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Somali militants urge attacks on West over film

Written By Abdulrazak Dahir Mohamed on Saturday, September 15, 2012 | 6:44 PM


MOGADISHU — Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab called on Muslims on Saturday to attack the West in retaliation against a movie that "insulted" the prophet Mohammed and has spread anger around the Muslim world.
"The Shebab mujahideen are urging people of Somalia to show their love for Islam and particularly to our Prophet Mohammed by making attacks against the West," Shebab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP by telephone, without specifying any targets.
"The unprovoked attacks against Prophet Mohammed are not initiated by media houses and movie makers but they are clear instructions by Western governments," he said.
"There should be great sacrifices when your country is under occupation and your religion is also under siege."
On Friday protesters burnt a US flag at a rally in Bulloburte, a town under Shebab control in central Somalia.
Since August last year, the Shebab have been forced out of Mogadishu and their other main strongholds in the south and centre of the country by Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union soldiers backed by Somalia's weak pro-government military.
But they still control vast portions of central and southern Somalia.
On Friday and Saturday in Mogadishu, a handful of people staged peaceful demonstrations chanting slogans that criticised the movie "Innocence of Muslims", a low-budget production that depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a thuggish deviant in clips released online.
Abdullahi Sheikh Osman, a respected spiritual leader in Mogadishu, came on Saturday to talk to the protesters.
"Don't kill innocent people for something they have not done," he urged Muslims.
"The man who made the nasty film is the Al-Qaeda of Christians. If Muslims make havoc, then they are rewarding the crazy man," he told AFP.
"The person who made the filthy movie is not a religious person, but a reckless individual who dislikes harmony among people of different religious beliefs," he added.
The man apparently behind the film, 55-year-old Nakoula Bassily Nakoula, is a US-based Egyptian Copt who US officials said Friday was a fraudster who may have violated his parole.
Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

Somali President Vows to Reset Security after Assassination Attempt


ncoming Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud — the target of an assassination attempt earlier this week — says restoring security will be his first order of business once he officially assumes office Sunday.

Mr. Mohamud spoke Saturday to VOA from the country's heavily-fortified presidential palace in Mogadishu. He arrived there Thursday — three days early — under heavy security hours after three suicide bombers attacked a Mogadishu hotel where he was residing. At least four people, including all three bombers, were killed.

Mr. Mohamud, an academic and political moderate, said his first presidential priority will be to determine why so many young Somali men and women have sought to join the outlawed al-Shabab militant group. He said his administration will then try to create what he called “opportunities for them to defect from [the] al-Shabab group.” He also called on militants to leave Somalia voluntarily as soon as possible.

Speaking of the assassination attempt, Mr. Mohamud said he knew he would be facing serious risks when he decided to seek the presidency. But he said the attack will not deter him from upcoming duties.

Mr. Mohamud, elected September 10, takes over a country that has not had a stable central government since 1991. However, hopes for peace and stability are rising. Al-Shabab has lost most of its major strongholds to African Union and Somali government forces, and peace has largely returned to Mogadishu, which endured years of almost daily fighting.

Last month, Somali leaders adopted a new constitution and installed a new federal parliament and speaker.
Source: http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2012/09/15/somali-president-vows-to-reset-security-after-assassination-attempt/

Attack on Somali president exposes fragile "new era"

A Somali government soldier carries his gun as he patrols outside the Jazeera Palace hotel in Mogadishu September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Feisal Omar


By Yara Bayoumy

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - The peacekeeper guarding the Mogadishu hotel smiled and said: "Leave your body armor behind. It's safe here."

Mogadishu was a city beginning to relax, and the soldier's advice to reporters arriving to meet Somalia's new-elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud reflected that. But moments into his news conference, the bombings and shooting began.

Optimists have hailed a "new era" for Somalia after decades of war, insurgency and little in the way of central government.

African Union peacekeepers forced al Shabaab militants to flee the capital over a year ago, ending the daily rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire and thud of mortars. The rebels aligned to al Qaeda hadn't struck with such a devastating suicide bomb since April.

Two days into the job, Mohamud looked at ease on Wednesday as he opened the news conference with visiting Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Ongeri.

Then the first of two explosions rocked the street outside the Jazeera Palace hotel and bursts of gunfire rang out. Mohamud barely flinched, his eyes briefly scanning the room as journalists scrambled for cover, and the news conference continued.

But the suicide attack appeared to carry a clear warning from al Shabaab: You may think we're down, but we're not out and we can still strike at the heart of government.

The question on everyone's mind was: how could al Shabaab - which claimed responsibility for the attack that killed at least eight Somalis and AU peacekeepers - have timed it with such precision?

Mohamud's smooth election by lawmakers on Monday had strengthened talk that al Shabaab's five-year Islamist insurgency was finally being defeated.

After reporting for years on famine and bombings, journalists had written in the last few months about the "dawn of a new Somalia", describing instead Mogadishu's crowded beaches, late-night ice cream parlors and traffic-choked streets.

Many Somalis, Western and Arab diplomats and aid workers were rooting for the Horn of Africa country that had been in a perpetual state of violence and anarchy for 20 years. Had Somalia's turning point arrived?

Before the presidential vote the word was of change - from the corruption-tainted leadership of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, from the cycle of violence and from Somalia's reputation as a failed state.

Somalis got change when lawmakers overwhelmingly voted for Mohamud, a political newcomer known as an academic with a background in reconciling feuding clans, unblemished by a previous record in ineffectual governments.

"SOMALIA, WAKE UP"

After the 18-hour vote in a cramped hall, men in suits and women in colorful sequined scarves and dresses rose spontaneously to mark Mohamud's election by singing their national anthem: "Somalia, Wake Up". Celebratory gunfire echoed across the country.

But two days later, a more ominous kind of gunfire shattered the euphoria.

Journalists filed into the newly-built Jazeera Palace, a symbol of Mogadishu's construction boom. The road leading to the hotel in the city's safest zone, a couple of kilometers from U.N. and African Union bases, was not blocked.

Security measures began once people crossed the hotel's courtyard. The body pat-downs, equipment checks and bag searches were efficient if somewhat cursory. Reporters entered a fifth-floor room with views of Mogadishu's low-rise blocks and the sparkling Indian Ocean beyond.

To fill the inevitable delay, the media jostled to meet the new president's staff, hoping to secure a coveted one-on-one interview. Somali security officials milled around.

Eventually, more than three hours after the event was scheduled to start, Mohamud and Ongeri entered the room, flanked by their diplomatic and security entourages.

"IN GOOD HANDS"

Barely a minute into Ongeri's opening remarks, the first explosion struck. Gunfire erupted and journalists crouched.

Looking out the windows, bodies lay on the ground, a bloodied, disfigured leg lay in the middle of the street.

Mohamud and Ongeri were determined to finish what they had come to say. Both carried on their speeches, promising such attacks would not deter them from pushing for peace in Somalia.

A calm voice, picked up by a recorder placed where Mohamud was speaking, could be heard saying amid the clamor after the first blast: "We are in very good hands, we don't worry."

Then the second explosion hit. Mohamud winced. Outside, a severed head lay in a crater about 100 meters away.

The timing of the attack showed the militants had reliable intelligence, perhaps someone on the inside. This will be a problem for Somalia's new leadership.

A foreign ministry official, Mohamed Maie, said security staff and African Union soldiers had let their guard down.

While al Shabaab is steadily losing ground, it can still regroup and easily infiltrate government-controlled areas. More worryingly, there are still disenchanted, radicalized Somalis ready to strap on explosive belts.

Among Mohamud's biggest challenges will be to capitalize on the security gains made over the last year and reform a disparate and badly paid security force so that it pledges its allegiance to the country, rather than rival power-brokers.

Back at the African Union's base, a Ugandan soldier sighed, pointing to the blood splattered across the armored vehicle that had driven journalists to the hotel.

"Look at what they did to my car," he said.

(Editing by Richard Lough and David Stamp)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp

Somali pirates want 16 men freed from India


CHENNAI: After attempting to negotiate with the government of India for 22 months since taking seven Indian sailors hostage, some Somalian pirates have got in touch with the family of one of the sailors urging the release of 16 pirates in exchange of the seamen.

The pirates, in an email sent to the family on Tuesday, asked the family to reply immediately to the 'swap' proposal. The 16 pirates, arrested in different cases, have been in a Mumbai prison for more than two years.

The sailor's family does not want to reveal the identity of the seaman, fearing danger to his life from the captors. The pirates had hijacked merchant vessel Asphalt Venture in September 2010 off the Somalian coast. The pirates let off nine of the 16 crew members and kept seven Indians in their custody. They said they had sent several messages to the directorate-general of shipping, India, but got no reply. At present, 43 Indian sailors are in the pirates' captivity, including 28 who were held this year. The pirates started active negotiations in January this year, and sent two more messages in July to the Indian authorities.

The families had sent several appeals to the Prime Minister, the shipping minister and senior shipping officials.

Mercy George, wife of George Joseph, a first engineer of Asphalt Venture, said she had approached the Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers. "Since the pirates are threatening now, I request the government to intervene immediately," she said.

A senior DG Shipping official said Indian intelligence agencies had been trying to work out a plan to save the sailors. Antony Litten, 56-year-old father of another sailor, Danitson Antony, said there was no response from the government. "I got his last call in July. He wanted to speak to my elder daughter and asked her to take care of me and my wife if he is killed by pirates," says Litten.

Manoj Joy of Sailors Helpline said the governments and political parties usually ignored such cases because the sailors community not a vote bank. "There is neither a policy to protect our sailors or rescue them from hijackers," he said.
Source:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Somali-pirates-want-16-men-freed-from-India/articleshow/16404727.cms

Push Against Somali Militants Stalls Over Radios, Politics



By NICHOLAS BARIYO in Kampala, Uganda and DREW HINSHAW in Nairobi, Kenya

An African Union campaign to storm a bastion of Islamist fighters in Somalia has stalled amid logistical and political disputes, delaying a final push against an insurgency that has for years unnerved neighbors and commandeered tracts of this failed state.

AU troops have for months formed a half-circle cordon some 40 miles inland from the port city of Kismayo, waiting to attack the city, where they believe members of the al Qaeda-allied insurgency al Shabaab are holing up. The plan was to launch the offensive early last week, according to Col. Ali Houmed, spokesman for the AU's Somalia mission.

nstead, he said, strategists are still determining how to allow a civilian exodus from the town of 180,000 without giving al Shabaab an opening to escape. Also, he said, the medley of African nations that sent troops to staff the effort brought in radios that don't tune into one another, and spare parts that don't match the military vehicles that need them. "Normally these things are worked out ahead of mission," Col. Houmed said.

Other holdups have come as Ugandan and Kenyan officials have wrangled over command posts and profitable peacekeeping assignments in the new Somalia, according to Ugandan military leaders, an assertion that Kenyan officials deny.

Somalia's parliament, meanwhile, was busy this week electing the country's first president in decades. Little-known university administrator Hassan Mohamud was picked for the job on Monday, subject to deep scrutiny by reporters on Tuesday and nearly killed in an al Shabaab suicide blast come Wednesday.

The peace activist-turned-president-of-Somalia presents his own wild card: He boasts a history of convincing al Shabaab gunmen to let him teach business-administration classes in the neighborhoods they ruled, so many analysts and friends of his expect he may attempt to negotiate with the sect, though few predict he'd call off the Kismayo attack itself.

Some worry the offensive's delay is allowing space for the rebels to regroup. "Al Shabaab, they know very much this is going to happen," said Chatham House Horn of Africa Researcher Ahmed Soliman. "It isn't going to be a surprise maneuver."

Al Shabaab this week branded the new president a traitorous representative of Western interests and vowed to continue fighting to ensure that Somalia becomes a pure Islamic state.

"An election is not possible except in the manner dictated by the occupier," al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mahmud Rage said in a statement Tuesday. "The condition of the parliament ascertains this, more than two thirds of the MPs hold foreign passports. They do not represent the aspirations of the Somali people."

The Kismayo operation, even before it begins, raises questions over how effective African peacekeepers will prove fighting together and later—assuming they prevail in Kismayo—serving as an interim government in one of the region's most chaotic yet strategic cities.

Peacekeepers mainly from Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Sierra Leone have swept across much of Somalia in the past year, introducing a fragile peace to the long-chaotic capital, Mogadishu.

The U.S. and other governments have funded that push on fears that Somalia remains a sanctuary for al Shabaab to plan international attacks, similar to the group's 2010 multiple-bomb assault on Kampala, Uganda, that killed 89 people, including one American.

A U.S. official rejected the characterization that the effort against al Shabaab was stalling and said it was still making a difference in weakening the group.

"Al-Shabaab has definitely seen better days. It's losing a lot of territory in southern Somalia it once controlled, is increasingly unpopular, and is clearly struggling," the U.S. official said. "However, it would be irresponsible to write off the group as a terrorist threat."

For East African militaries, foreign backing brings troop stipends and regional clout.

The African Union Mission in Somalia, or Amisom, pays the Ugandan government $2,000 a month per soldier it sends, the Ugandan military says. Each of Uganda's soldiers receive a monthly salary of $800. The Ugandan military says the difference pays for travel, medical and uniform costs.

Last month, 600 Ugandan troops were ordered to leave Mogadishu to pave way for Kenyans, after the Ugandans exceeded an AU troop-strength quota, said Gen. Katumba Wamala, Uganda's commander of land forces in Somalia.

Ugandan military officials complain that Kenya has used the influence of its diplomats in the AU to take over key commanding positions in Somalia.

Kenya's defense spokesman denied any rifts with its East African neighbor: "If there are any issues, that's under the docket" of the African Union, he said.

Still, some Ugandan brass feel sidelined.

"We shall not help Kenyans in Kismayo because they did not help us in Mogadishu," said a recently ousted Ugandan commander, referring to Kenya's influence over the AU's Somalia headquarters in Mogadishu. Under the A.U. plan, Kenya leads the land and naval assault on Kismayo while Uganda is assigned to reinforce the offensive with its air force.

That air support has hit a complication. On Aug. 12, three Ugandan combat helicopters crashed into the mountains of Kenya, deepening strains between the two countries.

Kenyan aviation officials say the pilots of Uganda's ill-fated helicopters were communicating in their local languages, making it difficult for Kenyans to assist them when they hit turbulence.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni says the helicopters fell victim to sabotage, not rough weather. The Ugandan president hasn't said who he suspects of the sabotage, or what the motive would have been, but has appointed his brother, Gen. Salim Saleh, to probe the crash.

"I cannot listen to stories of bad weather of the Kenya mountains," President Museveni said. "Mountains are clearly shown on maps. If the weather is bad, you do not fly."

Mr. Ongeri, the Kenyan defense spokesman, said that the flight routes for the helicopters were agreed upon between Uganda and Kenya. He also denied any suggestions of possible sabotage. "From our part, we did our best and even the Ugandan military can attest to that," Mr. Ongeri said.

—Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article.
Write to Nicholas Bariyo at nicholas.bariyo@dowjones.com and Drew Hinshaw at drew.hinshaw@dowjones.com

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443779404577643514166217828.html


Somali Forces, AMISOM troops Capture Bibi Town

Written By Abdulrazak Dahir Mohamed on Friday, September 14, 2012 | 10:48 PM

AFP/Getty Image

Mogadishu – September 14th, 2012; Somali government forces with the support of AMISOM troops have captured the strategic town of Bibi in southern Somalia.

During the 12:30pm operation, the forces faced little resistance from the Al‐Qaeda affiliated terror group, Al‐Shabaab. An assortment of weapons and ammunition was also recovered from the fleeing militants.

Three Somali soldiers sustained minor injuries during the engagement and have been accorded the necessary medical attention. AMISOM forces did not suffer any casualties. Bibi is an important town situated at a road junction linking it to Beles Quoqaani and Afmadow.

AMISOM Force Commander, Lieutenant General Andrew Gutti, said the capture of the town would help enhance security for the population in the area. “AMISOM is committed to supporting the people of Somalia as they endeavor to rebuild their country.

” He said. “We will continue to do all in our power to ensure their hopes and dreams for a better future are not frustrated by the terrorists.” He added.
Source: http://www.jowhar.com/news.php?readmore=2391

Kenya police: Imminent attack by suicide bombers thwarted

AFP Images 

By Reuters
NAIROBI -- Kenyan police seized a cache of explosive-laden vests, grenades and automatic rifles in an overnight raid on a Nairobi apartment Friday, thwarting an imminent attack by Somali Islamist militants, a senior police official said.
East Africa's biggest economy has been on a heightened state of security since Nairobi sent troops into Somalia to crush al-Qaida-linked insurgent group al-Shabab, which carried out a double suicide bombing in neighboring Uganda in 2010.

Western embassies in Kenya have warned of potential attacks several times in the last nine months.
"Obviously these are al-Shabaab items. This is a very organized team that is ready to cause big problems in the country," Moses Ombati, Nairobi's deputy police chief, told reporters at the apartment where the weapons were seized.

"They were about to start executing their mission," he said.
Acting on a tip-off, officers from the Crime Prevention Unit raided an apartment in the capital's Eastleigh district, dubbed "Little Mogadishu" because of its large ethnic Somali population, and arrested two men.
Bombs ready for use
As the dawn call to prayer rang out from nearby mosques, police displayed the six suicide bomber vests, 12 grenades and four AK-47s with more than a dozen loaded magazines.
Wiring could be seen protruding from wrapped-up bundles stuffed into the vests. Police said the neatly arranged packages contained explosives and were ready to be used. They also seized several mobile phone they said would likely have been used to trigger the bombs.

The Kampala bombings that killed 79 soccer fans watching the World Cup final were al-Shabaab's first on foreign soil and highlighted both their intent and capability to strike beyond Somalia's borders.
Al-Shabaab has threatened to bring down skyscrapers in the Kenyan capital. Counter-terror experts have doubted their ability to wage such a large-scale strike, but say they would have the capacity to attack soft targets such as bars and hotels.
"We believe they were intending to attack (sites) where there are big crowds, such as super markets, bars, churches and bus stations," Ombati said.
Kenya has been dogged over the last year by a wave of explosions and gun attacks blamed on al-Shabaab and their sympathizers in Nairobi, the port city of Mombasa and towns along its porous border with Somalia.
Source: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/14/13859135-kenya-police-imminent-attack-by-suicide-bombers-thwarted?lite



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