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.


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.