Thursday, October 22, 2009

Somalia News Bulletin: Fighting Escalates Near Airport While US-backed President Leaves For Uganda; Eritrea Assailed by TFG and Imperialist States

October 23, 2009

Somali Insurgents Attack Airport


MOGADISHU, Somalia — The Islamist insurgent group Shabab attacked the main Somali airport here with mortars Thursday as the nation’s president prepared to board a plane to Uganda, setting off a series of artillery battles between government forces and insurgents that left at least 18 people dead, Somali officials said.

The mortars struck the perimeter of the airport, and Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the president of Somalia’s weak but internationally recognized transitional government, was unharmed. The plane took off safely for Kampala, where Mr. Ahmed is attending a summit on displaced people in Africa, Abdulkadir Mohamed Osman, the presidential press officer, said.

The mortars and artillery shelling that followed between governments and insurgents killed at least 18 and wounded more than 60 in several neighborhoods in Mogadishu, witnesses said.

“I saw 11 people killed by artillery rounds at Bakara junction,” the city’s largest market area, one witness, Abdirahman Omar, said by telephone.

Aamina Hussein, 30, who was slightly wounded by shrapnel in the right leg in the nearby Howlwadaag neighborhood, said that she saw five bodies lying on the ground as she was hit. “I am lucky I survived,” she said in an interview.

Sources from Lifeline Africa, an emergency volunteer ambulance organization, said that more than 20 dead bodies and 60 wounded were collected from the Howlwadaag and Hodan neighborhoods in Mogadishu. Mortars fired by Shabab, which has been linked to Al Qaeda, also struck a African Union peacekeeping base at the airport, officials said.

Somalia’s weak but internationally recognized transitional government is facing intense resistance from insurgent groups trying to overthrow it and introduce strict Sharia law in the country.

African Union troops in Somalia are protecting the transitional government. Insurgents have relentlessly been attacking them, often with suicide bombs, mortars and roadside explosives. Somalia has been without a functional central government since 1991, when clan militias ousted the country’s last central government and then turned on one another.

Somalia: 25 killed after in Mogadishu insurgent attacks

22 Oct 22, 2009 - 2:40:32 PM
*Additions: Death toll reaches 25 people and 75 wounded, mostly civilians

Somali President flies safely to Uganda

MOGADISHU, Somalia Oct 22 (Garowe Online) - At least 25 people were killed on Thursday in the Somali capital Mogadishu after insurgents attacked government forces and their African Union (AMISOM) backers, Radio Garowe reports.

Witnesses said the fighting erupted along Maka Al Mukarrrama Road that connects the Villa Somalia presidential compound and Mogadishu's Aden Adde International Airport.

Somali insurgents attacked the road with emerging reports saying President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's convoy was driving towards the airport. The Somali President flew safely from the Mogadishu airport on his way to Kampala, Uganda, according to government sources.

AMISOM peacekeepers shelled parts of Mogadishu, including businesses and residential areas in Hodan and Howlwadaag districts. Most of the dead were civilians killed in the crossfire, including explosions at Bakara Market.

Upwards of 75 people were wounded during the fierce shelling and armed clashes between insurgents and allied Somali-AMISOM troops, accoring to medical sources.

Witnesses said 80 shells hit parts of Bakara Market and its surroundings, with residents saying that it was the "worst shelling" seen in Mogadishu in recent weeks.

Mogadishu has been the scene of intense violence between government forces and insurgents who have vowed to overthrow the UN-recognized interim government.

Source: Garowe Online

Somalia: 12 killed in new clashes near Kismayo

21 Oct 21, 2009 - 11:15:43 PM

KISMAYO, Somalia Oct 21 (Garowe Online) - At least 12 people were killed during Wednesday clashes in southern Somalia between rival Islamist factions, Radio Garowe reports.

The fighting erupted at Birta Dheer village, located 90km northwest of the southern port of Kismayo, after Hizbul Islam rebels attacked Al Shabaab stronghold.

Local sources said the fighting was fierce around Birta Dheer, with tens of wounded fighters rushed to medical centers in Kismayo and Afmadow, the major base for Hizbul Islam in the region.

Birta Dheer, which is located halfway between Kismayo and Afmadow, has been the scene of intense fighting between Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam since the beginning of October when Al Shabaab expelled Hizbul Islam rebels out of Kismayo.

Unconfirmed reports said 3 armed trucks belonging to Al Shabaab were seized by rival fighters loyal to Sheikh Ahmed “Madobe” Mohamed, a senior commander of Hizbul Islam.

Sheikh Hassan Yakub, Al Shabaab’s spokesman, confirmed the fighting “cost lives” but claimed that Al Shabaab “defended its position.”

A Hizbul Islam official named Sheikh Mohamed M. Ali told a press conference in Mogadishu that the fighting near Kismayo should stop.

“We request the fighting should stop and talks should be pursued, because it is clear to us that Al Shabaab is avoiding peace talks,” said Sheikh Mohamed, who is close to Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the Hizbul Islam rebel chief.

Since the beginning of hostilities in Kismayo, Sheikh Aweys has avoided confrontation with Al Shabaab guerrillas and has repeatedly called for peace among the anti-government rebels.

Sources said Hizbul Islam has broken up into two different wings, with Sheikh Ahmed Madobe leading the wing that continues the war with Al Shabaab to retake control of Kismayo, a strategic port city.

Source: Garowe Online

China vows to rescue 25 crew aboard hijacked merchant ship

20 Oct 20, 2009 - 7:49:05 AM

(CNN) -- China plans to make "every effort to rescue" a merchant ship and crew hijacked in the Indian Ocean, the country's state news agency reported on Tuesday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu, speaking to reporters, said the government was monitoring developments and has developed an emergency response procedure, the news agency Xinhua reported. Monday's hijacking is the first of a Chinese ship this year, according to the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau.

Ma said the ministry warned ships and citizens to avoid traveling along waters where the incident occurred, an area not far from the Somalia coast where pirates have seized many vessels.

"We will watch closely developments in the incident and make every effort to rescue the hijacked crew and carrier," Ma said. There are 25 crew members aboard and they are all Chinese nationals. A European Union official Monday incorrectly said the total of crew members was 146.

The bulk carrier De Xin Hai was hijacked Monday about 550 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles and 700 nautical miles off Somalia's eastern coast. The European Union Naval Force said Tuesday the ship was 650 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia and appears to be headed toward there.

John Harbour, a commander with the British Royal Navy who serves with the EU Naval Force, said the UK Maritime Trade Organization in Bahrain called the ship but received no response. An EU force aircraft is monitoring the ship and reported seeing four pirates on deck.

The De Xin Hai is owned by the Chinese Ocean Shipping Company and was carrying coal from India to South Africa when it was seized.

The ship had been dragging two skiffs behind it, much like the kind of skiffs that pirates have been known to use to hijack ships in the waters off Somalia.

So far in 2009, 14 ships have been hijacked in the ocean off Somalia's coast, and 33 have been hijacked in the Gulf of Aden, the body of water that lies between Yemen and Somalia, the International Maritime Bureau said. Most of Somalia's coastline is on the Indian Ocean. At present, the bureau knows of four ships that are being held.

Source: CNN International

Somalia: 11 killed in insurgent attacks, govt claims foreign fighter killed

20 Oct 20, 2009 - 10:00:05 AM

MOGADISHU, Somalia Oct 20 (Garowe Online) - At least 11 people were killed in fighting in the Somali capital Mogadishu overnight Sunday and into Monday morning, Radio Garowe reports.

The battles started after Al Shabaab insurgents attacked Somali government troops and African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) at bases around the Villa Somalia presidential compound, witnesses said.

Somali police spokesman Col. Abdullahi Hassan Barise told a Monday press conference in Mogadishu that government forces killed insurgents, including a man from Yemen.

“The two bodies we have showed you, one is a Somali and the other is a man from Yemen,” the police spokesman said, adding that “Al Qaeda is fighting in Somalia.”

Witnesses at Bakara Market said that 5 people were killed inside the market when shells slammed into a crowded area.

The bodies of 2 Somali government soldiers were seen at the scene of the fighting. Al Shabaab insurgents, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, have not spoken publicly.

Separately on Monday, a roadside explosion targeted AMISOM truck convoy followed by street fighting between the peacekeepers and the insurgents.

A military officer with the Burundian contingent of the AMISOM peacekeeping force confirmed the roadside attack, but rejected speculation that any soldier was killed.

The truck sustained some damage, but there was “only one soldier inside and he is healthy,” according to a spokesman for Burundian soldiers in Mogadishu.

More than 20 people were wounded in the violence, according to medical sources.

Mogadishu has been the scene of a relentless insurgency since early 2007. The 5,000-strong AMISOM force helps protect the airport, the main port and the Villa Somalia presidential compound.

Source: Garowe Online

INTERVIEW-Somalia says Eritrea deserves punishment for chaos

20 Oct 20, 2009 - 9:30:24 AM
by Abdiaziz Hassan

NAIROBI, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Eritrea should be punished for threatening the Horn of Africa region by supporting Somali rebels, Somalia's foreign affairs minister said on Sunday.

The United States, Britain, United Nations and the African Union (AU) accuse Eritrea of fanning the chaos in Somalia, through provision of arms and logistical support to the radical al Shabaab rebels, seen by Washington as al Qaeda's proxy.

"Enough is enough. Eritrea has defied calls from the international community and individual countries to play a positive role," Ali Jama Ahmed told Reuters.

Early this month, Britain told the U.N. Security council it was ready to punish Eritrea for its role in Somalia.

The government in the Eritrean capital Asmara rejects accusations that it arms the al Shabaab insurgents.

Ahmed said that while the region had been trying to engage Eritrea constructively, its leadership had chosen to continue to be part of the Somalia problem.

He said Asmara had to re-engage with the region in its search for an end to the fighting and human suffering in his country.

"Eritrea has to take the right trail or face sanction which we hope the Security Council will impose soon," he said in the Kenyan capital on his way to Kampala for a meeting on Africa's 17 million refugees.

Somalis displaced from their homeland by the fighting account for a substantial proportion of those refugees.


The minister said al Qaeda's presence in Somalia was not a secret and called for the AU to send additional troops.

"It is no longer in dispute that al Qaeda is active in Somalia and al Shabaab is promoting global jihad centres which is worrying Somali leadership and the region," he said.

"We need to focus on strengthening Somali security forces ... we hope AMISOM (AU peacekeepers) will be strengthened and the deployment of the original 8,000 troops will be completed soon."

Only 5,000 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers have been deployed of the 8,000 promised by the AU.

Somalia's 18-years conflict has killed nearly 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.5 million from their homes.

Pledges by the international community to help the Transitional Federal Government, in its war against al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam rebels need to be fulfilled on time, he added.

"We have to do everything in a concerted and comprehensive manner. The world has to come forward and play a more active role," Ahmed said.

Source: Reuters

Somalia troops arrive in Mogadishu after Djibouti training

20 Oct 20, 2009 - 4:08:17 AM

MOGADISHU, Somalia Oct 20 (Garowe Online) - Somali government troops who completed military training in the neighboring Republic of Djibouti have landed in the capital Mogadishu, a day after 11 people were killed in insurgent attacks, Radio Garowe reports.

The Somali troops arrived at Mogadishu's Aden Adde International Airport on Tuesday, where they were welcomed by Somali Defense Minister Abdalla Haji Boss and the spokesman of the African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM) in Mogadishu, Maj. Bahoku Barigye.

The troops were transported in a private airplane from Djibouti, with Defense Minister Boss saying that they were training to help the Somali interim government restore order, especially in Mogadishu.

Somali government officials would not confirm the exact number of soldiers and local media was prohibited from the airport, but it the first batch of Somali soldiers to arrive in Mogadishu after completing military training in Djibouti. Some reports say around 800 Somali soldiers are being trained in Djibouti.

The newly arrived troops marched in front of the Somali government officials before being transported to Villa Somalia presidential compound, where President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed briefly addressed the troops.

The Somali interim government and its AMISOM backers is combating insurgents who have vowed to overthrow the UN-recognized government in Mogadishu.

Thousands of people have been killed and over one million displaced since the insurgency erupted in early 2007.

Somalia's foreign minister condemns Eritrea

18 Oct 18, 2009 - 3:04:29 PM

NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 18 (Garowe Online) - Somali Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed “Jengeli” has condemned Eritrea for fanning the flames of war in Somalia, Radio Garowe reports.

Minister Jengeli made the public remarks moments before departing from the Kenyan capital Nairobi en route to Uganda for participation at a conference on refugees in Africa, who are estimated to number 17 million people.

"Eritrea has increased provoking wars in the Horn of Africa, especially Somalia, and it gives weapons and other military support to insurgent factions in Somalia," Minister Jengeli said.

He urged the international community to reach a strong decision about Eritrea. Most recently, the British government has publicly called for international sanctions against Eritrea, a country often accused of fanning wars in the Horn of Africa region.

Separately, Minister Jengeli said Al Qaeda is "very powerful in Somalia" and called on the international community to boost the African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu.

"Al Qaeda is waging war in Somalia alongside Al Shabaab, who have appealed to foreign fighters to come and join the Somali war," the Foreign Minister said.

He said that the Somali interim government "does everything it can to restore order" but said the international community "must play a clear role."

Somalia's interim government was established at the conclusion of peace talks in Kenya in 2004. At the beginning of 2009, new Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed took office with the international community hoping that the former Islamist leader could break the back of a raging insurgency.

But the insurgency continues to intensify, with Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam factions now controlling most of Mogadishu and regions in south-central Somalia. Upwards of 18,000 people have been killed and 1 million others displaced in the conflict since the Islamist insurgency began in 2007.

Source: Garowe Online

Garowe Editorial

Eritrea's negative role in Somalia is unacceptable

18 Oct 18, 2009 - 5:21:14 PM

SUNDAY EDITORIAL | But realistically, Eritrea is playing a negative role to keep Somalia embroiled in a devastating war.

Often, the Ethiopian government is blamed for its military interventions in parts of Somalia. Rightfully so, since Ethiopian troops occupied Mogadishu in a period (2007-2008) marked by some of the worst violence witnessed during the ongoing Somali civil war. The Ethiopian government has a genuine stake in Somali affairs, given that flames from a neighbor's burning house affects the overall political stability of the Horn of Africa region.

For Eritrea, a tiny country with 3.5 million people, the motivations for interventionism in Somalia are different and so are the tactics. That Horn of Africa rivals Ethiopia and Eritrea are fighting a "proxy war" inside Somali borders – and thereby contributing to the misery of the Somali people – is an undeniable fact. While Ethiopia supports the "secular" Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, the Eritrean government has actively armed, trained and financed Somali insurgent factions claiming to fight for an "Islamist" cause.

The recent history of Somali Islamists has been tarnished by political sub-divisions, diverse interpretation of Islamic teachings, and an overall bloodthirsty attitude that radically transformed them from the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) heroes of 2006 to today's homicidal maniacs who exact extreme punishments for small crimes and fight over land and resources, just like the clan militias of yesteryear.

When the TFG changed and new President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed came to power in Jan. 2009, Ethiopia changed its strategic support for the TFG in Mogadishu and has resumed tacit support for independent militias, most notably the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamee'a militia faction that has emerged as a military power in central Somalia, particularly Galgadud region. Ethiopia is threatened by the outward expansion of Islamist hardliners, especially Al Shabaab guerrillas, and support for groups such as Ahlu Sunnah is a way of neutralizing Al Shabaab.

But Eritrea has not changed its strategy and continues to regard the TFG as a Western plot, with Ethiopian endorsement, to take charge of Somalia and to install a pro-West regime. For Eritrea, supporting the Somali insurgents to keep its Ethiopian enemy on edge is part of a wider war with Ethiopia over control of a small border town.

Publicly, the Eritrean government's message of aiming to "liberate" Somalia resonate well with most Somalis, who are disappointed with the catastrophic failures of the TFG leadership in Mogadishu. But realistically, Eritrea is playing a negative role to keep Somalia embroiled in a devastating war – which is a shame really, since the Somali government helped Eritrean rebels during their 30-year liberation war against Ethiopia.

The international community should send a strong signal to Eritrea, that fomenting wars in Somalia and supporting anti-government elements is unacceptable, since Eritrea's negative role is contrary to international efforts to help restore national order in Somalia.

Garowe Online Editorial,

No comments: