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Somaliland forces take control of town from Puntland in northern region



MOGADISHU, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) — Military forces from Somalia’s Somaliland Monday took control of a town under the region of Puntland following a fierce fight.

Residents of Tukaraq town in Sool region said Somaliland and Puntland forces clashed Monday as Somalia’s president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo made his maiden visit to Puntland.

“There was an intense fight between Puntland and Somaliland forces early Monday causing fear among residents. Somaliland forces are now in control,” a witness told Xinhua.

Puntland Defense Forces and Somaliland soldiers clashed with heavy weapons against each other in Takaraq town, about 90 km from Garowe which is an administrative capital of Puntland.

No casualties were reported during the heavy clash between the two warring sides at the border town.

The clash came as President Farmajo visited Puntland region Sunday for a weeklong tour, the first since he was elected to office February last year.

Both Puntland and Somaliland have been in contest over Sool and Sanag regions with each side claiming control. Puntland parliament threatened force in November against Somaliland if elections took place in Sool during the presidential poll. The polls however went on uninterrupted in most areas of Sool.


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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