Monday, April 28, 2008

Somali News Update: Ogaden Fighters Decry Arrests; Imperialists Plot Direct Occupation

Somalia: Ethiopia's Ogaden rebels decry arrest of two of their top leaders

Fri. April 25, 2008 02:00 am
By Bonny Apunyu

(SomaliNet) Ethiopia's Ogaden rebels on Thursday condemned the arrest of two of their top leaders by the authorities of Somalia's northern breakaway Puntland region.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) - a Somali-ethnic movement which has battled Addis Ababa for two decades - said its leaders were arrested on Tuesday.

"The two ONLF political prisoners were removed by force from their hotel in Garowe in central Somalia by security forces of the Puntland administration," the rebel movement said in a statement.

The two ONLF leaders were then driven in the personal vehicle of Puntland's finance minister back to the Ogaden border and handed over to Ethiopian security, the rebel group said.

The Ethiopian government in 2007 launched a massive military crackdown targeting the ONLF in its oil-rich southern strongholds. - Sapa-AFP

Pirates free crew of Spanish boat

The Playa de Bakio was attacked 400km off the Somali coast

Pirates have released a Spanish fishing boat and its 26 crew members seized off the coast of Somalia last week.

The Playa de Bakio, a Basque tuna fishing boat, was released along with all of its crew on Saturday, the Spanish government says.

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa de la Vega said the crew were safe and on their way to "safer waters".

She said the release had been achieved through talks. A local official told the BBC a $1.2m ransom had been paid.

"Five men on a speed boat came to the ship and informed the pirates that they were ready to meet their demand of ransom," said Abdi-salam Khalif Ahmed, a local leader in the Somali port town of Haradhere.

"They then boarded the ship and handed a bag with $1.2m to the leader of the pirates."

Ms de la Vega, who did not comment on whether a ransom had been paid, said her government had taken steps to ensure that "a similar situation does not taken place again".

"We must put an end to maritime piracy," she added.

The Basque tuna boat was attacked by pirates armed with grenade launchers about 250 miles (400km) off the coast of Somalia on 20 April.

The government was making plans to repatriate the crew of 13 Spaniards and 13 Africans, Ms de la Vega said.

Somali coastal waters are among the most hazardous in the world.

Last year, more than 25 ships were seized by pirates in Somali coastal waters.

Somalia has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity.

Spain backs UN anti-piracy force

The Playa de Bakio was attacked 400km off the Somali coast

The Spanish government has called for a United Nations-backed force to tackle piracy at sea, after a Spanish trawler and its crew were seized off Somalia.

Spain's ambassador to Kenya has gone to Somalia to press for the release of the 26 crew of the Playa de Bakio.

In a statement the government said there should be a "powerful and effective collective security system" in the Indian Ocean.

It said it was discussing a UN resolution with France and the US.

France proposed the creation of an international force earlier this month when the 30 crew of a French luxury yacht were taken hostage and later freed after a ransom was paid.

Six Somalis were then captured and charged by a court in Paris.

The Basque tuna boat was attacked about 400km (250 miles) off the Somali coast on Saturday.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told public television that no demand had yet been made by the kidnappers.

"We have to listen first to what they want, what are their demands, so we have to wait," he said.

A Spanish warship was due to arrive off Somalia late on Wednesday but Mr Moratinos told RNE radio that an international response was now necessary.

"I think the international community must react, to establish a rotational checking and monitoring mechanism with our naval forces, in order to guarantee the security and protection of all those who work and pass through that area," Mr Moratinos said.

Last year, more than 25 ships were seized by pirates in Somali coastal waters.

Somalia: Britain seeks stronger U.N. presence in Somalia

Thu. April 24, 2008 04:49 am
By Bonny Apunyu

(SomaliNet) In what would open the door to a stronger U.N. presence and a possible deployment of U.N. peacekeepers, Britain has circulated a draft resolution on Somalia to members of the Security Council.

Meanwhile, Somalia's transitional government has been urging the council to send U.N. peacekeepers to help stabilize the lawless Horn of Africa country.

Sources say while the 15 UN Security Council members agree the situation is dire, most have been reluctant to send U.N. peacekeepers to Somalia, where warlords, Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces are battling.

The draft text, obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, asks the Security Council to "welcome" a recent report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on preparations for a U.N. force to replace African Union peacekeepers, known as AMISOM.

The Draft also calls for Ban's office "to continue its planning for deployment of a peacekeeping operation, taking account of conditions on the ground, and considering additional options for the size, configuration, responsibility and proposed area of operation on the ground."

The Security Council in February extended for six months, U.N. endorsement of the AU peacekeeping mission. It consists of two Ugandan battalions, totaling 1,600 troops, and an advance party of 192 Burundians.

Meanwhile, talk of U.N. intervention is still colored by memories of a battle in 1993 in which 18 U.S. troops and hundreds of Somali militiamen died. The incident inspired a Hollywood movie, "Black Hawk Down" and marked the beginning of the end for a U.S.-U.N. peacekeeping force.

The British draft says the council is also concerned about human rights in Somalia and the "worsening humanitarian situation" and says the country "continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region."
It urges U.N. member states to boost their support for AMISOM with money, personnel, equipment and services.

Western diplomats on the council said the British would revise the text based on comments from other council members and hope to put it to a vote over the next week.


The British text also threatens to impose sanctions "against those who seek to prevent or block a peaceful political process, or those who threaten the (peacekeepers) ... by force, or take action that undermines the stability in Somalia or the region."

It calls for a list of "individuals or entities" that would be targeted by sanctions to be given to the council within 60 days from the adoption of the resolution.

The draft asks the council to back Ban's recommendation that the U.N. Somalia operations be moved from Nairobi to Mogadishu, a measure diplomats said would enable the United Nations to strengthen its presence on the ground in Somalia.

Also, France and the United States are drafting a companion resolution that will deal exclusively with the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia and elsewhere. The second resolution would authorize countries to fight piracy more effectively.

A surge in maritime hijackings for ransom off Somalia have made it one of the world's most dangerous shipping zones.

The British draft contains several paragraphs that urge U.N. member states and regional organizations like the AU to fight piracy "to protect shipping involved with the ... delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia."-Reuters

UN pursues Somali peace talks despite chaos

Submitted by wararka on Sat, 04/26/2008 - 05:23

The United Nations remains determined to bring Somali factions together for talks despite an upsurge of violence that has left peace as elusive as ever in nearly two decades of civil war, an official said on Friday.

"What happened this week is terrible and should be condemned ... but it is not new. It has been going on for 18 years," U.N. envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, told Reuters.

About 100 people died in fighting last weekend between allied Ethiopian-Somali troops and Islamist insurgents.

And in an incident inflaming passions on all sides, beheaded corpses lay outside a Mogadishu mosque where Ethiopian soldiers were accused of killing about 20 people, including an imam and Koranic students. Addis Ababa has denied that as "lies".

Ould-Abdallah, a Mauritanian with one of the toughest jobs in international diplomacy, is trying to bring representatives of Somalia's government and exiled opposition group together at a low-profile meeting in Djibouti on May 10.

"I am trying to tell the Somalis they should meet at a very technical level to have a minimum political understanding. Instead of running from one (foreign) capital to another, they must talk to each other," he said at his Nairobi office.

Hardline Islamists, who have waged an insurgency since early 2007, are refusing to join peace talks until Ethiopian troops have left. And some moderate Islamist leaders, who had said they would support talks, are doubtful after the latest violence.

But Ould-Abdallah indicated he would be flexible on the timetable, saying that starting the process was more important than being fixated on a particular date.


The Horn of Africa nation of nine million people has suffered constant violence since the 1991 fall of a military dictator. Ethiopia sent thousands of troops in 2006 to help the Western-backed interim government oust Islamists from Mogadishu.

Saying it was impossible to verify facts on the ground without a permanent U.N. presence, Ould-Abdallah called for the world body's mainly Kenyan-based offices dealing with Somalia to be moved into the country, with proper security.

"We cannot, for 18 years, be sitting in Nairobi and say we will work on Somalia ... by remote control," he said.

"Either we move closer to the victims of abuse, of violence, of drought, of famine ... Or we give up on Somalia and devote these resources to other places."

The envoy saw little prospect of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Somalia until there was internal political progress.

"This will not happen if we don't have a group of Somalis who have the courage to sit together and make that minimum agreement," he said. "The U.N. has so many things on its plate. They are requested and welcome in many other places, so I don't see them rushing to Somalia unless there is minimum stability."

A small 1,800-strong African Union force, mainly Ugandans, has done little to stem violence in Somalia, though it has won plaudits for providing medical care and securing areas like Mogadishu's port and presidential palace.

Ould-Abdallah said the awkward truth was that some Somali leaders were "comfortable" with perpetuating war for selfish motives, despite the immense suffering to the population.

He criticised the international community for its "neglect, terrible abandonment" of Somalia, particularly on failing to pursue justice for war crimes as it had done in places like Ivory Coast, Cambodia or former Yugoslavia.

"I have not seen anyone put on the blacklist ... or sanctions against criminals and their foreign associates, people sending weapons," he said.


Somali children freed from mosque

Witnesses said civilians were among the dead, some with their throats cut

Most of the Somali children captured during a raid on a mosque have now been released, the police say.

Amnesty International had called for the release of the 41 boys taken from the al-Hidaya mosque in the capital, Mogadishu.

Ethiopian troops said they had detained the boys because they suspected they were being trained as insurgents.

About 80 people were killed this week during fierce fighting between Ethiopian troops and Islamist fighters.

Among the dead were religious leaders from the Tabliq Sufi sect, which had stayed out of the conflict.

The UN emergency relief co-ordinator John Holmes has called for action against those involved in the attack.

Mr Holmes said there had been an increasing trend of indiscriminate use of force against civilians by all parties in the conflict in contravention of international humanitarian law.

Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein says the government was defending itself during the weekend clashes.

The recent fighting is threatening plans for reconciliation talks between the interim government and the Somali opposition alliance which includes the Islamists.

The Ethiopians intervened in 2006 to help government forces oust Islamists who had taken control of much of southern Somalia.

The UN says that more than half of Mogadishu's population has fled recent fighting in the city.

The country has not had an effective national government since 1991.

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