Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Somalia News Update: Elders Denounce Kenya Bombings; US Bans Remittances

Somali elders denounce Kenyan fighter jet attacks

GUDA (Sh. M. Network) - some of Somali prominent elders in Lower jubba region have strongly condemned the latest Kenyan air raids on villages in that province that did not discriminate between civilians and military objectives.

Speaking to Shabelle Media, Abdiqadair Ahmed Mohamed, one of the elders in Lower Jubba region denounced the strongest terms the latest Kenyan aerial strikes, which its warplanes struck intentionally on civilians’ locations in Guda village nearby Kismayu town, some 500-km away south Mogadishu, Somali capital.

The elders denied Kenyan claims of killing senior Al-shabab fighters in its latest air strikes in southern Somalia. They said, KDF bombed makeshift huts including a schools and villages dwell in innocent civilians.

“We call on Kenyan government to halt swiftly its air raids on civilian ground targets from low-flying aircraft using machine guns because most of them inflicted heavy civilian casualties,” we also urge Nairobi to start a prompt and impartial investigation is needed into what happened in Guda village.” said Abdiqadair Ahmed Mohamed, one of the elders in Lower Jubba region.

Guda village in Lower Jubba region is a territory close to Kenya manned by the militant group Al-Shabaab and has witnessed several air strikes since Kenyan incursion into Somalia nearly three months ago to pursue the militants.

This call from Somali elders in southern Somalia comes as Kenya military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir confirmed the air strike but denied any civilian casualties. He also warned civilians to keep away from Al-Shabaab territories.

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Kenyan fighter planes strike in southern Somalia

GARBAHAREY (Sh.M.Network)-Kenyan fighter jets bombed the outskirts of Al-shabab militant-controlled villages in Gedo region, the south of the Horn of Africa conflict and drought stricken country on Wednesday, causing unspecified casualties residents said.

Local people said, two suspected Kenyan helicopters hit on a nomadic villages laying on the ground nearby Garbaharay town, the provincial capital of Gedo region, which locates somalia’s border with Kenya, was a known rebel haunt.

The two helicopters struck nomadic townships between El-adde and Likolay villages-Al-shabab-held villages nearby Garbaharay district of Gedo region of southern Somalia, where locals said to be an Al-shabab military base.

Residents said, it appeared the helicopters to have been targeting bases used by al-Shabab insurgents.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the exact casualties in these latest air strikes in southern Somalia, but local people expressed concerns over the air raids.

Kenya has conducted numerous air raids in southern Somalia in the past three months.

Al-shabab has not yet said ant word about the air strike on its bases in Gedo region of southern Somalia on Wednesday.

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KDF kills five and maim 150 Al Shabaab fighters

Nairobi (Sh. M. Network) - As Kenyans thronged churches and entertainment spots on Christmas Day the country’s military was literally in the trenches battling Al Shabaab under the blistering Somalia sun.

When the guns finally went silent, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) had killed five members of the militant group and injured eight in the Southern Somali sector.

But signs there could a bigger war involving the Kenyan forces and Al Shabaab got cleared when the militia revealed it was marshalling its forces in Kismayu. This is the town out of which KDF wants to flush them out as the port town is considered to be its economic lifeline and logistical support base.

KDF spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir reported the Kenyan forces struck Kuday, a town South of Kismayu. In his latest update posted on Twitter, Chirchir confirmed KDF had hit targets in Wamaitho and Deida Adhi both in Lower Juba leaving at least150 injured, with some may be even dead.

In the same raid, one ‘technical’ vehicle popular with Al Shabaab fighters was decimated and one skiff (small boat) also destroyed. Chirchir urged civilians in Somalia to stay away from Al Shabaab bases to avoid being hit during air strikes.

Al Shabaab accuses Kenyan Air Force of hitting civilians in camps for the internally displaced and claiming victory, a claim that has been denied strongly by Kenya, which insists it only targets military installations.

Al Shabaab has not officially commented on the latest attacks by KDF, but the raids may be the closest yet to Kismayu and represent an escalation of the conflict. The deadly strikes appear targeted to soften Al Shabaab positions and to break their will to fight.

Curiously, the air raids have avoided Kismayu, possibly to prevent mass deaths, especially of civilians in this densely populated town in Southern Somalia.

According to Somali websites linked to Al Shabaab, the militia has stepped up training of personnel in and around Kismayu and is reportedly rushing extra militia from other areas of Southern Somalia to the port city to stave off a possible attack from the Southern Sector by KDF.

Kenya appears to be relying more and more on its air power to overcome the difficulties of roads made impassable as heavy rains continue to pound much of Southern Somalia. Movement of heavy military equipment and amour has reportedly been slowed down.

Back at home, police are expected to bring to court eight individuals suspected to be working with Al Shabaab including two who surrendered themselves to police on Saturday afternoon. They are Sylvester Owino Opiyo alias Musa Osodo and Hussein Nderitu Abbas alias Mohamed, who police brought under its radar claiming they 'have vital information on Al Shabaab activities in Kenya.'

'Police have cause to believe they have information which can assist us in unraveling any intended criminal activities by the Al Shabaab in the country,' said the Police Spokesperson Mr Eric Kiraithe.

Mr Chacha Mwita, who represents Opiyo and Nderitu, said he was ready to battle police in court accusing them of engaging in 'propaganda tricks'. 'Why did the police send out a dramatic public alert against my two clients when they could have easily contacted me and request me to avail them? Was it necessary to create a public scare? Do they have another agenda in mind?' Mwita asked.

More arrests

He also fought off claims that his clients violated bail terms insisting he was unaware of any condition beyond posting the Sh300,000 bond and a surety of a similar amount. Police had accused the two, who have ongoing cases of being members of Al Shabaab militia, of violating their bail terms.

Police have not yet revealed names of the other six who are being held in unknown locations. Last week, police arrested six other suspects in Nairobi and Mombasa in what it claimed was an operation to prevent an attack by the Somalia-based group during the busy holiday season.

Police are expected to arrest more people this week as the holiday season approaches its peak on New Year’s Day to prevent possible attacks.

The latest military encounter by KDF comes a few days after a commander of the Al Shabaab was reportedly killed in a fierce ground battle a few kilometers from Kenya-Somalia border but inside the neighbouring state.

Reports on the ground indicated that the rebel group was trying to move forces towards the Central Sector of the Operation Linda Nchi when they were intercepted by KDF ground forces, near Gerille in Somalia on Friday evening. The town that Al Shabaab lost in October after the Kenyan intervention in Somalia started, lies about 10 kilometres from the international border with Kenya.

Al Shabaab has not commented on the killing of Commander Abdirashid Garbe, slain alongside ten fighters on Friday evening. But a KDF officer in Gerille told The Standard inside Gedo in Somalia 'Abdirashid Garbe who is a commander was killed by KDF.'

Estimates indicate about 60 fighters, who were on foot, were involved in the fight in which KDF suffered no casualties.

Meanwhile the operation against the militia by KDF and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces is on more than 100 kilometres inside Somalia’s Gedo Province.

The Kenyan military is trying to deter the militants’ attempts to regroup after routing them from a string of towns close to the Kenyan border.

Two months ago, a KDF soldier was killed in Busar in an ambush by Al Shabaab, which is being squeezed towards Bardheere after being ousted from many parts of Gedo including Garbaharey, which is held by a pro-TFG Islamic militia group calling itself Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a.

According to expert projections in Somalia, an assault on Bardheere would open the main highway to Baidoa, Al Shabaab’s stronghold in Bay and Bakool region.

Source: The STANDARD

Somalis Fear End of US Remittances Will Empower Militants

Gabe Joselow | Nairobi, Kenya December 28, 2011

At the end of this week, citizens of Somalia will lose one of their biggest sources of money. That is when a U.S. bank cuts off cash transfers to the war-torn and famine-stricken country. Somalis in Nairobi say the move - intended to stop funding for Somali militants - will hurt ordinary people instead.

Nairobi's Eastleigh neighborhood is a center of commerce for Kenya's sizable Somali community.

Nicknamed “Little Mogadishu,” the streets are crowded with handcarts pulling cooking oil, men selling suit jackets and undershirts, and street vendors hawking a leafy narcotic known as khat.

The invisible force energizing much of this trade is a unique money transaction network, which allows the Somali diaspora to send money to family members and business partners back home.

But the so-called hawala network is about to lose a major lifeline, when a U.S. bank cuts off one of the only transfer services for Somalis in the United States.

Omar Haji, originally from Mogadishu, now lives in Eastleigh, and receives financial support from his family in the U.S. state of Minnesota.

He said that most people will see this action by the banks as an attack on Somali people rather than against al-Shabab.

He added that support for the militant group could actually grow, and businesses that typically receive money from abroad may turn to the relatively wealthy al-Shabab for financing.

The al-Qaida linked group has waged war against the country's central government for years, and has funded itself by taxing citizens in areas under its control.

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government has had some limited success driving the militants out of the capital Mogadishu in recent months. But Hassan Said Samantar, a minister of Galmudug State in central Somalia, said cutting off remittance flows could further destabilize the country.

“I find this move really very unfortunate for the Somali population at a time. Particularly at a time when Somalia is going forward with the roadmap and the security situation is improving and so on. Whenever Somalia is going forward it seems there are forces that push it back,” said Samantar.

The United States says Somali money transfer services handle up to $1.6 billion every year. And the international development agency Oxfam says about $100 million is sent directly from the United States.

Mohamed Ali Mohamud is a former Somali presidential candidate from Puntland. He now runs a borehole drilling company that operates in Somalia. He said the bigger money-wiring services have a very scant presence in Somalia and do not operate in al-Shabab controlled areas, leaving very few alternatives for cash transfers.

“Western Union or Moneygram, or whatever, they don't venture to go that area where those guys are controlling. But these Somali remittance [companies], they are taking risks. They make agreements with the local people there, for their safety, and then they make the remittances, immediately, without delay,” said Mohamud.

In addition, Western Union can charge a fee of up to 20%, while the hawala merchants charge between 2 and 5 percent.

Eastleigh businessman Mohamed Jamaa sells electronics, milk, biscuits and other small items that he imports from Somalia.

He said if the money is cut off at the source of the supply chain, it will immediately affect his business, and his ability to support his four sons who live at a refugee camp.

Jamaa said he gives the boys money to keep them occupied, but that if he can no longer support them, they may have no choice but to go back to Somalia and join al-Shabab.

The U.S. firm, Sunrise Community Banks, decided to shut down the money transfer service for fear it would be in violation of a U.S. counter-terrorism law if the money ended up in the wrong hands.

Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali is urging the U.S. government to step in to help find another solution.

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