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Somalia facing complex immediate and long-term challenges, UN Security Council told

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A wide view of the Security Council Chamber as Michael Keating (left on screen), Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), briefs the Council via video link. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

13 September 2017 – Highlighting complex immediate and long-term challenges in Somalia, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in the country (UNSOM) called for practical support, as well as political encouragement to the Somali leadership, both at the Federal and the state levels.

“The worst of the famine threat has been averted [but] damage to lives and livelihoods, particularly women, children and marginalised groups, has been extensive,” said Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, briefing the Security Council.

“An imperative for Somalis is to escape the vicious cycle of recurring weather-related shocks,” he added.

Another pressing issue before the country, Mr. Keating said, is of political problems becoming complicated by ill-defined relationships between various branches of the State, and in such a situation, the Federal Government’s management of the situation to prevent them from threatening progress on core objectives and the stability of the state was crucial.

In that context, he highlighted that the working relationship between the President and the Prime Minister as well as the determination of the federal Government to deliver “tangible economic and security benefits” for the population is very encouraging.

He also highlighted progress on preparing and passing important laws, such as the Telecommunications Bill and the Human Rights Commission Act, and said that completing the constitutional review was a critical task for the successful holding of elections in 2020-2021.

“The legislative framework and agreement on the electoral model are urgently needed,” he said, adding that these would help dispel scepticism on whether Somalia can move away from the so-called “4.5 model” to universal suffrage.

Realizing vast economic potential depends on addressing political issues
Highlighting the country’s economic potential in sectors ranging from agribusiness, livestock, fisheries, trade to renewable and other energy sources, Mr. Keating stressed that realizing the potential is contingent upon success in reaching a political settlement between the Government and the private sector, as well as on Government policies and capacities to implement them.

“A critical requirement will be raising revenues, whether from domestic sources or by accessing concessional finance,” he said, noting the Prime Minister’s appeal for immediate budget support to allow the Government to deliver on jobs and security, and to strengthen relations with Federal Member States by means of fiscal transfers.

The UN envoy also informed the Security Council of the UN-World Bank collaboration to devise a “surge support” package for public works, and urged partners to follow the European Union (EU), Norway and Sweden’s lead to use Recurrent Cost and Reform Financing Facility to that end.

Mogadishu is safer, but larger security situation volatile
Further in his briefing, Mr. Keating noted security improvements in the capital, Mogadishu, but added that the Al-Shabaab terrorist groups continues remains a potent threat that the overall security situation in Somalia remains volatile.

“Addressing insecurity and the continuing threat from Al-Shabaab requires vigorous implementation of the National Security Architecture Agreement and of the Comprehensive Approach to Security,” he said, noting that international partners have started working on its components.

He also underscored the need to ensure predictable funding for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) given that it continues to play an indispensable role in protecting Somali progress and people and as national security forces are not yet ready to shoulder full responsibilities.

At the same time, Mr. Keating added, support should also continue for the Somali security forces to strengthen their capacity.

Concluding his briefing, he informed that the UN is working with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union, the European Union (EU) and other partners to strengthen national conflict resolution capacities as well as to facilitate agreements in specific locations.

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Aamir Khan: The snake charmer – Witness

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Aamir Khan is one of the most popular and influential Bollywood actors in India today. He became a star of Hindi cinema in the 1980s, and his greatest commercial successes have been the highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time.

Yet in 2012, Khan’s career took an unexpected turn. Together with a childhood friend, he created a TV series called Satyamev Jayate which became the first prime time TV show in India to expose the country’s most critical social issues – from rape to female foeticide and dowry killings.

Aamir Khan was used to portraying macho men on a quest for vengeance and belongs to an industry accused of denigrating women and encouraging sexual violence.

But now, the 48 year old actor with Peter Pan charm risks his career by challenging men to re-examine their attitudes and behavior towards women, confronting the spiraling wave of gender-based violence in India and defying age-old stereotypes.

The snake charmer follows Khan on a journey through India’s TV and Bollywood film industry, as he attempts to change the way Indians perceive and treat women.

From the set of Satyamev Jayate, the film follows Aamir Khan backstage to his new Bollywood blockbuster Dangal.

Khan’s quest ultimately opens a window into a country in crisis and into the changes it is undergoing.

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Somali News

Under Trump, The Pentagon Has Been Quietly Escalating Its Presence In Somalia

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Like Niger, the increase in US troops deployed to Somalia has gone largely unnoticed.

BUZZFEED — The Trump administration has been quietly but rapidly escalating its campaign against al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia, launching almost daily drone strikes in recent days and increasing the number of US troops deployed there almost tenfold since May.

Like Niger, where a growing US military presence was widely recognized only after four US troops were killed last month, the expansion in Somalia has been largely unnoticed. But this week, the Pentagon acknowledged that the number of US troops in Somalia had grown to 500 from 50 in the spring and that US aircraft had struck targets of the al-Shabaab terrorist group six days in a row.

The growing Somalia presence now rivals the US presence in Syria, where defense officials say 503 US troops currently are operating.

Still, US officials deny that the US is ramping up its involvement in Somalia 24 years after 18 US soldiers died in conflict, as memorialized in the movie Black Hawk Down.

“I would not associate that with a buildup,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, told reporters on Thursday. “I think it’s just the flow of forces in and out as different organizations come in that might be sized a little differently.”

A series of five US air strikes in Somalia killed 40 al-Shabaab and ISIS fighters between Nov. 9 and 12, according to the Pentagon. A sixth strike killed “several” more on Wednesday. The US military has carried out 28 drone strikes in the country this year, with 15 of those happening in the last three months, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks the strikes.

There were 15 strikes against al-Shabaab in all of 2016. Even so, defense officials denied that this was an escalation.

“I certainly don’t think there’s a ramp-up of attacks,” McKenzie said. “There’s no particular rhythm to (striking targets), except that as they become available and as we’re able to process them and vet them, we strike.”

This month, the US also conducted the first strikes against ISIS targets in Somalia. Pentagon officials say the US is keeping a close eye on the movement of foreign fighters out of Iraq and Syria as ISIS is pushed back there, but gave no details on whether they might be trekking into Somalia.

“US forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats,” US Africa Command said Wednesday in a statement on the strikes.

While al-Shabaab has called for attacks on the US and the West, and even featured comments by President Donald Trump about Muslims in a 2016 recruitment video, it has not carried out any attacks outside the region. The insurgents, who seek to impose their strict version of Islam on the country, have been fighting to recapture territory they’ve lost to African Union peacekeepers and topple Somalia’s Western-backed government.

Last month, al-Shabaab was blamed for the deadliest terrorist attack in Somalia’s history, a truck bomb that killed more than 350 people when it detonated at a busy intersection in Mogadishu, the country’s capital. Al-Shabaab also has been blamed for many other attacks, including the September 2013 siege of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that left at least 67 dead. It also has stepped up the sophistication of its attacks, nearly succeeding in bringing down a Somali commercial aircraft in February by hiding a bomb in a laptop computer.

A small number of US forces have been in Somalia on so-called advise-and-assist missions since 2013, working with the country’s military to plan and support raids against al-Shabaab. One such raid, targeting a terrorist compound in May, led to the first US combat fatality in Somalia since the Black Hawk Down attack in 1993. A Navy SEAL was killed and two other US service members were wounded.

The recently intensified campaign comes after the Trump administration in March gave the military broader authority to carry out counterterrorism strikes in Somalia, relaxing rules meant to avoid civilian deaths. Two months earlier, the White House had made a similar move in Yemen, giving the military more freedom to target al-Qaeda militants.

“It’s very important and very helpful for us to have little more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of the decision-making process,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who oversees US troops in Africa, explained in March. “It allows us to prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion.”

Under the previous restrictions imposed by President Barack Obama in 2013, raids and air strikes were vetted by multiple agencies, and targets could be struck only if they posed a threat to Americans and could be hit without killing civilians.

The loosened rules have led to some “very disturbing” incidents where civilians have died, setting off a furious debate among leaders of the fragile central government, said Roland Marchal, an expert on al-Shabaab at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, known as Sciences Po, who had just returned from Mogadishu when he spoke to BuzzFeed News on Friday.

In one incident, 10 civilians, including three children, were killed in a US-backed raid in August in the village of Barire. The wrapped bodies of the victims were displayed in the capital to garner media attention, as the deputy governor of the region described how unarmed farmers had been killed “one by one.”

US Africa Command confirmed that US troops had participated in the raid and that it was “aware of the civilian casualty allegations near Barire.” It said it would conduct an assessment but didn’t respond to a request for comment about the inquiry.

“This was a really bad moment for the government, a lot of infighting and turmoil with people saying contradictory things, they had to pay the families blood money, and at the end of the day nothing has improved on the ground,” said Marchal. “The US [efforts] are not becoming any more popular.”

Faulty intelligence has also hampered some previous US strikes. A September 2016 strike in Galcayo, a city more than 350 miles northeast of Mogadishu, killed local militia forces allied with the US, not al-Shabaab fighters as the Pentagon had thought.

Simply increasing the body count of al-Shabaab militants is unlikely to significantly change the group’s hold in the region, Marchal said.

“You may be counting the corpses of militants and make wonderful statements of victory, but politically you’re losing,” he said. “People have to be aware that this overwhelming military approach is dysfunctional. … On the ground there’s a situation where you may be killing important figures, but it’s difficult to believe that this will significantly harm al-Shabaab because it’s a widespread organization and the Americans are targeting military commanders who could be replaced.”

In May, Mattis attended a conference on Somalia in London, where he had a private meeting with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

“I came away from that heartened,” he told reporters returning from the trip.

Mattis said international partners were working on “a reconciliation program designed to pull the fence-sitters and the middle-of-the-roaders away from al-Shabaab.”

US operations in Africa have been under scrutiny since the Oct. 4 ambush in Niger that killed four US soldiers, which drew attention to the little-known US involvement on the African continent. Lawmakers admitted they had no idea that the Pentagon had deployed more than 800 troops to that country.

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Somali Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry finds the rendition of Qalbi Dhagah was “illegal”.

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The rendition of Abdikarim Muse Qalbi Dhagax, ONLF commander and former Somali military officer to Ethiopian was illegal, a report by parliamentary committee said.

The report endorsed by Somali parliament on Saturday has also dismissed outlawing ONLF as a terrorist organization.

The parliamentary commission formed mid-September to probe the circumstances under which Qalbi Dhagah was extradited, blamed Somalia’s Intelligence agency for providing misinformation about the victim.

“Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency had provided the government leaders with wrong information and subsequently hid the case of Qalbi Dhagah from the justice department,” reads the report submitted to the House this morning.

The 15 member committee probed and reviewed the previous so-called Security agreement between Somalia and Ethiopian in relation to this matter.

“The government should mull over the previous deals and should keep away all matters that can lead insecurity,”  the committee urged the government in its report which overwhelmingly got 152 votes out 161 of  today’s session.

Qalbi Dhagah was handed over to Ethiopia on 28th August this year following a raid by Somali force on his hotel in Galkayo, central Somalia.

Days after the extradition, Somali cabinet had defended the rendition labeling as ONLF outlawed terrorist group.

The government of Ethiopia confirmed the handing over, citing a security partnership treaty between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu.

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