Entries in Somalia (50)


Famine in Somalia Kills 5 Percent of Total Population

CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- The drought and famine in Somalia killed 5 percent of the nation’s total population, and 10 percent of all children under 5-years-old, according to the first in-depth report on the famine released Thursday.

The study, conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU) and the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), was funded by the United States and British governments. It tracked the drought and accompanying famine from October 2010 to April 2012.

About 258,000 Somalis died from famine. Roughly half, 133,000 were under 5-years old. Outside of the capital of Mogadishu, young children fared even worse, with a full 18 percent falling victim to famine.

Between May and August of 2011 when the famine was at its worst, mortality peaked at about 30,000 excess deaths per month.

The famine was official declared by the UN in July of 2011. The year before was the driest the eastern Horn of Africa had seen in 60 years, leading to poor cereal crops, livestock deaths, and a drop in labor demand and household income. This was made worse by a decreased level of humanitarian assistance and food aid compared to previous years.

The deaths measured by the study are only those caused by famine-related causes, not counting deaths due to conflict or other circumstances. According to the report there were an additional 290,000 deaths not directly caused by famine during the 29 month-long period examined in the study. This adds up to a total of more than half a million deaths over 29 months.

Chris Hillbruner, Decision Support Advisor for FEWS NET, said what occurred in Somalia was “one of the worst famines in the last 25 years.”

“With the expertise of two renowned institutions, we now have a picture of the true enormity of this human tragedy,’’ said Mark Smulders, Senior Economist for FAO.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


$1B Later, US Claims Anti-Terror Victory in Somalia

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Four years and over $1 billion in U.S. support later, the Obama administration Thursday claimed a victory in its war on terror in Africa by officially recognizing the government of Somalia, once a country overrun by al Qaeda-linked terrorists.

At a press conference at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood shoulder to shoulder with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the first democratically elected president of Somalia since 1991, and told reporters that working to stabilize Somalia had been "a personal priority" of hers.

"So I'm very pleased that in my last weeks here, Mr. President, we are taking this historic step of recognizing the government," Clinton told reporters.

Earlier Thursday Clinton said the Somali president also met with President Obama, as a sign of how committed the U.S. is to new democracy.

When Clinton came into office in early 2009, the al Qaeda-allied terrorist organization al-Shabaab controlled all of southern and most of central Somalia and all but 10 blocks of the capital city of Mogadishu. The country had not had a functioning government in nearly two decades. The United States had engaged with Somalia during that time, including the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in 1993, and had provided support for the Ethiopian incursion into Somalia in 2006, which lasted for three years and is widely considered to have been a failure.

Over the last four years, the U.S. has poured more than $1 billion into the country, with at least $650 million dollars used to support and train African Union troops fighting the terrorists, $200 million in humanitarian aid and more than $130 million to fund programs to help the country rebuild its security structures. The U.S. also helped beat back the terrorists with drone strikes and intelligence support for the AU force.

By officially recognizing Somalia's new government, the U.S. has now opened the door for formal diplomatic ties, including USAID programs. Somalia is now also eligible to apply for assistance from the World Bank and the IMF. Clinton spoke about how in the last year two different senior State Department officials visited Mogadishu, a city state department officials working on Somalia were forbidden to visit just two years ago. Clinton said that while security is still tenuous, the ultimate goal is to have a permanent U.S. presence in the country.

"Our diplomats, our development experts are traveling more frequently there, and I do look forward to the day when we can re-establish a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in Mogadishu," said Clinton.

But she also acknowledged that security remains an issue and that the new government and democracy remain fragile.

Just this week the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab publicly boasted that they had executed a French intelligence agent codenamed Dennis Allex, who al-Shabaab had held in captivity since 2009. An al-Shabaab spokesperson issued a statement saying the execution was retaliation for Western incursions into Mali, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. Days before, France launched a coordinated military operation to pummel extremists in Mali, a West African nation more than 3,000 miles from Somalia.

In her address Thursday, Clinton acknowledged that the "threat of terrorism and violent extremism... is not just a problem in Somalia. It is a problem across the region."

"The terrorists, as we have learned once again in the last days, are not resting, and neither will we," she said. "We will be very clear-eyed and realistic about the threat they continue to pose."

Clinton said that Somalia serves as an example of how terrorists groups in Africa can be defeated. She stressed the Obama administration's policy of supporting African-led solutions, like the African Union Mission in Somalia. She said the administration is taking the same approach fighting al-Qaeda groups in Mali.

"This is difficult but essential work. These are some of the most remote places on the planet, very hard to get to, difficult to have much intelligence from, so there's going to be a lot of work that has to go into our efforts. But I want to assure the American people that we are committed to this work just as we were committed to Somalia," said Clinton."There were so many times…over the last four years, when some people were ready to throw up their hands and say, you know, al-Shabaab made an advance here, and this terrible attack in Mogadishu, and we kept persisting, because we believed that with the kind of approach we had taken, we would be standing here today with a democratically elected president of Somalia."

Somali President Sheikh Mohamud was emotional as he personally thanked Secretary Clinton and America for its support of Somalia.

"I wish madam Secretary all of the best for her future, and we all miss her greatly. And I will welcome the new Secretary of State and the new administration that will take over," said the President. "Somalia will remain grateful to the unwavering support from the United States government in the last 22 years that Somalia was in a difficult era. We remain, and we will remain, grateful to that. And I -- and I say in front of you today, thank you, America."

Currently there are nearly 1.4 million displaced people within Somalia, and another 1.4 million refugees in neighboring countries, according to the United Nation's refugee agency. ABC News reported on the horrors of the refugee crisis from Somalia's famine less than two years ago when tens of thousands of Somalis fled al-Shabaab controlled areas just to be able to find food.

ABC News' David Muir witnessed a gun battle between African Union troops and extremists battling for control of Mogadishu. At that time, basic security, not elections, was the priority.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


US Forces Involved with Failed Somalia Hostage Rescue

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama divulged on Sunday that the U.S. military played a role in a botched attempt by French commandos to free a hostage in Somalia last Friday.

In a letter to Congress released on Sunday evening, the president said service members “provided limited technical support” in the raid -- likely referring to intelligence or surveillance assistance -- although he denied the forces took direct action in the assault on the compound. 

The NATO member state was attempting to free a French intelligence agent that had been captured by Islamic militant group al-Shabab three years ago.

The hostage and at least once French soldier died in the ensuing firefight, which also killed a reported 17 militants, according to the French government.

Al-Shabab claims the French agent is still in their custody along with a soldier from the raid, but has offered no proof.

In his letter to Congress alerting them to his deployment of U.S. forces, Obama also wrote that U.S. aircraft “briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed,” but did not deploy weapons.  The letter does not state whether the aircraft were manned planes or drone vehicles.

The news came as France expands military operations in another African state, sending warplanes into northern Mali to bomb al Qaeda-linked rebels.

A Twitter posting from the office of Mali’s president states the United States has agreed to offer logistical support in that country, although American officials have not announced specifics.  The Pentagon has reportedly said it is still weighing options in the West African state, which already sees American surveillance drones in its airspace.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


French Troops Killed in Failed Commando Missions in Somalia and Mali

Hemera/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- The French Defense Ministry has confirmed the deaths of two French military service members in two military operations launched in Africa over the past 24 hours. One mission was a secret hostage rescue in Somalia, and the other was a very public mission to quash Islamist rebels in northern Mali.

Early Saturday, French commandos launched an unsuccessful raid in Somalia to rescue a French intelligence agent held by al Shabab since 2009. The French Defense Ministry say a hostage was killed in the raid, as was one of the commandos. Al Shabab says they’ve taken a commando hostage and that the original hostage remains alive.  Locals say the commandos flew in on five helicopters to the town of Bulomarer deep in southwestern Somalia. The Ministry says 17 Shabab fighters were killed in the firefight that followed.

Meanwhile in Mali, a French military helicopter pilot was killed during an aerial attack on a rebel command center in northern Mali. Hundreds of French troops were sent to Mali on Friday at the invitation of Mali’s president as rebel forces launched a new offensive out of their haven in northern Mali. "The threat is a terrorist state at the doorstep of France and Europe," French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a briefing on Saturday.  

The U.S. will decide soon on a French request to provide unarmed surveillance drones to help their forces in Mali. They’ve also requested mid-air refueling tankers to assist a French fighter aircraft. Friday morning ECOWAS member nations authorized the immediate deployment of military forces to Mali. There has been talk in the past that if this was to happen that the U.S. might provide cargo planes to move troops and equipment from these neighbor countries into Mali.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


‘Most Dangerous City in World’ Showing Hopeful Signs

The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- The battle-scarred capital of Somalia has long been called the “most dangerous city in the world,” but after more than two decades of war and lawlessness, there is evidence it might finally be able to shed that ominous title.

For the first time, the leaders of U.N. humanitarian agencies felt it was relatively safe enough to gather in Mogadishu with journalists and local government leaders for the public launch Tuesday of the annual appeal for donor support.  The location was meant to stress the country’s fragile progress as they present crisis-weary donors with a bold new funding request to further expand programs beyond emergency life-saving assistance.

“I think a lot of people are optimistic about Somalia’s future right now.  This is the time to invest and not to walk away.  Somalia is not in a situation where we can safely believe that tomorrow is for sure going to be a better day,” said Justin Brady, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Somalia.

For operations in 2013, U.N. humanitarian officials in Somalia are asking international donors for a collective $1.3 billion, and for the first time they are asking for a commitment beyond the next budget year.  They want donors to commit to a three-year strategy to enable 177 U.N. agencies and partnering groups to reach nearly half of Somalia’s population with coordinated programs to build resilience in a country with a history of chronic conflict and recurring droughts.

“We cannot just wait for another crisis, because it will come, and we have to be prepared for that.  And nowadays we can be prepared for that,” said Stefano Porretti, head of the U.N. World Food Programme Somalia and current U.N. Somalia Humanitarian Coordinator.  “I am convinced that we are at a critical time in the history of Somalia.”

More than two million Somalis are still living in crisis and dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, according to a recent report by the U.N. Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.  That’s down from the peak of four million during last year’s famine, and progress is being seen on other fronts.

Within just the last few months, regional African forces in Somalia managed to push the Islamist militant group Al Shabab out of all major towns.  For years, the al Qaeda affiliate implemented a cruel form of strict Sharia law across much of the country and banned aid agencies during last year’s devastating famine.

A joint international naval mission to improve security in the waters off the Horn of Africa has nearly put Somalia’s 21st century pirates of business.  And the country’s corrupt and inept transitional government was replaced by a new parliament, which then peacefully elected a new president.

At the launch of the three-year U.N. funding appeal for Somalia, Ministry of Interior Adulkarim Hussein Guled promised this government will do better.

“We are ready and committed to assist and facilitate the humanitarian organizations to do their work in a better way.  We will never accept the humanitarian assistance to go directly in the wrong hands.  We need that help to go directly to the needy people,” Guled said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Americans Slip From Minnesota to Somali Terror Group, FBI Says

File photo. SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Young American men continue to slip through a terrorist recruiting pipeline from the homeland to join the ranks of jihadists half a world away in East Africa, with two going as recently as three months ago, according to federal officials.

The FBI confirmed that in July two young men disappeared from their neighborhoods in Minneapolis and are believed to have traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, the embattled al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.

Under "Operation Rhino," for years the FBI has been investigating what has been described as a recruiting pipeline from the Twin Cities, which boast large Somali immigrant populations, to Somalia. Both top U.S. officials and at least one prominent member of al-Shabaab said Americans account for dozens of the terror group's fighters. A 2011 congressional report put the number around 40.

"Minnesota represented!" writes American-born rapping jihadist Omar Hammami in an autobiography posted online in May, though he claimed most of the U.S. recruits were already dead. "Those Minnesota brother[s] have almost all left their mark on the [jihad] and most have received martyrdom, while the rest are still waiting."

Kyle Loven, chief division counsel for the FBI's Minneapolis field office, said recruits going to Somalia from Minnesota "continues to be a matter of grave concern and the FBI remains fully committed to resolving this situation."

Al-Shabaab has suffered several recent defeats at the hands of African military forces and lost its final urban stronghold in Somalia earlier this month. But Western and Somali security experts told ABC News they are concerned such defeats may tempt the terror group into abandoning insurgency in Somalia for a renewed focus on international terrorism.

An African Union official said there is worry that the same fighters driven out of Somalia could launch attacks abroad, from Kenya and Uganda to the U.S.

During congressional testimony in January, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper listed al-Shabaab as one of the most significant terror threats to the homeland, in part due to a "foreign fighter cadre that includes U.S. passport holders... [who] may have aspirations to attack inside the United States."

U.S. Special Representative for Somalia James Swan told reporters last month that al-Shabaab's recent losses caused some of the terror group's foreign fighters to flee, but Swan did not know if that meant they were abandoning jihad or simply heading to a different al Qaeda-affiliated group in another country such as Yemen.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Al Qaeda Affiliate Loses Ground in Somalia

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/GettyImages(KISMAYO, Somalia) -- The al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia has officially lost control of its last major stronghold now that Allied African forces confirm they have seized the key port city of Kismayo.

The al Shabab militants were blamed for causing the instability in Somalia that turned last year's drought into a famine when aid agencies couldn't safely reach hundreds of thousands of starving people.

Now that al Shabab no longer controls any large cities in Somalia, some analysts fear the group could shift its focus to planning more terrorist attacks in other countries.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Suicide Bombers Attack As Somali Delegates Approve New Constitution

George Doyle/Thinkstock(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- As more than 600 delegates met in Mogadishu to approve Somalia's new constitution, marking a symbolic break with the country's turbulent past, two al Qaeda-linked suicide bombers tried to attack the gathering only to be killed by security guards.

Two men pretending to be delegates and wearing explosive vests tried to pass a security checkpoint outside the assembly at a police building in the HamarJajab section of the capital city.

According to the news website Somalia Report, the men were shot to death by security forces. Several government soldiers were wounded, but no members of the National Consitutent Assembly, which included legislators and tribal elders, were initially listed among those injured.

Witnesses told Somalia Report that they had seen the bodies of the suicide attackers, and that wounded soldiers had been evacuated to the hospital.

Al Shabaab, the Somali affiliate of al Qaeda, took credit for the attack. Via Twitter, al Shabaab said "twin martyrdom operations" had been carried out by its "Martyrdom Brigade" and that members of the assembly would be "tracked & by one" if they tried to implement the new constitution. The terror group had vowed to attack the National Constituent Assembly, which has been meeting in Mogadishu for the past week.

According to state radio, a regional Somali intelligence chief showed members of the assembly an identity card said to have been carried by one of the attackers, and said they were tracing the attackers.

The delegates passed the constitution in a landslide, with 96 percent of the 645 delegates in attendance voting in favor. The document, which was drawn up after a lengthy debate, will serve as an interim constitution for five years and replaces an earlier charter that lasted eight years.

Notably, it legalizes abortion when a mother's life is in danger and bans female circumcision.

Somalia will next select members of a new parliament, which will pick a speaker prior to the inauguration of a new president.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Shabaab Car Bomb Kills Lawmaker Inside Mogadishu

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/GettyImages(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- Just days after the Somali government announced it was sweeping the remnants of the al Shabaab terror group out of Mogadishu, a car bomb planted by the al Qaeda affiliate killed a prominent member of the Somali government inside the city.

Authorities said a bomb planted in his vehicle and detonated by remote control killed Member of Parliament Mohamud Abdi Garwayne and wounded six others, including three of Garwayne's bodyguards, in the Hamarweyne neighborhood Monday morning. Garwayne, a former trade minister, had been a member of an Islamist party before joining Somalia's Transitional Federal Government.

Witnesses reported that Garwayne's body was burned beyond recognition. Garwayne was driving the car when the bomb exploded. The device was reportedly placed beneath the driver's seat, a technique associated with Shabaab.

"Lawmaker Mohamud Garwayne was killed in the attack," regional deputy security chief Warsame Mohamed Hassan told reporters in Mogadishu on Monday. "A bomb had been placed in his car without his awareness." Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, the head of the African Union Mission in Somalia, condemned the attack in a statement decrying, "attempts to derail the peace."

"It is deplorable that before the beginning of Ramadan foreign-led forces opposed to the peace process use cowardly and barbaric attacks, with no regard for the life of innocent Somalis, in a desperate attempt to derail Somalia's greatest hope for peace in decades," said Ambassador Diarra.

Shabaab issued a statement claiming credit for the attack.

The attack came as Somalia prepares for a National Constituent Assembly that is charged with forming a new and permanent government. The mandate of the current transitional government expires next month.

African Union and Somali troops had largely expelled Shabaab from the capital a year ago. On Friday, the government announced its forces had cordoned off several Mogadishu neighborhoods and conducted a series of mop-up raids, netting 89 suspected members of al Shabaab. "The objective of the raid was to weed out the remnants of the al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group," said the government in a statement after the raids, "in the wake of numerous roadmap activities being held in Mogadishu that will pave the way for the return of permanent and representative government."

Somali authorities also say they are now housing several hundred former Shabaab fighters, many of them teens, who have defected from the beleaguered terror group and sought food and shelter via a government program.

Kenyan forces have also been pressing al Shabaab inside Somalia, and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in June that Shabaab would be defeated in a final offensive, expected next month.

On Sunday, Somalia's interior minister said security inside Mogadishu would be increased in anticipation of Ramadan, which begins Friday. Shabaab has vowed to continue attacks despite leaving Mogadishu, and has often stepped up attacks inside Somalia during Ramadan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Activist Compares Syrian Violence to Somalia and Afghanistan

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A leading Syrian activist believes his country is perilously close to becoming "the new Somalia or the new Afghanistan" where lawlessness pervades amid a low-grade civil war involving government troops and rebel forces.

Rami Abdelrahman with the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights made that observation Wednesday following reports of dozens of more deaths in a 16-month conflict that has cost between 12,000 and 14,000 lives.

While those opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's rule have endured the brunt of the violence, the military has suffered numerous casualties as evidenced by the 28 Syrian soldiers reported killed in fighting Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it has received assurances from both sides that it will be allowed to evacuate wounded people from the city of Homs, one of the flashpoints of the ongoing crackdown instituted by al-Assad.

In the middle of all this are 300 United Nations monitors whose observance of a failed ceasefire pact was suspended last weekend.  However, Major General Robert Mood, who heads the team, says his monitors will remain in Syria in hopes of resuming their mission.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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