Friday, 17 April 2015

Who are Somalia's al-Shabab?

  • 3 April 2015
  • From the sectionAfrica
Media captionAl-Shabab remains a potent threat in East Africa
Islamist militant group al-Shabab is battling the UN-backed government in Somalia, and has carried out a string of attacks in neighbouring Kenya. The group, which is allied to al-Qaeda, has been pushed out of most of the main towns it once controlled, but it remains a potent threat.

Who are al-Shabab?

Al-Shabab means The Youth in Arabic.
It emerged as the radical youth wing of Somalia's now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu in 2006, before being forced out by Ethiopian forces.
There are numerous reports of foreign jihadists going to Somalia to help al-Shabab, from neighbouring countries, as well as the US and Europe.
It is banned as a terrorist group by both the US and the UK and is believed to have between 7,000 and 9,000 fighters.
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What is al-Shabab doing in Kenya?

Injured man after grenade attack in Nairobi, Dec 2013
Al-Shabab is suspected of links to grenade attacks across Kenya
Al-Shabab has staged numerous attacks in Kenya. The 2 April massacre at Garissa University, near the border with Somalia, is the bloodiest so far.
At least 147 people died when gunmen stormed the university at dawn and targeted Christian students.
Previously the worst attack was on Nairobi's Westgate shopping centre in 2013, when at least 68 people died.
In Westgate, and other attacks, the militants spared Muslims, while killing those unable to recite verses from the Koran.
There are also regular gun and grenade attacks attributed to al-Shabab both in border areas, where many Kenyans are ethnic Somalis, and in Nairobi.
Kenya has sent its troops into Somali territory, where they have joined the African Union force battling the militants.
Al-Shabab has also set up a recruiting network in Kenya, especially around the port city of Mombasa, which has a large Muslim population.
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map showing who controls which parts of Somalia

How much of Somalia does al-Shabab control?

Although it has lost control of most towns and cities, it still dominates in many rural areas.
It was forced out of the capital, Mogadishu, in August 2011 and left the vital port of Kismayo in September 2012.
The loss of Kismayo has hit al-Shabab's finances, as it used to earn money by taking a cut of the town's lucrative charcoal trade.
Although African Union (AU) forces are trying to squeeze al-Shabab further, the group is still able to carry out suicide attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.
Al-Shabab advocates the Saudi-inspired Wahhabi version of Islam, while most Somalis are Sufis.
It has imposed a strict version of Sharia in areas under its control, including stoning to death women accused of adultery and amputating the hands of thieves.
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What are al-Shabab's foreign links?

In a joint video released in February 2012, former al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane said he "pledged obedience" to al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The two groups have long worked together and foreigners are known to fight alongside Somali militants.
There have also been numerous reports that al-Shabab may have formed some links with other Islamist groups in Africa, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, based in the Sahara desert.
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What is happening in Somalia?

a Somali woman in Hudur on May 7, 2014 two months after the town was liberated from Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels by the Ethiopian contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
This woman lives in a town recently recaptured from al-Shabab
Somalia has not had an effective national government for more than 20 years, during which much of the country has been a war-zone.
Al-Shabab gained support by promising people security. But its credibility was knocked when it rejected Western food aid to combat a 2011 drought and famine.
With Mogadishu and other towns now under government control, there is a new feeling of optimism and many Somalis have returned from exile, bringing their money and skills with them.
Basic services such as street lighting, dry cleaning and rubbish collection have resumed in the capital.
However, al-Shabab continues to stage periodic attacks in both Somalia and neighbouring countries.

Syria war: 'Chlorine' attack video moves UN to tears

A Syrian man stands next to the remains of a barrel bomb that activists say was dropped on the town of Sarmin on the night of 16 March 2015
Barrel bombs containing chlorine were said to have been dropped on two locations in Sarmin on 16 March
Members of the UN Security Council were moved to tears after they were shown a video of an apparent chlorine gas attack in north-west Syria last month.
The footage shows the unsuccessful attempts of doctors to revive three children all aged under four.
US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power described the meeting as "very emotional" and said those responsible will be held accountable.
The Syrian government denies it was responsible for the attack in Idlib.
Syrian doctors, confirming what activists reported after the attack on 16 March, told the UN Security Council that helicopters were heard flying above the village of Sarmin.
Media captionSamantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN: ''Individuals who are responsible for attacks like that will be held accountable''
There was then a thud and an overpowering smell of bleach before dozens of people began arriving at the local hospital with breathing difficulties.
The video showed the desperate attempts by doctors to revive the three children, aged one, two and three, their grandmother and parents.
Jim Muir, BBC News, Beirut
Chlorine is not a very effective tool. It normally disperses swiftly in open areas, making it of scant use on the battlefield, but it can be fatal if inhaled heavily after exploding in an enclosed space, as appears to have happened in some recent incidents.
The most likely logic for its reported use is as psychological warfare, spreading fear by evoking traumatic memories of the much more serious chemical attacks in 2013.
Assuming the reports are true, there may also be an element of defiance and testing involved. Damascus knows it can count on Russian diplomatic protection unless the outrages are too blatant.
There is also some uncertainty about chlorine's status. It is not in itself designated or banned as a chemical weapon, and bears little relation to sarin or other deadly nerve agents, which Syria has been obliged to destroy or hand over.
Speaking to the BBC, Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society, who attended the meeting, said UN delegates were affected by what they saw.
"Some of them were crying. Clearly they were affected by what they have seen in the videos and what they have heard, many of them spoke outside the diplomatic language and many of them have said that this is outrageous and the perpetrators should be brought to justice," he said.
"Many of them suggested that the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] should have a prompt and serious investigation."
A young Syrian sits on a bed at a clinic after a suspected chorine attack in Sarmin, Idlib province, Syria (17 March 2015)
The Syrian military denied the accusations, describing them as propaganda
Samantha Power, who also told reporters "if there was a dry eye in the room I didn't see it", said such testimony was being collected so that those responsible could be held to account.
"The long arm of justice is taking more time than any of us would wish right now, but this documentary record will be used at some point in a court of law," she said.
Activists in Idlib said that the Syrian government dropped five barrel bombs containing chlorine gas on the city on Thursday, while the UN Security Council was meeting.
Known fatal chemical attacks in Syria
  • March 2015: Chlorine suspected in attacks on four villages in Idlib province, including Sarmin - six dead, at least 206 people affected
  • April/May 2014: OPCW concludes chlorine attacks likely used in attacks on three villages in Idlib - 13 dead
  • 21 August 2013: Sarin gas in attacks on two Damascus suburbs - between 200 and 1,400 dead
  • 19 March 2013: Sarin gas attack on Aleppo - 19 dead
The attack on Sarmin came just days after the UN Security Council approved a resolution that condemned the use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine in Syria, and threatened military action in case of further violations.
Chlorine is a common industrial chemical, but its use in weapons is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
The US and other council members have long accused the government of Bashar al-Assad of carrying out chemical weapons attacks.
They say that the Syrian military is the only party to the conflict to have helicopters, which were heard in Sarmin and in other places targeted by chemical attacks.
But Russia, an ally of Syria and a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has always maintained there is insufficient evidence to lay the blame solely with Damascus.
Map showing location of Sarmin, Syria

Minstry of Foreign Affairs : Press Statement on South Africa

17th April 2015
Press Statement on South Africa
The Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia condemns the vicious attacks being perpetuated against its citizens and the looting of their property and businesses. Somalia and its people are shocked to witness such treatment being meted against their citizens when they have been a staunch supporter of their South African brothers and sisters in their long but successful struggle against Apartheid. History is a testament to the great strides the Somali people and government have gone to ensure the liberation of their brothers and sisters in Southern Africa. Neither effort nor resource was spared in ensuring our South African brothers and sister’s dignity was upheld. The late President of the Republic of Somalia Mr. Siad Barre said once:
‘’Our enjoyment of independence and freedom is meaningless and futile when our brothers in that part of Africa are oppressed and denied their inalienable rights to self-determination. We, the African States should redouble our efforts to awaken the world to the dangerous situation in Southern Africa. We shall morally and Materially, support the Liberation Movements of Africa until the last of Africa is liberated from the usurpers of Africa's wealth, dignity and pride’’
Therefore this xenophobic behavior and barbarity shown by these thugs which has been reoccurring in these past years are unacceptable. We welcome the immediate intervention and condemnation of these heinous attacks by the President of South Africa Jacob Zuma who in parliament this week made very clear that his government will not tolerate such attacks against innocent hard working people residing in South Africa. We wholeheartedly agree with the President in that nothing could justify such attacks.
We therefore call on the brotherly government of the republic of South Africa to swiftly take appropriate actions to put a stop to these attacks against our citizens and bring to justice those who have committed these offences.

Life term for 13-year-old boy over woman's punch murder

Police in Cheshire Road, Smethwick
The body of Glynis Bensley was found in Cheshire Road, Smethwick
A 13-year-old boy has been given a life sentence, with a minimum tariff of 12 years, for murdering a woman by punching her then stamping on her face.
Glynis Bensley, 47, was killed outside the Seven Stars pub in Smethwick, West Midlands, on 3 September.
The judge lifted restrictions on her killer Petri Kurti, being named.
A second defendant, Zoheb Majid, 20, of Cheshire Road, Smethwick, was jailed for ten years at Wolverhampton Crown Court, for her manslaughter.
He was found not guilty of her murder.

'My right arm'

Judge John Warner said Kurti had been described afterwards as "boastful and not caring less" but also later "crying, saying [he] had not meant to do it".
He told the pair it had been Ms Bensley's "enormous misfortune to cross paths with you" at 00:20 GMT that night, resulting in her death.
Michael Turner QC, representing Kurti, said in mitigation he was "susceptible to the influence of older people" and his criminality should not be mistaken for maturity, adding he had some "learning difficulties".
Joe Sidhu QC, who represented Majid, said his client had played a limited role in the assault, but expressed "genuine remorse" for his part - despite going to buy a bag of croissants at a local shop after the attack.
Both defendants were also found guilty of robbery after they stole her phone, cash, cigarettes and jewellery before leaving her for dead.
A post-mortem examination found Ms Bensley suffered a fatal head injury.
Glynis' sister Dawn, said: "We are a very close and supportive family and always look out for each other - to try and explain how Glynis' murder has affected us is very hard to put into words.
"Glynis was my only sister and best friend - I would describe her as my right arm and I thought we would grow old together."
Zoheb Majid
Zoheb Majid was found not guilty of murder but jailed for ten years for manslaughter
Ms Bensley was on her way home from the Seven Stars when she was attacked, West Midlands Police said.
Police said Kurti had been joined by Majid on a bicycle.
After he had robbed her, Kurti stamped on her face with such force his footprint was left on her cheek, a spokesman said.
Det Ch Insp Sam Ridding said: "Ms Bensley was tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time and was randomly picked out by the pair believing that she was a man and that she was wearing a gold bracelet.
"It was clearly the joint intention of the pair to use violence on anyone they targeted."
Martin Lindop, from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: "These two defendants had targeted Ms Bensley because she was a vulnerable female who was walking home on her own at night.
"Our thoughts are today with the family and friends of Ms Bensley."