Author Topic: Ethiopians reinvade western Somalia - the fighting rages on  (Read 51397 times)

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Offline Biggs

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #40 on: January 07, 2009, 05:52:16 am »
Somalia: Nine People Including Four Ethiopia Soldiers Killed in Mogadishu

4 January 2009

At least 9 people were killed in separate incidents of violence in Somalia's war-torn capital Mogadishu, Radio Garowe reported Sunday.

Four Ethiopian soldiers died instantly when a roadside bomb exploded in the outskirts of Mogadishu, witnesses said.

The soldiers were on foot patrol near a checkpoint and were searching vehicles for explosives, a Somali military official said.

Separately, Somali soldiers shot and killed three civilians near Hotel Jubba in Mogadishu, with witnesses saying the civilians were targeted after "refusing to pay extortion."

Fighting erupted moments later among government troops, leading to the deaths of two soldiers and wounding four other people, including a female caught in the crossfire.

Ethiopian troops have began withdrawing from parts of Mogadishu, but insurgent attacks have increased over the past week.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #41 on: January 09, 2009, 09:24:06 am »
Somalia: Mogadishu Bomb Blast Kills 6 Soldiers

7 January 2009

At least six soldiers were killed Wednesday in Somalia's war-torn capital Mogadishu after suspected insurgents threw hand grenades, Radio Garowe reports.

The soldiers died in two separate explosions in Mogadishu's Yaaqshiid district, as they were passing through a key intersection at Towfiq.

"There were two explosions, only minutes apart," said a witness, adding: "Four soldiers died in the first explosion and two more died in the second [explosion]."

Witnesses told Mogadishu-based radio stations that at least four Somali government soldiers were wounded in the explosions, which was claimed by Al Shabaab insurgents.

Yesterday, one peacekeeper was killed and another wounded in a Mogadishu blast, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) confirmed.

Mogadishu has been the scene of targeted explosions since Ethiopian troops invaded the country more than two years ago to assist the weak interim government.

The anti-Ethiopia insurgency has killed upwards of 10,000 people in a series of near-daily attacks, including shootouts, assassinations and roadside bombings.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #42 on: January 13, 2009, 07:24:50 am »
Ethiopia troops 'leave Mogadishu'
Ethiopian troops are very unpopular with Mogadishu's residents

Ethiopian troops have withdrawn from two of their main bases in the Somali capital two years after they intervened in Mogadishu to oust Islamist forces.

Mogadishu residents gathered at the empty bases, singing and dancing. Some said they could now return home.

A ceremony is being held to mark the handover of security to government forces and moderate Islamists.

Some fear that the Ethiopian withdrawal could lead to a power vacuum, others say it could pave the way for peace.

The Ethiopian intervention was deeply unpopular with many Somalis and their presence united different groups to oppose them.

Some 16,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict between Somalia's transitional government and the Islamists, and a million more have been forced from their homes.
    The ball is now in the court of the Somalis... to stop the senseless killings and violence
UN envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah

New year heralds new Somali fears

Western diplomats say their withdrawal could reduce support for hardline Islamists and lead to moderates joining a government of national unity.

A small African Union peacekeeping force remains in Mogadishu but analysts say it is not strong enough to withstand the Islamists, who once more control much of southern Somalia.

Uganda, Burundi and Nigeria are willing to send extra troops but the African Union has no money to pay for them and is wary of taking on an open-ended commitment.


Violence continues in Mogadishu. On Monday, at least 10 people were killed in clashes between the Ethiopians and insurgents.

With the withdrawal of the Ethiopians, the UN envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah urged hardline Islamists to end their fighting.
Many of the city's residents get caught in the daily skirmishes

"The ball is now in the court of the Somalis, particularly those who said they were only fighting against the Ethiopian forces, to stop the senseless killings and violence," he said.

The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says the two bases were in the north-east of the city where there have been daily clashes between the Ethiopians and Islamist insurgents.

An opposition spokesman says the Ethiopians will also withdraw from their other bases on Tuesday.

Our reporter says there are three remaining military bases, but the withdrawal from the strategic north-east of the city is seen as a strong signal that the Ethiopians are leaving.

The withdrawal in the north-east took place overnight, he says.

When Mogadishu residents heard about it in the morning, they flocked to the area to see the empty bases for themselves.

The withdrawal was part of a peace plan agreed by the government and moderate Islamists in October.

Small group of Ethiopian troops have been seen heading for the border in recent days.

For days Somalis have been keeping a distrustful watch on the Ethiopian troops left in the country, suspicious that despite all their promises they were not really going to leave, correspondents say.

Singing and dancing

A ceremony is taking place at the prime minister's office in the centre of the city, where the Ethiopians are handing over responsibility for Mogadishu's security to the interim government, the moderate Islamist opposition and AU peacekeepers.
Islamist insurgents control much of Mogadishu now

Increasingly urgent efforts are now going on to strengthen the small African Union force.

Potential donor countries have been invited to a meeting this Saturday at African Union headquarters.

The United States has now circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council calling for a UN peacekeeping force to be deployed in Somalia to take over from the AU force.

The document says UN military intervention is justified because Somalia is a threat to international peace and security.

It suggests the Security Council should vote on the proposed peacekeeping force at the beginning of June.

Last month UN chief Ban Ki-moon said few countries were willing to send troops to Somalia, as there was no peace to keep.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, since when various militias have been battling for control.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #43 on: January 15, 2009, 06:22:17 am »
21 dead as Islamists strike at departing Ethiopians
By Ibrahim Mohamed and Abdi Guled, ReutersJanuary 14, 2009

An Islamist insurgent holds his machine gun the stadium in Mogadishu, one of the bases vacated by Ethiopian troops on Wednesday.
Photograph by: Ismail Taxta, Reuters

MOGADISHU — Somali Islamists fired mortars at the presidential palace and ambushed departing Ethiopian soldiers on Wednesday, starting battles that killed at least 21 people and wounded a further 48, witnesses said.

The violence underlined fears of an upsurge in bloodshed after Ethiopia's military exit began in earnest this week.

Witnesses said security forces including African Union (AU) peacekeepers guarding the hilltop palace compound in the coastal capital responded to the Islamist attack with volleys of artillery shells, shaking the city for several hours.

Suspected militants from the al Shabaab group also ambushed a convoy of departing Ethiopian soldiers on a street not far from the palace. The Ethiopians fought back with a tank.

"We have collected 21 dead people and five of them could not be identified," resident and ambulance worker Musa Ali said.

Medical staff also spoke of transporting 48 wounded, including eight children, to hospitals. It was not clear how many civilians and how many fighters were among the casualties.

Some analysts say the ongoing withdrawal of some 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers will leave a vacuum, triggering more violence by rebels who have battled the U.N.-backed administration for two years, and are now increasingly fighting each other.

Others believe the Ethiopian exit could remove forces seen by many locals as occupiers and spur more moderate Islamist factions to participate in forming a new, inclusive government.

After vacating four bases on Tuesday, the Ethiopians left two more on Wednesday, one at a football stadium.

"The Ethiopians have deserted the stadium and many residents have come to watch," witness Abdullahi Hassan told Reuters.

"We see only chairs and their footprints."

The Ethiopians have eight other bases in Mogadishu and face a 500-kilometre journey through Somalia to the border.

Somalis are pessimistic about a return to peace in a nation that has suffered 18 years of incessant civil conflict.

"No Somali wants the Ethiopians to stay, but there will be chaos whether they withdraw or not," said a spokesman of Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, a government-allied Sunni Islamist group.

He said hardliners like al Shabaab — which Washington says has links to al Qaeda — and militants backed by Somali exiles in Eritrea planned to fight the government and moderate groups like his if they tried to form a power-sharing administration.

Al Shabaab's national spokesman, Sheikh Muktar Robow Mansoor, told a news conference in Mogadishu his group would focus on attacking AU troops and government targets.

"Now that the Ethiopians have left the bases we used to attack, we shall launch attacks on (AU mission) AMISOM, the government and the airport," he said.

The AU has 3,500 soldiers in Somalia and wants to reinforce.

Fighting has killed more than 16,000 civilians since the start of 2007, after Addis Ababa sent military forces to help the government drive an Islamist movement out of the capital. One million people have been forced from their homes.

Ethiopia, frustrated by rifts in the Somali administration and the cost of its operation, began dismantling its main bases in Mogadishu on Tuesday.

Many civilians, though, are too scared to return to homes.

"Those who have concrete houses can go back, but there's no hope for families with houses made of iron sheets like us," said Asha Farah, a mother of four, in a refugee camp beyond the city.

"I don't see any reason for happiness. The ones who have been causing chaos are still alive and perhaps will breed more."

After the resignation of former president Abdullahi Yusuf, a new president is supposed to be elected by Jan. 26.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #44 on: January 15, 2009, 03:46:19 pm »
Islamists take bases in Mogadishu
Islamists once more control much of Mogadishu

The last Ethiopian troops in Somalia's capital have left Mogadishu and Islamist forces have taken over most of the bases they have left behind.

A BBC reporter says four of the six vacated bases have been taken over by insurgents from different factions, seemingly working together.

Troops loyal to the interim government, which Ethiopia was supporting, have control of only two of the bases.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein says he wants to be president.

Abdullahi Yusuf resigned as president last month after falling out with Mr Hussein over attempts to negotiate a peace deal with the Islamist-led armed opposition.

But the opposition is split into various factions, and the more hardline groups do not support the peace process.

Ethiopia intervened in Somalia two years to help oust Islamists, who had taken control of much of the south of the country.

Power vacuum

The BBC's Mohamed Dhore in Mogadishu says African Union peacekeepers are guarding Mogadishu's presidential palace, but most positions in the capital have been filled by Islamist insurgents.
    Only stupid people would repeat everything they did in the past. So obviously if we were to do it again we would do it better
Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi

New year heralds new Somali fears

He says government troops are in the former Ethiopian base at the southern entrance to the city and at the empty central hospital, Digfer.

Analysts had feared the withdrawal of the Ethiopians would lead to a power vacuum and fighting between rival Islamist factions.

But at the moment all factions - whether they back the peace process with the government or not - seem to be working together.

Some 16,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict between Somalia's transitional government and the Islamists, and a million more have been forced from their homes.

Correspondents say that Mr Hussein - one of the architects of the peace deal - is hoping to capitalise on the Ethiopian withdrawal to win support for his presidential candidacy.

Mr Hussein, a former humanitarian worker from Mogadishu and a member of the area's dominant Hawiye clan, has the backing of Igad, the East African regional grouping which brokered the agreement that led to the formation of the interim government in 2004.

"Today I want to announce that I am a candidate for the post of president which is expected to be contested soon and whoever wins it should peacefully and democratically run the country," Mr Hussein said.


Meanwhile, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been defending his decision to oust Islamists two years ago.
Thousands of Mogadishu's residents have fled over the last two years

He said the reason Ethiopia had intervened was to avert a clear and present danger to its own security and because it was asked to by the Somali transitional government.

Bringing peace and stability was something Somalis could only do themselves, he said.

Speaking at a news conference in the Ethiopia capital, Addis Ababa, he said that with hindsight, he would do the same again.

"I would without hesitation, have intervened again if I had to do it all over again," he said.

"Now that does not mean I would repeat all the specifics of that intervention.

"Only stupid people would repeat everything they did in the past. So obviously if we were to do it again we would do it better. But we would do it nonetheless."

He however said Ethiopian troops would not be rushed into leaving the rest of the country - and that they would remain in force along the border.

The US wants the United Nations to take over peacekeeping duties from the African Union.

But last month UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said few countries were willing to send troops to Somalia, as there was no peace to keep.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, since when various militias have been battling for control.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #45 on: January 18, 2009, 05:33:55 pm »
Mogadishu residents trickle back to their homes

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Date: 17 Jan 2009

by Mustafa Haji Abdinur

MOGADISHU, Jan 17, 2009 (AFP)
- Somali families displaced by more than two years of fighting in Mogadishu have started returning to their homes following Ethiopia's withdrawal from the capital, an AFP correspondent reported Saturday.

Only days after the last Ethiopian troops left their positions in Mogadishu, residents enjoyed a rare period of relative calm while others who had left the war-torn city began returning to their homes.

"I lived in a camp outside Mogadishu for a year, after my husband was killed in a mortar attack on Suqaholaha neighbourhood," said Halimo Nur Hared, a mother-of-six, as she arranged some of her belongings in her home.

"I feel save now that the Ethiopians left our soil," she added.

"I pray Allah there will be no more fighting after the Ethiopian forces' departure from Mogadishu. We are returning to our houses," said Mohamed Ali Hassan, a father of four from the capital's northern Huriwa neighbourhood.

Ethiopian troops invaded in late 2006 to rescue an embattled Somali transitional government and oust the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which had taken control of large parts of the country.

The Islamist movement's armed wing has since waged a deadly guerrilla war, mainly targeting Ethiopian troops, but also government forces and African Union (AU) peacekeepers.

Following an agreement between the government and the moderate wing of the Islamist-led opposition late last year in Djibouti, Ethiopian pulled out.

Yet the hardline Islamist group Shebab vowed to turn its efforts against the AU peacekeepers, while the vacuum created by the Ethiopian army's departure also risked sparking fresh inter-clan fighting for supremacy in Mogadishu.

Hasan Bile, another recent returnee, predicted he would witness more violence in the capital.

"I'm still worried because some fighters want to continue the war, so it's likely that the chaos in Mogadishu is not over yet," he said.

Amid political disputes over who should have taken over the military positions deserted by the Ethiopians, one of the city's new masters urged civilians to look out for unexploded ordnance as they return to their homes.

"We call upon the fighters in the positions vacated by the enemy of Allah and the civilians that are intending to return their houses to be cautious about the explosive things that are left in those neighborhoods and camps," said Abdirahin Ise Ado, an ICU spokesman.

Ise Ado's forces took control of the former defence ministry earlier this week, a position recently deserted by Ethiopian forces.

The move sparked protests from officials arguing that the Djibouti agreement clearly stated only joint government-opposition forces were to take over Ethiopian positions.

Speaking in Addis Ababa after a meeting with UN experts, the African Union peacekeeping force's top commander, Francis Okello, took heart from the lull in violence in Mogadishu.

"The situation in Mogadishu has been very calm for three days. No attack so far. This calm can mainly be attributed to the clan elders who have come out openly for the peace process," he said.

"The situation has gotten better. Lots of people are moving back to the city and we are expecting more," he added.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #46 on: January 18, 2009, 05:35:23 pm »
UN intends to establish Somalia peacekeeping force   

The Associated Press
Friday, January 16, 2009; 9:31 PM

-- The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday expressing its intention to establish a U.N. peacekeeping force in Somalia, but putting off a decision for several months in order to assess the volatile situation in the Horn of Africa nation.

The resolution renewed the mandate of the African Union force, known as AMISOM, for another six months and urged African nations to beef up AMISOM's troop strength from the current 2,600 to the 8,000 originally authorized.

The resolution expressed the council's "intent to establish a United Nations Peacekeeping Operation in Somalia as a follow-on force to AMISOM, subject to a further decision of the Security Council by June 1, 2009."

Somalia is currently at a dangerous crossroads. The president resigned in late December, saying he has lost control of most of the country to Islamic insurgents. The Ethiopian troops who have been protecting the fragile, U.N.-backed government are pulling out, leaving a dangerous power vacuum. Islamic groups are starting to fight among themselves for power, and piracy is rampant off its coast.


U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States, which drafted the resolution, believes there must be a comprehensive approach.

"The resolution adopted today essentially addressed the root causes by making a clear commitment that the Security Council will assume its responsibility with regard to Somalia," he told the council.

While the United States wanted a commitment from the council to establish a peacekeeping force in June, Khalilzad said many other council members insisted on holding another vote, which President George W. Bush's outgoing administration accepted.

The incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama appears far less enthusiastic about a U.N. force in Somalia.

At her U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, Susan Rice, who has been nominated by President-elect Barack Obama to replace Khalilzad, expressed deep skepticism about a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Asked about her reservations, Khalilzad said the current resolution will give Rice an opportunity to express herself in the next council vote by June 1, and "this is frankly the best way to go."

The council made clear in the resolution that ultimately Somali security forces "would assume full responsibility for providing security in Somalia."

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #47 on: January 25, 2009, 08:11:00 am »
Ethiopia completes Somali pullout
Ethiopia says its forces have ended the threat from Islamist groups.

Ethiopia says it has completed the withdrawal of its troops from Somalia, two years after entering the country to fight Islamist insurgents.

Ethiopia's information minister told the BBC that the 3,000-strong force had ended the threat from the Islamists.

He said the troops had left Somalia, including the town of Baidoa from where the Somali government operates.

Correspondents say the Islamists and other militia have won back much of the land lost to the Ethiopians in 2006.

Addis Ababa announced late last year that it would fully withdraw from Somalia by the first days of 2009, ending its mission to help the interim Somali government.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991.

About 3,400 African Union peacekeepers are taking up positions in Somalia vacated by the Ethiopians, amid concerns that Ethiopia's withdrawal could lead to further instability.

Government forces only control parts of Mogadishu and the town of Baidoa.


But Ethiopian Information Minister Bereket Simon said that the extremists, known as al-Shabaab, had been so weakened they were no longer an effective force.

He said a recent suicide attack was proof that the organisation had "turned into a small terrorist group who cannot attain their goals in a democratic, peaceful and civilised way".

Meanwhile power-sharing talks have been continuing in Djibouti between the government and moderate Islamists, including the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).

They are trying to agree on the formation of an expanded parliament - from 275 seats to 550 - to include the opposition, and how to select a new president.

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the leader of ARS, said Somalia had to take the "historic opportunity" to correct "past mistakes".

"There's no excuse for Somalis to kill each other," he said.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #48 on: January 26, 2009, 05:35:48 am »
Deadly 'suicide' blast in Mogadishu

Gunfights reportedly broke out in Mogadishu after a car exploded killing at least 20 people [Reuters]

A suspected suicide car bomb has killed at least 22 civilians in the Somali capital Mogadishu, witnesses say.

The attack on Saturday was apparently aimed at a group of African Union peacekeepers but missed its target, they said.

"That opposition group has massacred only innocent Somali people," Major Barigye Ba-hoku, spokesman for the AU force, said.

The attack came just days before more troops from Uganda and Burundi were due to arrive to boost the 1,400 African Union peacekeepers currently deployed in Somalia.

Abdifatah Shaweye, the city's deputy governor, told the Reuters news agency that police officers stationed near the base had opened fire on the car as it approached, after which it crashed and blew up.

Gunfights were reported to have broken out after the car exploded.

Mohamed Osman Ali, Mogadishu's mayor, said it was unclear who was behind the attack.

Doctors said at least 30 other people were wounded.

Abdifatah Ibrahim Shaweye, Mogadishu's deputy governor told the AFP news agency that the bomber was a foreigner.

"We have one of his arms which is clearly showing that the suicide bomber was a foreigner"

Abdifatah Ibrahim Shaweye, Mogadishu's deputy governor

"We have one of his arms which is clearly showing that the suicide bomber was a foreigner," he said, explaining that the bomber's light skin tone showed he was not Somali.

Somalia is wracked by violence with near-daily attacks on troops loyal to the largely powerless UN-backed transitional government.

Much of the country is controlled by armed opposition groups who have captured many of the towns and villages seized by government and Ethiopian troops from the Islamic Courts Union in late 2006.

The interim government has failed to bring stability to the Horn of Africa nation, where more than 16,000 people have been killed in the past two years and one million others driven from their homes.

Some analysts have said the the recent withdrawal of Ethiopian troops could create a power vacuum as opposition forces scramble for control.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #49 on: January 26, 2009, 04:20:23 pm »
African Union troops 'shell Somali civilians'

Global Research, January 26, 2009
Al-Jazeera - 2009-01-25

African Union troops in Somalia have been accused of indiscriminately shelling a Mogadishu neighbourhood after an attempted suicide bomb attack on their base.

At least 22 people were killed in the car bomb blast and an ensuing firefight on Saturday, witnesses and medics said.

Several homes were hit by artillery fire just minutes after the vehicle blew up, residents of the Hodan neighbourhood said.

"We are civilians - we don't have weapons - yet we are caught in the middle of the fighting from the African troops who allegedly came here for peacekeeping," Adam Abdi said.

"This area was bombed more than six times but there are no military bases here."

Mosques hit

Locals were also angered after two people were reportedly killed and two mosques hit during the violence.

"First, they hit the minaret, 10 minutes later they shelled the mosque, this shows how much they hate Islam," the imam of the Nawawi mosque told Al Jazeera.

"I appeal to the Muslims and brothers to support their brothers here against their enemies, whether the Ethiopians or from Burundi."

About 3,000 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi are in Somalia as part of the African Union mission (Amisom) to stabilise the country.

Nine AMISOM troops have been killed in Somalia since the first Ugandan contingent was deployed in March 2007.

The incident came just days before additional troops were expected to arrive in the Somali capital to bolster the force.

AU denial

Ramtane Lamamra, an AU peace security commissioner, condemned the attempted suicide attack, which he called "a cowardly terrorist act that goes against achieving peace and stability in Somalia".

A spokesman for the Uganadan military said that the AU forces had not opened fired after the blast.

Somalia is wracked by violence with near-daily attacks on troops loyal to the largely powerless UN-backed transitional government.

Much of the country is controlled by armed opposition groups who have captured many of the towns and villages seized by government and Ethiopian troops from the Islamic Courts Union in late 2006.

The interim government has failed to bring stability to the Horn of Africa nation, where more than 16,000 people have been killed in the past two years and one million others driven from their homes.

Some analysts have said the the recent withdrawal of Ethiopian troops could create a power vacuum as opposition forces scramble for control.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #50 on: January 28, 2009, 05:53:14 am »
Sharia imposed at Somali MPs base
Islamic fighters took over Baidoa on Tuesday

Islamist rebels have declared sharia law in Baidoa, a day after seizing the central Somali city, a stronghold of the country's transitional government.

Al-Shabab militants took over hours after Ethiopian troops pulled out.

The African Union said Ethiopia may send troops back into Somalia if the Islamist fighters grow too powerful.

Somali lawmakers, in neighbouring Djibouti due to the insecurity at home, meanwhile extended by five days the time needed to elect a new president.

Sheikh Muktar Robow Mansoor, of al-Shabab, told a rally in Baidoa on Tuesday how the movement, which means The Youth, intended to govern.

'Fight anyone'

"We are informing all Somalis we want to rule with justice, and the almighty Allah's sharia law," he said.

"We are informing Somalis we will not accept any man-made constitution. We will not accept it. We shall fight with anyone who opposes it."
 The Ethiopians told us that they are going to secure that border, they are going back and to secure the borders
Jean Ping
African Union Commission

'I'm not afraid of al-Shabab'
Q&A: Somali presidential elections

On Monday, al-Shabab took over the airport, parliament building and president's home in Baidoa.

They moved in as the last Ethiopian troops pulled out, two years after intervening in an effort to stamp out the Islamist insurgents.

The BBC's Yusuf Hassan, in Djibouti, says it is not clear if the Somali lawmakers will be able to return to their base in Baidoa.

The African Union's top diplomat, Jean Ping, said events in the city would have little impact on the political process, adding that Ethiopian troops might return to Somalia.

"The Ethiopians told us that they are going to secure that border," he said. "They are going back and to secure the borders."

On Tuesday, MPs agreed to delay by five days an MPs' vote to choose the next president.

The deadline for picking a successor to Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who quit last month, was to expire on Wednesday.

Somali legislators have already expanded parliament to bring in some 200 moderate Islamists, as part of a UN-backed peace process.

But the al-Shabab, which is on Washington's list of terrorist groups, has refused to take part in the peace talks.

Some 16,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict and a million more have been forced from their homes.

The Horn of Africa country has not had an effective national government since 1991.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #51 on: January 31, 2009, 05:45:38 am »
Opposition religious figure new Somalia president
Sat, 31 Jan 2009 03:21:40 GMT
Somalia's new President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad

Somali lawmakers have elected opposition leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad as the new president of their war-ravaged country.

During a run-off vote in neighboring Djibouti, Sheikh Sharif, 44, recevied the necessary majority of votes, 213, just before 4 AM local time (0100 GMT) Saturday 31, during an all-night session of parliament under a UN-brokered plan to forge a unity government in the Horn of Africa country.

This leaves him now in charge of a fragile peace process aimed at ending 18 years of civil conflict.

Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein had pulled out after the first round coming in third opening way for Sheikh Sharif.

Later the contenders, 16 in all, pulled out of the race with the exception of former Somalian president Mohammed Siad Barre's son, Maslah Mohamed Barre, who came in second in the first round with 60 votes.

He was the only contestant to contest the third round against Sharif.

Sharif took the first round with a big margin - 215 out of 420, the Press TV correspondent reported Friday.

As per law, all candidates run in the first round, the six most popular go to a second round and the final round is a runoff between the two leading contenders.

The new president faces the daunting task of delivering peace and stability to a country plagued by violence and lawlessness for nearly two decades.

Sharif is the former leader of Somalia's ousted Islamic Courts Union, which waged a bitter war against the country's weak transitional government.

In late 2006, he was forced to flee the country amid an Ethiopian invasion supporting the government.

Ahmed currently chairs a group of opposition leaders called the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) and is an influential religious leader in the country.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #52 on: February 01, 2009, 06:56:12 am »
SOMALIA: Counting the Cost After Ethiopia Withdraws
Analysis by Abdurrahman Warsameh

- The suicide car bomb that struck Mogadishu Jan. 24, killing at least twenty people and injuring nearly fifty others is an explosive comment on the failure of the Ethiopian military deployment to Somalia two years ago to oust Islamist forces it believed represented "a clear and present danger" to Ethiopia.

The last Ethiopian troops have now left Mogadishu as part of an agreement between Somalia's government and one major opposition faction, the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia based in Djibouti (ARS-D) which is dominated by the Islamist movement known as the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).

The movement controlled the southern and central parts of Somalia during the latter half of 2006, where it was credited with establishing a semblance of law and order. People are today nostalgic about the "Six Months of Peace" during which violence all but ceased and life for ordinary Somalis returned to something but normal after 15 years of conflict.

Responding to pressure to follow the UIC's lead and impose Islamic law, leaders in the autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland announced plans to implement shari'a on the one hand, and arresting suspected Islamists on the other.

The UIC's success was in marked contrast to the difficulties encountered by the internationally-sanctioned Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. The TFG was formed in 2004 as a result of two years of peace talks held in Nairobi and sponsored by the regional body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

But for the first two years of its existence - during which the TFG was constantly grappling with political infighting and persistent allegations of corruption - it was unable to impose itself on the war-torn country and was confined to the southern town of Baidoa.

The growing strength of an Islamist government was of concern to at least one of Somalia's neighbours: Ethiopia accused the Islamists of threatening its national security by collaborating with arch-regional rival, Eritrea, and Ethiopian rebel groups to destabilise it.

"We sent our troops to Somalia two years ago because there was a clear and present danger posed against Ethiopia," Wahde Belay, spokesperson for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry in Addis Ababa, told IPS, "The Union of Islamic Courts had waged a jihad against us. That is why we decided to bang the UIC".

Ethiopian troops and tanks rolled over the border with Somalia in late December, 2006 and easily unseated the Islamists in less than two weeks. But the Ethiopian forces spent the next two years fighting a deadly Islamist-nationalist insurgency and have now withdrawn under fire from the same Islamists they came to crush.

"The fact that Ethiopian troops could easily defeat the Islamists did not guarantee lasting victory as the fighters soon regrouped and started fighting back. Now as the Ethiopians are withdrawing from Somalia, most of the south-central regions are again under the control of the Islamists," Yusuf Maalin, an independent political analyst told IPS.

Evaluating Ethiopia's presence

During the past two years, nearly 10,000 civilians have lost their lives while the U.N. High Commission for Refugees estimates more than one million people, mainly from Mogadishu, have fled their homes to escape the nearly daily violence between insurgent fighters and Ethiopian troops backing Somali government forces.

A number of local and international human rights organisations have accused the troops of committing atrocities against local civilians and of indiscriminate bombardment of built up residential areas. They have also accused the Islamist insurgents of using civilians as human shields by firing from populated areas.

Abdelfatah Shaweye, deputy major of Mogadishu, says despite criticism of Ethiopia's presence in the country, the intervention was instrumental in establishing the internationally-recognised government in the capital and most of the country in the first months after the invasion.

"No matter what the human rights groups say about the troops from the friendly country, they have helped us a lot and sacrificed to bring order to our country," Shaweye told IPS.

However Sheik Abdirahim Isse Adow, a spokesman for the armed wing of the UIC, said Ethiopia had not achieved its main aim of defeating the Islamists who he says are now "as strong as ever" and control the same territory as when the troops invaded Somalia.

"What the (Ethiopian) troops brought about is just more misery for the people of this country and more bloodshed. They failed to impose themselves on us or hold on to our country." Adow told IPS.

Ethiopia has now fully withdrawn its troops from Somalia, saying the threat posed to it by the Islamists has cleared.

"If Ethiopia believes there is a clear and present danger, there is no reason why we shouldn't take an identical measure in the future," Wahde Belay said.

However Maalin said Ethiopia would have to think hard before re-entering Somalia as "the adventurism and opportunism" of the first invasion cost Ethiopia dear in terms of lives and the standing of its human right record.

"The Islamists have hurt Ethiopia more badly than they have been hurt, since as even the most casual observer can ascertain, Ethiopia is leaving the Islamists in a much stronger position than before the invasion two years ago. And what has transpired during its presence has eroded much more from Ethiopia than it gained," Maalin said.

What next?

UIC and a splinter group, the hardline faction known as al-Shabaab - listed as a terrorist organisation with links to Al-Qaida by the U.S. State Department - are again running much of the south-central Somalia while the transitional Somali government is in control of small pockets in the capital Mogadishu where nearly 3,400 African Union peacekeepers are protecting government installations including the presidential palace, airport, and seaport.

The peacekeepers are part of an 8000-strong peacekeeping force authorised by the U.N. Security Council early in 2007 to replace Ethiopian forces. But only Uganda and Burundi have sent troops as promised; other African countries which pledged to contribute forces have cited security and logistical reasons for not deploying soldiers.

Elements of the UIC signed a peace and power-sharing deal with the TFG in October 2008. Sheik Sharif Ahmed, leader of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia's Djibouti faction (ARS-D) and head of the UIC's government during 2006, was elected president of the TFG on Jan. 31. He is now more conciliatory towards Ethiopia, but faces strong opposition from rival factions of the ARS and from al-Shabaab, which continues to strongly oppose any foreign presence in Somalia.

Ethiopia has not left its "enemy" to enjoy its newly regained power in Somalia without numerous killjoys. A new and well-armed faction, Ahlu Sunnah, appeared out of nowhere to confront al-Shabaab in the days leading to the announcement by Ethiopia of its decision to pull its troops from Somalia.

Al-Shabaab claims that the new faction has been created, armed and supported Ethiopia to fight a proxy war against the Islamist forces. In a Jan. 26 press conference, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that Ethiopia is not "disappointed" or "unhappy" that al-Shabaab is now facing armed opposition from within Somalia.

"I cannot tell you that we are unhappy that they chose to fight back. I cannot tell you that we would not be supportive of any such endeavours on their part," Zenawi told reporters.

Despite now heading an internationally-sanctioned government of Somalia, Sharif will likely find running the country much harder than the first time around.

(Michael Chebud in Addis Ababa contributed to this report.)

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #53 on: February 02, 2009, 03:29:24 pm »
AU troops 'shot Somali civilians'

Regional officials in Somalia have accused African Union (AU) peacekeepers of opening fire on civilians in the capital, Mogadishu, killing 18 people.

The incident happened after an AU vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, killing three civilians.

An AU spokesman confirmed that their convoy had been targeted in a bomb attack, but denied that his soldiers had opened fire on civilians.

Militants have targeted AU forces since Ethiopian troops pulled out last month.

But officials have given very different accounts of the latest deadly incident.

Police commander Yusuf Dhumal told AFP news agency he had counted 18 dead civilians.

"This is a tragedy. What happened this afternoon indicates a complete irresponsibility and it will not be tolerated," he said.

Mogadishu's deputy mayor, Abdi Fatah Ibrahim Shaweh, told the BBC the soldiers had killed 36 people.

He said most of the dead were civilians who had been sitting on buses when the troops opened fire.

Allegations denied

But Major Bahuko Baridgye, spokesman for the AU forces, denied the allegations.

"Our forces did not open fire on people," AFP quoted him as saying.

"The information we got indicates that three civilians died in the explosion and one of our soldiers was lightly injured. The vehicle was also slightly damaged."

The incident comes just days after moderate Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was elected Somalia's new president.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991, and the northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland have broken away to govern themselves.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in successive waves of violence.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #54 on: February 04, 2009, 11:31:17 am »
Somalis urged to fight AU troops

Al-Shabab, the armed anti-government Somali group, has called on Somalis to intensify their war against African Union (AU) troops for driving the peacekeepers out of the country.

"We call on the African forces to pull out of our country or face resistance harsher than what they have ever experienced," Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, a leader of al-Shabab, told AFP news agency on Tuesday.

Robow was speaking to reporters in the parliament town of Baidoa, a day after Somali officials accused AU soldiers of killing 18 civilians in the capital Mogadishu.

"We are telling them that we don't need their help if they are going to be massacring our people and I urge all holy fighters in the country to step up their struggle against them," Robow said.

Somali officials said at least 18 people were killed by AU troops on Monday when they opened fire on three minibuses after a roadside bomb targeted their convoy in southern Mogadishu.

Yusuf Dhumal, a police commander, said the troops killed the civilians when they opened fire in response to the blast.

"I counted 18 dead civilians who were killed by them after spraying fire on the buses," he told the AFP news agency.

Abdifatah Shaweye, the deputy mayor of Mogadishu, said more than 20 civilians were killed in the shooting.

"The African Union forces committed mass killings today after an explosion hit their convoy. The number of innocent civilians they killed after the explosion exceeded 20," he said.

AU denial

Major Bahuko Baridgye, a spokesman for the AU forces, denied the charges and said that three civilians died in the explosion that also wounded four others.
In depth

 Timeline of Somalia
 Restoring Somalia
 A long road to stability
 Profile: Sheikh Sharif
Sheikh Ahmed

"The information we got indicates that three civilians died in the explosion and one of our soldiers was lightly injured. The vehicle was also slightly damaged," Baridgye said.

"Our forces did not open fire on people."

The peacekeeping force is made up of Ugandan and Burundian soldiers. It has been in Mogadishu for about two years and is charged with protecting key government installations.

The AU peacekeepers have often been targeted by anti-government fighters since the first Ugandan contingent deployed in the country in March 2007.

Ethiopian forces that had also borne the brunt of the armed uprising, pulled out of Somalia last month, sparking fears of a security vacuum in Somalia.

Somali legislators elected Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, on Saturday as the new president in a new bid to stabilise Somalia.

However, more extreme groups who have rejected the government and continue to carry out deadly attacks, remain a huge challenge to Ahmed's efforts to pacify the country.

Abdullahi Yusuf, the former Somali president, resigned on December 29 after he was accused of being an obstacle to peace by the major powers.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #55 on: February 04, 2009, 11:32:05 am »
Ethiopian troops re-enter Somalia, set up check points at border town  2009-02-04 00:38:08         

    MOGADISHU, Feb. 3 (Xinhua)
-- The Ethiopian troops crossed over into Somalia and have set up check points around the central region of Hiran, two weeks after the troops left the war-torn Horn of African nation, a senior local official said Tuesday.

    Officials in the central Somali region said the troops entered into the border region nearly 20 km from the Ethiopian border and began taking money from the vehicles using the roads in the region near the border.

    "The troops have returned to the region and made checkpoints where they take extortion money from the vehicles on our roads. It is unacceptable," Abdurahman Ibrahim Maow, governor of Hiran province, told Xinhua by phone from the regional capital of Beledweyn, 300 km north of Mogadishu.

    The Ethiopian troops withdrew from Somalia nearly two weeks ago, two years after they rolled into the war-wrecked country to assist the internationally recognized transitional government of Somalia which topple an Islamist administration.

    Ethiopian troops accused the Islamist administration of threatening the national security of Ethiopia and challenging the authority of the Somali transitional government.  

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #56 on: February 08, 2009, 11:35:50 am »
Groups call for probe into Somali civilian deaths

By MALKHADIR M. MUHUMED – 2 days ago

— Two global human rights groups have called for an independent public investigation into allegations that African Union peacekeeping troops killed more than a dozen civilians in the Somali capital earlier this week.

On Monday, witnesses and Somali officials said that African Union peacekeepers had killed 18 civilians when they fired at three minibus taxis in Mogadishu after a land mine exploded, damaging an AU vehicle. The AU has denied killing any civilians, and has blamed the deaths on Islamic militiamen.

A day later, Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga said the commander of the AU force would investigate. Uganda forms the largest part of the African Union force and its commander is an Ugandan officer.

But in separate statements late Thursday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said they had received reliable information indicating that Ugandan soldiers fired indiscriminately at civilians in response to the explosion.

"It is crucial that an effective public investigation is conducted into accusations that (AU) troops unlawfully killed civilians," said Michelle Kagari, deputy director of Amnesty International's Africa Program.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said that, according to reliable sources it talked to, "most of the dead, many or all of whom were civilians, were killed by gunfire."

"The uncertainty around the shooting of these civilians underlines the urgent need for independent investigations of alleged crimes by all forces in Somalia," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. She said AU troops have the right to defend themselves but should respect the laws of war.

An extremist Islamic militia has vowed to attack the AU force because it does not want foreign troops on Somali soil. The U.S. State Department considers the group, known as al-Shabab, a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaida. Al-Shabab has denied such links.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The warlords then turned on each other descending Somalia into anarchy and chaos.

The AU force is in Mogadishu to guard key government buildings and installations for the fragile, U.N.-backed government.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #57 on: February 15, 2009, 02:29:53 pm »
Ethiopia and US worked secretly together in Somalia:

Zenawi said on Friday the Ethiopian soldiers did not receive any logistical aid from the United States and the country suffered from bad media publicity during its military campaigns in Somalia to rid the country of terror elements.

“We would argue from an Ethiopian perspective that our military operation in Somalia has been highly successful. We did not think the Al Shabab offensive would bean isolated act,” he told a news conference late on Friday.

He said the Somali military offensive was in Ethiopia’s interest especially given the country had tried to live with the risk the Islamist fundamentalists in Somalia posed to its national security and stability interests and the surge from its Eritrean foes.

Meles said he had finally destabilized the roots of the radical Somali militant groups like Al Shabab and his military offensive there had given rise to the change of political tact by former radical Islamist leaders, who have now taken power in Somalia.

The military offensive, he said, had slowed down the military surge from the radical Islamist movements which believed nobody could stop them from destabilizing the country and had also slowed down Ethiopia’s internal opposition to his rule.

“This was a combined strategy and the tip of that strategy was Al Shabab, two years after the intervention, we can say the conspiracy has been successfully foiled. The elements of destability in that country are now weaker,” Zenawi said.

The United States knew in advance, of Ethiopia’s plan to move into Somalia to flush out radical Islamist movement leaders which had at one time declared a jihad, an Islamic holy war against Ethiopian interests, before the military intervention.

“Our objective was not to kill off all jihadists. The objective was to militarily weaken them and prove to them that they cannot ride the Shabab horse to power and that Ethiopia would not convey it. We have been successful against the Shabab,” the PM said.

He said there was no indication or evidence that the new Somali President was a terrorist but his former allies were terrorists. He cited Daud Aweiss, who had been listed by the US as a wanted terrorist and a member of the Al Qaeda network.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #58 on: February 17, 2009, 06:55:47 am »
The Nightmare in Somalia
Another US Sponsored Catastrophe

by Len Wengraf

Global Research, February 15, 2009

U.S.-BACKED Ethiopian troops withdrew from their remaining positions in Somalia at the end of January, bringing an end to a two-year occupation carried out in the guise of the "war on terror."

The Ethiopian Army invaded Somalia in December 2006, overthrowing the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) government and installing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Two years later, approximately 10,000 people have lost their lives, and 1.1 million Somalis were turned into refugees, the victims of Ethiopian occupiers and an ongoing civil war.

From the beginning, the TFG, though backed by the U.S., was weak, maintaining control in only a small area of the capital of Mogadishu, and some regions of western Somalia. Several thousand African Union troops--including U.S.-trained Ugandan forces--ostensibly bolster the TFG, to little effect. The U.S. also intervened directly in Somalia with sporadic air strikes.

After the Ethiopian invasion, sections of the UIC and other opposition forces regrouped in the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), with others coalescing around the fundamentalist al-Shabab group and other armed factions.

Ethiopian troops withdrew after a unity agreement between the TFG and the ARS, now the major opposition faction. Sheik Sharif Ahmed, the ARS leader and head of the UIC government in 2006, was elected president of the TFG on January 31.

* * *

SOMALIA IS located in the strategically crucial Horn of Africa on the eastern edge of the continent--adjacent to the Red Sea, Suez Canal and key commercial waterways. Somalia and neighboring Sudan have been targeted for oil exploration by U.S. companies, but China, India and other countries have also gotten their foot in the door with development contracts.

Competition past and present is behind the U.S. government's concern with Somalia. The U.S. has variously engaged in direct intervention (as in the infamous "Black Hawk Down" Marine invasion of 1992-3), backed different warlord factions and supported proxy armies (such as Ethiopia).

Actually, the history of Western intervention in Somalia and the Horn of Africa extends back throughout the 20th century, during which time colonial powers and the Cold War superpowers waged proxy battles in constantly shifting alliances and conflicts. Somalia's civil wars--like those in Darfur and southern Sudan--must be seen as a direct result of the U.S. and the former USSR arming different sides with billions of dollars, all while famines raged.

The so-called humanitarian intervention by U.S. Marines in Somalia in 1992–93 was merely a continuation of this policy with a different name. Along with "fighting terror," humanitarian intervention became a watchword for the Clinton administration and the Bush administration after it--providing a cover for Washington's pursuit of economic and military aims, and justifying U.S. military deployment in the region.

In 2003, while the U.S. was invading and occupying Iraq, the U.S. military built a major base in Djibouti, a tiny but strategically located country next to Somalia and across the Red Sea from Yemen. The U.S. used its Camp Lemonier to train Ethiopian forces in the lead-up to the December 2006 invasion of Somalia.

As Mike Whitney pointed out on the Counterpunch Web site: "The Bush administration invoked the 'war on terror' to justify its involvement in Somalia, but its claims are unconvincing. The UIC is not an al-Qaeda affiliate or a terrorist organization. In fact, the UIC brought a level of peace and stability to Somalia that hadn't been seen for nearly two decades."

Political analyst James Petras made a similar point:

The UIC was a relatively honest administration, which ended warlord corruption and extortion. Personal safety and property were protected, ending arbitrary seizures and kidnappings by warlords and their armed thugs.

The UIC is a broad multi-tendency movement that includes moderates and radical Islamists, civilian politicians and armed fighters, liberals and populists, electoralists and authoritarians. Most important, the Courts succeeded in unifying the country and creating some semblance of nationhood, overcoming clan fragmentation.

But Bush didn't let this relative stability under the UIC get in the way. According to a Chicago Tribune article, the invasion in Somalia was "a covert war in which the CIA has recruited gangs of unsavory warlords to hunt down and kidnap Islamic militants...and secretly imprison them offshore, aboard U.S. warships. The British civil-rights group Reprieve contended that as many as 17 U.S. warships may have doubled as floating prisons since the September 11 terrorist attacks."

Only one month after the 9/11 attacks, Paul Wolfowitz, one of the top neo-con hawks in the Bush administration, met with various factions in Ethiopia and Somalia, alleging that al-Qaeda terrorists might use these territories as "escape routes."

On December 4, 2006, Gen. John Abizaid, then the head of U.S. Central Command covering much of the Middle East and the surrounding region, met with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Three weeks later, Ethiopian forces crossed into Somalia, and the U.S. launched air strikes to back them up. The air attacks were supposedly against terrorist targets, but they killed dozens of civilians. The U.S. also embedded small numbers of Special Forces in the Ethiopian army, and provided naval and air support.

* * *

THE END result of the U.S. intervention has been untold destruction. Human Rights Watch published a report in December 2008 detailing the impact:

Two years of unconstrained warfare and violent rights abuses have helped to generate an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis, without adequate response. Since January 2007, at least 870,000 civilians have fled the chaos in Mogadishu alone--two-thirds of the city's population...Somalia's humanitarian needs are enormous.

Humanitarian organizations estimate that more than 3.25 million Somalis--over 40 percent of the population of south-central Somalia--will be in urgent need of assistance by the end of 2008...Freelance militias have robbed, murdered and raped displaced persons on the roads south towards Kenya. Hundreds of Somalis have drowned this year in desperate attempts to cross the Gulf of Aden by boat to Yemen.

Amnesty International documented numerous accounts of killings of Somalis by Ethiopian troops. In one case, "a young child's throat was slit by Ethiopian soldiers in front of the child's mother."

And according to the Red Cross, about half of Somalia's population is dependent on food aid. Millions live in tent cities without adequate water, food or power, while hyperinflation has driven up the price of staple goods by six times since the start of 2008. As Whitney puts it, "It is the greatest humanitarian crisis in Africa today; a man-made hell entirely conjured up in Washington."

Somalis celebrated the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, and President Sheikh Ahmed enjoys popular support as a legacy of past UIC rule. The U.S. government's short-term goal of installing a partner in counter-terror appears thwarted.

Yet Sheikh Ahmed's openness to the U.S. and his collaboration with the TFG now divides his forces from other wings of the former UIC, including groups like al-Shabab, which is on the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations. For the U.S., the split is welcome.

Meanwhile, attacks by Somali armed groups have continued. Suicide bombers, likely connected to al-Shabab, attacked African Union troops on February 3.

The longer-term picture likewise indicates increased volatility in the region. Since the collapse of the UIC government in 2006, a resurgence of pirate attacks off the Somali coast--with some holding multimillion-dollar tankers hostage--recently prompted the Chinese and Indian governments to send naval patrols, an unprecedented move for China.

Faced with this heightened militarization, Bush called for sending warships to the Gulf of Aden as well, and Barack Obama has pledged support for continuing that policy.

The Obama administration is also a strong proponent of Africom, a new U.S. military command for Africa officially launched on October 1, 2008, with the frightening potential to subject Somalia and other countries and regions to U.S. terror on a new scale. In fact, Africom could mean the Somali experience writ large for the entire continent, with local proxies and enhanced military reinforcement.

As Nunu Kidane put it in an article titled "Africom, Militarization and Resource Control":

If you're thinking traditional bases with thousands of military personnel, think again. General Kip Ward has said it is not about "bases" and "garrisons," but rather a network of sophisticated military operations strategically placed throughout the continent, which can be moved around and utilized for any purpose.

General Gates called Africom "a different kind of command with a different orientation, one that we hope and expect will institutionalize a lasting security relationship with Africa." It is "a civilian-military partnership," where diplomatic and humanitarian relief by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will get directives from the Department of Defense.

Africa Action and other human rights groups have rightly called on the Obama administration to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia. But one often-proposed solution--United Nations peacekeepers--would only escalate the problems for ordinary Somalis. On the ground, UN troops would carry out U.S. priorities, just as they did during the "humanitarian intervention" of 1993.

Instead, activists should stand against any U.S. military intervention in Somalia, from Africom to the naval patrols. Challenging the "war on terror" is a crucial first step toward real peace for Somalis.

Len Wengraf writes for the Socialist Worker.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #59 on: February 22, 2009, 11:14:32 am »
AU base in Mogadishu attacked

Insurgents in Somalia have attacked a military base in Mogadishu used by African Union peacekeepers.

The Islamist militant group al-Shabab said two of its members had carried out a suicide car bomb attack on the base.

The AU mission said it was investigating the attack but did not give a casualty figure.

A spokesman for Burundi's military, which contributes to the AU force, said six of its soldiers had been killed, AFP news agency reported.

The 3,500 peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda are the only foreign troops in Mogadishu since the withdrawal of pro-government Ethiopian troops in January.

A UN-brokered peace deal between Somalia's transitional government and a moderate Islamist opposition group saw Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed elected president in January, but al-Shabab has pledged to carry on with its armed struggle against the peacekeepers.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #60 on: February 24, 2009, 10:52:53 am »
11 African soldiers killed in Somalia
 A group tied to Al Qaeda said it was responsible for the blasts yesterday. (Feisal Omar/Reuters)
Los Angeles Times / February 23, 2009

- A suicide car-bomb attack against African Union peacekeepers in Somalia yesterday killed 11 Burundi soldiers and wounded 15 others, the deadliest attack against AU troops since their deployment two years ago.

Insurgents from Al-Shabab militia, which claims links to Al Qaeda, took responsibility and vowed to continue assaults against AU soldiers who have been helping shore up Somalia's transitional government.

"Go home, otherwise you will meet our hell," said Al-Shabab leader Muktar Robow, speaking by telephone to reporters after the attack.

He said two suicide bombers - one in a vehicle and another wearing an explosives-packed vest - infiltrated the AU base at the former Somali National University in Mogadishu. Hundreds of displaced people are living around the campus, and one witness said he saw two civilians among the dead.

"I saw a four-wheel-drive car driving at a high speed and then heard a massive explosion," Kalid Ali Nur said.

AU and UN officials condemned the attack as an attempt by insurgents to detract attention from ongoing efforts to form a new unity government. Since January, the government has named a new president, prime minister and, on Saturday, a Cabinet.

"They are trying to destabilize the situation and take away attention from the good news," said Susannah Price, a spokeswoman for the UN special representative to Somalia.

The attack comes as the AU and the United Nations are struggling to boost the number of peacekeepers in Somalia from the current level of about 3,500 Burundi and Ugandan soldiers. AU troops have been subject to increased attacks since Ethiopian soldiers withdrew from the country in January.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #61 on: February 24, 2009, 10:56:43 am »
UPDATE 2-Somalia's Shabaab vows more attacks on African troops
Mon Feb 23, 2009 2:54pm GMT

* Militants' Internet statement warns of more strikes

* Burundi pledges reinforcements after 11 troops killed

* Analysts split over al Shabaab's strength

* Gunmen free Pakistani national

* Al Qaeda urges Somalis to resist "secular constitution"

By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Somalia's hardline Islamist insurgent group al Shabaab pledged on Monday to launch more attacks on African Union peacekeepers after the deadliest strike yet killed at least 11 soldiers from Burundi.

"This is our land and you are non-believers," said a statement on a website used by the militants, who are fighting the Somali government and a 3,500-strong AU peacekeeping force.

"Leave us for your safety or we shall never tire of increasing your death toll."

The site,, posted pictures of two young men it said were suicide bombers who blew up explosives in a jacket and a car next to an AU base at a former university in the coastal capital Mogadishu.

The militants' Internet statement said 52 people died and 34 were wounded in Sunday's attack.

The AU said its compound had been targeted by mortar bombs, not suicide bombers. It said 11 were killed and 15 injured.

Witnesses described a car speeding towards the gate before hearing at least one blast and seeing thick plumes of smoke.

Somalia's new President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist [ID:nLV26136], arrived in the rubble-strewn city on Monday and condemned the latest bloodshed.

"AU troops will not leave through fighting and explosions, but through peaceful negotiation among the Somalis," he said.

His new prime minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the Western-educated son of a slain former president [ID:nLG705221], was also due in Mogadishu later on Monday.

Both men have been in neighbouring Djibouti picking a cabinet under U.N.-brokered efforts to form a unity government to end 18 years of conflict in the failed Horn of Africa state.


Their biggest threat is from al Shabaab which, together with allied militia, controls large swathes of southern Somalia including the strategic towns of Baidoa and Kismayu.

The government controls only parts of Mogadishu.

Since the start of an Islamist insurgency that broke out at the beginning of 2007, at least 16,000 civilians have been killed and a million more driven from their homes.

Al Shabaab gained support as one of many groups waging war against Ethiopian troops propping up the previous government.

An Ethiopian withdrawal in January placated some Somalis, but al Shabaab has now turned its fire on the AU peacekeeping mission, AMISOM, and the new government.

The government of Burundi, which contributes nearly half AMISOM's strength, said it remained committed to stabilising Somalia and planned to reinforce its contingent soon. Burundi's military said the mission's current mandate was too restrictive.

In neighbouring Kenya, the AU special envoy to Somalia, Nicolas Bwakira, said AMISOM's current mandate was sufficient. Somali troops would be used for "peace-enforcement", he said.

Two more battalions, one from Uganda and another from Burundi, are due to deploy within weeks, bringing the force to more than 5,000 -- but far short of its planned 8,000.

Bwakira said Malawi, Nigeria and Ghana had all agreed to send troops. But most African nations have been reluctant to send their soldiers into harm's way in Somalia.

Experts hope the inclusion of moderate Islamists in the new Somali government may marginalise hardliners like al Shabaab. The group is on Washington's list of terrorist organisations and is known to have foreign fighters in its ranks.

But analysts are split over al Shabaab's strength.

Some say it could overrun the government, while others say it has only a few thousand fighters and has used the media and high profile strikes to project a more powerful image -- despite waning support among traditionally moderate Somali Muslims.

In a recording "From Kabul to Mogadishu" posted online on Monday, al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri urged Somalis not to fall for a "secular constitution" and said militants would fight the "U.S.-made government". [nLN525094]

Somali gunmen freed a Pakistani man on Monday a day after kidnapping him in the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland, officials said.

Abdullahi Said Samatar, Puntland's security minister, told Reuters no ransom had been paid and that the man was released after local elders made contact with the gunmen. (Additional reporting by Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Abdiaziz Hassan and Alison Bevege in Nairobi and Patrick Nduwimana in Bujumbura; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Daniel Wallis)

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #62 on: February 24, 2009, 10:57:44 am »
Some 3.2 mln Somalis need urgent aid - U.N.
Mon Feb 23, 2009 4:01pm GMT

MILAN, Feb 23 (Reuters)
- About 3.2 million people, or 43 percent of population in insurgency-hit Somalia need urgent help to get them through a growing humanitarian and food security crisis, the United Nations' food agency said on Monday.

Violence in the African country has killed more than 16,000 people since the start of 2007 and uprooted 1 million, with chaos helping fuel kidnappings and piracy off the coast. [ID:nLN99324]

The widespread humanitarian crisis has hit 1.2 million people in rural areas and 2 million urban dwellers, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a report on its web site

Somalia has been hit by recurring humanitarian emergencies over the last 18 years and has rates of acute malnutrition which are well above emergency levels, the Rome-based FAO said.

The macro-economic crisis with national currency devaluation and hyperinflation has worsened the situation in Somalia, the agency said.

With cereals prices staying 450-780 percent above normal levels, the average cost of the urban poor's minimum survival expenditure basket has more than doubled in the last year, while purchasing power fell, the FAO said.

"Already urban poor households are deeply indebted and becoming more impoverished, thus increasing their vulnerability to shocks and further crises," it said.

At least 200,000 children under five years, or one out of six children there are acutely malnourished, of which 60,000 are estimated to be severely malnourished.

"These numbers ... will have a devastating impact on the long term economic development of the country," FAO said.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #63 on: February 25, 2009, 06:40:25 am »
Many dead in Mogadishu fighting

At least 20 people have been killed and 50 others injured in clashes between government troops and opposition fighters in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Witnesses said that fighting broke out on Tuesday after an armed group attacked police and African Union peacekeepers in the capital's southern Taleh district.

The fighting came a day after Sharif Ahmed, Somalia's newly elected president, returned to the country from Djibouti.

Witnesses said that heavy machine guns and artillery were used in Tuesday's fighting and that the fighters shelled the presidential palace.

Several residents said that two civilians had been hit by stray bullets near the scene of clashes and three others were killed when a mortar shell struck a house.

A medical official said that more than 20 wounded people had been transferred to the city's Medina hospital.

The clashes follow Sunday's suicide bomb attack on an AU base in the Somali capital, which left 11 Burundi soldiers dead.

The bombing, for which the al-Shabab armed group claimed responsibility, was the deadliest so far against the African Union Mission in Somalia.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #64 on: February 27, 2009, 08:20:08 am »
Civilians dead in Somalia clashes

Renewed fighting has targeted AU peacekepeers from Uganda and Burundi  [AFP]

At least 48 civilians have been killed in two-days of fighting between Somali rebel fighters and African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, a rights group said.

More than 90 people were injured in the clashes, Ali Yasin Gedi, the vice-chairman of the local Elman Peace and Human Rights group, said on Wednesday.

Witnesses said at least 15 rebel al-Shabab fighters and six policemen were killed in exchanges of gunfire and mortar bombs, which have rocked the coastal capital since Tuesday.

The latest violence has flared up just days after Sharif Ahmed, the new Somali president, returned to the coastal city to form an inclusive unity government - the 15th attempt in 18 years - to bring peace to the failed Horn of Africa state.

Territorial gain

On Wednesday, al-Shabab seized control of the town of Hodur, near the Ethiopian border, from government-backed forces, residents and al-Shabab members told the AFP news agency.

Al-Shabab and allied groups control much of southern and central Somalia and want to impose their version of sharia (Islamic) law in the country.

The AU currently has about 3,200 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi in Somalia, where two years of fighting have killed more than 16,000 civilians and displaced millions from their homes.

More than a third of the population depend on aid, and large parts of Mogadishu lie empty and destroyed.

Al-Shabab and other anti-government groups regularly attack government troops and AU peacekeepers, in efforts to force them out of the country.

The rebel group gained support as one of the key factions waging war against Ethiopian troops who they said were propping up the country's previous government.

An Ethiopian withdrawal in January eased the fighting, but al-Shabab has since turned its fire on the AU force, Amisom, and the new government.

Regional diplomats hope the inclusion of Islamist groups in the new administration may marginalise groups like al-Shabab, which is on Washington's list of terrorist organisations and is known to have foreign fighters in its ranks.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #65 on: March 09, 2009, 02:13:01 am »
Fake chips in pentagon through network.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #66 on: March 11, 2009, 01:53:24 pm »
Blast kills Somali security official, 3 soldiers

The Associated Press
Published: March 11, 2009

A roadside bomb killed a senior Somali security official and three government soldiers Wednesday, police said.

The remote-controlled explosion ripped through the men's car as they traveled through the Somali capital, Mogadishu, said police spokesman Abdullahi Hassan Barise. Among those killed was Ubeyd Ali Fidow, who worked as a bodyguard for the prime minister.

"There was flesh and blood everywhere," said Mogadishu resident Hurshe Ali, who witnessed the blast.

No group has claimed responsibility for the explosion in one of the most violent cities in the world. Islamist insurgents are fighting the government and African Union peacekeepers for control of a country that has been in chaos for nearly 20 years.

On Tuesday, the Somali Cabinet voted to make Islam the basis of the country's legal system. The move was an attempt to isolate more extreme elements of the insurgency by agreeing to a demand supported by more moderate elements and much of the Somali population.

The most extreme group, al-Shabab, which controls the main cities in the south, has said it does not recognize the legitimacy of the government. The U.S. State Department says al-Shabab has ties to al-Qaida

The bill introducing Islamic law must still be approved by parliament, which is expected to hear it within days.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #67 on: March 16, 2009, 05:12:59 pm »
Somali rivals in deadly clashes

Rival armed fighters have clashed repeatedly over control of central Somalia [Reuters]

Fighting between rival armed opposition groups has killed at least 13 people in central Somalia, residents say.

Members of the Ahlu Sunna Wal-jama'ah group clashed with rivals from the al-Shabab movement outside the town of Wabho, north of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, in fighting that began on Saturday.

"Thirteen people are dead - eight of them combatants, from both sides - and seven others were injured," Abdisamed Adan Yusuf, a local resident told the AFP news agency.

The fighting continued on the outskirts of the town on Sunday, residents said.

Ahlu Sunna Wal-jama'ah said its fighters had captured seven al-Shabab members.

"We lost one and four others were injured from our side," Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf, a spokesman for the Ahlu Sunna, told the Reuters news agency.

"We shall conclude the war in a short while," he said. "Wabho is now in our hand and we are now about to capture El Bur, their biggest base."

There was no immediate comment from al-Shabab.

Sharia-based law

The two groups have clashed repeatedly over control of the region.

Al-Shabab and allied groups control much of southern and central Somalia and want to impose their version of sharia, or Islamic law, in the country.

Earlier this month, Somalia's cabinet voted to make Islamic law the basis for the country's legal system in an attempt to isolate more extreme armed groups by agreeing to a demand supported by much of the Somali population.

The bill must still be approved by parliament.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #68 on: March 20, 2009, 04:06:38 pm »
Witnesses say 14 killed in fighting in Somalia

The Associated Press
Published: March 18, 2009

At least 14 people were killed Wednesday when pro-government militiamen and an extremist Islamic group clashed in southern Somalia, according to witnesses.

Pro-government militiamen attacked al-Shabab fighters early Wednesday in a failed effort to seize the southern Somalia town of Rab Dhure, residents said. Rab Dhure is a few kilometers (miles) from the border with Ethiopia. Both sides fired machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

"I have seen eight people dead in a street. Most of the dead and wounded are fighters," Mad Ali, a Rab Dhure resident told The Associated Press by phone.

In a separate location in Rab Dhure, Nuney Mo'alim told the AP she saw six pro-government militiamen die when al-Shabab fighters hit their pickup truck with a rocket-propelled grenade. The pro-government fighters' pickup was mounted with a machine gun to make what is called locally a battle wagon.

Shine Moalin Nurow, a leader of the pro-government militia, said the militia lost a number of fighters but did not give a figure.
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"Our aim was to retake the towns we had lost to al-Shabab. We will regroup and wage another war in the coming days," Nurow told AP by phone.

Somalia is carved into fiefdoms controlled by different militia groups — some led by clan warlords, others by Islamic leaders — who often form rapidly shifting alliances.

The government now directly controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu and the border town of El Berde. But President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a moderate Islamist who became head of state in January, has allies among the militias that control much of central Somalia and pockets in the south.

Separately, four African Union peacekeepers were injured in Mogadishu, the capital, in two roadside explosions, said Gaffel Nkolokosa, an AU spokesman.

The AU peacekeepers' mandates is restricted to guarding key government installations in Mogadishu but hardline groups view them as an occupying force.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. They then turned on each other, plunging the nation of 7 million into anarchy and chaos.

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Re: Ethiopians commence withdrawal of forces from Somalia
« Reply #69 on: April 14, 2009, 02:39:58 pm »
You Are Being Lied to About Pirates

By Johann Hari

April 12, 2009 "Huffington Post"
--- Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy - backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China - is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as "one of the great menace of our times" have an extraordinary story to tell -- and some justice on their side.

Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the "golden age of piracy" - from 1650 to 1730 - the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage thief that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda-heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can't? In his book Villains of All nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence to find out. If you became a merchant or navy sailor then - plucked from the docks of London's East End, young and hungry - you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off for a second, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O' Nine Tails. If you slacked consistently, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.

Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied against their tyrannical captains - and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century." They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly - and subversively - that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal navy." This is why they were popular, despite being unproductive thieves.

The words of one pirate from that lost age - a young British man called William Scott - should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live." In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas." William Scott would understand those words.

No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters - especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But the "pirates" have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news-site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking - and it found 70 percent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the country's territorial waters." During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and America's founding fathers paid pirates to protect America's territorial waters, because they had no navy or coastguard of their own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different?

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn't act on those crimes - but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, we begin to shriek about "evil." If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause - our crimes - before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia's criminals.

The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today - but who is the robber?

POSTSCRIPT: Some commenters seem bemused by the fact that both toxic dumping and the theft of fish are happening in the same place - wouldn't this make the fish contaminated? In fact, Somalia's coastline is vast, stretching to 3300km. Imagine how easy it would be - without any coastguard or army - to steal fish from Florida and dump nuclear waste on California, and you get the idea. These events are happening in different places - but with the same horrible effect: death for the locals, and stirred-up piracy. There's no contradiction.

Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent newspaper

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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #70 on: April 15, 2009, 01:41:50 pm »
Emotional Rescue: Praise for Sea Victory Could Presage Carnage
Chris Floyd


April 14, 2009

Everyone is glad that Captain Richard Phillips emerged unscathed from his capture by the Somali pirates who seized his ship on its way to bring food aid to Kenya. But the nature of his rescue -- still shrouded in ambiguity -- is a troubling portent. And its potential aftermath could be catastrophic indeed.

It is of course a harrowing business to be captured and held at gunpoint, and Phillips is to be lauded for his selfless courage in offering himself as a hostage in place of his crew. But despite the manifest difficulty and criminality of the situation, it is unlikely that his life was in imminent danger. Since the upsurge of piracy off the Somali coast began, there have been almost no fatalities in the raids, and so far every hostage taken by the pirates has been released unharmed.

What's more, as McClatchy reports, the pirates who had taken Phillips were apparently out of ammunition and adrift in shark-infested waters by the time U.S. Navy ships caught up with them. They offered to give Phillips back to the Americans in exchange for their own freedom -- but were shot dead instead. Navy sharpshooters said they killed the three Somali men when one of them pointed a gun at Phillips' back -- apparently in the belief that the pirates were about to kill the captain.  This seems at bit strange, to say the least; if the pirates were negotiating with the Americans, it seems odd that they would suddenly shoot their only bargaining chip while they were in the crosshairs of two massive Navy warships and a squad of snipers. It also seems unlikely that they had not had a gun -- an empty gun, as it turns out -- pointed at their captive throughout the standoff.

Of course, it was a dicey situation all around, and no one who wasn't there can know exactly what happened. McClatchy pieces together the various claims and fragments of information available:

The SEALs felt Phillips's life was in "imminent danger," Gortney said. The White House said that President Barack Obama had given the Pentagon a standing order to use force if necessary to save Phillips's life.

The sharpshooters "took it that the pirate was ready to use that weapon" and opened fire within seconds, Gortney said in a telephone briefing from Bahrain, headquarters of the Fifth Fleet.

President Obama was told that Phillips had been rescued 11 minutes after the shots were fired, according to Pentagon and White House chronologies of events....

According to Somalis with knowledge of the discussions, the pirates, who at one time had demanded $2 million for Phillips's release, had grown desperate with their situation — adrift under a searing sun in waters infested with sharks, staring at two massive Navy ships armed with guided missiles, running low on fuel and having spent their ammunition.

A relative of one of the pirates, who said he spoke with the men by satellite phone at about 3 p.m. — four hours before the Navy opened fire — said they "were getting scared" and trying to persuade the Americans to let them go in return for the captain's release.

"They were trying to save their own lives," said the relative, Hassan Mohammed Farah, speaking by phone from Haradheere, a coastal town in central Somalia where pirates are known to operate. "The only thing they could bargain with was the captain, but the Americans would not accept."

And so the incident ended as it was surely destined to. The moment I heard that an American ship had been raided by Somali pirates, I knew that someone would have to die for it; nowadays, American leaders -- and broad swathes of the public -- demand blood for the slightest perceived outrage against the nation's dignity. And once a hostage was taken -- by a bunch of rag-tag, Muslim darkies, no less -- a fatal ending was assured.

Barack Obama, who had given the shoot-to-kill order (if necessary, of course, only if necessary; American operatives have never fired a shot in anger anywhere in the world unless it was absolutely necessary), was keen to stand tall in what the commentariat had dubbed a major test of his commander-in-chief mettle. Thus the C-in-C was duly informed of his triumph while the oozing blood of the dead was still warm.

And a triumph it was. Quickly, the White House released details of Obama's omniscient control of the situation -- and was duly rewarded with rapturous PR, especially from his liberal "base," happy to see the hardnosed, blood-drawing president slap down the rightwing critics who forever castigate him for being "soft." Dennis Perrin reports on some prime examples of this he-man hero-worship at Huffington Post. And Juan Cole -- whose insights into the realities of the Middle East have been invaluable, but who now seems to be channeling Arthur "Camelot" Schlesinger at his mythologizing worst -- showers embarrassing accolades on "the deft young president."

Cole approvingly notes that Obama was quietly "making preparations to whack someone" even while Rush Limbaugh and other rightwing blowhards were slamming the Deft One for his presumed inaction. Obama "took the heat, but he took it like a man," while carrying on with "17 separate briefings" on the crisis. Cole then spends an inordinate amount of time castigating the witless blather of Limbaugh and the blowhardniks, before ending in a paroxysm of praise for the cool, competent, deft young leader:

Reminds me of the Carly Simon Bond theme, "Nobody does it better/ Makes me feel sad for the rest."

As we noted here the other day, the most shameless Bush-worshippers of yore would be hard-pressed to match Obama's dazzled acolytes in their gushing, emotional tributes to the Commander.

But the blogosphere reaction is just a bemusing sidelight. Far more serious are the potential ramifications of the incident, and the policies it could be used to justify.

It almost certainly makes a direct American military strike on Somalia much more likely. This of course would be nothing new; as we noted here time and again (to almost no effect or resonance anywhere), the United States was directly involved in the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia in late 2006: a murderous "regime change" operation by forces funded, armed and trained by the United States. The invasion and occupation, which ended in January 2009, killed thousands of Somalis, ruined and dispossessed hundreds of thousands of others, and plunged the already broken country even deeper into chaos, civil war and ruin. American forces bombed fleeing refugees, launched missile strikes into villages, captured refugees and "renditioned" them to Ethiopia's notorious torture chambers, and, perhaps most chillingly, sent in death squads to "clean up" after missile attacks.

The savage Ethiopian-American invasion was "justified" under the usual rubric of "fighting terrorism." It was ostensibly intended to oust a broad coalition of Islamic groups which had given Somalia its first semblance of stability in many years. The results of this "counter-terrorism" operation were entirely predictable: it weakened or destroyed moderate forces, while radicalizing many Somalis and empowering the most extreme and violent groups, led by the al-Shabab faction. In the end, the Terror Warriors had to admit defeat; the hand-picked, American-backed interim government, which included former warlords in the pay of the CIA, collapsed -- and the leader of the ousted Islamic coalition government became the new president, with the West's reluctant blessing. The entire war had been for naught.

But as noted, the more extreme elements of the former coalition were greatly empowered by the invasion and subsequent chaos, while the new government is compromised by its association with and dependence upon the West. So savage internal conflict still rages in Somalia, despite the withdrawal of the Ethiopians -- who still linger ominously across the border. Chaos reigns, lawlessness is rampant, criminal gangs and sectarian militias clash, combine, fall out, and oppress the population. Western corporate interests have destroyed one of the very few viable enterprises in Somalia: the fishing industry. As Katie Stuhldreher noted in the Christian Science Monitor last year (via

The problem of piracy in Somalia originated about a decade ago because of disgruntled fishermen. The headless state had no authority to patrol its tuna-rich coastal waters and foreign commercial vessels swooped in to cast their nets. This proved a slap in the face for Somalis, who saw these vessels as illegal and raking in profits at the expense of the local impoverished population. To make matters worse, there were reports that some foreign ships even dumped waste in Somali waters.

That prompted local fishermen to attack foreign fishing vessels and demand compensation. The success of these early raids in the mid-1990s persuaded many young men to hang up their nets in favor of AK-47s.

Needless to say, the accelerated death and ruin following the "regime change" operation has only driven more men into piracy, and made more communities dependent on the practice for their survival.

This then is the present context for all the talk about renewed American attacks on Somalia. The capture of Captain Phillips has highlighted previous plans and calls to root out the pirates with military strikes on their bases. As we noted here last year, the UN Security Council, following America's lead, has already voted to turn Somalia into a global free-fire zone, giving other nations carte blanche "to conduct military raids, on land and by air, against pirates plying the waters off the Somalia coast," as the Washington Post reported. All they need is permission from the Somali government -- which, as we noted, is dependent on Western nations for its survival.

Meanwhile, as the Washington Post reported earlier this month, the Obama Administration is considering plans to strike at the al-Shabab insurgent group in Somalia, which Washington has long claimed has vague "ties" to al Qaeda. Indeed, it was these same nebulous connections -- literally involving a handful of people -- that the Bush administration cited as its reason for supporting the overthrow of the Somali government in 2006. Now powerful voices in the Obama administration are urging the deft young president to extend his wide-ranging "continuity" with Bush's Terror War policies to Somalia.

In any case, the current chaos -- and the new pressures that will inevitably be brought to bear on the pirates after their yanking of Uncle Sam's beard -- will doubtless see the further meshing of interests between at least some of the pirate groups and the extremists. Already, al-Shabab is proclaiming its solidarity with the pirates, lauding the mercantile group as fellow "holy warriors," as Garowe Online reports. This public linkage will only make it easier for American militarists to urge attacks on Somalia; surely it won't be long until we see officials trotting out the formula "Piracy=Terrorism."

If so, it will be self-fulfilling prophecy. For if they come after the pirates with all guns blazing, with ground assaults and air attacks, the pirates will turn to the Islamist insurgents for muscle. The Islamists will then draw on pirate money to fund their own operations. The pirates will become more and more radicalized -- as will the surrounding population hit by the strikes, thus strengthening the radical Islamists.

Meanwhile, Western corporations will continue their destruction of the Somali fishing industry, driving even more people into piracy, or into the hands of the radical Islamists. All of this increased violence will draw an ever more violent response from the United States: more attacks, more bombs, more shootings -- which will, in turn, lead to more radicalization, more hatred, more violence. A self-perpetuating dynamic will be established. The end result -- or rather, the never-ending result -- will be what it has always been for decades: more death, suffering, chaos and poverty for the Somali people.

As I noted last year:

But let us not succumb to American exceptionalism in this case. The UN Security Council resolution is a virulent product of a global militarism, the universal warlordism that finds expression sometimes in ragged bands of fighters in desert, mountain or jungle enclaves – and sometimes in the clean and carpeted halls of vast nation-states and international institutions. With this resolution, the entire world – the entire world – has turned its back on the people of Somalia. They have been abandoned as utterly, completely – and officially -- as any people in history. At least there was some opposition in the Security Council to the American rape of Iraq; but this declaration of open season on Somalia – this universal license to kill Somalis, granted to every government on earth – passed unanimously. Without demur, without protest, with no objection.

Are there pirates in Somalia? Yes. Have they hindered some commercial operations? Yes. Are there criminal organizations in the United States, in Europe, in Russia, in China, in the Middle East? Yes. Do they hinder some commercial operations? Yes. (And far more violently and extensively than the Somali pirates, we might add.) But only the Somali people are subjected to the murderous strictures of the UN's draconian edict. Only the Somali people are being condemned to die – by the United Nations – for the actions of criminals within their borders.


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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #71 on: April 16, 2009, 01:16:26 pm »
'Toxic waste' behind Somali piracy

By Najad Abdullahi

April 15, 2009 "Al Jazeera" -
- Somali pirates have accused European firms of dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast and are demanding an $8m ransom for the return of a Ukranian ship they captured, saying the money will go towards cleaning up the waste.

The ransom demand is a means of "reacting to the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years", Januna Ali Jama, a spokesman for the pirates, based in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, said.

"The Somali coastline has been destroyed, and we believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas."

The pirates are holding the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware, off Somalia's northern coast.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, 61 attacks by pirates have been reported since the start of the year.

While money is the primary objective of the hijackings, claims of the continued environmental destruction off Somalia's coast have been largely ignored by the regions's maritime authorities.

Dumping allegations

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia confirmed to Al Jazeera the world body has "reliable information" that European and Asian companies are dumping toxic waste, including nuclear waste, off the Somali coastline.

"I must stress however, that no government has endorsed this act, and that private companies and individuals acting alone are responsible," he said

Allegations of the dumping of toxic waste, as well as illegal fishing, have circulated since the early 1990s.

But evidence of such practices literally appeared on the beaches of northern Somalia when the tsunami of 2004 hit the country.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reported the tsunami had washed up rusting containers of toxic waste on the shores of Puntland.

Nick Nuttall, a UNEP spokesman, told Al Jazeera that when the barrels were smashed open by the force of the waves, the containers exposed a "frightening activity" that has been going on for more than decade.

"Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there," he said.

"European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.

"And the waste is many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it."

Nuttall also said that since the containers came ashore, hundreds of residents have fallen ill, suffering from mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and other ailments.

"We [the UNEP] had planned to do a proper, in-depth scientific assessment on the magnitude of the problem. But because of the high levels of insecurity onshore and off the Somali coast, we are unable to carry out an accurate assessment of the extent of the problem," he said.

However, Ould-Abdallah claims the practice still continues.

"What is most alarming here is that nuclear waste is being dumped. Radioactive uranium waste that is potentially killing Somalis and completely destroying the ocean," he said.

Toxic waste

Ould-Abdallah declined to name which companies are involved in waste dumping, citing legal reasons.

But he did say the practice helps fuel the 18-year-old civil war in Somalia as companies are paying Somali government ministers to dump their waste, or to secure licences and contracts.

"There is no government control ... and there are few people with high moral ground ... [and] yes, people in high positions are being paid off, but because of the fragility of the TFG [transitional Federal Government], some of these companies now no longer ask the authorities – they simply dump their waste and leave."

Ould-Abdallah said there are ethical questions to be considered because the companies are negotiating contracts with a government that is largely divided along tribal lines.

"How can you negotiate these dealings with a country at war and with a government struggling to remain relevant?"

In 1992, a contract to secure the dumping of toxic waste was made by Swiss and Italian shipping firms Achair Partners and Progresso, with Nur Elmi Osman, a former official appointed to the government of Ali Mahdi Mohamed, one of many militia leaders involved in the ousting of Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia's former president.

At the request of the Swiss and Italian governments, UNEP investigated the matter.

Both firms had denied entering into any agreement with militia leaders at the beginning of the Somali civil war.

Osman also denied signing any contract.

'Mafia involvement'

However, Mustafa Tolba, the former UNEP executive director, told Al Jazeera that he discovered the firms were set up as fictitious companies by larger industrial firms to dispose of hazardous waste.

"At the time, it felt like we were dealing with the Mafia, or some sort of organised crime group, possibly working with these industrial firms," he said.

"It was very shady, and quite underground, and I would agree with Ould-Abdallah’s claims that it is still going on... Unfortunately the war has not allowed environmental groups to investigate this fully."

The Italian mafia controls an estimated 30 per cent of Italy's waste disposal companies, including those that deal with toxic waste.

In 1998, Famiglia Cristiana, an Italian weekly magazine, claimed that although most of the waste-dumping took place after the start of the civil war in 1991, the activity actually began as early as 1989 under the Barre government.

Beyond the ethical question of trying to secure a hazardous waste agreement in an unstable country like Somalia, the alleged attempt by Swiss and Italian firms to dump waste in Somalia would violate international treaties to which both countries are signatories.

Legal ramifications

Switzerland and Italy signed and ratified the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which came into force in 1992.

EU member states, as well as 168 other countries have also signed the agreement.

The convention prohibits waste trade between countries that have signed the convention, as well as countries that have not signed the accord unless a bilateral agreement had been negotiated.

It is also prohibits the shipping of hazardous waste to a war zone.

Abdi Ismail Samatar, professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota, told Al Jazeera that because an international coalition of warships has been deployed to the Gulf of Aden, the alleged dumping of waste must have been observed.

Environmental damage

"If these acts are continuing, then surely they must have been seen by someone involved in maritime operations," he said.

"Is the cargo aimed at a certain destination more important than monitoring illegal activities in the region? Piracy is not the only problem for Somalia, and I think it's irresponsible on the part of the authorities to overlook this issue."

Mohammed Gure, chairman of the Somalia Concern Group, said that the social and environmental consequences will be felt for decades.

"The Somali coastline used to sustain hundreds of thousands of people, as a source of food and livelihoods. Now much of it is almost destroyed, primarily at the hands of these so-called ministers that have sold their nation to fill their own pockets."

Ould-Abdallah said piracy will not prevent waste dumping.

"The intentions of these pirates are not concerned with protecting their environment," he said.

"What is ultimately needed is a functioning, effective government that will get its act together and take control of its affairs."

Offline Biggs

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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #72 on: April 30, 2009, 03:30:48 pm »
Somalis say illegal fishing by foreign trawlers drove them to piracy

April 29, 2009 "McClatchy" -
-  Their exploits have turned the inky-blue waters of the Indian Ocean into a perilous gantlet for ships and an unlikely security challenge for world leaders. But behind the bare brick walls of a desolate former British colonial prison here, five jailed Somali pirates didn't seem very fearsome at all.

One looked to be in his late 40s, his brambly hair stained a deep henna orange, his milky eyes staring into the middle distance. A slightly younger man clutched a faded sarong to his matchstick waist and spoke in barely a whisper.

The leader of the pirate crew, 38-year-old Farah Ismail Eid, wore such a hungry look that a visiting government official, unsolicited, folded a pale $10 bill into his sandpaper palm.

That a few hundred men like these have wreaked so much havoc in the seas off of East Africa is a testament to the sheer power of guts and greed. It's also a stark illustration of the all-consuming anarchy ashore in Somalia, where, after 18 years of conflict, jobs are scarce, guns are plentiful, men will risk everything for a payday - and their government is too weak and corrupt to stop them.

The men behind bars, however, offered another explanation for piracy.

Their story is also rooted in greed - not of their brazen colleagues with the million-dollar ransoms, they say, but of foreign companies that they say have profited from Somalia's lawlessness by fishing illegally in their waters since the 1990s.

In a long interview with McClatchy Newspapers at the jailhouse in Mandhera, an austere desert fortress in the autonomous northern region of Somaliland, where British forces held Italian POWs during World War II, Eid related what amounts to the pirates' creation myth, in which overfishing by European and Asian trawlers drove Somalia's coastal communities to ruin and forced local fishermen to fight for their livelihoods.

"Now the international community is shouting about piracy. But long before this, we were shouting to the world about our problems," said Eid, a bony-cheeked former lobsterman with a bushy goatee. "No one listened."

Of course, the pirates' journey from vigilante coast guard to firing automatic weapons at cruise ships - as one band did over the weekend - is a reminder that good intentions don't last long in desperate Somalia.

In 1991, Eid was scavenging for lobsters along the craggy shores of central Somalia, saving to start a fishing company, when the government and its security forces were swallowed up in a coup. The country's endless coastline - at nearly 2,000 miles, it's longer than the U.S. West Coast - suddenly became an unguarded supermarket of tuna, mackerel and other fish.

When huge foreign trawlers suddenly began appearing, the local fishermen who plied their trade with simple nets and small fiberglass boats were wiped out, Eid said.

"They fished everything - sharks, lobsters, eggs," he recalled. "They collided with our boats. They came with giant nets and swept everything out of the sea."

At the outset, fishermen in the ramshackle ports of Puntland, Somaliland's rowdy neighbor, re-branded themselves as "coast guards." The first hijackings that Eid remembered came in 1997, when pirates from the port of Hobyo seized a Chinese fishing vessel and then held a Kenyan ship for a $500,000 ransom.

"When I heard about this," Eid said, "I was happy."

Eid had sunk his savings into three boats. In 2005, with catches all too rare and a wife and two children to support, he traded his fishing equipment for a couple of Kalashnikov rifles and rocket launchers in a market in the wild-west port of Bossasso.

He and five other fishermen, swathed in camouflage, piled into a motorized skiff and set off from the village of Garacad. But their motor was too feeble to catch up to any of the ships they spotted, so after five sweltering days they returned to shore.

The next year Eid tried with a stronger engine, a German one imported from Dubai. This time, the novice pirates caught up to a cargo ship and came face to face with its European crew. But Eid's men couldn't prop their heavy metal ladder up against the freighter's hull quickly enough to board the ship. The vessel escaped unmolested.

Global Witness, a London-based group that investigates natural resource exploitation, agrees that vessels from countries such as France, Spain, Indonesia and South Korea gobbled up hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of fish from Somali waters without licenses.

However, experts say that the foreign fishing wasn't necessarily illegal because the Somali government, even before the coup, didn't delineate its territorial waters, as international maritime laws require.

"In the early to mid-1990s there was some fishing in those waters that, if Somalia had a government that was performing its job, would have demanded licensing fees for," said J. Peter Pham, a piracy expert at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. "But the Somalis never got around to declaring what was legal and illegal."

Somali officials don't argue with the pirates' version of events - only with their tactics.

"We know they have their grievances," said Abdillahi Mohamed Duale, the foreign minister of Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991. "But the problem of overfishing has always been there, in the Caribbean, Latin America and the Indian Ocean. It doesn't mean that you take the law into your own hands."

Entering this week, there had been 93 hijack attempts off the coast in 2009, according to the International Maritime Bureau in London - 17 fewer than in all of last year. After a tense, five-day standoff this month ended with U.S. Navy sharpshooters killing three pirates and rescuing an American ship captain they'd taken hostage, countries pledged $213 million to bolster the Somali security forces.

In Puntland, the pirates have a comfortably chaotic haven. Markets carry everything from automatic weapons to spare batteries for satellite phones, standard equipment for any seagoing bandit. A regional government claims to rule the area, but many suspect that the president, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, is on the take from pirates, which Farole denies.

According to Eid and others, some officers from Somalia's erstwhile marine corps and coast guard, which patrolled the shores skillfully until the civil war, are training pirate groups in navigation and other seafaring techniques.

"If 20 pirate groups go to sea, one will succeed" in capturing a ship, Eid said. "Nineteen will fail, but they'll keep trying. They have all the equipment and support they need."

Somaliland says it's cracking down on pirates. Four groups of pirates - 26 men in all - have been arrested, and three of the groups are serving 15- to 20-year prison sentences.

Last August, Somaliland authorities raided a seaside guesthouse and captured Eid, who'd moved there and was posing as a mechanic. He and four others were charged with weapons possession and plotting a hijacking, and swiftly sentenced to 15-year prison terms despite having never carried out an attack.

"We are afraid this piracy could spread to Somaliland," said Youssef Essa, Somaliland's vice minister of justice. "That's why we have to give harsh sentences."

Nevertheless, Essa, a former high school teacher, seemed impressed with Eid's story. After listening for over an hour, he rose to shake the younger man's hand and handed him $10. Afterward, he and the silver-haired warden agreed that Eid probably would spend the money on khat, a narcotic leaf that Somali men chew to get high.   


Offline Biggs

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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #73 on: May 03, 2009, 02:31:41 pm »
The Crisis in Somalia: US-NATO Plans to Control the Indian Ocean

by Rick Rozoff

Global Research, May 3, 2009
Stop Nato

Cold War Origins

For the past seven months world news outlets have provided daily coverage on what has been described as escalating piracy off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden and attempts by international, primarily Western, military vessels to combat it.

Absent from such reporting, as the exigencies of commercial news broadcasting inevitably entail, is how and why the situation in the region reached the impasse it has and what its broader significance is.

Instead the picture presented is, according to the standard formula, a point on a blank canvas with no historical depth, no geoeconomic and geopolitical width and no strata of diversified and interrelated causes that contribute to and dynamics that result from what is in truth a lengthy and complex process of developments.

In short the Somali situation is portrayed as a simple and self-contained event that at a seemingly gratutitous moment was declared a crisis.

There are dozens of comparable cases in the world, analagous in the general sense of presenting economic, security, national and regional threats to other nations and their environs, but these have not been declared crises and so aren't given world attention.

The determination of what constitutes a crisis, and a world crisis at that, since the end of the Cold War is a prerogative of the United States and its allies, the governments of which render the verdict, with their own and much of the world's news media echoing the claim.

And the evaluation is inevitably a onesided affair. What has been observed about Europe's most mature writers - Skakespeare, Goethe and Balzac, for example - that their antagonists were never mere villains, that they reflected the complexity and even ambiguity of real life with no character monopolizing the virtues or the vices - is summarily discarded and a broad panaroma of multifaceted motives, players and conflicts reduced to an banal pseudo-morality play with just three actors: Evil culprits, innocent victims and valiant heroes.

The first category is assigned to any individual or group which is opposed to the designs on their nation by major Western powers or, what is interpreted by the latter as the same thing, pursue a policy of protecting local rights and interests. The second is comprised of whoever can be cast into the role to arouse indignation and hostility against the first, currently the crews of Western commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden. And the third is led by the United States, NATO and the European Union, the self-deputized military vigilantes of the world.

That many of those off the Somali coast capturing foreign, mainly Western, vessels and holding them, their cargo and their crews for ransom are reported to be former fishermen driven out of their sole occupation by years of intrusive and illegal large-scale poaching by world commercial concerns or affected by eighteen years of toxic, including nuclear, wastes dumped off their shores isn't acknowledged. To do so would complicate the narrative contrived by those who have with disastrous consequences interfered in the internal affairs of Somalia and its neighborhood for several decades and are in large part responsible for the current crisis.

Instead the action begins where the governments of the Western states that have deployed warships, helicopters, snipers and bases to the region script its opening act: With pirates.

As though a director would begin a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet with the protagonist thrusting his sword through Polonius and not with the visitation of his father's ghost, so that Hamlet appeared as a brutal murderer and not a reluctant avenger of parricide and regicide.

The national tragedy of Somalia didn't begin last summer with an increase in the seizure of foreign vessels off its coast; it didn't begin with the armed conflict between the Transitional Federal Government and the Islamic Courts Union in 2006 and the invasion by military forces of the US proxy government of Ethiopia; it didn't commence in 1991 with the ouster of long-time president Siad Barre and internecine fighting between militia groups.

It started in 1977.

Eight years earlier, almost forty years to the day, a military government headed by General Siad Barre came to power in Somalia. Anticipating what would become a general pattern in Africa and indeed throughout most of the non-Euro-Atlantic world, the government pursued a path of non-capitalist, avowedly socialist development. The term Barre and his allies used was scientific socialism; that is, Marxism.

In the decade between 1969 and 1979 similiar political and socio-economic transformations occurred throughout Africa, resulting in socialist-oriented goverments allied with and receiving assistance from the Soviet Union. In addition to Somalia, nations matching this description included Angola, Benin, Capo Verde, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), the Republic of Guinea (Conakry), Guinea Bissau, Libya, Madagascar, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe, with Namibia, Rhodesia, South Africa and Western Sahara poised to follow suit.

The pattern also emerged in Asia - Vietnam with its unification in 1975, Laos, Cambodia (after the ouster of the Khmer Rouge in 1978) and Afghanistan; on the Arabian peninsula with South Yemen; and in Latin America and the Caribbean with Chile, Nicaragua, Grenada, Jamaica and Surinam during the same period.

What was progressing at an apparently inexorable pace was the integration of the Soviet-led socialist bloc, including Cuba, with the entire developing, non-aligned world which coincided with and gave substance to the demands for a New International Economic Order advocated by the developing nations through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and supported by the world socialist community.

Demands included the replacement of the US-enforced Bretton Woods system - the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in the first instances - in a revision of the entire international economic system that would elevate the nations of the South from mere monoculture exporters to diversified and modernized countries with with industrial bases.

On March 25, 1975 the Second General Conference of UN Industrial Development Organisation, meeting in Peru, adopted the Lima Declaration and Plan of Action on Industrial Development and Co-operation which included the following provisions:

"That every state has the inalienable right to exercise freely its sovereignty and permanent control over its natural resources, both terrestrial and marine, and over all economic activity for the exploitation of these resources in the manner appropriate to its circumstances, including nationalisation in accordance with its laws as an expression of this right, and that no state shall be subjected to any forms of economic, political or other coercion which impedes the full and free exercise of that inalienable right."

"That special attention should be given to the least developed countries, which should enjoy a net transfer of resources from the developed countries in the form of technical and financial resources as well as capital goods, to enable the least developed countries in conformity with the policies and plans for development, to accelerate their industrialisation."

"The new distribution of industrial activities envisaged in a New International Economic Order must make it possible for all developing countries to industrialise and to obtain an efficient instrument within the United Nations system to fulfil their aspirations."

One objective of the plan was to insure that by 2000 25-30% of world industrial production was to occur in the developing world - and not in the manner that has ensued in the current neoliberal order with the transfer of manufacturing to underdeveloped states in a manner that has rather intensified than diminished exploitation of both labor and resources.

With the rising tide of political changes in the developing world during the same time, a shift from neocolonialist dependency toward genuine independence and development, and the support of the Soviet-led socialist bloc - which with its industrial base was issuing longterm, low interest loans to southern nations for infrastructual and industrial projects - the prospects for the creation of new global economic and political order was on the near horizon. 

But not everyone was pleased with this development.

The US - alone - opposed the Lima Declaration and the follow up New Delhi Declaration and Plan of Action four years later.

America's NATO allies, almost to a member at the time former colonial powers bent on maintaining historial prerogatives over their former possessions, were no less dissatisfied.

And the People's Republic of China, having lost earlier bids to dominate the world communist movement and what it deemed the Third World alike, was focused entirely on combating what it derided as "Soviet social imperialism" and after the secret meeting of Henry Kissinger and Chou En-lai in Beijing in 1971, followed by Richard Nixon's meeting there with Mao Tse-Tung the next year, worked hand-in-glove with the US to counter Soviet influence around the world, including providing joint support to armed groups fighting against the governments of Angola, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Ethiopia.

With what would in the 21st Century be called the US's hard power/soft power duality and rotation, the Nixon era method of dealing with the reorientation of developing nations away from the West and toward the East - most cynically and brutally exemplified by its support to the military overthrow of the elected Salvador Allende government in Chile in 1973 - gave way to that of the Carter administration and its foreign policy grey eminence and all-purpose Mephistopheles Zbigniew Brzezinski in January of 1977.

The Carter administration had barely moved into the White House when it began to bribe the governments of Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt and Iraq into entering political and military alliances and in several cases giving notorious "green lights" for military invasions of other nations. Its foreign policy architect was not Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, but the man who brought about Vance's downfall and resignation over the Operation Eagle Claw fiasco in Iran in 1980: Brzezinski, an arch-Russophobe during the Soviet period and ever since even onto the grave.

Somalia is the main subject of investigation, but a brief review of similiar cases is in order.

In its first year in office the Carter administration bought off Egypt's Anwar Sadat, splitting the Arab world, destroying any unified approach to the Palestinian catastrophe and the realization of UN resolutions 242 and 338 and ousting the Soviet Union as the fourth partner in the Middle East peace process, leaving Israel and Egypt armed and backed by the US and the rest of the Arab world, including Palestine, unrepresented, unprotected and defenseless.

Since 1979 Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US military aid in the world, with only Israel besting it in that category. Over the past thirty years Egypt has received more US aid, over $30 billion, than any other country.

In the period between Anwar Sadat's visit to Israel in November of 1977 and the Camp David Accords of September of 1978, in March of 1978 Israeli launched an invasion of Lebanon, Operation Litani, with over 25,000 troops, a warm-up exercise for the full-fledged attack of 1983.

This was one of the green lights given by the Carter administration.
A year later Washington gave a green light to China to invade Vietnam, according to Beijing to "punish" the latter for its role in helping drive the Khmer Rouge from Cambodia the previous year.

In the summer of 1978 US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, emulating Kissinger's trip in 1971, paid a secret visit to Beijing to normalize relations with China, leading to recognition of the People's Republic and derecognition of Taiwan on January 1, 1979.

On January 29, 1979 Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping arrived in Washington, the first visit by a senior Chinese official to the United States since 1949.

According to former Balkans hand and current US Afghanistan-Pakistan point man Richard Holbrooke, the trip "began with a private dinner at Brzezinski’s house." [1]

Deng left on February 6 and eleven days later China launched an invasion of Vietnam along its entire northern border.

Reports exist that in July of 1980 US CIA officials - some rumors say Brzezinski himself - travelled to the Jordanian capital of Amman to meet with high-ranking officials of the Iraqi government. Then Iranian president Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr claims the meeting included both Brzezinski and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. [2]

As recently as March of 2009 Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei renewed the accusation, stating that "They gave Saddam the green light to attack our country. If Saddam had not received the green light from the U.S., most probably he would not have attacked our borders."

Later the first Reagan administration secretary of state, Alexander Haig, wrote in a memo to Reagan that "President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through [Saudi Arabian Prince] Fahd."

In appreciation of Somalia's geostrategic importance, in the first days of the Carter-Brzezinski administration efforts were made to wean Somalia from its pro-Soviet stance and to secure military, mainly naval, bases on its territory.

The covert campaign was largely conducted through the mediation of Saudi Arabia and in July led to the Somali invasion of the Ogaden region of Ethiopia with tens of thousands of troops, tanks and warplanes.

"Somalia had mounted its major offensive in Ogaden because of a U.S. promise to furnish arms aid. The U.S. policy had resulted from Ethiopia's decision to expel U.S. military advisers from the country and its successful bid for aid from the Soviet Union.

"According to the report, Somali President Mohamed Said Barre had received secret U.S. assurances that the U.S. would not oppose 'further guerrilla pressure in the Ogaden' and would 'consider sympathetically Somalia's legitimate defense needs.' [3]

The Soviet Union and its Cuban ally assisted Ethiopia and the US and China, mainly through Saudi Arabia, provided arms to Somalia.

Brzezinski urged the deployment of the US aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk to the region as a show of support to Somalia and an act of defiance toward the Soviet Union and its Ethiopian ally and, referring to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks of the time, said "SALT lies buried in the sands of the Ogaden," as a report of the time phrased it "signifying the death of detente."

Somalia was defeated and withdrew the last of its military forces from the Ogaden Desert in March of 1978. Estimates are that the war cost Somalia one-third of its army, three-eighths of its armored units and half of its air force.

In marked the beginning of the end for Barre and for Somalia itself. Barre would linger on as president of a weakened Somalia until his overthrow in 1991, yet another former client cast off after having served his purpose.

His ouster would be followed by years of conflict between rival armed militias and US military intervention that caused the deaths of thousands of Somalis.

Yet for all the horrors US administrations from that of Carter to the current one have visited upon the Somali people, Washington gained what it intended to: Military bases and forces astride many of the world's most strategic shipping lanes and chokepoints in an area encompassing the Suez Canal and the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

In 1977 the Carter White House issued a presidential directive calling for a worldwide mobile military force which in October of 1979 Carter would officially designate Rapid Deployment Forces (RDF).

The site for its first deployments were to be the recently acquired military client states of Somalia and Egypt along with Sudan, Oman and Kenya.

The initiative was inaugurated as the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF) on March 1, 1980 and according to its first commander, "It's the first time that I know of that we have ever attempted to establish, in peacetime, a full four service Joint Headquarters." [4]

Orginally envisioned to focus on the Persian Gulf, the RDJTF was expanded to include Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia as well as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, the People's Republic of Yemen [Aden], Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the Yemen Arab Republic.
That is, from the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf to the eastern coast of Africa to the western one of the Indian subcontinent with the northern half of the Indian Ocean and its seas and gulfs included.

Carter's announcement of the launching of the Rapid Deployment Forces preceded by three months his 1980 State of the Union Address in which he laid out the doctrine that has since borne his name.

Coming less than a month after the first Soviet troops entered Afghanistan, Carter's comments included this disingenuous hyperbole:

"The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two-thirds of the world's exportable oil. The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world's oil must flow."

That at the time a small handful of Soviet troops had arrived in Kabul, the capital of a landlocked nation hundreds of miles from one of the world's five oceans, could in no conceivable manner affect the Straits of Hormuz.

Carter continued: "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."

Brzezinski claims credit for authoring the second half of the above sentence, modeling it on the Truman Doctrine "to make it very clear that the Soviets should stay away from the Persian Gulf." [5] 

It is exactly the Carter Doctrine that was employed by the US for its two wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003 and for its ongoing military presence in the Persian Gulf in preparation for aggression against Iran.

As "soft power" Carter was succeeded by "hard power" Reagan, the Rapid Deployment Forces were converted into Central Command, the US's first new regional military command since World War II, under Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.

Central Command (CENTCOM) has as its area of responsibility twenty nations: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. It also takes in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and western portions of the Indian Ocean.

It also included the only African nations not formerly assigned to the European and Pacific Commands - Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia and the Sudan - until all 53 African states were turned over to the new African Command last October.

CENTCOM was the main force in the 1991 and 2003 wars against Iraq and the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Both Iraq and Afghanistan remain in its area of responsibility and its current commander, General David Petraeus, is in charge of operations in both nations.

It has bases in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan and Central Asia and until recently at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, now part of African Command.

The Command's zone of operations is in fact the northern half of the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz where some 40% of the oil shipped in the world passes to the Gulf of Aden where, as recent reports frequently repeat, ten percent of all global shipping occurs to the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia where 25% of world trade, including half of all sea shipments of oil and two-thirds of global liquefied natural gas shipments bound for East Asia, pass.

In addition to the US, NATO launched its first naval operation in the Gulf of Aden last October and has now resumed it with the deployment of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1).

The SNMG1 held naval maneuvers with Pakistan last week off the coast of Karachi in the Arabian Sea.

These deployments are a continuation of NATO's plans in the region described last year by veteran Indian journalist M K Bhadrakumar in an article titled "NATO reaches into the Indian Ocean":

"By October 15 [2008], seven ships from NATO navies had already transited the Suez Canal on their way to the Indian Ocean. En route, they will conduct a series of Persian Gulf port visits to countries neighboring Iran - Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which are NATO's 'partners' within the framework of the so-called Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. The mission comprises ships from the US, Britain, Germany, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

"NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General John Craddock, acknowledged that the mission furthers the alliance's ambition to become a global political organization.

"By acting with lightning speed and without publicity, NATO surely created a fait accompli.

"NATO's naval deployment in the Indian Ocean region is a historic move and a milestone in the alliance's transformation. Even at the height of the Cold War, the alliance didn't have a presence in the Indian Ocean. Such deployments almost always tend to be open-ended.

"In retrospect, the first-ever visit by a NATO naval force in mid-September last year to the Indian Ocean was a full-dress rehearsal to this end. Brussels said at that time, 'The aim of the mission is to demonstrate NATO's capability to uphold security and international law on the high seas and build links with regional navies.' In 2007, a NATO naval force visited Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and Somalia and conducted exercises in the Indian Ocean and then re-entered the Mediterranean via the Red Sea in end-September.

"[An] Indian warship [dispatched off the coast of Somalia] will eventually have to work in tandem with the NATO naval force. This will be the first time that the Indian armed forces will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with NATO forces in actual operations in territorial or international waters.

"The operations hold the potential to shift India's ties with NATO to a qualitatively new level." [6]

Securing the safe passage of vessels in the Gulf of Aden and particularly those delivering United Nations World Food Programme aid is a legitimate concern.

But plans by the United States and NATO to take control of the whole Indian Ocean for military purposes and to insure global energy dominance is not a legitimate concern.


1) Project Syndicate, December 28, 2008
2) My Turn To Speak: Iran, The Revolution And Secret Deals With The U.S, 1991
3) Newsweek, September 23, 1977
4) Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies Journal, June 1981   
5) Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser
6) Asia Times, October 20, 2008

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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #74 on: May 09, 2009, 08:06:44 am »
Four killed, dozens wounded in Somali fighting

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Date: 07 May 2009

MOGADISHU, May 7, 2009 (AFP)
- At least four people were killed and dozens wounded Thursday in clashes between Islamist forces backing the Somali government and fighters of a hardline Islamist group, officials and witnesses said.

The pro-government forces attacked a commander of the radical Islamist Shebab rebels in southern Mogadishu, sparking a firefight in which one Shebab fighter was killed.

"One of our mujahideens (fighters) died and another was injured, but the targeted commander escaped," a Shebab commander told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Witnesses said three civilians perished in the fighting, while the deputy director of Mogadishu's Medina hospital, Dahir Dhere, added that 55 civilians had been taken in for treatment.

The hardline Islamists frequently target officials in the government of Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist elected president in January.

His administration has no complete control of Mogadishu and lost large sawthes of territory in the country's southern and central regions to the hardliners.

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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #75 on: May 12, 2009, 02:18:53 pm »
Somali pirates guided by London intelligence team, report says

Document obtained by Spanish radio station says 'well-placed informers' in constant contact by satellite telephone
Giles Tremlett in Madrid, Monday 11 May 2009 12.59 BST

The Somali pirates attacking shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean are directed to their targets by a "consultant" team in London, according to a European military intelligence document obtained by a Spanish radio station.

The document, obtained by Cadena SER radio, says the team and the pirates remain in contact by satellite telephone.

It says that pirate groups have "well-placed informers" in London who are in regular contact with control centres in Somalia where decisions on which vessels to attack are made. These London-based "consultants" help the pirates select targets, providing information on the ships' cargoes and courses.

In at least one case the pirates have remained in contact with their London informants from the hijacked ship, according to one targeted shipping company.

The pirates' information network extends to Yemen, Dubai and the Suez canal.

The intelligence report is understood to have been issued to European navies.

"The information that merchant ships sailing through the area volunteer to various international organisations is ending up in the pirates' hands," Cadena SER reported the report as saying.

This enables the more organised pirate groups to study their targets in advance, even spending several days training teams for specific hijacks. Senior pirates then join the vessel once it has been sailed close to Somalia.

Captains of attacked ships have found that pirates know everything from the layout of the vessel to its ports of call. Vessels targeted as a result of this kind of intelligence included the Greek cargo ship Titan, the Turkish merchant ship Karagol and the Spanish trawler Felipe Ruano.

In each case, says the document, the pirates had full knowledge of the cargo, nationality and course of the vessel.

The national flag of a ship is also taken into account when choosing a target, with British vessels being increasingly avoided, according to the report. It was not clear whether this was because pirates did not want to draw the attention of British police to their information sources in London.

European countries have set up Operation Atalanta to co-ordinate their military efforts in the area.

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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #76 on: May 12, 2009, 03:04:22 pm »
Mogadishu violence: 113 killed, 27 000 flee

    May 12 2009 at 02:10PM

By Abdi Sheikh and Abdi Guled

Mogadishu -
Thousands of residents fled bomb-blasted north Mogadishu on Tuesday where the worst fighting in months between Islamist militants and the government has killed at least 113 civilians, according to a rights group.

Hardline Islamist group al Shabaab and the government are battling for control of the capital and south Somalia, where18 years of war has destabilised the region, created hundreds of thousands of refugees, drawn in foreign armies and militants, and spawned an unprecedented wave of piracy offshore.

The Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation said battles between al Shabaab and pro-government forces had wounded 330 people in the Horn of Africa state since the end of last week.

It said at least 27 000 civilians had fled the city.

The bloodshed has caused splits in both heavily armed sides: there was a deadly clash on Monday between police and soldiers, then a rift broke out in the opposition after a veteran warlord stoked rivalries between two insurgent factions.

Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad, also known as "Inda'ade" or "white eyes", handed control of his hundreds of fighters and 19 battle wagons - pickup trucks mounted with heavy weapons - to Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, another senior opposition leader.

That angered Shabaab leaders, who are also fighting the country's fragile new government. Washington accuses both Aweys and the Shabaab group of having links to al-Qaeda.

"Shabaab wants to behead Sheikh Yusuf," said a relative of Inda'ade, Aden Hussein.

"They ordered (Aweys) to give him up and his weapons, but Aweys said he prefers to fight Shabaab."

The influential Aweys is a member of Hizbul Islam, an umbrella group of opposition organisations that includes his Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia.

At stake in Somalia is control of Africa's largest coastline.

Apart from pirate ransom revenues, Somalia's main source of income comes from cattle exports to the Gulf, although experts say it may have interesting oil-fields in the north.

Regional nations and outside powers have long battled for influence in Somalia, with its view of strategic shipping lanes linking Europe to Asia.

Since 1991, Somalia has suffered from internal conflicts and occasional interventions by regional nations after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown.

On Sunday, al Shabaab, whose name means "Youth" in Arabic, said it planned to "cleanse" the capital.

"With permission from (God), we will liberate Mogadishu sooner or later and cleanse it from these filthy people," it said in an online statement, according to a translation by the US-based SITE Intelligence Group.

On Monday, new Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed accused the rebels of working for unnamed foreign governments he said were determined to undermine his administration.

More than 16 000 civilians have been killed by fighting since the start of 2007, more than 1 million have been driven from their homes and about 3 million survive on food aid. - Reuters

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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #77 on: May 12, 2009, 03:12:51 pm »

Scores killed in Mogadishu fighting   

Fighting has again erupted in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, between fighters loyal to the government and their opponents from al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam


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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #78 on: May 17, 2009, 11:29:57 am »
Somali militants capture key town
Islamist fighters have been gaining ground on the Somali government

Hardline Islamist militants have captured a strategically important town north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, eyewitnesses say.

Members of al-Shabab, a group fighting government forces in Somalia, seized the town of Jowhar on Sunday morning.

One resident told Reuters that there had been "serious fighting" in which at least seven people had been killed.

Jowhar was in 2005 chosen as the temporary location for the country's transitional government.

The Somali government has been losing ground in recent weeks and now controls little more than the centre of the capital, with the support of African Union troops.

On 15 May, Somalia's president appealed to Islamist insurgents to negotiate as intermittent fighting continued in Mogadishu. 

Jowhar is the home town of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed - and now that the country's rainy season has arrived, the town is also the only passable route into central Somalia from the capital.

Describing the clashes in Jowhar, town elder Ali Moalim Hassan told news agency AFP that "the other Islamist militia backing the government deserted their positions" - ceding control of the town to al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab is believed to have attacked the town on Sunday morning on two fronts. After entering the town, militants took over the jail and released prisoners.

At the same time, al- Shabab again attacked government positions in Mogadishu with mortars.The government's forces responded with their own artillery barrage.

Reports from the capital say at least three civilians died in the exchange.

The government is thought to be attempting to bring in reinforcements to retake Jowhar.

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Peter Greste says the loss of the town is a strategic blow to the increasingly unstable government led by Sheikh Ahmed.

The African Union's envoy has said that if need be, it would call on the help of allies like Nato and the European Union, who are operating warships on anti-piracy missions off the Somali coast.

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Re: Ethiopians withdraw from Somalia but the fighting rages on
« Reply #79 on: May 19, 2009, 02:33:37 pm »
Ethiopia troops 'back in Somalia'
Ethiopian troops ousted Islamist forces from Mogadishu in 2006

Ethiopian military forces have crossed back into Somalia, four months after leaving, witnesses told the BBC.

Their reported return comes as Islamist militants continue to seize towns from the fragile Western-backed government.

One resident said he saw Ethiopian troops digging trenches in Kalabeyr, a town 22km (14 miles) from the Somali-Ethiopian border.

An Ethiopian spokesman denied the reports. Its troops left Somalia in January after two years in the country.

They entered Somalia in 2006 to help oust Islamist forces from the capital Mogadishu but withdrew under a UN-backed peace deal.
 They stopped me and checked my car and then ordered me to move
Farah Ahmed Adaan
Bus driver

Ethiopia's Somalia dilemma

When its troops left, Ethiopia made it clear it did still reserve the right to intervene in Somalia if its interests were directly threatened.

There have been several reports of the Ethiopian military crossing into Somali territory for hot-pursuit operations, or to check vehicles moving in the border area.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says the latest reported troop movements may well be part of a similar, limited operation.

But Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon told our correspondent the reports were "fabricated".

He said at the moment they believed events in Somalia presented no immediate threat to Ethiopia and their troops were not contemplating going back there at this point.


However, Kalabeyr resident Fadumo Du'ale told the BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan on Tuesday: "They have crossed the border late last night and they are here now. They look to be stationing here."

Another resident, Tabane Abdi Ali, told the BBC: "We recognise them because of their military uniform and the language they were speaking."

Bus driver Farah Ahmed Adaan told our correspondent he had spotted "a lot" of Ethiopian troops with 12 military vehicles.
Islamist guerrillas now control swathes of Somalia

"Some of them were digging trenches while others were guarding the whole area," he said.

"They stopped me and checked my car and then ordered me to move."

On Sunday, fighters from the al-Shabab group, which is linked to al-Qaeda, took the key town of Jowhar from government forces.

This is the home town of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and now that the country's rainy season has arrived, Jowhar is the only passable route into central Somalia from the capital.

Since withdrawing at the beginning of the year, Ethiopian troops have kept up a strong presence along the Somali border.

Ethiopia, a US ally, invaded its war-torn neighbour in December 2006 to prop up the transitional government and initially everything went according to plan.

Rebel resistance melted away before the 3,000-strong Ethiopian advance and the Somali government was able to set up in Mogadishu.

But the government did not extend its control and the Islamists continued to launch deadly attacks on both Ethiopian and Somali government forces.

About 4,300 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers from the African Union have arrived in Mogadishu, where they have taken up positions vacated by the Ethiopians in January.

But analysts say they are only in effective control of the presidential palace, airport and seaport in Mogadishu, while the Islamist guerrillas control chunks of the capital, along with swathes of central and southern Somalia.