Saturday, November 29, 2008

Somali News Bulletin: Ethiopian Troops to Leave By End of December; More Ship Seizures in the Gulf of Aden

Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia

The Islamists once again control much of southern Somalia

All Ethiopian troops will leave Somalia by the end of the year, a foreign ministry spokesman has announced.

Ethiopia sent thousands of soldiers into Somalia two years ago to help government forces oust Islamists from the capital, Mogadishu.

But their presence has been deeply unpopular with many Somalis.

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf recently admitted that his forces only control parts of the capital and the central town of Baidoa.

Despite being forced from power in Mogadishu, Islamist forces have rallied and stage frequent attacks against Ethiopian and government soldiers.

Hardline Islamists have refused to take part in peace talks until the Ethiopians left Somali territory - the two countries have twice fought border wars.

The government is also deeply divided between President Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein.


Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Wahide Belay said that the deadline for the pull-out was in a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping on Tuesday.

"We have done our job and we are proud of it, but the expectations that we had from the international community were never fulfilled. But that said, we will withdraw in a responsible manner," he told the AFP news agency.

The US supported the Ethiopian move into Somalia but calls for UN peacekeepers to be sent have never materialised.

This is not the first time the Ethiopians have said they would withdraw but the BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says what is new is the lack of conditions or provisos.

It has previously said it would not pull out in a way that would leave a vacuum or destabilise the situation.

There are believed to be about 2,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia - sharply down from the 12,000 who first intervened.

The Ethiopian withdrawal was also part of a peace deal agreed recently between the government and moderate Islamists.

Some analysts fear fighting could increase after the Ethiopians leave.

There is a small African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu but analysts say they are unlikely to fight off the advancing Islamists.


The AU Commission Chairman warned that the AU force could also leave if government in-fighting continues.

"If the transitional government continues to quarrel, if those we came here to help can't agree and the Ethiopians pull out lock, stock and barrel... and African troops too decide to leave, then we have the worst possible scenario," he said, reports the AFP news agency.

Horn of Africa analyst Roger Middleton, from the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA), says morale is low in Ethiopia's army and troops are needed on the border with Eritrea.

But he said the situation may not improve and could become more complicated.

"It is possible that the government and ARS [moderate Islamists] form a broad-based government," he said.

"But a more likely scenario is a proliferation of armed groups fighting each other."

Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank, said the Ethiopians may now use troops and air power against the Islamists, instead of having troops on the ground, who are vulnerable to attack.

"The Ethiopians are at the end of their tether because of the squabbling in the interim government, which they have backed at such enormous human and financial cost," he told Reuters news agency.

Some 10,000 civilians have been killed since 2007, Reuters reports.

Donors say that up to three million people - almost half the population - need food aid.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991.

The anarchy has also spread to the seas, which attacks by pirates have made the most dangerous in the world.

Somalia: Somali pirates hijack Liberian flagged tanker

Fri. November 28, 2008 07:09 am.- By Bonny Apunyu.

(SomaliNet) A regional maritime official confirmed on Friday that armed Somali pirates have hijacked a Liberian-flagged chemical tanker in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

Andrew Mwangura, East Africa's coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP), said the seized vessel has 30 crew members, mostly Indians onboard.

"The pirates seized the Liberian flagged chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden with 30 crew members mostly Indians. There are three Indonesians, about 25 Indians and the remaining could be British," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone.

"I received the report of the hijack today and I have not established the name of the vessel and where it was sailing to and when exactly the tanker was seized," Mwangura said.

The Somali pirates have caused mayhem this year in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The hijacked ships included a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with 100 million U.S. dollars worth of oil, the biggest hijacking in history.

The tanker, the Sirius Star, belongs to Saudi Arabia's state-owned Vela International and is carrying 2 million barrels of oil.

It was hijacked Nov.15 about 833 km off Somalia, along with 25 crew members from Britain, Poland, Croatia and Saudi Arabia. - (Xinhua)

Somali pirates hijack chemical tanker with dozens of Indian crew members

Fri. November 28, 2008 07:06 am.- By Bonny Apunyu

(SomaliNet) Officials said Somali pirates hijacked a chemical tanker with dozens of Indian crew members on board Friday, and three British security guards were rescued by helicopter after jumping into the sea.

Speaking on conditions of anonymity, diplomatic officials said a warship on patrol nearby had sent helicopters to intervene in the attack, but they arrived after pirates had taken control of the Liberian-flagged ship.

The diplomats said, still on board were 25 Indian and two Bangladeshi crew members, after the British security guards escaped by jumping into the water.

It was the 97th vessel to be attacked this year off Somalia, where an Islamic insurgency and lack of effective government have helped facilitate an increase in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden.

The ship was being operated out of Singapore, according to Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

The ship master had sent a distress call to the center, which relayed the alert to international forces that have been policing Somali waters this year, Choong said.

There were no immediate details about how the pirates attacked or the condition of the crew.

Pirates have become increasingly brazen in the Gulf, a major international shipping lane through which some 20 tankers sail daily.

So far this year, 97 ships have been attacked and 40 hijacked, including the seizure of a Saudi supertanker loaded with $100 million worth of crude oil earlier this month.

Pirates demanding multimillion-dollar ransoms are currently holding 15 ships, with nearly 300 crew, Choong said.

Warships from Denmark, India, Malaysia, Russia, the U.S. and NATO have started patrolling the vast maritime corridor, escorting some merchant ships and responding to distress calls.

Ships "must continue to maintain a 24-hour vigil and radar watch so they can take early measures to escape pirates. Even though there are patrols, the warships cannot be everywhere at the same time," Choong said.

Somalia, an impoverished nation in the Horn of Africa, has not had a functioning government since 1991. -AP

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