Sunday, 21 June 2009

Somalia minister killed by bomb

Somalia's Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden has been killed in a suicide car bomb attack north of the capital Mogadishu, witnesses and officials say.
Somali diplomats were also reportedly among at least 10 people killed in the blast at a hotel in Beledweyne.
Somalia's president blamed al-Shabab - accused of links to al-Qaeda - which later claimed the attack.
Al-Shabab is among militants who have been trying to topple the fragile UN-backed government for three years.
On Wednesday, at least 10 people died when a mortar hit a Mogadishu mosque. The city's police chief was killed in a separate attack.
'Invaded by terrorists'
In Thursday's blast, witnesses said a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the Medina Hotel in Beledweyne, some 400km (249 miles) north of Mogadishu.

Most of the victims were burnt beyond recognition after the explosion, a local medic was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.
Abdulkarim Ibrahim Lakanyo, a former Somali ambassador to Ethiopia, was reportedly among those killed in the blast.
Mr Aden had recently moved to Beledweyne, a town close to the Ethiopian border, in an effort to stop Islamist insurgents gaining more ground in Somalia, the BBC's Will Ross in Nairobi says.
Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told a news conference in Mogadishu: "As you see this country was invaded by terrorists who do not allow for the existence of the Somali national flag, its sovereignty and any peace to this country.
"This group is hiding under the cloth of Islam. You know that a lot of foreigners are pouring into the country day by day," he added, in an apparent reference to Islamist fighters from overseas he has previously warned are entering Somalia to join the insurgents.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme the transitional federal government was still in control but urged the international community to help "before it is too late".
The failed Horn of Africa state has not had an effective national government since 1991 and some four million people - one-third of the population - need food aid, aid agencies say.
Pro-government forces have been locked in ferocious battles with radical Islamist guerrillas in Mogadishu since the second week of May.
The UN refugee agency's representative to Somalia, Guillermo Bettocchi, said on Wednesday the recent bout of bloodletting in the country was the "worst ever" in nearly two decades of chaos.
But Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN special representative for Somalia, denied on Thursday that the conflict was getting worse.
"The president and prime minister have been put in place in January and February. It is not even six months, so you will not have total peace after two decades of violence overnight," he told Focus on Africa.
"These people [Islamist guerrillas] tried around 7 May to take power by force; they have not been able to do it. That they have resorted to suicide bombs or killing, there is nothing any country can do against these kind of people, but this is different from taking power."
President Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, took office in January but even his introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased the guerrillas.

Ethiopia rejects Somali request

Ethiopia has refused a request by Somalia for military support to fight insurgents, saying such an intervention would need an international mandate.
The Somali authorities have been battling Islamist insurgents who control much of the country.
The speaker of Somalia's parliament had earlier urged neighbouring countries to send troops within 24 hours.
Ethiopian troops helped topple an Islamist movement in Somalia in 2006, but were withdrawn earlier this year.
On Saturday Somali parliamentary Speaker Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur urged neighbouring Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Yemen to intervene as fierce fighting continued for a second day in the capital Mogadishu.
But Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon said that an international mandate was needed for such an intervention.
He added that the international community, not just Somalia's neighbours, should assist its transitional government.
Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991. Its UN-backed transitional government controls only parts of Mogadishu, but little of the rest of the country.
There are some 4,300 African Union troops deployed in Mogadishu, but they lack any mandate to pursue the insurgents.
Pro-government forces have been fighting radical Islamist guerrillas in the capital since 7 May.
On Friday, gunmen killed Mohamed Hussein Addow, an MP who represented the Karan district where fighting has been particularly intense in recent days.
It was the third killing of a high-profile public figure in as many days.
Somalia's security minister - an outspoken critic of the militant Islamist group al-Shabab - was killed in a suicide attack in the northern town of Beledweyne, and Mogadishu's police commander was also killed this week.
Militant groups including al-Shabab, which is accused of links to al-Qaeda, have been trying to topple Somalia's government for three years.
Some four million people in Somalia - or about one-third of the population - need food aid, according to aid agencies.

Somali journalist: 'I saw my boss shot dead'

Somali journalist Ahmed-Tajir Omar Hashi was walking in Mogadishu's Bakara market with his boss, the head of one of the country's leading broadcasters, Radio Shabelle, recently when he heard the crack of gunfire.
"I was hit in the left hand and the bullet passed into my left side above the kidney. It felt as if I was hit with a little stone. I did not know what it was because I had never been shot before," says Mr Hashi who is recovering from his injuries in hospital.
"When I looked back, I saw Muktar Mohamed Hirabe lying on the ground and a man with a hand-gun standing above him. Then, I released that I was in trouble and ran for my life.
Mr Hirabe became the fifth journalist to be killed this year in Somalia, which has become one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists to work.
Anonymous threats
"I touched my left side which was wet with blood. I felt a twinge in my stomach, probably where the bullet came out and when I ran my hand over it, one of my fingers went into the bullet hole," says Mr Hashi.
"I was running fast but I glanced back and I saw the young gunman shooting my colleague in the head again. He then fired a shot in my direction. I went into a building to escape."

Many journalists have received anonymous phone calls from people asking them to massage facts to work for what they say is "the defence of the country".
Sources told the BBC that in the week he was killed, Mr Hirabe also received these calls.
He was asked to give money to help what was described as the work of the "mujahideen" (holy warriors) in Somalia.
He refused and contacted leaders from the hardline Islamist group al-Shabab to check with them whether their people had made the threats.
Al-Shabab asked to see the phone numbers so they could check them out, but before he could do that he was killed in broad daylight in a Mogadishu street controlled by al-Shabab.
To show their respects, most media organisations stopped broadcasting and 14 of the best known Somali journalists said they would stop working until security improved.
They said that threats and assassinations made it impossible for them to work.
The editor of Radio Voice of Peace, Abdu-Aziz Mohamud Guled, said most of the journalists had been murdered in insurgent strongholds and seemed to be operating with impunity.
Holy war
Both main insurgent groups, the Islamic Party and al-Shabab, have denied involvement in the murder of Mr Hirabe, blaming what they call the enemies of the Somali people.
But some question the willingness of the hardline Islamists to catch those responsible for the murder of journalists. The Islamists control Bakara Market where the murder took place and while they seem to be able to catch thieves with relative ease, a murderer has been able to walk away free.

A reliable analyst told the BBC Somali Service that the anonymous callers are accusing journalists of carrying out anti-Islamic work and would be held accountable.
They are demanding that al-Shabab be known as Harakatu al-Shabab al-Mujahideen; which would effectively mean that journalists have to accept that al-Shabab are fighting a holy war for the benefit of all Somali people.
Faced with threats, kidnappings, beatings and even death, many journalists are turning their back on the profession or even fleeing the county.
The Somali government has condemned the latest killings and sent its condolences to the family of the deceased journalist.
Information Minister Farhan Ali said that the government knows that the killings are the work of groups that are against peace in Somalia and there will be a day when they will be held responsible for their actions.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Food insecurity concerns after poor rains in Somaliland

Livestock deaths have occurred across Somaliland as a result of drought

HARGEISA, 10 June 2009 (IRIN) - Officials in Somalia's self-declared Republic of Somaliland are concerned about food security following poor rains during the March-May planting season, known as the Gu'. Mohamed Muse Awale, chairman of the National Environment Research and Disaster Preparedness Agency (NERAD), said the situation was deteriorating throughout the country as nowhere had experienced reliable rains. "A little rain has been reported in Golis mountains and the west of the country, but even these places dramatically dried up as soon as Xaggaa [summer] winds started; we are coming together with our partners from the Somaliland government and our international partners in the Ministry of Interior to discuss how to handle this problem," Awale said. He added: "We are now collecting information from the remote areas, where NERAD does not have offices, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Interior, which has radio calls in everywhere in the country; after that we will call for help." Unless additional rainfall is experienced in June, there could be crop failure in many parts of Somaliland, officials of the Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said. Mahdi Geidi Kayad, an FSAU liaison officer in Somaliland, said the 2009 Gu’ rainfall was way below normal in terms of distribution and coverage. "The normal rainfall average is 500-600mm but only 40-60 percent of the normal average has been received so far," Kayad said. "For this reason, it is predicted [that] if additional rains do not fall in June, about 80 percent of crop production failure [will be recorded] in Hargeisa and Awdal Regions.

Livestock deaths The FSAU report also noted that livestock had died due to drought in the region. "Most of the new-born lambs died due to lack of milk or fresh grass to eat; sheep were the hardest hit by the drought, particularly emaciated ewes, while giving birth," the report said. "Their death rate abruptly went extremely high, about 30-45 percent in most areas of Gabi and Sool plateau." Moreover, drought-related livestock diseases increased, FSAU said, adding that carcasses of dead animals were found everywhere, especially in Upper Nugal, Gabi Valley and Sool Plateau. Ahmed Aw Dahir, mayor of Las Anod, the administrative capital of Sool, said: "The rainfall was much below normal; the Haggaa seasonal winds have started. For this reason, we are worried if more rains do not fall soon severe drought may erupt in the region, as well as the surrounding regions. "This will impact badly on the livelihood of both pastoralists and people in the urban centres, who depend on the rural agricultural areas."

No one left to tell the story

Jaffer Mohamed Kukay, a Somali journalist who is now a refugee in Djibouti (file photo) : Five Somali journalists have been killed and dozens more have left Mogadishu, this year, after receiving death threats
NAIROBI, 10 June 2009 (IRIN) - At least five Somali journalists have been killed and dozens more have left the capital, Mogadishu, this year, after receiving death threats - creating the spectre that some, if not all, independent media may close down due to lack of staff. There are 11 independent radio stations and two TV stations in the city. "We are in a very difficult and dangerous situation. We are being forced to choose between reporting on what is happening and our lives," Hamdi Kadiye, an executive member of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUJOS), told IRIN. The killing on 7 June of the Radio Shabelle director Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe has added to pressure on journalists in the capital. "All we do is cover the story. We don’t side with any group, but the fighting groups want to silence us to make sure no one hears or sees the suffering they are causing," she added. She said many journalists had left because "they no longer felt they could carry out their duties". She admitted that Somalia's story may be lost in the process, but said: "You cannot ask someone to continue when you know their life is in serious danger." Since late 2006, when Ethiopian troops backing the Transitional Federal Government ousted the Union of Islamic Courts, dozens of Somali journalists have been killed, five of them this year alone, or forced into exile due to the ongoing fighting in the capital. Ali Sheikh Yassin, deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organisation (EHRO), told IRIN that journalists were in even "more danger now than at any time in the past". He said harassment and intimidation of journalists had increased this year. "We get reports of journalists getting anonymous calls and SMSs [text messages] threatening them."
If this trend of journalists being killed or forced to flee continued, many independent media would be shut down, he added. "Unfortunately, many of the radio stations and even the TV stations will close for lack of staff. There is a real danger that the independent media will be no more," said Yassin. That would be a catastrophe for the Somali people and particularly for the people of Mogadishu, he said, adding that the fighting groups could achieve their aim. "They are keen to keep the world from knowing the crimes being committed and the humanitarian disaster their actions and activities are creating." A civil society activist, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that both sides in the conflict were worried and afraid that the media reports would be used against them "if they are made to appear in court to answer to their actions". He added: "Thousands have been killed or maimed. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes. Someone has to eventually take responsibility for that." If journalists left and the independent media ceased to exist, there would be no one to tell the story of those suffering in the camps, in their homes and in hospitals, he said. "They are not only killing and starving the people, now they will make sure no one knows about it."