Friday, June 19, 2009

Somalia News Update: Toll Rises in Assassination of Security Minister; Kenya Plans to Intervene; Ethiopian Troops Cross Into Bakol

Somalia suicide bomb toll rises

Five more people have died of their injuries after a suicide attack on the Somali security minister, bringing the total number of dead to 35.

Omar Hashi Aden was buried hours after the blast at a hotel in Beledweyne, north of the capital, Mogadishu.

The funerals for some of the other victims, who included Somali diplomats, are being held on Friday.

Mr Aden was an outspoken critic of al-Shabab, the militant Islamist group which said it carried out the attack.

The group is accused of having links to al-Qaeda.

The security minister had recently moved to Beledweyne, some 400km (249 miles) north of Mogadishu, in an effort to stop Islamist insurgents gaining more ground in Somalia, says BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross.

The attack - by a suicide bomber who detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the Medina Hotel on Thursday morning - has been widely condemned.

"This deplorable attack once again demonstrates that the extremists will stop at nothing in their desperate attempt to seize power from the legitimate government of Somalia by force," a statement from the African Union, European Union, United Nations and the League of Arab States and regional body Igad said.

"These extremists, both Somali and foreigners, failed in their recent attempted coup d'etat but are continuing their indiscriminate violence."

Mogadishu itself is calm after nearly 30 people died in a day of heavy fighting on Wednesday.

Both the government and insurgents deny targeting residential areas of the city.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme the transitional federal government was still in control but urged the international community to help "before it is too late".

The failed Horn of Africa state has not had an effective national government since 1991 and some four million people - one-third of the population - need food aid, aid agencies say.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, took office in January but even his introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased the guerrillas.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/06/19 11:29:02 GMT

Kenya to intervene in Somalia crisis

6/19/2009 8:15:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

NAIROBI ( Sh. M. Network )-- The Kenya government has vowed to intervene in the rapidly declining Somalia crisis.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetang’ula made the remarks after a crisis meeting with envoys from the European Union over the growing control of insurgents, now targeting Somali government officials.

Addressing a news conference in his Nairobi office on Friday, Mr Wetang’ula said the meeting had been ordered by President Kibaki following the “security threats to Kenya’s strategic interests.”

Although the Foreign Affairs Minister did not divulge the specific measures being taken to end the insurgency, he hinted at possible military intervention.

He said the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was “looking at options” to protect the Somali government from militia attacks.

Already airports in militia-controlled regions have been declared ‘no-fly zones’, while the ports have been blockaded.

This, Mr Wetang’ula said, is meant to cut off supplies to the insurgents.

“It will be most inappropriate and inadvisable to do nothing when our national security and regional stability is threatened,” he said. “We cannot be by-standers in a situation such as this.”

Kenya’s stake in the Somali conflict is hinged on the insecurity threat posed by the swelling numbers of refugees into the country.

Also, the persistent attacks in the high seas by Somali pirates is a source of concern to a government keen on protecting international trade.

However, Mr Wetang’ula dismissed the threats as “not worth our (Kenya’s) comment.”

Source: Daily nation

Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)

Somalia: Ethiopian Troops Return Back in Bakol Region

19 June 2009

Elberde — The Ethiopian troops who reached in Elberde town in Bakol region yesterday have returned back after having talks with the elders in the town, witnesses told Shabelle radio.

Reports say that the Ethiopian troops with officials poured in parts of Bakol region and had met with the elders and people of the Elberde town for several hors and lately went back from it.

It is unclear why the Ethiopian troops arrived there yesterday. But some reports say that they came in the town to meet and talk to the people and elders of the town and it is not known what the Ethiopian troops and elders discussed so far.

We contacted the elders who met with the Ethiopian troops and asked about the meeting but they declined to comment on it.

However, it is not the first time the Ethiopian troops have come into parts of Bakol region in Southern Somalia for talks with elders and other people.

But the step comes as the former administration of transitional government in Bakol region is away from the area.

World condemns suicide car bombings in Somalia

6/19/2009 6:48:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

NAIROBI (Sh. M. Network) -- The international community has condemned the killing of Somalia's National Security Minister, Omar Hashi Aden, in a suicide car bomb in Beletweyne, north of the capital Mogadishu on Thursday.

In a joint statement the UN, the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the League of Arab States (LAS) condemned this week's upsurge in violence in Mogadishu, where another suicide bomb or shelling is reported to have killed at least ten people.

They called on the transitional federal government of Somalia not to be deterred in its pursuit for peace by the actions of a small minority.

"This deplorable attack once again demonstrates that the extremists will stop at nothing in their desperate attempt to seize power from the legitimate Government of Somalia by force," the organizations said in a joint statement received here Friday.

"These extremists, both Somali and foreigners, failed in their recent coup d'├ętat but are continuing their indiscriminate violence. They are a threat not only to the country, but to the IGAD region and the international community," the statement said.

The organizations urged the Somali government not to be deterred by the violent crimes of a small minority and to continue its efforts for peace and reconciliation through the Djibouti Process.

It was the UN-facilitated Djibouti process which aided the formation of a new Government of National Unity in February, as well as the creation of a newly-expanded Parliament and election of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

"The AU, IGAD, LAS and UN sent their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Minister Hashi and the other victims of this cowardly suicide bombing as well as to the government and the people of Somalia," the statement said.

"We pledge our full support to the government particularly at this critical time and call for all Somalis to rally behind their government and all those who are working for peace and stability. We also call on the international community to put its firm support behind Somalia's legal and legitimate government."

Also voicing his concern about the upsurge in violence is the independent UN expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, who stressed that the fighting must stop immediately and that perpetrators be held to account.

"All the parties to the conflict have a responsibility to save lives and protect the civilian population," he said.

He also noted that various groups appeared to be specifically targeted, including human rights defenders, aid workers and journalists. At least three journalists have been killed since the fighting escalated in early May.

Bari undertook a mission to the Horn of Africa region from June1 to 12 during which he visited Somalia, notably Hargeisa in Somaliland and Garowe and Bossasso in Puntland, as well as Kenya, where he visited the Dadaab refugee camp, which houses some 270,000 Somali refugees.

He was unable to visit Mogadishu and the South and Central areas because of the security situation.

In a news conference held after the suicide bombing on Thursday, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed also laid blame on Al-Qaida. He said the terrorist network wants to make Somalia a safe haven for its operations.

Witnesses say Thursday's blast occurred when a car drove up to a hotel where Somalia's national security minister was staying.

Heavy fighting in Mogadishu over the past six weeks has killed more than 200 people, including at least 22 killed in battles on Wednesday.

Many of the casualties Wednesday occurred when a mortar shell hit a mosque. The United Nations said earlier this month that the recent fighting has displaced nearly 120,000 people from Mogadishu.

SOURCE: (Xinhua)

Yesterday’s deadly explosions death toll in Beledweyn town increases

6/19/2009 6:55:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

BELEDWEYN (Sh. M. Network) – the death toll of yesterday’s deadly suicide explosion has increased as the people in Beledweyn town are burying the dead bodies in the town, officials told Shabelle radio on Friday.

People in the town say that the situation of the town is calm today after heavy explosion convulsed the town on Thursday which caused more casualties adding that more of the injured people died in the hospital of the town.

Some of the health officials in Baledweyn hospital told Shabelle radio that at least 5 of 40 people who were wounded in the blast died in the hospital overnight.

The deceased people in Beledweyn hospital makes the number of deaths about 35 while more than 50 are still in the hospital including, elders, government officials and civilians.

The hospital officials told reporters that some of the injured people are in a very critical condition adding that there are bodies those could not be identified.

Many concerned people could be seen in the front gate of Beledweyn hospital those were looking for their relative’s bodies.

Somali police commander killed in Mogadishu fighting

6/17/2009 4:36:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

MOGADISHU ( Sh. M. Network ) – the transitional government officials have confirmed Wednesday that the police commander of the TFG was killed in in Hadan district in Mogadishu where heavy between Islamist forces and government soldiers was continuing.

Some of the government soldiers officials told Shabelle radio that Ali Sa’id Sheik Hassan, the police senior officer of the transitional government of Somalia for Banadir region died few hours ago after bullets from the gun battle hit him as he was in the area where the fighting was continuing between the soldieries and the Islamist forces in parts of Hadan district specially Taribunka square.

The government officials said that body of the deceased police commander Ali Sa’id was taken from the warring zones as heavy fighting is still continuing in the areas where it had started on Wednesday morning.

The residents expressed concern about the fighting that is going on in Hodan district in Mogadishu as more heavy weapons could be heard in and around the Somali capital.

Elman Human Rights Watch calls for the warring sides in Mogadishu to stop fighting

6/18/2009 5:01:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

MOGADISHU (Sh. M. Network) – Ali Mohamed Sheik known as (Ali Fada), a deputy chairman of Elman Human Rights Watch has called for the warring sides in Mogadishu to halt the fighting that caused killing, injures and displacement of the Somali civilians.

Mr. Ali Fada called for the transitional government and the Islamist forces to stop the fighting that resulted in the casualties of deaths and loss of property of the Somali people which is going daily in the capital.

“It is not good for both sides to exchange bitter words through the media, because it increases on the level of the fighting which is not interest for the feeble and civilians of the Somalia. We urge both sides to think and respect the people and end the conflicts by a dialogue but not fighting,” Ali Fada told Shabelle.

Mr. Ali Fada said that Elman Human Right Watch is very sorry about the clashes often happen in Mogadishu which affects the civilians in Banadir region pointing out that fighting never brings benefits for the peace except annihilating people.

The statement of Elman Human Right Watch comes as heavy fighting between the Islamist forces and government soldiers killed about 40 and injured more than 100 in north and south of the Somali capital Mogadishu.

African Union condemns foreign fighters in Somalia

6/16/2009 2:30:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

ADDIS ABABA (Sh. M. Network ) - The African Union (AU) condemned on Monday foreign jihadists in Somalia who are helping local Islamist insurgents, and accepted Ethiopia's denial that it had sent troops across the border to counter the rebels.

"The Council condemns and expresses deep concern at the increased presence of armed groups, including foreign elements, undermining the peace and reconciliation process in Somalia," AU peace and security council chairman Sherif Mohamed Zene said.

International concern has been rising this year at the presence of foreign fighters among Islamist rebels fighting President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government and AU peacekeepers.

Sources on various sides of the conflict put their numbers at several hundred, and U.N. special envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah has said the world body's estimate is 280-300.

Zene, who is Chad's ambassador to the AU, declined to give names or details of the foreign insurgents. "We have launched an investigation. We will know who they are very soon," he told reporters after a council session in Addis Ababa.

He rejected as a "false allegation" witness accounts that hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers have crossed into Somalia.

Addis Ababa sent thousands of troops across the border in 2006 to topple an Islamist movement ruling Mogadishu and most of the south. It withdrew them earlier this year, and has denied persistent reports of incursions.

A two-year insurgency, the latest cycle in 18 years of conflict, has killed about 18,000 civilians, left 1 million people homeless, compounded a humanitarian emergency affecting 3 million, and allowed piracy to flourish offshore.

Source: Reuters

Somali navy chief: World's worst job?

By Will Ross
BBC News, Nairobi

If you think you face an uphill challenge at work today, spare a thought for Farah Ahmed Omar, the man in charge of Somalia's navy.

He has neither boats nor equipment and admits he has not been to sea for 23 years.

The interim government does not control much of the 3,000-km (1,860-mile) Somali coastline and then there is the headache of plentiful pirates.

Mr Omar said he was first put in charge of the navy in 1982, but speaking to the BBC by phone from the capital, Mogadishu, he did not sound too daunted by the task ahead.

"Today there is a big piracy problem and we are ashamed. But we think they [the pirates] don't have sophisticated equipment as they just have fishing boats and small arms which are easy to get in Somalia," he said.

Somalia's navy chief said 500 new recruits had recently joined after adverts were aired through radio stations and the men would be paid $60 (£36) per month.

Presumably the training will be classroom-based, given the situation at sea.

The country has been without an effective central government for the best part of two decades, since the ousting of Siad Barre.

And this power vacuum has allowed the pirates to flourish as they demand multimillion dollar ransoms from passing ships.

More than 20 international vessels - operating under US, EU and Nato commands - patrol the seas off Somalia in an attempt to protect the vital shipping route.

The interim government seems to think it could do a better job, provided it was given a helping hand.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said on a recent trip to Nairobi: "If 5% of the money being spent on the warships guarding those waters could be spent on building a security force that deals with the piracy, this could be much more effective because these guys have bases on the land and the best way to deal with them is to deny them a safe haven there."

It is widely accepted that patrols at sea are not enough and the key to ending piracy is on land by targeting the pirates' bases.

The prime minister appeared to be ignoring the fact that government troops are far from welcome at those bases, such as Harardhere, to the north of Mogadishu.

Another notorious pirates' lair, Eyl, is in Puntland, which has broken away from Somalia altogether.

Coastguard 'turncoats'

But the international community may be smarting from previous mistakes and reluctant to turn on the funding taps.

"Previous efforts at security sector reform have seen money disappear into a black hole as there was no accountability," says Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst for the International Crisis Group.

"Plus there is evidence that some of the people trained to tackle piracy as coastguards in Puntland ended up working as pirates themselves."

Once upon a time Somalia had a proud navy which the Soviet Union had helped establish in the 1960s, with bases at Mogadishu and Kismayo.

During the Cold War the Soviets turned the port of Berbera into an important base that included a missile storage facility for the Soviet navy to counter United States military activities in the region.

But it was not just Russian assistance that helped build the Somali navy back then.

'Give us one year'

When Somalia cut ties with the Soviet Union in 1977 (because of Russian support for Somalia's arch rival Ethiopia), Mogadishu signed a deal with Washington three years later.

It gave the US access to Somali ports and airfields in exchange for tens of millions of dollars in military equipment and aid in subsequent years.

"We used to be among the top navies in Africa. We had ships that carried deadly missiles and we had 10 battalions covering the whole coast," said Mr Omar.

The navy has not been operational since the country descended into violence in 1991, but its commander predicts a Somali naval renaissance.

"The international community should give us one year and let them see what we are going to do," he said.

"I can promise on behalf of the government that I will eradicate piracy within that period if only they give us the resources and support in terms equipment.

"That way the international community could be relieved of the burden."

Mr Omar has certainly had time on his hands whilst the navy has been boat-less and sailor-less.

He set up his own university and has also been a professor of economics.

Perhaps a lecture on the economic cost of choosing to be a sailor on $60 a month, rather than a potentially rich pirate will be part of the training.

When first loaded, the map's focus falls on Somalia where most of the pirates are based. Use the arrow icons to scroll left towards Europe and the United States which are both playing a central role in tackling the problem.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/06/16 08:19:18 GMT

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