happened in Taleh neighborhood, south of Mogadishu when unidentified gunmen who were driving on a Toyota car opened fire at the soldiers.

"One of the soldiers died on the spot after he was hit by the bullet on the head while the other one died of his wound," one eyewitness told Shabelle Radio.

The attackers are said to have taken away the gun of the one of the soldiers shortly after being killed. The assailants escaped unharmed.

The government forces sealed the area of the shootout and began investigations. No one has been arrested for the latest killing.

The soldiers of the Somali's government are frequently target for the attacks by the unidentified militiamen.

April 14, 2007

New Jersey Man Appears Before Tribunal in Ethiopia

New York Times

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 13 — Amir Mohamed Meshal, an American terrorism suspect jailed in Ethiopia, appeared in front of a military tribunal there on Friday, but Ethiopian officials did not disclose the outcome.

Mr. Meshal, a community college dropout from Tinton Falls, N.J., has been in detention since late January, when he tried to escape the war in Somalia and was arrested at the Kenyan border. A few weeks later, Ethiopian officials said, he was deported to a prison in Ethiopia, along with several other foreign citizens who had joined Somalia’s Islamist movement and fled after Ethiopian forces routed the Islamists.

On Friday, he left the heavily guarded Ministry of National Defense compound in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in a minibus along with at least seven other suspects. American officials confirmed that he appeared in front of a tribunal but said they did not know his status.

No news media or members of the public were allowed at the hearing, and American officials said that they, too, were barred from attending. Ethiopian officials did not disclose any details.

A spokesman for the Ethiopian Ministry of National Defense who declined to give his name said, “We do not know what is happening in regards to that issue.”

Ethiopian Foreign Ministry officials said they were not authorized to talk about it.

Jonathan Hafetz, a New York-based lawyer representing Mr. Meshal’s family, said he knew “absolutely nothing.”

Still, American officials remained confident that Mr. Meshal would be released soon. This week, American officials said that there was no evidence Mr. Meshal had committed any crimes in Somalia and that they were pressing the Ethiopians to expedite his release.

Mr. Meshal’s name appeared on a Homeland Security Department’s watch list of potentially dangerous passengers, which threatened to delay his return to the United States. But one American official involved in negotiating Mr. Meshal’s travel situation said Friday that “it will get worked out.”

Mr. Meshal, the son of Egyptian immigrants, has been at the center of a brewing controversy between human rights groups that have accused the Ethiopian and American governments of running a secret detention program and government officials from both countries who have strenuously denied that. American officials have acknowledged that they interrogated Mr. Meshal several times while he was in custody in Kenya and Ethiopia, but said they played no role in detaining him or transporting him.

Jeffrey Gettleman reported from Nairobi and Will Connors from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting from Washington.

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