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Somali Pro-IS Group Chief Survives US Strike, Says Regional Leader



The leader of the Pro-Islamic State group in Somalia has survived U.S. airstrikes which targeted caves in a remote mountainous area in Puntland, the region’s president told VOA Somali.

Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said the leader of the group, Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, was the target of Friday’s U.S. strike.

“They [US] were targeting those troublemakers and their biggest leader Abdulkadir Mumin, they were looking for them,” he said. “Based on the information I’m getting he is still alive and is not dead.”

Ali said the U.S. did not share intelligence with his region but assessment is based on information from his region’s intelligence agencies.

On Friday, the United States Africa Command confirmed carrying out two strikes against IS militants in Somalia. The first attack occurred at around midnight and the second attack took place the following morning at 11:00am.

The U.S. Africa Command says several militants were killed in the strikes in Buqo Valley, 160 kilometers east of the city of Bosaso. The strikes were the first against the group by the United States.

On Sunday a senior Somali intelligence official told VOA Somali that they believe up to 20 militants were killed in the two strikes. He said some of the caves the militants were sheltering in collapsed on them as a result of the bombing.

The official who asked not to be named, told VOA Somali that it’s “likely” the leader of the group Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin survived the attack.

“Either he was not in those caves or he was missed, it is likely that he is alive,” he said.

Al-Shabab splinter group

The official said he believes two foreign figures including a Sudanese militant were also in the targeted area.

Intelligence sources say at least four missiles hit the caves in Buqo Valley in the first of two rounds of strikes. The second round of strikes occurred after the militants gathered in a place believed to be a burial site for those killed in the overnight strike.

Pro-IS militants emerged in Somalia in October 2015 after splitting from al-Shabab. The group has since recruited members in the eastern parts of Puntland, where Mumin’s clan resides.

The group has claimed responsibility for four attacks in Bosaso this year including the last incident which occurred just ten days ago where a would-be bomber pushing explosives hidden in a wheelbarrow detonated the device killing himself and injuring six others.

A month before, the group claimed an attack on a police commander at a coffee shop in Bosaso. The officer survived with injuries.

In February this year two gunmen attacked the International Village Hotel in Bosaso and exchanged fire with security forces. Four soldiers and the two attackers were killed.

In May a suicide bomber blew himself up at a police checkpoint near the Jubba Hotel in Bosaso, killing five people and injuring 17 others.

The group scored its biggest attack in late October 2016 when its fighters seized the ancient town of Qandala from Puntland forces and kept control of it for 40 days.


As climate change parches Somalia, frequent drought comes with conflict over fertile land



PBS — Desert sand is slowly taking over Somalia. Just six years after the last major drought emergency, the rains have failed again — a devastating trend in a country where around 80 percent of people make their living on the land. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson and videographer Alessandro Pavone report on how climate change is threatening a way of life that has sustained Somalia for millennia.

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Briefing Room

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



(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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Justice eludes rape victims in Somalia’s Puntland – campaigners



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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