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.


Lebanese-British investment forum highlights potential rewards from Cedar projects

The region is moving toward a stage of security and stability despite all the ongoing turmoil, said the Lebanese PM. (Reuters)
Updated 11 min 47 sec ago
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Lebanese-British investment forum highlights potential rewards from Cedar projects

  • We all need to be prepared to take advantage of investment and commercial opportunities, says Saad Hariri

BEIRUT: “The delay in the formation of the Lebanese government has not stopped the continuation of Lebanon’s implementation of projects and reforms of the Cedar Conference,” Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri told the Lebanon-UK Businessmen and Investment Forum in London on Wednesday.

During the Cedar conference in Paris last April, Lebanon received about $11.8 billion in loans, grants and investments to help fund structural reforms. However, talks to form a new Lebanese government following elections in May have been deadlocked for months, finally prompting President Michel Aoun to intervene in an attempt to broker a deal.
“The region is moving toward a stage of security and stability despite all the ongoing turmoil,” Hariri said. “We all need to be prepared for this stage to take advantage of the investment and commercial opportunities that lie ahead for reconstruction.
“We have reconsidered some sectors and projects to accelerate the planning and implementation of projects. We maintain regular dialogue with multilateral development banks to harmonize funding with investment-spending projects, and the Lebanese Parliament has also passed important legislation on some of the reforms required.
“The economy of Lebanon is under tremendous pressure, in part because of the continuing regional turmoil. Moreover, the economic and social challenges we are facing are exacerbated by the continued existence of one and a half million displaced Syrians for the eighth consecutive year."
Hariri also stressed “the role of the private sector in Lebanon and Britain to establish partnerships and joint ventures.”
He added: “The Tripoli Special Economic Zone in North Lebanon is the ideal platform for British manufacturers to produce and export to the region. It is only 30 km from the Syrian border and can make Lebanon a natural platform for the reconstruction of Syria.”
Alistair Burt, the British minister of state for international development, reiterated his country’s solidarity with Lebanon and respect for its independence and sovereignty, and pledged UK support for dealing with the complex situation in the region.
In particular, he praised “the Lebanese armed forces, which provides security and stability in its territory and on the Syrian border for the first time in the history of Lebanon, and was able, thanks to its capabilities, to defeat Daesh.”
He also stressed his nation’s “commitment to supporting these (Lebanese armed) forces,” and noted that “Britain has lifted the ban on its citizens visiting several places in Lebanon. All of them can now visit Baalbek, and see its magnificent monuments and enjoy the exceptional Lebanese hospitality.”
Burt also highlighted the business opportunities in Lebanon for British companies.
“The investment opportunities available in Lebanon are many and varied and include a variety of fields, which encourages the British private sector and investors to take advantage of the opportunities available to them and participate in the implementation of the Cedar projects, which makes it necessary for Lebanon to implement necessary reforms and form a government as soon as possible,” he said. “Lebanon is an important center of democracy and Britain is proud to be its partner.”
One British company already reaping the rewards of doing business in Lebanon is Rolls Royce, which signed a $300 million aircraft-engine contract with Lebanese national carrier Middle East Airlines at the forum. In the presence of Hariri and Burt, Mohammed Al-Hout, the chairman of the airline’s board of directors, and Rolls-Royce Chairman Ian Davies signed the agreement for the British company to provide the carrier with its latest Trent 7000 engines, along with servicing and long-term maintenance.
Simon Penney, the UK’s trade commissioner for the Middle East, said the deal was an example of the potential rewards awaiting British investors.
“Lebanon enjoys a dynamic, ambitious and open-minded business environment and we encourage investors in our country to look at it seriously,” he said. “Last year our trade volume was about £600 million ($760 million). Direct British investment in Lebanon rose by 47 percent in 2015 and 2016.
“The Beirut Container Terminal Consortium, a joint venture with Mersey Docks and Harbour UK, helped make Beirut Harbor the busiest port in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and the Lebanese-British Technology Center has supported, since its launch in 2015, more than 80 startups and helped create 2000 jobs.
“Last month, the London Stock Exchange Group launched its new ELITE program for Lebanese business under the auspices of the Lebanese Financial Markets Authority. Today, we have a deal worth $300 million between Rolls-Royce and Middle East Airlines.”
Penney urged Lebanon to fulfill its “commitment to economic reform to prove that it is a country that can be invested in.”
Gebran Bassil, the foreign minister in the Lebanese caretaker government, called for “the safe, dignified and sustainable return of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon to their country, away from any political agenda, because Lebanon should cease to be a victim of the crisis in the region and in Syria. It should be a platform for reconstruction of Syria, Iraq and the East at the right time.”
As the one-day forum concluded, Hariri said: “Investors are keen to come to Lebanon because they know that there are real opportunities that will be provided by Cedar.
“The formation of the government should have taken place earlier; I am ready, the names are ready and so is the distribution of the portfolios, but everyone knows by now where the disruption comes from.
“President Michel Aoun is making contacts and the Lebanese are all appreciative of what he is doing. We are doing what we have to do. Hopefully, the efforts will lead to positive results. I realized something positive today and we will remain positive for the benefit of the country.”