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CALEB WEISS

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has published a series of photos from last week’s raid on a military camp in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia.

The photos detail both the attack and the destruction left on the Puntland military camp, which does not appear to have been well fortified. The jihadist group claimed last week that it killed more than 60 soldiers, however, Puntland authorities have put that number closer to 30.

The latter appears to be closer to the actual number, as very few bodies are shown in the photo set. Shabaab has often confirmed high casualty numbers in similar raids by showcasing dead bodies strewn across overran bases.

Shabaab did confirm that its forces overran the camp and took several weapons and vehicles as spoils. The camp, which was located in Af Urur in the Galgala mountains, appears to have been destroyed by the jihadists.

The Galgala mountains have long been a stronghold of Shabaab, which has carried out a number of high profile attacks there. Most recently, on April 23, Shabaab fighters killed eight troops and wounded several more in a complex IED attack.
Shabaab is thought to have about 300 fighters operating in the Galgala mountains.

The Islamic State also has a presence in Galgala. An estimated 20 fighters loyal to Abdiqadir Mumin broke off from Shabaab and swore allegiance to Islamic State emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in October 2015. Several months later, Mumin was featured in a video that promoted the “first camp of the Caliphate in Somalia.” A defected member of Mumin’s forces reportedly placed the number of Islamic State-loyal fighters in Galgala at 70.

Shabaab has been resurgent in Somalia since losing ground to a combined African Union and Somali offensive in 2011. The jihadist group has slowly but methodically retaken several towns and villages that it lost in both central and southern Somalia. Last week’s deadly assault in Puntland also shows that the jihadist group remains a threat in northern Somalia as well.

Briefing Room

U.S. sanctions three people, three firms for supporting Islamic State

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(Reuters) – The United States said on Friday it had imposed sanctions on three people and three companies in the Philippines, Turkey and Somalia that supported the Islamic State militant group, including a business that procured parts for unmanned aircraft.

The U.S. Treasury, in a statement, said it had imposed sanctions on Abdulpatta Escalon Abubakar for providing financial and material support for Islamic State and its network in the Philippines.

It sanctioned Yunus Emre Sakarya and his Turkey-based firm Profesyoneller Elektronik for procuring parts for unmanned aircraft for Islamic State. And it sanctioned Mohamed Mire Ali Yusuf and his firms Liibaan Trading and Al Mutafaq Commercial Company for activities supporting Islamic State in Somalia.

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Puntland

Justice eludes rape victims in Somalia’s Puntland – campaigners

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NAIROBI/BOSSASO, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Women and girls in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland who accuse police, army and marines of raping them are not receiving justice, campaigners said on Tuesday.

Activists from the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development (GECPD) said no one has been charged in three cases of rape which have been reported to the police since December, in which security forces are suspected of involvement.

“We have seen an increase in cases of sexual violence that is sadly being perpetrated by persons suspected to be members of the police force,” said Hawa Aden Mohamed, director of GECPD, which is helping the women and girls involved in the cases.

“A law was passed on sexual offences, but it remains on paper, and is not being enforced. Police and investigators are not very aware of it, and even judges continue to ignore it.”

A senior police official in Puntland denied the allegations.

“Puntland is against rape. Any soldier who rapes is jailed and tough measures are taken against him,” said Osman Hassan Awke, Puntland’s deputy police commissioner.

“We are investigating the rape cases in Galkayo and any civilian or soldier found to be guilty of rape will face severe punishment,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Rape is pervasive and often goes unpunished in much of Somalia where rape victims are traditionally forced to accept compensation and marry their assailants in a centuries-old practice designed to end war between rival clans.

GECPD said it had documented victims’ testimonies and helped them to file complaints, as well as providing counselling.

In December, a 16-year-old girl with mental disabilities was gang-raped by four men suspected to be from the Puntland Maritime Police Forces in the coastal town of Garacad, it said.

The suspects were arrested but later set free after swearing on the Quran to deny the charges, while the victim was told she needed four witnesses in order to press charges, GECPD said.

The same month, a 29-year-old woman living in a camp for displaced communities in north Galkayo reported to the police that she was raped at gunpoint by a man wearing a military uniform, but no action was taken, GECPD said.

In the third case, four women were abducted from a settlement in Galkayo in January by eight armed men – some of whom they identified as local policemen – and two were raped, the campaign group said.

One man was arrested, then later released, it said.

Somalia’s northern Puntland region passed a landmark law in 2016 criminalising sex crimes such as gang rape but campaigners say police in the conservative region are either unaware of it or do not see violence against women as a serious crime.

Police training is needed to ensure investigations and bring perpetrators to book, they said.

“Rapes are often not reported,” said Brendan Wynne from New York-based Donor Direct Action, which supports rights groups.

“When they are, the criminal justice system is often not able to deal effectively with the case either because of logistic issues such as gathering forensic evidence or feeding a suspect in custody, or because of a lack of knowledge.”

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla and Abdiqani Hassan, Editing by Katy Migiro.)

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Puntland

Nugal farmers switch from vegetables to cereal crops as water remains short

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Farmers in Jibagalle village in drought-hit Nugal region have turned from vegetable to cereal crop production due to the shortage of water.

Jibagalle, 18 km from Garowe, received very little rainfall at the beginning of last year and nothing since then. The water levels in the wells are not enough for the constant irrigation vegetable farms require. Furthermore the farmers have suffered an array of pests and diseases that have ruined their recent harvests.

This month, farmers in the village switched to maize, beans and millet on the 30 hectares of land comprising 60 farms. Hassan Yusuf Karshe, deputy director of the Puntland farmers association, said he has also turned away from vegetable growing. He explained that cereals take 70 to 110 days to grow and need to be watered only twice, whereas vegetables need watering more than eight times before harvesting.

Cereals are also selling at a high price in the area, with a 50 kg sack of maize selling for around $40.

Karshe used $360 to plant his farm. He bought maize seeds from Garowe and planted on a portion of his four hectares. He hopes to plant more if the anticipated Gu rains arrive at the end of April. These new cereals are vital to their own survival in farming.

Farmers share the limited wells and the engines that pump water to the fields. The largest wells can only water six farms at a time.

Nadifo Ali Liban, 46, told Radio Ergo she had not harvested anything from her tomato farm in the last two years. Tomatoes, normally very profitable, have been badly affected by insects.

Three years ago, Nadifo used to earn around $15,000 from tomatoes on her 1.5 hectare farm. Now her hopes rest on the cereals she has planted. As a single mother of 13, including 10 children in school, Nadifo wants to be able to pay back her loans and stop feeding her large family off credit.

Abdiaziz Ismail Garad, a farming expert, has been campaigning for the development of Puntland’s agricultural sector for two decades. He said the new crop production will be key to the availability of food for people. Livestock will also hay from the cereal plants to keep them fed in the dry season.

Abdiaziz says local grain production will reduce reliance on expensive food brought in to the area from distant areas in southern Somalia and Ethiopia.

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