Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snuff out militant Islam's lethal spark - kill bin Laden

The situation for these people may become dramatic," Giorgio Bertin, an African Catholic bishop, warned a few days ago.

Who holds the lion's share of blame for this? The easy answer is Somalia's al-Shabab militia, the Islamic extremist group. But look deeper, and a large share of blame falls on Osama bin Laden and President George W. Bush.

How's that? Think back to the days before the Sept. 11 attacks. Osama bin Laden was brewing trouble. Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. guided missile destroyer Cole, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, among other sites. Bin Laden was the face of Islamic terrorism. There were few imitators; al Qaeda had the field largely to itself. In 1998, the United States offered $5 million for bin Laden's capture - the highest bounty Washington had ever offered.

Then came Sept 11, 2001, and bin Laden became the world's most prominent villain. "I want justice," Bush declared on Sept. 18. "There's an old poster out West that said, 'Wanted, dead or alive.' "

The rest of the history is well known. Bin Laden had ordered the most serious attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor. The United States attacked Afghanistan, bin Laden slipped over the border to Pakistan, and two years later Bush more or less dropped his interest, transferring his attention and troops to Iraq . Today, bin Laden still resides in western Pakistan - and serves as an inspirational symbol for Islamic militants worldwide.

In Vietnam, the United States could not defeat a determined enemy that had tens of thousands of troops and regional allies that supplied it with sanctuaries and unlimited weaponry. This time, one miscreant attacked the world's only superpower, permanently altered the nation's domestic and foreign policies - and got away with it. Is it any wonder that Islamic terrorists inspired by him have sprouted like mushrooms in the forest after a summer shower?

The al-Shabab militia in Somalia is one of the vilest of these new sects. Its fighters are kidnapping and killing aid workers whose only mission is to care for the nation's poor. It is imposing the most virulent form of Islamic law. The prototypical example of that last year: Al-Shabab adherents stoned a 13-year-old girl to death as penalty for telling police that she had been raped.

Well, on Sept. 10, 2001, al-Shabab didn't exist.

On Sept. 10, 2001, Europeans were not particularly worried about Muslim immigrants. "Western Europe today has a Muslim population of 10 (million) to 12 million," the journal Middle East Policy wrote in June 2001. "In a democratic Europe, an anti-Muslim pogrom seems quite unlikely." What's under way today is not a pogrom. But it's close.

On Sept. 10, 2001, Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant Islamic group in Indonesia, was writing letters to the editor to make its points. The next year it began blowing up hotels.

Today, bin Laden must wake up every morning with a smile on his face for all he has inspired. Sitting there in Pakistan, this man mocks us. He does not need to plan new attacks, only issue a new tape every once in a while, as he did last Sunday, lauding the attempted bombing of a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day. But it doesn't really matter what he says. The point of these tapes is to show: I am still alive. The United States is powerless against us!

Right now, the most effective thing the United States could do to turn the tide in the so-called war on terror is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the terrorists' shining symbol. We know where he is, more or less - in North Waziristan. Pakistan refuses to go after him. Last week, the Pakistani military told U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that it would not attack North Waziristan "for six to 12 months." Read that: never.

Now the United States and NATO need to do the job, as President Obama has warned. Pakistan won't like it. But nine years of working with them, at a cost of more than $14 billion, has produced few if any useful results. I'm not talking about an invasion. Infiltrate the region with special-operations forces, as the Bush administration did in 2008. Pakistanis screamed in protest.

Let them scream. Over almost a decade, we have given Pakistan every chance to do the job. Now it's time to do it ourselves.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Al-Shabab Attacks Peacekeeping Hospital in Somalia

An explosion near a base for the African Union peacekeeping force near the Mogadishu airport has left at least five people killed, including one soldier Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for an attack on a hospital run by the African Union peacekeeping force. The explosion occurred near the peacekeeping base, killing at least five, including one soldier.

Sheikh Ali Muhamud Rage, the spokesperson for al-Shabab, says that the rebel group successfully attacked the base of the African Union peacekeeping mission, known as AMISOM.

He claimed that the overnight bombing near the Mogadishu airport was in response to the deaths of innocent civilians caused by the AMISOM forces.

An AMISOM official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, told VOA that three Somali patients and one Ugandan peacekeeper were killed in the blast. He added that eight were injured, half civilians and half soldiers.

Reports conflict as to whether the attack was executed through a suicide bomber or a mortar blast, and some place the casualty figure as high as seven dead.

AMISOM spokesperson Major Barigye Bahuko says that the detonation took place within the outpatient department of the hospital.

"It was not even an explosion; it was just a small blast," Bahuko said. "A blast that occurred where the Somalis were congregating waiting for treatment ended up by killing very many Somalis unfortunately."

Al-Shabab, a group thought to have links to al-Qaida, is waging an intense insurgency against the Western-backed Mogadishu government, propped up by the AU peacekeeping mission staffed with Ugandan and Burundian forces.

The rebels fight under an ultra-conservative Islamic ideology, imposing Sharia law under the territory they control and referring to their enemies as infidels. They now control most of southern and some of central Somalia, including much of Mogadishu.

The attempted Christmas-day attack on a U.S. airliner has increased the international attention given to the Horn of African Islamists. The Nigerian attacker was trained in nearby Yemen, and though no proven link exists between the two countries' respective Islamist rebellions, analysts are now expressing concern that the region could become the new front in the global fight against militant radical Islam.

In September al-Shabab claimed responsibility for twin suicide blasts within the AMISOM base disrupted a high-profile meeting between top peacekeeping brass and Somali government officials. The attack killed at least 17 people, including the top Burundian general stationed in the country.

Somalia: Five killed in fighting in central town

BELEDWEYNE (Mareeg) –At least five people have been killed and seven others have been injured in fierce fighting between rival Islamist groups in Beldedweyne town in central Somalia, witnesses said on Tuesday.

Three children are among those who were wounded in the clashes between Hizbul Islam and al Shabaab of one side and Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a.
The fighting started on Monday evening in Elgal village about 15 km north of the town but it escalated in the town early on Tuesday.

Combatants from the warring sides ware also included those who died on Tuesday’s fighting. A mortar injured the children after it landed on their house.

Residents say the fighting has died down, but the situation in the town was still tense as the rival groups were regrouping.

The fighting enters the fourth day and more civilians have fled from the town in fear for their lives.

PM defends crackdown on illegal immigrants

Prime Minister Raila Odinga Tuesday assured members of the Somali community in Kenya that the government is not targeting them in the current crackdown on illegal immigrants.

He also assured them that all those engaged in legitimate businesses will be protected by the law and should be free to lodge complaints whenever they feel their interests as citizens or legal immigrants are being threatened.

At the same time, the PM asked the US government to help mobilise international support for the transitional government in Somalia saying stability in Somalia is the best cure against rising fear of terrorism and piracy in the region.

At a separate meeting with US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Alexander Vershbow, the PM said the threats piracy and terrorism will not be resolved in the high seas or abroad but by ensuring stability within Somalia.

The PM said Kenya will continue to play its role in Somalia and Sudan but expressed concern that the international community has not accorded the Somalia crisis the attention and support it deserves.

Vershbow, who paid a courtesy call on the PM, said he was in Kenya to get a better understanding of the situation in Somalia and Sudan.

He also delivered President Barack Obama's promise of support for the reform process in Kenya.

Earlier in the morning, the PM told officials of the Eastleigh Business Community and Somali Leaders Forum who paid him a courtesy call at his Treasury office that the on going operation was aimed at safeguarding the security of all Kenyans and their investments.

"The government doesn't have any hidden agenda against the members of the Somali Community. We welcome the investment you have put in the country and if the current operation appears to be getting abused, we will investigate and take necessary action," the PM said.

The Somali leaders supported government's move to rid the country of foreigners who have criminal intentions and backgrounds but demanded that it be carried out humanely and in a civil manner.

The officials said they do not condone the presence of illegal immigrants in the country or defend their arrests and deportation or other treatment in accordance with the law, but worried that the crackdown currently appears to be targeting Somalis and their businesses.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Britain 'botched rescue attempt' for Somalia hostages

LONDON — British special forces have attempted to rescue a couple seized by Somali pirates almost three months ago but the mission was aborted amid "bungling" delays, a report has said.

Citing a government official, the BBC reported on Friday that a Special Boat Service team was deployed from Britain to rescue Paul and Rachel Chandler but they were delayed by technical problems and slow decision-making in London.

The team finally arrived near where the pirates were holding the Chandlers, who were seized from their yacht in the Indian Ocean on October 23, but were not in time to rescue them, the BBC said.

"There was some bungling here," the official was quoted as saying. It was not clear when the attempted rescue took place.

In an interview with British television on Thursday, Paul Chandler said they were being treated like "captive animals" and warned their kidnappers were becoming frustrated that their demands for a ransom had not been met.

"They've lost patience. They set a deadline of three or four days. If they don't hear then they say they will let us die," he told ITV News.

The pirates have demanded £4.3 million (seven million dollars) but the Foreign Office in London said it does not pay ransoms.


Somalia insurgents capture central town, loot aid offices

Somalia’s main insurgents groups of Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam have reportedly captured the strategic central town of Beledweyne, the capital of Hiiraan region after battling out with pro-government militia Ahul Sunnah Wal Jama’a.

The clashes erupted on Friday morning in villages near the town with Hizbul Islam and Ahlu Sunnah engaging in heavy gun battle.

The battle in the villages have allowed Al-Shabaab fighters to attack the town and chase away the few remaining pro-government militia, who have since retreated to a El Gal village, located some 15 km from Beledweyne.

The clashes have since claimed the lives of at least five combatants from both sides, according to witnesses.

On the other hand, militias loyal to Hizbul Islam have reportedly looted The offices of the United Nations health agency WHO and Save the Children in Beledweyne.

According to witnesses, the incident happened shortly after the town’s take over with Hizbul Islam militia disarming the guards and chasing away the local agencies workers before looting the valuables in the offices.

"The armed militia entered the offices and took the equipments and weapons. We have also seen the workers, who were blindfolded, being evicted,” said an eyewitness who requested not to be named.

The looting of the aid agencies is seen as a new habit for insurgents because similar incidents targeted on UN offices were reported in rebel-held areas across the war-torn nation.

Al-Shabaab has banned several aid agencies from working in areas under its control with the UN food agency WFP being the latest casualty after being forced to halt its food distributions in the southern Somalia due to threats and extortion by Al-Shabaab.

The fighting in Beledweyne, which strategically connects the capital Mogadishu to central Somalia, comes barely two weeks after bloody battle between same armed groups which claimed the lives of hundreds and displaced thousands others