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The Fact of the Matter: Al-Shabaab is Not Mining Uranium in Somalia to Sell to Iran



By Cindy Vestergaard

The Common Misconception

Militants are strip mining uranium deposits in Somalia to sell to Iran.

Fox News: “Al Qaeda affiliate mining uranium to send to Iran, Somali official warns US ambassador.”
VOA: “Somalia Seeks US Help, Says Militants Plot to Supply Uranium to Iran…the letter might be intended to draw additional military support from Washington more than anything else.”

The Fact of the Matter

A letter sent by Somalia’s Foreign Minister Yusuf Garaad to the U.S. Ambassador of Somalia, Stephen Schwartz, on August 11 overstates the risk of nuclear proliferation as an attempt to bring the United States into what is a decades-long protracted, factional conflict further complicated by high food insecurity, terrorism and no functioning central government.

Additional Background

There are no operating uranium mines in Somalia, nor any plans to construct one. The country’s known reserves are small and highly expensive to extract[1] with data largely based on geological mapping efforts done in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, mining activities in Somalia are described as small-scale and artisanal, mainly gemstones and salt production in Somaliland,[2] a self-declared independent (but not internationally recognized) region of Somalia.

Any development of the minerals sector is complicated by Somalia’s grim security environment. Twenty-six years of war, famine, foreign intervention, and terrorism have left Somalia’s 12 million inhabitants hungry, acutely malnourished, and displaced with most of the population (73%) living on less than US$2 per day. Mogadishu and other towns are now under government control, but the situation is far too divided and violent for democratic elections — the last were held in 1969. Somalia is Africa’s most failed state[3] and has been called “the worst place in the world.”[4]

The letter’s claim that Al-Shabaab, an Islamist militant group allied to al-Qaeda, is “strip mining triuranium octoxide” from “captured critical surface exposed uranium deposits in the Galmudug region” would suppose first that Al-Shabaab has an interest in excavating the land for uranium and secondly has the large industrial equipment, dump trucks, solvents and know-how to break and crush ore then extract and separate out uranium, and process it into a concentrate form for transport. No extremist group is known to have the resources for a mining operation, even if taking over an-already operational mine, nor would such an operation go unnoticed by intelligence agencies.

Lastly, the letter’s claim that Iran is the destination is a gross distortion even if al-Shabaab had the ability to mine uranium. The United Nations Security Council would know if uranium concentrates were being transferred to Iran. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached by Iran and six other powers (the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) plus the European Union in July 2015 monitors all transfers, trade and/or domestic production of uranium ore concentrates. Moreover, if Iran wanted to buy uranium it can do so openly through a ‘procurement channel’established by the JCPOA and endorsed by United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) for States wanting to transfer nuclear or dual-use goods, technology or related services to Iran. All such activities are to be approved by the Security Council, including any acquisitions by Iran of an interest in a commercial activity in another State involving uranium mining or production of nuclear materials.

If the argument has an oddly familiar ring, it is because uranium — or rather the fear of it — was a key part of the justification by the George W. Bush Administration (and by U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair) for invading Iraq in 2003. The claim was discredited and eventually retracted by the White House four months after the United States had begun military operations in Baghdad.

Cindy Vestergaard is a Senior Associate with the Nuclear Safeguards program at the Stimson Center.

[1] Uranium recoverable at a cost less than USD 260/kgU. See: OECD-IAEA Red Book, :

[4] “The Worst Place in the World: See What Life is Like in Somalia,” Business Insider,


Anglo-Turkish Genel Energy might starting drilling in Somaliland in 2019 -CEO



LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) – Kurdistan-focused Genel Energy might start drilling in Somaliland next year, Chief Executive Murat Ozgul said on Thursday, as the group reported 2017 results broadly in line with expectations.

“For the long term, I really like (our) Somaliland exploration assets. It’s giving me a sense of Kurdistan 15 years ago,” Ozgul said in a phone interview. “In 2019 we may be (starting) the drilling activities.”

Chief Financial Officer Esa Ikaheimonen said Genel will focus spending money from its $162 million cash pile on its existing assets in Kurdistan but added: “You might see us finding opportunities… somewhere outside Kurdistan.”

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Somali News

Africa is on the verge of forming the largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization



CNBC — According to the African Union, this would consolidate a market of 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.

But, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have both snubbed the summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

African heads of state have gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to sign a free trade agreement that would result in the largest free trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

Leaders are poised to approve the African Continental Free Trade Area, a deal that will unite the 55 member countries of the African Union in tariff-free trade.

The agreement is touted by the African Union as encompassing a market of 1.2 billion people, and a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion. It is hoped that it will encourage Africa’s trade to diversify away from its traditional commodity exports outside of the continent, the volatile prices of which have hurt the economies of many countries.

“Less than 20 percent of Africa’s trade is internal,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame, also currently chairperson of the African Union, said in a speech Tuesday. “Increasing intra-African trade, however, does not mean doing less business with the rest of the world.”

But, the deal has its critics. It was announced over the weekend that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari would not be attending the summit, despite his federal cabinet last week approving the deal. “This is to allow more time for input from Nigerian stakeholders,” said an official statement from the foreign ministry.

The agreement is opposed by the Nigeria Labour Congress, an umbrella organization for trade unions in the country.

“Given the size of its economy, population, and given its political clout, Nigeria’s stance towards the African Continental Free Trade Area is key,” Imad Mesdoua, senior consultant for Africa at Control Risks, a global risk consultancy with offices in Lagos, told CNBC via email. Nigeria is the continent’s most populous nation and considered by some metrics to be sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy.

“There is a general sentiment among (labor unions and industry bodies) that Nigeria’s export capacity in non-oil sectors isn’t sufficiently robust yet to expose itself to external competition,” Mesdoua said.

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, also called off his visit at the last minute, although it remains unclear as to why.

Africa’s population is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, according to the African Union. By this time it will account for 26 percent of the world’s working age population. Talks for the African Continental Free Trade Area began in June 2015.
Should the agreement be signed, second phase talks are expected to begin later this year. These will focus on investment, competition and intellectual property rights.

According to a study published by the United Nations last month, the deal will lead to long-term welfare gains of approximately $16.1 billion, after a calculated $4.1 billion in tariff revenue losses. But, the report did warn that benefits and costs might not be distributed evenly across the African continent.

In principle, a free trade area across Africa “makes perfect economic sense,” Ben Payton, head of Africa at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC via email.

But, he added: “The biggest risk is that African countries would be unable to effectively enforce external customs controls. For example, this would mean cheap Chinese goods that are imported into Ghana could eventually cross various African borders without further controls and make it into Nigeria. This problem already exists, but a free trade area would potentially make it worse.”

The World Trade Organization was formed in 1995 and comprises of 164 members.

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Somali News

At least 14 dead, several hurt in car bomb in Somali capital



ABC — At least 14 people were killed and 10 others wounded in a car bomb blast near a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Somali officials said Thursday.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the explosion occurred near the Weheliye hotel on the busy Makka Almukarramah road. The road has been a target of attacks in the past by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

Most of the casualties were passers-by and traders, Hussein told The Associated Press. The toll of dead and wounded was announced by security ministry spokesman Abdulaziz Hildhiban.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast. The group frequently attacks Mogadishu’s high-profile areas such as hotels and military checkpoints. A truck bombing in October killed 512 people in the country’s deadliest-ever attack. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people. Al-Shabab was blamed.

Thursday’s blast comes almost exactly a month after two car bomb explosions in Mogadishu shattered a months-long period of calm in the city, killing at least 21 people.

The Horn of Africa nation continues to struggle to counter the Islamic extremist group. Concerns have been high over plans to hand over the country’s security to Somalia’s own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be complete in 2020.

The U.S. military, which has stepped up efforts against al-Shabab in the past year with dozens of drone strikes, has said Somali forces are not yet ready.

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