AU to reduce troops in Somalia by 1,000 this year

In this file photo, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops walk down the road between Afrgoye and Baidoa after arriving in the town of Afgoye town to the west of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. (Reuters)
Updated 08 November 2017
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AU to reduce troops in Somalia by 1,000 this year

NAIROBI: The African Union’s (AU) mission in Somalia has said it will withdraw 1,000 troops fighting militants in the country this year, as part of plans to pull out all soldiers by December 2020.
In a statement released Tuesday, the AU’s special representative for Somalia Francisco Madeira called for urgent support to enable the national army to take over responsibility for the country’s security.
“Troop movements have started in different parts of the country and will continue for the coming weeks,” Madeira said.
“This is a process of realignment to effect the reduction in numbers and also begin the handover process of national security responsibility to the Somali National Security Forces.”
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops deployed to Somalia in 2007 to defend the internationally-backed government against attacks by Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate still carrying out attacks on civilian, military and government targets in the capital Mogadishu and elsewhere.
In 2016, the AU announced an exit strategy which would see some 22,000 troops withdraw and hand over control of security to the national army.
Currently, the bloated and largely ineffective Somali army is more a collection of clan militias, with various international militaries providing poorly-coordinated training to different units.
“The forces urgently need to be equipped with necessary weapons, key logistical support, including timely payment of stipends, provision of quality medical care, establishment of key infrastructure including barracks and training centers among others,” said Madeira.
He said that the drawdown would be gradual and would ensure the security of the country is not disrupted.
Al-Shabab lost its foothold in Mogadishu in 2011, but has continued its fight, and was blamed for the country’s worst ever attack in which a truck bombing left 358 dead in the capital last month.
Two weeks later an attack on a hotel left 27 dead, prompting the government to sack its police and intelligence chiefs.
Shortly before his dismissal, intelligence agency boss Abdillahi Mohamed Sanbalooshe wrote an op-ed in the New York Times criticizing international partners for not responding to Somali requests for technical and training expertise to analyze forensic evidence after attacks like the Oct. 14 bombing.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.