Somalia uproar continues after former Al-Shabab No. 2 seized

A Somali official says Ethiopian troops that are part of the African Union forces supporting the Somali government have arrested Mukhtar Robow in Baidoa. (File/AP)
Updated 15 December 2018
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Somalia uproar continues after former Al-Shabab No. 2 seized

  • Muhktar Robow was the former No. 2 leader of the Al-Shabab extremist group, who has been a leading candidate for a regional presidency
  • His arrest is seen as a high-profile test of Somalia’s treatment of defectors from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, Africa’s most active extremist group

NAIROBI, Kenya: A third day of protests began Saturday in Somalia over the arrest of the former No. 2 leader of the Al-Shabab extremist group, who has been a leading candidate for a regional presidency. Officials said at least eight people have been killed so far as angry supporters take to the streets.
The African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia in a statement released overnight called for “utmost restraint” after the gunfire-fueled uproar around Muhktar Robow’s arrest on Thursday in Baidoa, and it denied playing any role.
His arrest is seen as a high-profile test of Somalia’s treatment of defectors from the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, Africa’s most active extremist group. Somalia’s government welcomed the defection last year by Al-Shabab’s former spokesman but not his popular candidacy to lead Southwest state, which took some officials by surprise.
Robow was seized by Ethiopian troops accompanied by Somali police, witnesses told The Associated Press. He was flown to the capital, Mogadishu, a Somali intelligence official said. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters or for safety concerns.
Some Somali lawmakers had accused the AU mission of being involved.
Ethiopia’s military, which contributes troops to the AU mission, has not commented. Robow’s arrest could re-ignite old tensions between Somalia and neighboring Ethiopia despite recent diplomatic breakthroughs in the Horn of Africa sparked by Ethiopia’s reformist new prime minister.
Somalia’s security ministry confirmed Robow’s arrest, citing the federal government’s earlier ban on his candidacy, which said he had not completed the defection process. The ministry also alleged that Robow had failed to renounce extremist ideology, and accused him of mobilizing armed forces to threaten the security of Baidoa.
Somali officials have announced that the election for the Southwest presidency will go ahead on Wednesday, even after Robow was arrested. His local supporters in Baidoa have loudly protested.
A new joint statement by the United States, more than a dozen countries, the AU mission and the United Nations expresses concern, deploring the violence, urging dialogue and urging all parties to “to respect the integrity of the electoral process.”
Robow’s controversial campaign has further exposed the rift between Somalia’s federal government based in Mogadishu and regional governments, who in recent months have effectively severed cooperation with the capital over multiple grievances.


Australia cuts annual immigrant cap, puts key cities off-limits to some

Updated 5 min 12 sec ago
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Australia cuts annual immigrant cap, puts key cities off-limits to some

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes to tap into rising voter frustration over house prices and congestion
  • The policy change comes at a time of national reflection over Australia’s attitude toward migrants after the shooting of at least 50 people in New Zealand
SYDNEY: Australia on Wednesday cut its annual intake of immigrants by nearly 15 percent, and barred some new arrivals from living in its largest cities for three years, in a bid to ease urban congestion.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison — who is trailing badly in the polls ahead of a federal election in May — hopes to tap into rising voter frustration over house prices and congestion, which some see as a consequence of population growth.
“This is a practical problem that Australians wanted addressed,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra, the capital, after announcing the annual immigration intake would be cut to 160,000 people, with effect from July 1, versus 190,000 before.
The policy change comes at a time of national reflection over Australia’s attitude toward migrants after the shooting of at least 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand’s city of Christchurch.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at the two mosques during Friday prayers.
“My great frustration is that, in addressing these issues of population and immigration programs, these debates often get hijacked by those of competing views who seek to exploit them for other causes,” Morrison added.
“I reject all of that absolutely.”
A ReachTel poll published in September showed that 63 percent of Sydney residents supported curbs on the number of migrants moving to Australia’s biggest city.
Morrison said the cap would include places for up to 23,000 people who could migrate to Australia under a new skilled visa.
Such arrivals could gain permanent residency after living outside of Australia’s largest cities for three years, he added.
They will be barred from living in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney or the Gold Coast, where infrastructure is overutilized, said immigration minister David Coleman.
Authorities will require proof of residential and work addresses in future applications for permanent residency, he added, as a way of enforcing the requirement.
Business welcomed the bid to alleviate regional skill shortages.
“While Australians in our major cities are frustrated by congestion, those in our regions have told us they need more people, skills, jobs and investment,” said Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Australian Business Council.
There is no cap on temporary migration, such as students on temporary visas, who form the bulk of migrants to Australia, which issued 378,292 student visas in the year to June 30, 2018.