Al-Shabaab captures strategic town in Somalia’s Puntland

Displaced Somali children and teenagers attend a class to learn alphabets and numbers at a makeshift school at the Badbado IDP camp in Mogadishu. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Al-Shabaab captures strategic town in Somalia’s Puntland

  • Puntland forces ran away as we advanced to the town because they know we had taught them tough lessons before
  • Somalia has been gripped by violence and lawlessness since the toppling of Mohamed Siad Barre in the early 1990s

BOSASO: Somalia’s militant group Al-Shabaab has captured a small but strategic town 100 km (60 miles) south of Bosaso city in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, a military officer, Al-Shabaab and residents said on Friday.
Residents in Af Urur told Reuters that the town is now controlled by Al-Shabaab.
“When we woke up this morning, we saw many Al- Shabaab fighters controlling the town. The (Puntland military) forces had left yesterday,” Ahmed Nur told Reuters from Af Urur by phone on Friday.
Al-Shabaab wants to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government, expel the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force AMISOM and establish a government based on its own strict interpretation of the Shariah.
Af Urur’s position is important because the main road that links the cities of Garowe, Bosaso and Mogadishu passes nearby.
Puntland forces and Al-Shabaab have fought in the town, which has ditch defenses, several times in the past.
Mohamed Abdi, a Puntland military officer, told Reuters Al-Shabaab had taken Af Urur town by Friday morning, adding without elaborating that only a few Puntland military forces had been in the town on Thursday evening. “We were supposed to be replaced by other forces,” Abdi said. “We shall recapture the town from Al-Shabaab.”
Al-Shabaab confirmed that they had control of the town.
“Puntland forces ran away as we advanced to the town because they know we had taught them tough lessons before,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters on Friday. “We now peacefully control Af Urur town.”
Somalia has been gripped by violence and lawlessness since the toppling of Mohamed Siad Barre in the early 1990s.
Puntland is bordered by Somaliland to its west, the Gulf of Aden in the north, the Guardafui Channel in the east, the central Galmudug region in the south and Ethiopia in the southwest.
It has a long coastline, which is abundant with fish and other natural marine resources. Puntland has the lowest rate of poverty in Somalia.


Kosovo votes to create national army over Serb objections

Updated 18 October 2018
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Kosovo votes to create national army over Serb objections

  • Europe’s newest independent state which relies on NATO troops for its protection, voted to set up a 5,000-strong national army
  • The landlocked Balkan territory of 1.8 million, which declared independence in 2008, is still guarded by 4,000 stationed NATO troops

PRISTINA: Parliament in Kosovo, Europe’s newest independent state which relies on NATO troops for its protection, voted on Thursday to set up a 5,000-strong national army though its Serb minority said the move was illegal.
Serb deputies, backed by Belgrade which does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, have blocked any such move in the past saying creation of a national army required a change to the constitution.
But three laws promoted by the Kosovo government and passed by a parliamentary vote on Thursday simply upgraded the mandate of the lightly-armed domestic Kosovo Security Force (KSF) to become a national army — something which the government said did not require any changes to the constitution.
The vote was passed with 98 in favor in the 120-seat parliament, though it was boycotted by the legislature’s 11 Serb deputies. A second vote will be required in the next few days.
“The three laws have one task, to protect the territorial integrity of Kosovo, to protect the citizens of all communities in Kosovo,” Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said before the vote.
The landlocked Balkan territory of 1.8 million, which declared independence in 2008, is still guarded by 4,000 stationed NATO troops nearly two decades after the end of the war.
NATO moved into the fledgling state in June 1999 following weeks of air strikes to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians by Serbian forces fighting a two-year counter-insurgency after the break-up of Yugoslavia.
The United States and most of the European Union member states recognize Kosovo. But objections by permanent Security Council members Russia and China which back Serbia in not accepting Kosovo’s statehood prevent it from being a member of the United Nations.
The laws passed said the new army would have 5,000 active soldiers and 3,000 reservists. The present KSF security force is a lightly armed, 2,500-strong force trained by NATO and tasked with crisis response, civil protection and ordinance disposal.
NATO says it has no plans to leave the territory just now, but it suggested that any change to the status of the KSF might lead to a reduction in its forces there.
“Any change in the structure, mandate and mission of the Kosovo Security Forces is for the Kosovo authorities to decide,” a NATO official told Reuters in an emailed answer.
“NATO supports the Kosovo Security Force under its current mandate. Should this mandate evolve, the North Atlantic Council will have to re-examine the level of NATO’s engagement in Kosovo. We cannot predict decisions by the North Atlantic Council.”