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Witnesses in Somalia Report Sinking Ship After Explosion



Mohamed Olad Hassan

Officials and residents in Somalia’s Puntland region say they saw a large ship off the country’s coast explode and gradually begin to sink Monday.

Witnesses in the coastal town of Muranyo describe the ship as looking like a warship, although it was not possible to immediately identify the vessel. They say two other ships in the area came to the aid of the sinking ship and rescued its crew.

The region is frequently patrolled by the European Union Naval Force Somalia to disrupt piracy and protect vulnerable shipping, including World Food Program vessels.

“The ship sank around sunset on Monday. Then, two warships came. Locals saw them evacuating the crew. No one has contacted us and we had no ability to extend a rescue at nighttime,” said Ali Shire Osman, the chairman of the northern Somali port town of Alula.

One witness described the scene to VOA’s Somali service: “A huge explosion happened, which sent plumes of smoke mixed with waves of water into the air. It was a deafening blast and then the ship started to gradually sink,” said Mohamed Ahmed. “Then two white warships came to the scene and are still there.”

Local fishermen said they returned to shore after the explosion, fearing the impact of the blast. “We are worried that what has happened might affect us and our fishing environment,” said Abdirahamn Omar, a fisherman in the town.

The town near where the incident happened is 44 kilometers east of Alula, which has been one of the pirate hubs in Somalia.

In April, observers warned that piracy could be making a comeback along the coast of Somalia, after gunmen hijacked two ships in 48 hours.

At the peak of the piracy crisis in the early 2010s, Somali pirate gangs were responsible for hundreds of attacks on commercial ships traveling in the Gulf of Aden, the western Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

According to annual reports compiled by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), Somali pirates hijacked 49 ships in 2010 and took more than 1,000 crew members hostage. The pirates and their backers sometimes split windfalls of more than $5 million for the release of a ship and its crew.

But Somali piracy virtually disappeared just three years later, after international navies began regular patrols of shipping lanes and ships took new security measures, in some cases carrying armed guards on board.


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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