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.


US imposes new sanctions on Iran over weapons programs

Updated 46 sec ago
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US imposes new sanctions on Iran over weapons programs

  • Among those designated for sanctions was the Shahid Karimi group, which works on missile and explosive-related projects for the SPND, and four associated individuals
  • The move freezes any US assets of those targeted and bans US dealings with them

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Friday it was imposing sanctions on 14 people and 17 entities connected to Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), a body it said had played a central role in Iran’s past nuclear weapons effort.
Among those designated for sanctions was the Shahid Karimi group, which works on missile and explosive-related projects for the SPND, and four associated individuals, the US Treasury Department said in a Statement.
“The US government is taking decisive action against actors at all levels in connection with Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND) who have supported the Iranian regime’s defense sector,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
“The United States will continue applying maximum pressure to the Iranian regime, using all economic tools to prevent Iran from developing weapons of mass destruction. Anyone considering dealing with the Iranian defense industry in general, and SPND in particular, risks professional, personal, and financial isolation.”
It said the steps targeted current SPND subordinate groups, supporters, front companies, and associated officials. The move freezes any US assets of those targeted and bans US dealings with them.
"Today’s action serves as a warning to individuals and entities considering dealing with the Iranian regime’s defense sector in general, and SPND in particular: by engaging in sanctionable activity with designated Iranian persons, you risk professional, personal, and financial isolation," the Treasury statement said.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that Tehran was determined to boost its defense capabilities despite mounting pressure from the United States and its allies to curb its ballistic missile program.