Thursday, May 10, 2007

Somali News Update: AU Fails to Recruit 'Occupation' Troops; 2 Killed in Bombing

AU Mission in Balance

The Monitor (Kampala)
10 May 2007
By Frank Nyakairu & Agencies

The African Union president announced on Tuesday the regional body still has difficulty finding extra troops to send to troubled Somalia, three months after Ugandan peacekeepers deployed.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ghanaian President and AU chairperson John Agyekum Kufuor said deployment of extra troops will not be immediate.

"The AU wants to send 8,000 peacekeepers as soon as possible but we are having trouble finding the troops," Mr Kufuor said.

Mr Kufuor was speaking in Pretoria, South Africa, where he met South African President Thabo Mbeki.

On Monday, Mr Kufour was quoted in the media as saying the AU would send an extra 8, 000 peacekeepers to Somalia, but on Tuesday he said he was referring to the original deployment of AU troops, not any new ones.

Yesterday, Somalia called on African nations that promised to send peacekeepers to keep their word now that the worst fighting is over.

Somali envoy in Kenya, Mohamed Ali Nur, said yesterday; "They have promised before, so we just say 'keep your promise."

So far, only Uganda has sent troops. Diplomatic sources in Kampala told Daily Monitor that the Somalia mission has been plunged in more trouble following Mozambique's pull out.

Malawi and Ghana's deployments are also in balance. Burundi, a country still emerging from a decade long civil war is dogged by cash and language command problems. Burundi had promised between 1,500 and 1,600 soldiers; Nigeria 850; Ghana 350; and Malawi an unknown number.

The spokesman of AU Peace and Security Council Assane Ba, however, said no country has canceled her pledge.

"No state member of the AU who promised troops has canceled. It is a question of resources which we expect from partners," Mr Assane said in a telephone interview from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

"By the time these member states announced their pledges, they knew there was a problem. Why would they pull out at this time," he said. Britain, USA, Norway and France, had pledged financial support to the Somalia mission but little of that has actually materialised.

Attack kills 2 in Somali capital

By SALAD DUHUL -- Associated Press Writer
Published May 9‚ 2007 - MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP)

A land mine attack on a convoy of Somali government officials ended in the deaths of two civilians in the restive capital Thursday, an official and witnesses said. Elsewhere, two aid workers were reportedly kidnapped.

The car in the convoy carrying the commander of prisons, Abdullahi Ma'alim, ran over a land mine that was apparently set off by remote control, said Mohamed Osman Dagahtur, the capital's deputy mayor for security affairs.

"Abdullahi Ma'alim escaped the blast but his car was slightly damaged," said Dagahtur. "Two civilians lost their lives and another was injured."

In Puntland, one Kenyan and one British aid worker consulting for Care International were kidnapped Wednesday, a CARE official said Thursday.

Beatrice Spadacini, spokeswoman for CARE International's regional office in the Kenyan capital, said the two were seized in Puntland, the relatively peaceful northeastern region of Somalia.

She said it wasn't immediately clear who had seized them or what the motives were, but said the organization was confident the situation would be resolved quickly through talks with local authorities and clan elders.

The two, whose names were not released, were assessing a project for the organization, Spadacini said.

Semiautonomous Puntland has escaped much of the violence that has plagued southern Somalia, but banditry and piracy are a problem in the region.

In Mogadishu, Dagahtur said police arrested two suspects immediately after the blast targeting the government convoy and were interrogating them.

With the crucial aid of troops from neighboring Ethiopia, Somali forces ousted a militant Islamic group known as the Council of Islamic Courts over the New Year. The Islamic group then launched an insurgency, and the capital endured weeks of artillery battles and shelling between the warring sides.

The government declared victory in late April, and the capital has been relatively quiet since. But fears the calm will not endure have been fanned by a series of land mine and grenade attacks in recent days.

Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned against each other. The current government was established in 2004, but has failed to assert full control.

Also Thursday, a maritime official in neighboring Kenya said Somali gunmen hijacked a cargo ship from the United Arab Emirates, in an area 12 miles north of the capital's coast, the third such attack this year.

The pirates overpowered the crew on May 3 and forced them to head to the port of Hobyo, in the central Mudug region, 370 miles northeast of Mogadishu, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program.

Word of the hijacking emerged only on Wednesday because the hijackers kept the master of the vessel from raising the alarm, said Mwangura, adding negotiations were going on between the hijackers and Somalis who owned the cargo the ship was carrying to secure the release of the ship.

Somali pirates, often trained and heavily armed fighters using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and Global Positioning System equipment, are notoriously active off the coast of their lawless country.

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