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U.S. Carries Out Drone Strike Against Shabab Militants in Somalia

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WASHINGTON — The United States military said on Monday that it had carried out a drone strike in Somalia against the Shabab, the Qaeda-linked insurgent group, in the second such strike since President Trump relaxed targeting rules for counterterrorism operations in that country in March.

The strike, which took place about 2:30 p.m. local time on Sunday, came three months after Mr. Trump cleared the way for offensive strikes, even without a specific self-defense rationale, in Somalia, a chaotic nation in the Horn of Africa.

“We are currently assessing the results of the operation, and will provide additional information as appropriate,” Maj. Audricia Harris, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in an email on Monday.

American officials have said in recent weeks that the military would carry out strikes against elements of the Shabab that plotted attacks, trained militants, stored munitions or other supplies, or other targets that supported and sustained the militancy.

“U.S. forces remain committed to supporting the Federal Government of Somalia, the Somali National Army and our Amisom partners in defeating al-Shabaab and establishing a safe and secure environment in Somalia,” Major Harris said.

Amisom is a coalition of East African nations, including Kenya and Uganda, that has served as an American-backed African Union ground force combating the Shabab in Somalia for the past several years.

Three weeks ago, the Pentagon conducted a drone strike against a command and logistics portion of a Shabab camp about 185 miles southwest of Mogadishu, the capital, killing eight militants, officials said.

The American military’s Africa Command described that camp as part of a broader Shabab stronghold from which the group has launched attacks, including operations over the last nine months in which it overran three African Union bases for peacekeeping soldiers from Burundi, Kenya and Uganda, and seized military weapons.

American officials did not immediately comment on details of Sunday’s drone strike or on its location or a description of what was hit, although a military official said the attack was similar to the one in mid-June.

That attack was carried out by at least one armed Reaper drone flying from a secretive air base in Djibouti. The Reaper dropped multiple Hellfire missiles on the Shabab camp, which American military surveillance aircraft had been monitoring for months.

The United States military has been training and advising African Union and Somali government forces in the country while becoming more directly involved in its civil war for the past several years. In May, two members of an American Navy SEAL team were wounded and one was killed while accompanying Somali forces on a raid against Shabab militants, the first American combat fatality in Somalia since the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” battle in Mogadishu.

Soon after Mr. Trump took office, the Defense Department proposed an escalation of force against the Shabab. The Pentagon wanted Mr. Trump to declare parts of Somalia to be an area of active hostilities, exempting it from the need to obey special targeting limits, known as the Presidential Policy Guidance, that President Barack Obama imposed in 2013 for counterterrorism strikes outside conventional war zones.

In late March, Mr. Trump signed off on the Pentagon’s proposal to exempt much of Somalia from the 2013 limits, clearing the way for the American military to carry out purely offensive strikes, and without going through interagency vetting.

But the head of Africa Command, Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, has said that he is exercising caution in using his new authorities, and that he had decided to keep the standard of near certainty that there would be no civilian deaths.

Against that backdrop, months passed without Africa Command carrying out strikes under the new authorities — until the strikes last month and again on Sunday.

Somali News

Kansas Trio Convicted in Plot to Bomb Somali Immigrants

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WICHITA, Kan. — A federal jury on Wednesday convicted three men of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and worshiped in Garden City, Kan., giving prosecutors a victory at a time when threats against religious and racial minorities are rising nationally.

“These defendants conspired to build a bomb, blow up a building and murder every single man, woman and child inside,” Tony Mattivi, a federal prosecutor, told jurors during closing statements.

The men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, all of whom are white, appeared stoic as the verdicts were read. They face up to life in prison when they are sentenced in June.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about seven hours over two days.

Defense lawyers tried to convince jurors that their clients were manipulated by the F.B.I., and had been unfairly targeted for exercising their rights to own guns and speak freely.

“He was a member of a militia. He loved his guns. This was a lifestyle,” Melody Brannon, a lawyer for Mr. Allen, told the mostly white jury. “The government tried to criminalize that lifestyle.”

The trial, which played out over about a month in Wichita, focused on a period before the 2016 presidential election when a paid F.B.I. informant infiltrated a militia group that prosecutors said included the three men. Prosecutors, who built much of their case around secret recordings that the informant made of the men talking, said that they planned to carry out the bombing on Nov. 9 of that year, a day after voters selected a president.

“They wanted to send a message to the people living there that they’re not welcome in Garden City, they’re not welcome in southwest Kansas, they’re not welcome in the United States,” Mr. Mattivi said.

The men, who called themselves “the Crusaders,” were arrested about four weeks before Election Day and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights, which the Justice Department considers a hate crime. Mr. Wright was also charged with lying to the F.B.I. The three men were found guilty on all counts against them.

The trial came amid a national escalation in threats against religious and racial minorities, especially Muslims, according to the F.B.I. and organizations that monitor hate crimes.

“It is now approaching the level of hate violence against the same communities that we saw in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT: South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national advocacy organization.

Prosecutors portrayed the Kansas defendants as aspiring domestic terrorists who joined a militia and decided to bomb the Somali apartments after considering other attacks — on elected officials, churches that helped refugees and landlords who rented to immigrants.

Defense lawyers, who criticized the F.B.I.’s investigation throughout the trial as government overreach, suggested that their clients had merely engaged in idle talk inspired partly by the 2016 election. Expletive-filled recordings of the men played before the jury contained repugnant, bigoted language, the defense lawyers said, but not evidence of a federal crime.

“It is not morally right to hold such hate, but it is not legally wrong,” said James Pratt, a lawyer for Mr. Stein, who acknowledged that his client referred to Muslims as “cockroaches.” Mr. Stein referred to himself, the recordings showed, as an “Orkin man,” referencing the pest extermination company.

“We all have the right to hate,” Mr. Pratt added.

A bombing never took place, and no one was physically injured in Garden City, a point defense lawyers emphasized to jurors. They said the men lacked the ability or commitment to carry out such an attack, and that the F.B.I.’s paid informant helped steer the plot and suggested targeting the apartments.

Garden City is a racially diverse place about 200 miles west of Wichita with around 27,000 residents. Many Somalis and other immigrants have moved to the area in recent years to work at a nearby meatpacking plant.

The apartment complex that prosecutors say was targeted is a center of Somali life in Garden City. Many refugee families live in units of the complex; others come to pray in a makeshift mosque inside one unit.

Moussa Elbayoumy, who chairs the board of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the verdict affirmed his faith in the justice system.

Many Muslims he talked to in Garden City had not followed the trial closely, Mr. Elbayoumy said, but had hoped for convictions.

“The instance was troubling, was concerning. People were afraid,” Mr. Elbayoumy said in a phone interview. “But after that, they put this behind them and moved on with their lives.”

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What’s triggering tension between Somalia and the UAE? | Inside Story

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Somalia has been in conflict for much of the past 25 years. But the horn of Africa nation has been showing signs of recovery.
And that’s provoked interest from many regional countries including the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf nation has been conducting a military training programme and running a hospital in the capital Mogadishu.

But, the UAE’s government has now abruptly ended its involvement on both those fronts after a series of recent diplomatic disagreements.

So, why are the UAE and other regional countries interested in Somalia?

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AMISOM asks for more police officers in Somalia

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DAILY MONITOR — KISMAYO- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has asked partners states to contribute more police officers to expand its operations in the war-torn country.

The call was made on Tuesday by Ms Christine Alalo, the acting AMISOM police commissioner while receiving 145 police officers from Sierra Leone.

The deployment of the force from Sierra Leone brings to 160 the number of police officers from Sierra Leone.

“We expect other police contributing countries to do the same because we are expanding our operations. We are moving away from Mogadishu,” Ms Alalo said.

Apart from Sierra Leone, other police contributing countries in Somalia are; Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana.

Early this month, over 500 Ugandan Police Officers sat for interviews that would see successful ones join police operations in Somalia.

Ms Alalo said since police operations will be extended to other federal states and districts, it is inevitable to increase the number of police units.

Between 2015 and 2016, AMISOM trained 600 Somali officers in Jubbaland, but Ms Alalo said that number has to be reinforced.

Meanwhile, the AMISOM Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mustafa Solomon Kambeh, said the police officers would be deployed in Jubbaland and Kismayo.

Mr Kambeh doubles as the Contingent Commander of the Sierra Leonean FPU in Mogadishu urged the forces to stick to the AMISOM mandate of pacifying Somalia and its regional states.

The Formed Police Unit is charged with public order management, protection of facilities and support to police operations that require a concerted response.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution adopted in 2017 approved an increase to a maximum of 1,040 police officers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)

AMISOM is committed to redoubling its efforts to train and recruit more police officers during the transition period as it prepares to hand over security responsibilities to the Somali security forces as stipulated in the Security Council Resolution.

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