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Monday, July 30, 2012
UK troops in Somalia 'aiding Africa Union force'
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The UK has established a small military presence in Somalia, the British Ministry of Defence has confirmed.
A team of 10 military advisers is based at the headquarters of the African Union force in the capital, Mogadishu.
They do not have a combat role; their job is to help the AU with planning, communications and medical support.
But a BBC correspondent says some of the advisers have been seen in Afgoye, a strategic town west of the capital recently taken from Islamist militants.
The al-Shabab group, which joined al-Qaeda earlier this year, still controls many rural areas in southern and central Somalia but is under pressure on several fronts.
The country has been without a functioning central authority since 1991 and has been wracked by fighting ever since - a situation that has allowed piracy and lawlessness to flourish.Key moment
"We have sent a small team of advisers to assist the AU peacekeeping mission. They do not have a combat role," an MoD spokesman said in a statement.
BBC world affairs correspondent Peter Biles says the confirmation of a British military presence in Somalia comes at a key moment in the efforts towards a political transition.
The UN-backed interim government is supposed to hand over to a new administration by 20 August when a new president and parliament will be elected.
Our correspondent says it is hoped that this will end the corruption and misappropriation of funds that have tarnished the reputation of the current Somali authorities.
Ethiopian troops, pro-government militias and the African Union force - which has US and European funding and was boosted earlier this year to nearly 18,000 - have helped the transitional government recently expand its control outside Mogadishu.
In the last few months, the militants have lost several key positions, including Afgoye, Baidoa in central Somalia and the southern town of Afmadow
Thursday, July 26, 2012
NAIROBI (Reuters) - An explosive device hit a police vehicle inside a refugee camp near the border with Somalia on Wednesday, wounding all six people aboard in the latest attack in the region, officials said.
The vehicle, carrying three police officers and three civilians, was escorting aid workers travelling in a separate car to distribute food in the Dadaab refugee camp, police officials said.
The aid workers were unhurt.
At least 32 people have been killed in attacks on the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the port city of Mombasa and the northern town of Garissa since October, when Kenya sent troops into neighboring Somalia to crush al Shabaab insurgents.
The militants, linked to al Qaeda, were blamed for a surge in violence and kidnappings in Kenya.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast on Wednesday.
"The injured police officers were escorting officials of Care International to distribute food within the camp when their car hit a device", Philip Tuimur, the regional police chief, told Reuters from Garissa by phone.
Last month, Kenya witnessed its worst attack when masked assailants launched simultaneous gun and grenade raids on two churches in Garissa, killing at least 17 people and wounding 60.
(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and Abdisalan Ahmed; Editing by George Obulutsa and Alessandra Rizzo)
Monday, July 23, 2012
MOGADISHU: Somalia's al Shabaab militants said on Sunday they had executed three of their own members for treason, two of them for guiding U.S. missiles to kill fellow militants.
It was the first time al Shabaab, under pressure from African Union, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops as well as U.S. drone strikes, had admitted to killing its own fighters for betrayals.
Al Shabaab, which is affiliated with al Qaeda, said last January that a missile launched from a drone had killed Bilal el Berjawi, a Lebanese al Shabaab fighter with a British passport.
Another missile killed four foreign militants south of the Somali capital Mogadishu in February, according to an intelligence officer.
"We have executed two CIA spies who were behind the killing of our great brothers," Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdallah, al Shabaab's governor for the Lower Shabelle region, told Reuters on Sunday. "We also executed a third fighter who was proved to be a spy for the UK."
"Isak Omar Hassan and Yasin Osman Ahmed had fixed a device on Bilal el Berjawi's car and then he was killed by a plane in Elasha six months ago," Abu Abdallah said.
"The investigation is still continuing. If we find others, they will follow suit. We shall deal with them the way we dealt with the three executed today."
The Somali government says hundreds of foreign fighters have joined the insurgency from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Gulf region as well as the United States and Britain. Some have senior positions within al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab were driven out of Mogadishu late last year and are struggling to hold on to territory elsewhere in the face of attacks by Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union forces trying to prevent militancy spreading out from Somalia.
The United States has also authorized covert operations in the Horn of Africa nation in the past.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon is seeking to send hand-launched drones to Kenya as part of a $40 million-plus military aid package to help four African countries fighting al Qaeda and al Shabaab militants. (Reuters)