Friday, February 20, 2009

Somalia News Bulletin: Civilian Killed After Attacks on AMISOM Forces in Mogadishu

Civilian Killed As Somali Islamists Attack AU Forces-Witness

2-20-09 6:49 AM EST

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AFP)--Hardline Islamist militia attacked African Union forces in the Somali capital Friday, killing one civilian and wounding two others, witnesses said.

The fighters attacked the AU's Burundian troops base in southern Mogadishu, sparking an exchange of fire.

"Shebab fighters attacked our forces based in southern Mogadishu's Jale Siad military academy. There is no casualty on our side," a Burundian officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Resident Abdullahi Sugow said: "One civilian was killed and two others were injured in our neighborhood during the clashes."

The Somali capital has enjoyed a relative lull in violence following the election on Jan. 31 of Islamist cleric Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as president.

NATO planning new anti-piracy mission off Somalia

2/20/2009 8:41:00 AM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

KRAKOW, Poland (Sh M. Network) - NATO is planning to deploy a new naval flotilla in the coming months to combat piracy off Somalia, the alliance said Thursday.

In November, NATO sent four warships to the waters off the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden to stem a surge of pirate attacks against merchant shipping in one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

They were replaced in December by a European Union task force, which will remain in place until the end of 2009. A number of other countries, including China, Russia and India, also have contributed warships to the international effort to combat piracy.

Still, pirate attacks have continued, and NATO has been considering sending a follow-on force to reinforce it.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters that six vessels would be sent, although he did not say from which countries.

"It's a considerable strengthening of the anti-piracy role," he said. "We are seeing the end of the monsoon season, so I would not be astonished to see piracy go up again."

The U.N. Security Council has authorized countries to enter Somalia's territorial waters, with advance notice, and use "all necessary means" to stop piracy and armed robbery at sea.

The pirates are well-funded, well-organized and have easy access to heavy weapons in a country that has been in tatters for nearly two decades. Pirates travel in open skiffs with outboard engines, working with larger ships that tow them far out to sea. They use satellite navigational and communications equipment and have an intimate knowledge of local waters, clambering aboard commercial vessels with ladders and grappling hooks.

To date, pirates have raked in tens of millions in ransom and attacked and seized dozens of vessels carrying everything from palm oil and chemicals to luxury yachts. High-profile seizures include an oil tanker and a Ukrainian ship laden with tanks, both recently released.

Their focus has been the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia and Yemen, where 20,000 merchant ships a year pass on the way in and out of the Suez Canal, the quickest route from Asia to Europe and the Americas.

Islamist leader blames Ethiopia

2/19/2009 8:34:00 AM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

MOGADISHU (Sh. M. Network)-Mohamed Ibrahim Bilaal, one of Somali Islamist leaders, has blamed Thursday Ethiopia of creating chaos in Somalia, after Ethiopian troops re-entered in the country yesterday.

Eyewitnesses said Wednesday more Ethiopian troops with about 60 military vehicles entered in Rabdhuure district in Bakool region and Yeed Village in south west Somalia.

Locals said more civilians started fleeing from the towns that the Ethiopian troops entered, where they have reportedly arrested many people.

Mr. Bilaal said Ethiopia is an obstacle to Somali peace process. He added that clan elders have been mediating between al-Shabaab Islamists and government officials in Bakool region.

“Ethiopia is anti Somali peace and it is arming and training rebel militias to attack Somali regions again,” Bilaal said.

Ethiopia sent its troops to Somalia in 2006 to oust the Islamic Courts Union, but completely withdrew its troops from Somalia last month.

Ethiopia denied that its troops re-entered Somalia, but residents confirmed the returning of the Ethiopian soldiers.

It is not known why the Ethiopian troops have returned back to Somalia, but Meles Zenawi, Ethiopian prime minister, said on Friday that Somali president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed could not give him guarantee that Somalia would not plunge into chaos.

Meles Zenawi admitted Ethiopia paid a high price for its military intervention in Somalia, both in terms of lives lost, as well as its battered international image. Human rights groups accused Ethiopian soldiers of repeated war crimes.

Islamist forces control Baidoa, the former seat of the transitional parliament, where the Ethiopian troops fled weeks ago after two years of unpopular occupation.

US uses unmanned drones to hunt Somali pirates

2/16/2009 7:18:00 AM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

ABOARD THE USS MAHAN (Sh. M. Network) — American warships off the lawless Somali coast are using unmanned drones to hunt pirates threatening one of the world's most important shipping lanes.

Sailors aboard the USS Mahan told The Associated Press they have been using the spy flights daily to spot potential pirate mother ships.

For years, the U.S. has used drones to track potential terrorists among Somalia's warlords, but the Navy said more and more of the planes are now being used to fight piracy.

The drones can fly more than 3,000 feet (915 meters) above sea level and relay pictures detailed enough to recognize the flags flown on fishing boats that Somalis use to avoid detection.

The drones take still photos and videos that are instantly relayed to the American ships. The Americans can then send this material to other nations in the international anti-piracy coalition that may have ships near the suspicious vessel. Countries as diverse as India, France, China and Russia have sent ships to help patrol the Gulf of Aden.

On Thursday, pictures taken by the drones, some of which also are equipped with night vision, helped apprehend nine pirates after a night flight relayed pictures of a skiff with a ladder onboard. A skiff had fired a rocket- propelled grenade at a merchant vessel in the area earlier.

The American warship dispatched helicopters to provide surveillance and air cover, and it deployed a boat with a search and seizure team.

Automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades were found and the nine men onboard were detained, although they had thrown the ladder into the sea. Still, the pictures of the ladder taken by the drone can be used as evidence, as the coalition steps up efforts to pursue the pirates through the courts as well as the waves.

Pirate mother ships often are used to tow smaller skiffs out to sea and resupply them.

Previous anti-piracy efforts have been hindered by confusion over which country has the jurisdiction to prosecute suspected pirates, but the United States and Britain both signed an agreement with Kenya to try suspects in that country, which borders Somalia.

"We have a unique capability in which we have an (unmanned air vehicle) that helps us detect the pirates and makes it hard for them to hide," USS Mahan Capt. Stephen Murphy said, pointing to the images the drone relayed to the bridge of the destroyer.

"The UAV ... can stay airborne all day and cover thousands of miles (kilometers) of the ocean and be able to spot pirates," he told this Associated Press reporter during a five-day visit to the ship last week.

Somali pirates have been preying on passing shipping for years, but September's capture of a Ukrainian ship loaded with arms helped focus international attention on the problem. The arms ship was released earlier this month and docked in a Kenyan port on Thursday.

Pirates attacked more than 100 ships last year with a success rate of nearly 50 percent.

The number of attacks has remained steady following an influx of warships into the Gulf of Aden late last year, but their success rate has fallen to below 30 percent.

There also has been a recent spate of unseasonably bad weather.

But analysts say the problem will not be solved until a stable government is established in war-ravaged Somalia. The country has not had one since 1991, and the multimillion dollar ransoms are a strong lure in a country where nearly half the population is dependent on aid.

The embattled U.N.-backed government is fighting a strengthening Islamic insurgency that the U.S. State Department says has links to al-Qaeda. (Associated Press)

Civil rights group eyes reports of Somalis questioned

2/15/2009 11:03:00 AM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

ST. PAUL (Sh. M. Network )-A civil-rights group says federal investigators have been randomly stopping Somali residents at malls, college campuses and the airport to question them.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it has heard from 50 to 100 people who say they were stopped by federal agents since news broke about the disappearance of several young Somali men.

The men’s families worry they have returned to Somalia to fight in a war.

University of Minnesota sophomore Saida Hassan, 20, says she was questioned at the airport for three hours and never told why she was detained.

U.S. customs officials won’t say whether recent questioning at the airport has to do with the men’s disappearance.

And an FBI spokesman says all of its agents’ conversations with Somalis have been voluntary. Source AP

Somali pirate patrol: Day one

The BBC's Jonah Fisher has joined British Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland as it patrols the Gulf of Aden in an EU taskforce to deter Somali pirates.

In the first instalment of his diary from the ship's deck, our correspondent finds that even with a fleet of warships, catching the seaborne hijackers is not as easy as one might imagine.

We've been at sea now for a few hours and still no sign of Keira Knightley or Johnny Depp.

“ Once the Somalis have scrambled up a ladder on to deck there is no prospect of a rescue bid ”

It's an obvious joke. But the deployment of a British frigate off Somalia's coast and in the Gulf of Aden shows just how seriously the struggle against modern piracy is now being taken.

The HMS Northumberland has for the last three months been part of the European Union's anti-piracy Combined Task Force Atalanta.

It's one of six warships from across the continent trying to cover an area of more than a million square miles (2.6m sq km).

From Mombasa in the south and as far north and east as Oman.

Elusive prey

Duties within the taskforce are shared between the warships and are a mixture of escorting aid deliveries into Somali ports and patrolling commercial shipping lanes to try to deter attacks.

Warships from Russia, China, Malaysia and India are also on their own anti-piracy missions in the region.

So far the jury is out on their success.

After the high-profile captures of the oil tanker, the Sirius Star, and the Ukrainian MV Faina in late 2008 the last two months have seen the number of piracy attacks decrease markedly.

So far this year there have been 21 attempted boardings - just three of them successful.

But that improvement could also be down to changing sea conditions.

Monsoon winds made December and January much harder for the pirates in their small open boats to operate.

Now the weather is improving and the navy is waiting to see if the pirates emerge.

So far the nearly 200 crew of the HMS Northumberland have made only limited contact with the pirates.

All in the timing

And when they have, the complex legal basis for the operation has made taking action difficult.

"For us to intervene we have to actually arrive as an act of piracy is taking place," Martin Simpson, the commander of HMS Northumberland, told me.

"That means we see the pirates approaching a merchant vessel with AK47s (automatic rifles) or RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and trying to put a ladder in place to climb aboard."

On two occasions the HMS Northumberland has arrived just too late and was unable to prevent the ships being taken.

Once the Somalis have scrambled up a ladder on to deck there is no prospect of a rescue bid.

The owners of the merchant vessels prefer to enter into ransom negotiations with the pirates.

After several months of talks with intermediaries the crew and cargo have usually been released unharmed in return for several million US dollars.

For the next few days I'll be reporting from on board the HMS Northumberland as it patrols the world's most dangerous shipping lane through the Gulf of Aden.

At present we've just left the Omani port of Salalah and are heading west towards Somalia and Djibouti.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/19 16:30:52 GMT

Korea to Send Warship to Somalia in March

2/19/2009 6:46:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

SEOUL (Sh. M. Network)-The National Assembly's National Defense Committee approved a motion to deploy a warship to Somali waters to fight pirate attacks, Thursday.

The motion is expected to pass in a vote by lawmakers during a plenary session next week.

If passed, the Navy will deploy a 4,500-ton, 310-strong warship, the Munmu the Great destroyer, to waters off Somalia in mid-March to protect South Korean ships and crewmembers, Minister of National Defense Lee Sang-hee said during the committee session.

The deployment mission would expire on Dec. 31.

The move came after several South Koreans were kidnapped and held captive by pirates in the region.

According to the government, over 110 incidents involving pirates took place last year in the area. About 460 South Korean ships ply the Gulf of Aden route annually.

Recently, crew members, including five South Koreans, on board the Japanese-owned cargo ship Chemstar Venus, which was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden last November, were released after three months in captivity.

Last month, the Cabinet endorsed the plan to send a warship to fight pirates and terrorism and to ensure maritime security in the waters off the East African nation.

The move is also aimed at joining the United Nations global anti-piracy activities. Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and other countries have joined the U.S. led-anti-piracy campaign in the region.

Last year, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing its member governments to combat the pirates problems in the waters off Somalia.

The resolution allows the member states to ``undertake all necessary measures in Somalia'' to capture pirates.

(Korea times)

President Sharif calls for Arab countries to support peace process in Somalia

2/20/2009 11:21:00 AM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

DJIBOUTI (Sh. M. Network)-The newly elected president of Somalia Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed has held a press conference in Djibouti on Thursday and called for the Arab countries to support the peace process in Somalia, officials said on Friday.

President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed said that the Arab countries are required to play their role for supporting how Somali government would practice in the country and get necessary support from to the Arab world.

“We call for all the Arab countries to give us urgent support and we think that we shall achieve to solve the conflicts and differences between the Somali people if Allah says,” the Somali president said.

The call of the Somali president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed comes as most of the Arab countries and the international community supported the newly elected government of Somalia in Djibouti let by president Sheik Sharif.

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