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8572News from Somalia: A light at the end of the tunnel

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  • Zafar Khan
    Apr 6, 2008
      A light at the end of the tunnel


      Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, chairman of Somalia’s
      Union of Islamic Courts has welcomed the role of the
      international community to bring the Transitional
      Federal Government of Somalia and the opposition to
      the negotiating table. Uncompromising members of the
      Union of Islamic Courts of which Moalim Hashi Mohamed
      Farah is the most vocal had described Sheikh Sharif’s
      presence in Nairobi as ‘tourism.’ Moalim Hashi’s
      response will not slow the reconciliation momentum as
      long as top leadership of the Union of Islamic Courts
      who rebranded themselves as Re-liberatioin Alliance
      continune to hold the view that finding solution to
      Somalia’s problems is not solely the preserve of
      either the TFG or the opposition.

      The Union of Islamic Courts appeared on the Somali
      political scene almost two years ago. The Courts' main
      achievement—pacifying Mogadishu and large parts of
      Southern Somalia—is still an unforgettable feat that
      will give them a chance to avoid making past political
      mistakes caused by political inexperience and
      conflicting agendas. The TFG has long been under
      pressure to be pro-active in promoting genuine
      reconciliation in Somalia. The international community
      is to be commended for making reconciliation efforts a
      basic benchmark for the TFG, and this why there is a
      light at the end of Somalia tunnel.

      © 2008 Somali Press Review

      Somalia: 7 Killed in Mogadishu Attacks
      Garowe Online (Garowe)
      5 April 2008
      Posted to the web 6 April 2008


      At least seven people including four civilians were
      killed in Somalia's capital today as a guerrilla war
      continues to rage between Ethiopian-backed government
      troops and Islamist insurgents, sources said.

      Fighting erupted Saturday morning in Mogadishu's
      Wardhigley district when suspected insurgents attacked
      a government checkpoint.

      Three civilians were killed in the crossfire and four
      other people wounded, including two people shopping at
      Mogadishu's Bakara market, witnesses said.

      The fighting started slowly, but quickly spread to the
      outskirts of Bakara market, although the gunfire did
      not interrupt the market's daily operations.

      In a separate attack, a group of heavily-armed
      insurgents driving a public transportation bus
      launched a sneak attack on government police manning a
      checkpoint in Hodan district, locals said.

      Four people, including two police officers, were
      killed in the subsequent gunfire.

      Ten others were wounded in the attack, where
      insurgents used hand grenades and machineguns to
      target government police, according to witnesses.

      The attackers escaped in the mini-bus before extra
      government troops reach the area. The soldiers then
      took away the two dead police officers, a witness told
      Garowe Online.

      Guerrilla attacks have rocked Mogadishu since early
      2007 when the Ethiopian army ousted the capital's
      Islamic Courts rulers and installed the weak
      transitional government.

      Upwards of 7,000 people have been killed since and
      more than 1 million civilians displaced by the war,
      according to UN estimates.

      Somalia: Islam was probably the best answer


      Djibouti (HAN) April 4th, 2008 - Updated Version. Two
      years after the U.S.-backed government supported by
      troops from neighboring Ethiopia rolled into Mogadishu
      promising peace, divisions over clan, politics and
      power are stronger than ever. The chaos is allowing a
      deadly Islamic insurgency to gain momentum in a region
      seen as a key battleground in the war on terror.

      The United States has already pledged some $40.5
      million for reconstruction and peacekeeping efforts in
      Somalia. But don't expect to see U.S. boots on the
      ground. U.S. Army Gen. William Ward, deputy commander
      of U.S. European Command, said four months ago that he
      doesn't expect U.S. troops to go into Somalia:. Now
      many Somalis wonder what would have happened to the
      Islamist ideology if the Ethiopians had never stormed
      in. "Islam was probably the best answer for us," said
      Hassan Gedi Roble, a chief of the Dir clan. "A
      government of clans is only going to create clan
      competition." The Islamists have gone underground,
      vowing to wage a guerrilla war.

      And already the resistance in the capital is beginning
      to work along clan lines, with attacks against
      government troops concentrated in neighborhoods that
      were Islamist strongholds. Government soldiers are so
      frightened of driving through Tawfik, dominated by the
      Ayr, that they change out of their uniforms into
      street clothes before they enter. In other areas not
      far away, like Sinai, inhabited by many Abgal,
      shopkeepers pump their fists in the air and cheer when
      they see the government troops.

      Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. assistant secretary of state
      responsible for Africa, said four months ago, what
      most of us already know: that a peacekeeping force is
      desperately needed in Somalia. With the roots of a
      deadly insurgency beginning to take shape and the
      Ethiopian military set to withdraw within two weeks,
      Frazier said there's a window of opportunity "to not
      have Somalia be a safe haven for terrorism."

      Clans have been the bedrock of Somali identity since
      the first bands of nomads fought over water holes.
      Somalia, which has been an archetype of Africa's ills
      for so long, has waited 16 years for this government.
      The United Nations has invested millions of dollars
      into propping it up. American officials are so intent
      on its succeeding that, in the interests of regional
      stability and counterterrorism, American forces have
      ventured onto Somali soil for the first time in more
      than a decade to hunt down the last of the Islamist
      leaders who held a firm grip on much of the country
      until just a few weeks ago.

      But whether Somalia pulls itself together now or
      explodes into bloodshed again depends not on American
      troops, foreign peacekeepers, investment or aid. It
      depends on clans. "Clannism," said Ali Mahdi Mohammed,
      an influential clan leader and once a contender for
      president, "is our national cancer."

      It was clan animosities that tore down Somalia's last
      government in 1991, clan militias that humiliated
      American troops in 1993, bringing a troubled aid
      mission to a hasty end, and clan warfare that has
      consumed countless lives and reduced Mogadishu,
      Somalia's once- beautiful capital by the sea, to a
      pile of bullet-pocked bricks.

      The government, which took the capital for the first
      time last month, is trying to address the clan problem
      head- on. It is using a mathematical formula based on
      rough estimates of the population (the last census was
      in 1975) to allocate parliamentary seats and
      ministerial posts on a clan basis, and plans to govern
      like that until the next elections, which are proposed
      for 2009.

      But this approach is hardly original — and it does not
      have an encouraging history. It is the 14th attempt
      since 1991 to form a clan-based government; all the
      others have disappeared into a vortex of suspicion and

      The Green Line in Mogadishu, a blasted-out boulevard
      with blackened buildings on each side, is a monument
      to fratricide. It is the dividing line between two
      clans, the Haber Gedir and the Abgal, which are
      actually part of the same family.

      The main Somali clans are divided into a dizzying
      number of subclans, sub-subclans and even
      sub-sub-subclans, and the term clan is loosely used
      for large family networks, like the Hawiye, and
      smaller ones, like the Ayr.

      There is no definitive clan chart, with different
      clans disputing how they are interrelated, and Somalis
      argue over whether they have physical differences. But
      all clans are based on ancient genealogies.

      You cannot join a clan. You are born into one.

      The Islamists, who seized power six months ago, had
      their own solution for this. They tried to submerge
      clan identities under the blanket of Islam, the one
      thing, besides language, that all Somalis share. They
      delivered more stability to Mogadishu in their short
      reign than the city had seen for a decade and a half.

      But then they made an enormous mistake. In December,
      the Islamists tried to seize all of south-central
      Somalia, including Baidoa, the seat of the
      transitional government. Their attacks provoked a
      crushing response from neighboring Ethiopia, which
      commands one of the most powerful militaries in Africa
      and viewed the Islamists as a regional threat. Within
      a week, the Ethiopian forces, with approval from
      American officials, annihilated the Islamist army.

      The future looks bleak unless an understanding is
      reached between the Islamists and the transitional
      government, with Ethiopian troops replaced by some
      stabilizing force. That probably has to come from the
      United Nations, in conjunction with the African Union.
      Neither organization has covered itself in glory
      recently, in Sudan or Somalia, and both are
      overstretched. But the price of failure in the Horn of
      Africa will be high indeed.

      Opinion Contributed by : HAN Reporter in Nairobi and
      notes from Jeffrey Gettleman.

      Cracking Somali Government
      IslamOnline.net & Newspapers
      Sat. Mar. 29, 2008


      CAIRO — The US-backed interim government in Somali is
      on life support losing the hearts and minds of the
      people as well as conceding major cities to the armed
      "We haven’t been paid in eight months," a government
      soldier named Hassan told the New York Times on
      Saturday, March 29.

      "We rob people so we can eat."

      Last week government soldiers went to a market in the
      capital Mogadishu and, at gunpoint, stole sacks of

      The innocent civilians were only rescued by fighters
      of the ousted Supreme Islamic Courts of Somalia

      Interim Premier Nur Hassan Hussein knows that his
      troops rob civilians.

      "This is the biggest problem we have," he said in an
      interview this month.

      The prime minister also admitted that every month,
      more than half of the government’s revenue are stolen
      by "our people."

      Backed by the US, the Ethiopian army invaded Somalia
      last year to the SICS, which ruled for six months
      after routing a US-backed alliance of warlords and
      restored unprecedented order and stability for the
      first time in 15 years.

      SICS fighters captured on Wednesday, March 26, the two
      strategic towns of Jowhar and Mahadai from the interim

      Recent months have seen a strong comeback for the
      Courts which had seized four smaller towns and a
      military checkpoint near Mogadishu earlier this month.

      "I feel this slipping away," admitted government
      representative at the US Mohamed Abdirizak.

      Failed US Policy

      The looming failure is raising questions about
      Washington's strategy of installing the interim
      government by force.

      "The policy has failed," said Representative Donald M.
      Payne, Chairman of the US House of Representatives
      Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global

      "We’re Baghdad-izing Mogadishu and Somalia," he said.

      The Ethiopian military intervention in neighboring
      Somali was backed and supported by the Bush

      Washington reportedly supplied the Ethiopian with
      intelligence on SICS forces and oppositions, making it
      easy to defeat them in a couple of weeks.

      US gunships had targeted Somali resistance leaders in
      a series of air strikes.

      A recent US strike on the southern Somali city of
      Dobley targeted Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, the leader of
      Al-Shabaab group, the SICS military wing, but instead
      claimed the lives of many civilians.

      The strike was the fourth by the US on Somali
      territories in the past 14 months.

      On January 8, 2007, a US AC-130 gunship killed ten
      civilians in a failed attack on figures in southern

      A few days later, the US launched another raid on
      fleeing SICS fighters.

      The US Navy carried out a third strike last June
      against what it described as "Islamist fighters"
      hiding in the mountains in the northern Puntland

      To counter the resurgent resistance, the US State
      Department earlier this month designated Shabaab a
      terrorist organization.

      The move was questioned not only by many Somalis but
      also European diplomats and critics in Congress.

      They fear it will only raise the group's profile among
      the increasingly disillusioned populace.

      "We’re making people feel wrongly treated and pushing
      them toward more radical positions," said
      Representative Payne.

      Somali Fighters Reject Terror Label
      IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
      Fri. Mar. 21, 2008


      MOGADISHU — Somali resistance fighters have bristled
      at the US designation of their group as a terrorist
      organization, vowing not to lay down their arms until
      the Ethiopian invaders withdraw from their homeland.
      "We were not terrorists," Mukhtar Ali Robow, the
      commander of the Al-Shabaab group, the military wing
      of the Supreme Islamic Courts of Somalia (SICS), told
      Reuters by phone from an undisclosed location.

      The US State Department designated Shabaab on March 18
      as a terrorist organization, accusing it of having
      close links with Al Qaeda.

      Shabaab is leading the Somali resistance against the
      western-backed interim government and its Ethiopian

      It is carrying out an Iraq-style guerrilla war,
      including ambushes and roadside bombs.

      Backed by the United States, the Ethiopian army
      invaded Somalia late in 2006 to topple the Islamic
      Courts at the request of the weak interim government.

      The Islamic Courts, which ruled Somalia for six months
      after routing a Washington-backed alliance of
      warlords, managed to briefly restore unprecedented
      order and stability on most of the Somali territories
      after more than 15 years of unrest.

      But since their ouster, Somalia has descended into
      chaos with almost daily attacks against Ethiopian
      troops and government forces.

      Somali experts have said that the Islamic Courts
      fighters have grown more powerful in recent months,
      regaining control of at least one-third of Somalia
      thanks to sophisticated attacks and unified ranks in
      the face of the weak government.


      The US accuses the SICS of providing a safe haven to
      Al Qaeda suspects wanted for the bombings of US
      embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

      It also claims that many Shabaab members trained and
      fought with Osama bin Laden's group in Afghanistan.

      Washington had further designated as terrorist many
      members of the SICS and its military wing.

      The SICS has repeatedly denied Al-Qaeda links,
      dismissing the charge as a pretext to justify foreign
      intervention in Somalia.

      "The Americans labeled me a terrorist and God knows
      that was a lie," Sheikh Hassan Dahir, a senior SICS
      leader now in exile in Eritrea, told Reuters.

      "I didn't do anything to them ... it's the habit of
      Americans who found themselves rich and powerful and
      handed the leadership of their country to crazy

      US gunships had targeted Somali resistance leaders in
      a series of air strikes that killed civilians.

      Shabab leader Aden Hashi Farah Ayro survived a US air
      strike in January 2007.

      A US strike targeted earlier this year a meeting of
      senior resistance leaders but instead claimed the
      lives of nine civilians.

      US launches Somalia attack 'against terrorist'
      By Pauline Jelinek, AP
      Monday, 3 March 2008


      The US launched a military air strike in Somalia to go
      after a group of terrorist suspects, defence officials
      said today.

      "It was a deliberate, precise strike against a known
      terrorist and his associates," one US military
      official said, speaking on condition of anonymity
      because he was not authorized to comment on the

      He gave few other details, except to say the targets
      were believed staying in building known to be used
      regularly by terrorist suspects.

      Somali police said three missiles hit a Somali town
      held by Islamic extremists, destroying a home and
      seriously injuring eight people early today.

      The strike follows one last year in which the US
      shelled suspected al-Qa'ida targets in Somalia, using
      gunfire from a US Navy ship off the shore of the East
      African nation.

      Somali Opposition in Egypt Talks
      By Abdulgadir Osman, IOL Staff
      Wed. Feb. 13, 2008


      CAIRO — At an official invitation, the Somali
      opposition leader is in Egypt for talks with officials
      as part of perceived Egyptian effort to mediate a
      solution to the conflict in the horn of Africa
      "Cairo has invited the Alliance for the Liberation of
      Somalia for consultations with Egyptian officials, the
      Arab League and Western diplomats on Somalia
      developments," Taher Geli, a leader of the Alliance,
      told IslamOnline.net.

      The seven-member delegation is led by the Alliance
      leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad.

      It also features leading figures including the head of
      the Alliance Shura Council, former parliament speaker
      Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, and deputy leader Gamai
      Mohamed Ghaleb.

      Formed last September as an umbrella for resisting
      Ethiopian forces, the Alliance comprises politicians
      from a wide spectrum, including liberals and

      Three Ethiopian soldiers were killed on Tuesday,
      February 13, in an attack on an Ethiopian base in the
      city of Afgooye, 30 kilometers from Mogadishu.

      Somalia has been ravaged by violence since Ethiopian
      and interim government troops ousted the Islamic
      Courts, which restored rare law and order for six
      months after routing a US-backed alliance of warlords
      in 2006.

      The capital Mogadishu has plunged into a deadly
      vicious cycle of violence which has killed hundreds
      and displaced more than 400,000.


      The visit is seen as part of Egyptian mediation

      "Egypt wants to fashion a formula to bridge gaps
      between the opposition and government," Abdullah
      Balak, editor-in-chief of Al-Ayam newspaper, told IOL.

      "Cairo will listen to the alliance's view."

      He notes that Egypt has always played a leading role
      in Somalia, recalling that it helped the African
      country win independence from Briton.

      "This gives a special importance to the visit and
      serves the Alliance."

      The veteran reporter said that Egypt and the European
      Union share similar views on the Somali issue.

      "Therefore, a meeting between the Alliance's
      delegation and European diplomats in Cairo would give
      momentum to reconciliation efforts."

      Observers believe that the delegation's visit signals
      that the Alliance is widening its diplomatic relations
      with heavyweight Arab countries.

      European diplomatic sources had earlier told IOL that
      several Arab countries changed hearts after an initial
      support for Ethiopian presence and were diplomatically
      and financially supporting Somali resistance.

      The visit coincides with reconciliatory statements
      from the rival Somali parties.

      Sheikh Sharif, the opposition leader and a central
      figure of the ousted Islamic Courts, has signaled
      readiness for talks with the interim government.

      Somali Premier Nur Hassan Hussein also said hat his
      government was ready to start talks with opponents.

      "From now on we are planning to elaborate a strategy
      of conciliation that will be all-inclusive," he told
      Reuters Tuesday during a trip to Brussels.

      "Everyone now is asking when, when the real
      discussion, when the real agreement will take place.
      ... so it will not be very far away now."