UN report says Daesh thriving in Somalia

Somali security officers secure the scene of a suicide car bomb explosion, at the gate of Naso Hablod Two Hotel in Hamarweyne district of Mogadishu on Oct, 28. (Reuters)
Updated 11 November 2017
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UN report says Daesh thriving in Somalia

NEW YORK/MOGADISHU: A Daesh faction in Somalia has grown significantly over the past year, carrying out attacks in Puntland and receiving some funding from Syria and Iraq, a report by UN sanctions monitors said on Friday.
The faction loyal to Sheikh Abdulqader Mumin was targeted by US drone strikes last week in the first US operation targeting Daesh in the Horn of Africa, US Africa Command said.
In the report, the UN monitoring group for Somalia said the Daesh faction, which was estimated in 2016 “to number not more than a few dozen, has grown significantly in strength” and may “consist of as many as 200 fighters.”
Phone records from Mumin showed he was in contact with a Daesh operative in Yemen who acts as an intermediary with senior Daesh leaders in Iraq and Syria “though the exact nature of this contact is unclear,” said the report.
Former members of the faction who defected in December said the Mumin group received orders as well as financing from Iraq and Syria, the report said.
The group captured the town of Qandala in Puntland’s Bari region in October 2016, declaring it the seat of the Islamic Caliphate in Somalia before being pushed out two months later by Puntland forces backed by US military advisers.
In February, Daesh gunmen stormed a hotel in Bosaso, the economic capital of Puntland, and in May the faction carried out its first suicide attack at a police checkpoint near Bosaso, killing five people.
“The group showed signs of increasing tactical capabilities during its first attack target a hotel,” said the UN monitors.
The UN report raised concerns that the Bari region could become a potential haven for foreign Daesh fighters as the extremists are driven out of their strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
Daesh in Somalia “presents (a) more natural appeal to foreign terrorist fighters than Al-Shabab,” it added.
Al-Shabab, another militant group, is affiliated with Daesh’s global rival Al-Qaeda.
The Bari region has attracted a limited number of foreign fighters including Sudanese national Abu Faris who is on the US terror list for recruiting foreign fighters for Al-Shabab.
While the faction is expanding, its fighters appear to be poorly paid or not paid at all. Unmarried fighters receive no salary, while married militants receive $50 per month plus $10-$20 per child, depending on the age.
The report estimated that the salary payments were between $3,000 and $9,000 per month, allowing Daesh leaders “to fund its insurgency on a limited budget.”
UN monitors said the faction will likely face frequent defections from poorly paid fighters, a problem that also affects Al-Shabab.
Drone attack
On Saturday, the US military said it has carried out a new drone strike against the Al-Shabab extremist group in Somalia, killing “several” militants.
A statement by the US Africa Command said the strike was carried out Friday night in Lower Shabelle region, about 20 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu. It came a day after another strike in the Bay Region, about 100 miles west of Mogadishu.
Friday’s airstrike was the 23rd the US military has carried out this year against the Al-Shabab and the far smaller Daesh group in Somalia. The Trump administration earlier this year approved expanded military operations against extremists in the Horn of Africa nation.
The latest US drone strike was carried out in coordination with Somalia’s government, the US statement said.
Al-Shabab, the deadliest extremist group in Africa, has been blamed for the massive truck bombing in Mogadishu last month that killed more than 350 people. It was Somalia’s worst-ever attack and one of the world’s deadliest in years.
While Somalia’s president has vowed a “state of war” in response to last month’s attack, concern is growing about the gradual security handover that has begun from a 22,000-strong African Union (AU) force to Somali national forces.
The AU this week announced the beginning of its withdrawal from the long-chaotic and still heavily fractured nation, saying it will cut 1,000 troops by the end of the year. The AU pullout is set to be complete by the end of 2020.


Jordan says unable to host new wave of Syria refugees

Updated 2 min 20 sec ago
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Jordan says unable to host new wave of Syria refugees

  • Amman says it has spent more than $10 billion (8.5 billion euros) hosting Syrian refugees
  • Some 650,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the United Nations in Jordan

AMMAN: Jordan said Sunday it would be unable to host a new wave of Syrian refugees, as troops loyal to Damascus prepare an offensive for the war-torn country’s rebel-held south.
“The large number of Syrians we’re hosting in terms of financial resources and infrastructure does not allow for the reception of a new wave of asylum seekers,” Jumana Ghanimat, minister of state for media affairs, told AFP.
Some 650,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the United Nations in Jordan since fleeing their country’s seven-year war which was sparked by peaceful anti-government protests in 2011.
Amman estimates the actual number is closer to 1.3 million people and says it has spent more than $10 billion (8.5 billion euros) hosting them.
“Jordan has not and will not abandon its humanitarian role and its commitment to international charters, but it has exceeded its ability to absorb (more refugees),” said Ghanimat, who also serves as a spokeswoman for the government.
“Everyone should cooperate to deal with any new wave of displacement within Syria’s borders,” she said, adding Jordan would work with “concerned organizations” to find an arrangement for the displaced inside Syria.
Her comments came as Syrian government forces ready an offensive to retake the southern provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and parts of Sweida, still mostly held by rebels.
Southern Syria is a strategically vital zone: it borders both Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and also lies close to Damascus.
After neutralising rebel strongholds on the edge of the capital earlier this year, President Bashar Assad is now turning his attention to the south.
In recent weeks regime forces have dropped leaflets over Daraa and Quneitra, warning of impending military operations and calling on the rebels to surrender.
“Jordan is in close contact with Washington and Moscow to maintain an agreement to reduce the escalation in southern Syrian,” Ghoneim said.
She said the kingdom was “following the current developments in southern Syrian to reach a formula that protects Jordanian interests along the border and the waves of asylum seekers.”
The UN on Thursday warned escalation in Syria’s south could have dangerous repercussions for the estimated 750,000 civilians in the rebel-held area.