Thursday, November 24, 2011

Somalia News Update: Kenyan Troops Attack IDP Camps

Somalia: Kenyan troops destroy Al Shabaab camps

By Adow Jubat, Cyrus Ombati and Agencies

Air strikes by the Kenya Defence Forces have destroyed two Al Shabaab camps identified as Wamaitho and Kisima near the town of Babade in Somalia, killing seven militants and injuring eight.

KDF and TFG troops also attacked an Al Shabaab training camp in the town of Hawina between the towns of Dobley and Tabda killing 3 insurgents and capturing two AK 47 rifles.

A statement released by the military said the latest assault had further crippled the militia group that has been under assault by a combined land, air and sea assault from the Kenya Defence Forces.

"KDF (Kenya Defence Force) air strikes successfully destroyed two Al Shabaab camps," military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said the day after the attacks near Badade, some 30km from the Kenyan border.

In a related incident, one soldier died after a landmine blew up and almost pulverised a Kenya Army truck on the Kenya-Somalia border and inflicting near-fatal injuries on four of his colleagues.

Eight other Kenya Defence Forces personnel who escaped with serious physical harm were taken to Mandera District Hospital for treatment.

The soldier died of injuries sustained in the explosion, while receiving treatment at the Mandera District Hospital.

Seriously injured

Four of the seriously injured colleagues were later airlifted from Mandera to Garissa Provincial Hospital for further treatment, but were said to be in stable conditions.

Sources within the military said the deadly explosive was most likely planted by Al Shabaab militants or their hired sympathisers.

The impact of the explosion believed to be a powerful landmine laid near Bulla-Garaay in Township division, less than three kilometres from the war-torn neighbouring Somalia town of Bula-Hawa was heard in Mandera town.

The military lorry was reduced to twisted metal, while the deafening explosion that sent scores of locals fleeing their homes, a clear indication that the seriousness of the incident, shocked residents.

The explosion came a day after another soldier was seriously injured in an ambush at Abdi Sugow Road, less than 10km from border town of Liboi in Garissa County.

North-Eastern Provincial Police Officer Leo Nyongesa confirmed that the explosion that occurred near Mandera town at 7am yesterday injured "a number of military personnel and some of them critical condition".

"I heard of an explosion where several army officers were hurt, some badly after their military patrol vehicle hit what we suspect to be a landmine," the provincial police boss said.

Nyongesa said security officers were combing the scene of crime for clues to establish the cause of the explosion believed to be the work of the Somali Islamist group, Al Shabaab whose previous incursions into the country has provoked the Kenya military to launch its first external assaults against foreign aggressors.

He urged the people to be weary of any suspicious-looking persons they may spot to forestall criminal plots.

However, the PPO refused to speak further on the incident, saying that it was a military matter, which needs to be confirmed in detail by the military spokesman in Nairobi.

Kenya Defence Forces arrested more 300 people in the nearby villages and soldiers from Transitional Federal Government who crossed from the neighbouring Somalia border district of Bulla-Hawa.

Mandera Town Council chairman councillor Mohamed Adan Khalif said one military officer was confirmed dead at the Mandera District Hospital, while receiving treatment.

Broken arms

The civic leader said a prominent businessman Ali Bulsho and the Imam of the Mandera Jamia Mosque were among those who had their arms broken during the arrest.

Local people complained it was the third incident of military harassment of people. They condemned the way the military was handling them.

The chairman further claims some untrained TFG soldiers were also crossing the town and beating up Kenyans, noting that two governments are running the town.

Khalif asked: "As leaders we wonder what the role of TFG soldiers is. Whenever there is an explosion in Mandera, which is a town in Kenya, they (TFG) join the KDF in harassing the people. We can understand when our people are beaten by our military officers, but how can a foreign force assault our people?"

He added: "We fear if this kind of harassment continues, KDF will lose the heart and minds of the locals they have been enjoying since the military incursion began five weeks ago. Nobody shall expect co-operation from an intimidated people."

Nominated councillor Faizul Abdinoor said he saw 12 of the injured soldiers being rushed to hospital from the scene of the incident.

"The explosion was much heavier than previous attacks in the town since the military entered Somalia," said Abdinoor.

Since the Kenya military incursion into Somalia there have been several attacks believed to be carried out by Al Shabaab in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, and Dadaab even as the military reports gains against the Islamist group by capturing their military bases and killing scores of them.

The extremist militants are under growing pressure as regional armies slowly encircle them, with Kenyan forces in the south, Ugandan and Burundian African Union forces in Mogadishu, and Ethiopian troops in the west.

The conflict, however, comes at a cost for civilians caught up in the skirmishes.

The United Nations warned yesterday that Ethiopia's reported deployment of troops into Somalia could worsen the world's severest humanitarian crisis.

"Local sources report that hundreds of Ethiopian troops entered Somalia on November 20, opening a new front against Al Shabaab," the UN said in a report.

November 24, 2011

E. Africa Summit Mulls Strategy for Crushing Somalia Extremist Group

Peter Heinlein
Addis Ababa

Kenyan soldiers are guarding an airstrip in an area near the Somali-Kenyan border where al-Shabab militants are active

Leaders of six East African countries will meet Friday to consider ways of stepping up the military campaign aimed at crushing Somalia's embattled al-Shabab extremist group. The leaders see United Nations support as the key to breaking al-Shabab's stranglehold on famine-ravaged regions of south and central Somalia.

Heads of state of IGAD, the Inter Governmental Authority on Development, are gathering in the Ethiopian capital in hopes of reinvigorating the Somalia offensive.

They see the African Union peacekeeping force, AMISOM, continuing to solidify control of the capital, Mogadishu. The impending arrival of reinforcements, along with a coalition of clan militias and transitional government troops, is expected to allow the Somali government to gradually expand the territory it holds.

Kenyan forces in the south are said to be making slow progress, though their campaign, now more than a month long, has been hampered by bad weather and logistical challenges.

Diplomats and military analysts, however, say any hope of driving al-Shabab out of Somalia will require so-called “mission enablers." These are the helicopters, fighter jets and tanks that dramatically increase fighting capability.

To get these, the anti-Shabab coalition needs outside help, including a United Nations Security Council decision to enhance AMISOM's mandate. Monica Juma, Kenya's ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, says the IGAD leaders will make the case that urgent Security Council action is essential.

"It is not useful to just talk numbers of people. Unless you are having people that are having air cover, sea cover, it is very difficult to map a land operation without the right equipment. So this discussion around troops must go hand-in-hand with a discussion around mission enablers and equipment and the right resources and so forth," she said.

The East African countries are also expected to seek U.N. Security Council authorization for cutting al-Shabab's supply lines through the strategic port of Kismayo, the rebel stronghold. Some U.N. powers have been reluctant to authorize anything that might be seen as a blockade of the port, which is considered an act of war.

But Ambassador Juma argues cutting off al-Shabab's supplies is essential to the success of the operation. "It will be impossible to deal with this challenge unless the supply lines to al-Shabab are cut out, and these have to do with their control of Kismayo. We believe this is possible, and we are hoping the U.N. Security Council will respond in the affirmative in this case," she said.

Pre-summit talks have also centered on the possible return of Ethiopian troops to Somalia as part of the anti-Shabab coalition. A previous two-year incursion backfired when the Ethiopians were portrayed as Christian invaders into Muslim Somalia, prompting a surge of support for al-Shabab.

Numerous recent news reports quote witnesses as saying hundreds of Ethiopian troops have already moved several kilometers inside the border. Military analysts say many more are massed on the Ethiopian side.

Ethiopia, which holds the chairmanship of IGAD and is hosting this summit, is seen as a major driver behind the push to crush al-Shabab.

But Ethiopia's foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti says there has been no decision on joining the anti-Shabab campaign. "It's not true that Ethiopians have crossed over to Somali territory. Ethiopians are on the border, the border is porous and sometimes it's very difficult to notice where the soldiers are, but the truth of the matter is as of now, Ethiopian troops are within their borders," he said.

African diplomats say Ethiopia is resisting pressure to join AMISOM, though Kenyan forces are likely to do so.

Spokesman Dina, however, says whatever action regional leaders decide on at the summit, swift action will be needed, including from the United Nations. He said, “there should be no procrastination. Swift, decisive action is needed."

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Ethiopia's reported incursion worsens plight of hungry Somalis - U.N.

24 Nov 2011 13:47
Source: alertnet
Katy Migiro

NAIROBI (AlertNet) – Ethiopia’s reported incursion of Somalia on Nov. 19 could force hungry Somalis to flee their homes and reduce their access to lifesaving aid, the United Nations said in its latest humanitarian update.

Four million people in Somalia are in need of food aid, with 250,000 experiencing famine due to drought and conflict. In October, humanitarian agencies reached 2.6 million of those in need of food.

“The humanitarian community is deeply concerned about the consequences that this intervention could have on the already fragile humanitarian situation due to access to the population,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its Nov. 22 situation report.

“The intensification of the conflict in Somalia threatens to increase internal displacement.”

Ethiopia has denied the presence of its troops in Somalia. Witnesses said they have taken up positions near bases from where the Kenyan military is launching its offensive.

Kenya deployed hundreds of troops in the region last month to crush Islamist militants whom it accused of kidnapping tourists and aid workers on its territory.

Fighting between Kenya and al Shabaab rebels is already preventing the distribution of emergency relief in southern Somalia.

“Military activity in Lower Juba and Gedo is affecting humanitarian operations, worsening the crisis in the two regions,” the United Nations said in its report.

Earlier this month, the Somalia regions of Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle were downgraded from famine to humanitarian emergency levels, while Middle Shabelle and refugee populations in Mogadishu and Afgoye remain in famine conditions.

Afgoye, 40 km outside the capital Mogadishu, is the world’s largest settlement for internally displaced people (IDPs).

“Obstacles to access have contributed to the persisting famine in the Afgoye corridor and in Middle Shabelle region, but it is unclear why famine persists amongst IDP communities in Mogadishu, where access is relatively good,” the United Nations said.

(Editing by Alex Whiting)

Fighting famine is local

Article by: ALLIE SHAH
Star Tribune
November 24, 2011 - 8:42 PM

Three-year-old Siham Sheik-Abdi, of Minneapolis, has been storing coins in a jar ever since she saw a photo of a child sleeping on a hospital floor in Somalia.

He sleeps there, she learned, because he has no bed.

Two months later, Siham's jar is full and she is donating the money to the American Refugee Committee to buy a bed for that child, said her father, Said Sheik-Abdi.

During Thanksgiving's season of plenty, Minnesota Somalis are working to ease the famine in their homeland.

Minnesota Somalis have been at the forefront of a worldwide grass-roots fundraising drive to help famine victims. The United Nations declared the famine in July, and since then, 30,000 children have died and 250,000 people of all ages are at risk of starving to death.

While stories of mothers walking miles to refugee camps with dead children in their arms have disappeared from news headlines, local Somalis remain focused on the crisis.

"We definitely have been trying to keep up the momentum," said Shukri Abdinur, an American Refugee Committee volunteer who has helped raise money and awareness about the famine through car washes, walk-a-thons and other events.

ARC officials estimate that they have raised just over $1 million, so far, from private donors. About 15 percent of that money, or roughly $158,790, covers administrative expenses. The rest is going directly to help famine victims in Somalia, ARC officials say.

Feed My Starving Children, based in Coon Rapids, is on track to surpass its goal for helping those affected by the famine. Originally, the organization had hoped to send 5 million meals to Somalia by year's end, said Mandi Cherico, a Feed My Starving Children spokeswoman. But donations from Somali-Americans and others have helped pay for more meals. The new estimate is 9.3 million meals provided by the end of the year, Cherico said.

Recently, the first of two shipments of food packed in Minnesota by volunteers for Feed My Starving Children arrived in Somalia. The shipment contained more than 270,000 meals.

But the container had to be diverted from its original destination -- Mogadishu -- because of violence in the capital city and surrounding area.

Somalia has been plagued by civil war for decades, and the fighting between warring factions in the southern regions -- hardest hit by the famine -- intensified this fall. Kenyan troops entered southern Somalia last month to help soldiers backing the weak transitional federal government battle insurgent fighters.

Cherico said the food shipment was sent to another port, north of Mogadishu: the city of Berbera. She said the food went to famine victims in nearby refugee camps.

A second shipment of food is traveling by sea now and is expected to reach Somalia in the new year.

The Minneapolis School District has also joined the movement to help Somalia. School leaders are encouraging students, staffers and parents to get involved with famine relief efforts throughout the month of December.

Such efforts please Sheik-Abdi, who observed: "What happened in Somalia was terrible; 30,000 children died. But at least we're standing up and responding."

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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