Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Somali Diaspora: "Ethiopian brutality continues, UN and US complicit"

While many of us are celebrating holidays of peace and good will, the Somali Diaspora Network reminds us that thousands of Somalis are still suffering and dying as a consequence of Ethiopia's US-backed invasion of their country. Its latest press release charges that the world is guilty of ignoring the tragedy and calls upon the international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, the Africa Union, and the United States, to:

  • Intervene immediately to stop the bloodshed, the displacement of civilians, and further destruction

  • Put pressure on the Ethiopian government to immediately withdraw all its forces from Somalia without precondition or delay

  • Facilitate all inclusive dialogue among warring groups and the formation of unity government followed by free and fair elections

  • Bring to justice those who ordered or implemented the massacre and the forced displacement of civilians

NOTE: To read more about the Somali Diaspora Network, the newly established "Somali Cause" coalition of which it is a part, and the two-day conference in December at which it was formed, click here.

U.N. Unwilling to Condemn Renewed Ethiopian Military Atrocities in Somalia

Fairfax, Virginia, USA, 24 December 2007: Once again, the Ethiopian military and militias loyal to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) have intensified their campaign of indiscriminate shelling, systematic killings, detainments, and utter destruction resulting in the deaths, injuries, and maiming of many civilians, mainly women and children and renewed forced exodus of Mogadishu civilians.

According to the United Nations, the increased violence of the past weeks has caused the forced exodus of an estimated additional 100,000 civilians, mainly women and children, as such adding another layer of complexity to the alarming humanitarian crises already underway as an estimated over one million internally displaced Somalis are suffering from lack of basic services essential to their survival.

On October 30, 2007, 40 international NGOs have released a joint statement ominously warning against a gathering cloud of humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia urging the international community to respond to this man-made calamity as the Ethiopian forces and militias loyal to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) callously prevent the delivery of food aid, and bluntly stating that “there is an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in South Central Somalia”. The United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Eric Laroche, noted trucks carrying relief supplies to southern and central Somalia are often
faced with up to 200 different roadblocks. [Source: VOA 10/26/2007]

Ethiopia’s invasion and occupation of Somalia is a flagrant violation of the provisions of Resolutions 1725 (2006) and 1744 (2007)). Ethiopia also willfully violated the UN Charter, Article 2 (1) that describes the UN as being an institution “based on the principle of sovereign equality of all its members.” Furthermore, Article 2 (7) clarifies that nothing in the UN Charter authorizes intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.

The brutality of the occupation has been described as the worst atrocity of the Somali civil war: According to The Hague Conventions, Article 23: “It is a war crime to launch an indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population in the knowledge that such an attack will cause an excessive loss of life or injury to civilians”. Moreover, the Geneva Conventions are part of U.S. law- being ratified by Congress and by the President. Therefore Ethiopian leaders and their Somali counterparts could be found guilty of war crimes under the War Crimes Act of 1996 which carries the death penalty for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

The Ethiopian occupation forces have been committing gross human rights violations, indiscriminate shelling and targeting of civilians, targeted assassinations of those opposing the occupation, and rape thus creating poisonous environment where perpetual war in the Horn is not unfathomable. These gross human rights violations have created the humanitarian tragedy currently unfolding in Somalia. The complacency of the international community at large and the United States and the UN Security Council in particular have resulted in failure to bring this calamity to the forefront, let alone prevent its continuation. A disaster Alex Perry of Time magazine describes as being “on a par, in numbers and acuteness, with Darfur. The U.N. says 1.5 million people need assistance, of which a mere 60,000 are getting it.” [Source: Time Monday, Nov. 12, 2007].

It is within that backdrop that the Somali Diaspora Network (SDN) condemns the global complicity that made it possible for Ethiopia to invade in the first place and the lack of action and outrage from the UN and the larger the international community. We regard this silence tantamount to support of the atrocities committed by the Ethiopia’s occupying force. It is particularly egregious since the United Nations and Unites States provide financial and diplomatic support to the TFG in whose name these atrocities are being committed. SDN calls upon the international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, the Africa Union, and the United States to:
• Intervene immediately to stop the bloodshed, the displacement of civilians, and further destruction
• Put pressure on the Ethiopian government to immediately withdraw all its forces from Somalia without precondition or delay
• Facilitate all inclusive dialogue among warring groups and the formation of unity government followed by free and fair elections
• Bring to justice those who ordered or implemented the massacre and the forced displacement of civilians

ABOUT SOMALI DIASPORA NETWORK (SDN) – SDN is a grass-roots organization committed to advocate on critical policy matters pertaining to Somali-American interest and issues of concern through communication and information sharing, raising public awareness, and educating the public and government officials.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

"Americans do not want to know the evil they have committed against the poorest nation on earth." -- Anon.

Please take the trouble to read the
comment posted by "Anonymous" regarding my recent exchange with NYU graduate student Julie W. (carried in the four entries preceding this one). Although "Anonymous" is harshly critical of my government for supporting the Ethiopian invasion and financing Somali clan warlords, I believe his complaints are generally valid and certainly worth pondering.

I also recommend taking a look at the YouTube video"Anonymous" refers to near the end of his/her comment, which he says explains "why America invaded somalia." Although dated, it shows rare footage of Somalis at work in Mogadishu while it was under the control of the United Islamic Courts, with views I had not seen before.

Here's the beginning of "Anonymous's comments." Read the rest by clicking on "Read more!"

Any human being would be shocked to know what america has been up to this year in somalia.

Not only has the united states financed financially and politically the ethiopian invasion of somalia, they have also actively took part in the war.

In one point, they killed 200 nomadic somali's in the somali countryside with powerful AC130 gunships, all this in the name of fighting terror.

The ethiopians are a poorly trained army that are deeply disliked by the somali people.
The ethiopians have batted the capital city with their tanks thereby driving 1.5 million somalis out of the capital city.

Now we have a serious humanitarian crises in somalia, where 1.5 million somalis do not have access to clean water or food or even shelter.

If anyone would like to know what made america do all this, it is because the somali people drove out the hated evil warlords who were the same ones that killed 600, 000 somalis and 18 american marines.
When the somalis got rid of the warlords that setup a new government called the islamic courts union.

There was one problem, america did not like the idea of seeing somalia having an Islamic government even though the government brought 6 months of peace and stability to somalia and chased out the warlord gangsters.

My friend, that is why somalia is not in the media, and that is why the Americans do not want know one to know the evil they have committed against the poorest nation on earth.
But the rest of the world especially the middle east watch on their screens the daily violence that america has created in somalia even though the western media make no coverage of the disaster in somalia.

Here is a video that explains, everything, why America invaded somalia, its a good interesting video, enjoy.

Now in somalia we have a terrible situation, the warlords are back in power but this time there are ethiopians that are raping and killing somalis.
So the hell that the somali people were in has become a greater hell.

I just wish that george bush and key members of he's administration can be taken to court in the future for crimes against humanity if there is any justice in this world.
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

"Why does Somalia receive less international attention than Darfur?"

Julie W., a graduate student in Global Affairs at NYU, e-mailed me a set of four thought-provoking questions about Somalia's future. With Julie's consent, I'm posting her questions and my replies in four successive posts. (To read the posts in their proper order, begin here.)

Here is Julie's fourth question:

A UN representative recently said that the current situation in Somalia was the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa. Why do you believe that the humanitarian crisis in Somalia has received so much less international attention than the situation in Darfur?

. . . and my response:

Sad to say, ever since our humiliating retreat in 1993, most Americans have not wanted to hear about Somalia at all. Our purposes in "invading" Somalia in 1992 with a massive show of military strength were far more altruistic than were the Ethiopians' last year, and the results -- at least initially -- were far more positive and humane. But, as we know, after our efforts had saved tens of thousands of Somali lives, things went sour, largely because we Americans undertook to repair the "root causes" of Somalia's problems by force. When Gen. Aideed and others resisted our repair efforts, most Americans reacted -- not unreasonably -- as if we'd had our hands bitten while trying to feed people. Never mind that it was far more complex than that, the result has been that Americans have generally been unsympathetic to humanitarian crises afflicting Somalia ever since.

What's worse, since 9/11, Americans have been led to believe by their government that Somalia, in its perpetual state of anarchy and violence, was an ideal "breeding ground for radical Islam" if not a training camp for al Qaeda suicide bombers. Accordingly, they've registered little surprise that their government has not only condoned but encouraged and supported Ethiopia's invasion of its neighbor under the banner of the "war on terror."

Darfur, meanwhile, has been a poster child for humanitarian intervention, a place where hateful Arab rulers have tormented and brutalized virtuous and impoverished black farmers by unleashing horse-mounted killers called "janjaweed" (as evil-sounding a name as you could possibly think of!) to burn their villages and rape their women. How could good and evil be more clearly delineated? How could we not come to the rescue of the people of Darfur? (To my mind, what's been inexplicable about Darfur is how slow we've been to come to its rescue. Perhaps it's because we're afraid of having our hands bitten once again. . . .)

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"When will Ethiopia withdraw its troops from Somalia?"

Julie W., a graduate student in Global Affairs at NYU, e-mailed me a set of four thought-provoking questions about Somalia's future. With Julie's consent, I'm posting her questions and my replies in four successive posts.

Here is Julie's third query:

Ethiopian troops remain in Somalia and have been engaged in hostilities with insurgents in Mogadishu in recent weeks. One incident, in which Ethiopian troops were dragged through the streets by insurgents, was eerily similar to the “Blackhawk Down” scenario involving U.S. troops. Do you think that Ethiopia now faces the prospect of being drawn into a long-term occupation of Somalia? Do you foresee a scenario under which Ethiopia would withdraw its troops?

. . . and my response:

I'm not sure what you see as "eerily" similar about the two incidents involving barbaric treatment of captured foreign soldiers by angry Somalis. But certainly they share a common theme: a suitable response to similarly barbaric treatment at the hands of foreigners:

• The 1993 incident involving brutalization of U.S. troops in Mogadishu followed on the heels of an even more brutal U.S. gunship TOW-missle attack, aimed at disrupting a meeting of several dozen respected Somali elders who had gathered, we later learned, to discuss dumping the infamous General Mohammed Farah Aideed and suing for peace with the Americans. Scores of men, women, and children were killed in the incident. (See Mark Bowden's version of the attack on "Abdi's House," pp. 72-74 of "Black House Down"; sadly, this incident was omitted from the grossly one-sided movie version of Bowden's book.)

• The 2007 incident that involved dragging captured Ethiopian troops through the streets of Mogadishu likewise occurred in the wake of a callous military attack on unarmed civilians, in this instance indiscriminate bombardment of civilian neighborhoods of the city by the invading forces; and it similarly caused a very considerable death toll and an angry response by families and neighbors of the victims.

I also question whether, or perhaps how, Ethiopia has been "drawn into a long-term occupation" of Somalia. With U.S. encouragement and tactical support, and after extensive preparation, Ethiopia launched its armed invasion of Somalia exactly a year ago (December 20), declaring of course that it had no intention of remaining there longer than was necessary to eradicate the terrorist threat it perceived inside Somalia, i.e., the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).

Background (probably unneeded): The UIC had seized control of Mogadishu from clan warlords six months earlier, imposing its own shariah-based peace on the capital and winning a substantial popular following as a result. It had also defeated an attempt by those same ousted warlords, newly armed and supported by the United States, to regain control of Mogadishu. And it had subsequently expanded its political control outward from the capital into other areas under warlord control, finally threatening to capture the Transitional Government's provisional capital at Baidoa, located on the principal highway between Mogadishu and the Ethiopian border.

It was down that same highway (the very route Mussolini's army had taken to reach Addis and conquer Ethiopia seventy years earlier) that a major force of Ethiopian troops then poured into Somalia, easily routing the UIC militia, quickly seizing Mogadishu itself, and soon expanding to control most other towns in the area. Twice, its American friends sent helicopter gunships to attack throngs of Somalis fleeing the invaders, ostensibly to prevent "terrorists" from crossing the border into Kenya. Dozens of refugees and nomads were killed in the process.

A year later, a half-million Somalis have fled Mogadishu while the Ethiopian invaders find themselves in a quagmire not unlike ours in Iraq. I strongly doubt their government intends for them to remain in Mogadishu any longer than necessary to neutralize the radical Islamist threat it perceives from that quarter; and like ourselves in Baghdad, they have installed themselves as guarantors of very wobbly government and assumed the task of training and leading a new security force (largely composed of President Abdullahi Yusuf's own rag-tag tribal militia from the north) intended to suppress its opponents. But hundreds of young Somalis have meanwhile responded by organizing and arming a sort of maquis resistance to challenge the invaders and drive them out of the country.

As a consequence, as much as the Ethiopian troops might like to pack up and go home, they now have a tiger by the tail and cannot let loose without a serious loss of dignity. President Clinton swallowed a similar Somalia embarrassment in 1993 by simply declaring our job done, lowering our flag, and withdrawing our forces; that's the only scenario I can imagine under which the Ethiopians might withdraw now.
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"Will anything concrete result from the Reconciliation Congress?

Julie W., a graduate student in Global Affairs at NYU, e-mailed me a set of four thought-provoking questions about Somalia's future. With Julie's consent, I'm posting her questions and my replies in four successive posts.

Here is Julie's second question:

A National Reconciliation Congress was held in Somalia this past August. The Congress produced some ambitious goals in their closing statement, including the drafting of a constitution and eventual free elections. However, a large opposition contingent did not participate in the Congress, and instead held a meeting in Eritrea under the banner of the Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia (ALS). Given the absence of much of the opposition, do you believe that anything concrete will actually result from the National Reconciliation Congress?

. . . and my response:

It is very difficult to achieve "reconciliation," national or otherwise, when one of the parties to the dispute is absent or deliberately excluded. This is what happened very recently at the US-sponsored Arab-Israeli peace conference in Baltimore, where some fifty nations and groups joined in congratulating each other for their high-mindedness, but Hamas, the one group whose cooperation is essential to the peace process, was excluded. Why bother convening such a useless and costly event, unless its real purpose is merely to impress the U.S. President's domestic audience?

The National Reconciliation Congress in Somalia last August was no different. The only groups and parties invited to attend were those known for their sympathies toward the TFG, transitional president Abdullahi Yusuf, and his Ethiopian patrons, and they naturally found much cause for hopeful celebration and fulsome pledges of cooperation. Systematically excluded, however, were those who were not prepared to give tacit welcome the Ethiopian invaders and condone their violent repression of opposition to the TFG. Yet without the active participation of the latter, I see no chance that anything meaningful will result, any more than the Baltimore spectacle will move Israel and Palestine any closer to peace. Again, why bother, unless the event's real purpose is to persuade foreigners that it's safe to return to Somalia?

No, I don't believe anything concrete will actually result from this "congress" any more than has resulted from the previous fourteen (if my counting is correct) Somalia gatherings that outsiders have sponsored since 1991. One of these days, though, perhaps many years from now, the Somalis will get it together and organize their own reconciliation conference without outside tutoring and management. That's when we can look for some significant "concrete results."

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Who might broker the conflict in Somalia?

Julie W., a graduate student in Global Affairs at New York University researching conflict assessment for her Master's Degree in Global Affairs, stumbled onto this blog three weeks ago and e-mailed me a set of four thought-provoking questions about Somalia's future (she has clearly done her homework!). Julie gave me permission to post her questions and my replies, which I'll do in this and three successive posts. If other readers wish to comment, I hope they'll do so, and I'm sure Julie will welcome them as well.

Here's Julie's first question:

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in early November that he felt that deploying a UN peacekeeping mission to Somalia was not a viable option because of the current security situation. He suggested that the small African Union force being deployed was the most that could be expected in the near term. Given that, what role do you think that the international community could legitimately play in helping to resolve the conflict in South-Central Somalia, given that most of the major international and regional players seem to have already taken sides, either with the Transitional Federal Government or with the opposition? Is there anyone that the parties to the conflict would view as an honest broker?

. . . and my response:

Although the Secretary General's view of Somalia is discouraging, it's hardly surprising. Right now, Ban Ki-moon's attention is focused on and the task of persuading the Sudanese government to allow in the 20,000-person force the Security Council has authorized to reinforce the African Union's small contingent there. Besides, he surely recognizes that any U.N. peacekeeping role in Somalia would have to be authorized by the Security Council and therefore blessed by the US government, whose support for the Ethiopian invaders has been disruptive rather than peaceable.

As for the African Union, Burundi was supposed to send a contingent to reinforce the luckless 6,000 troops sent in by Uganda some six months ago, but as far as I'm aware, hasn't gotten around to doing so yet. Bujumbura has no doubt noted the difficulty Uganda's forces have had and the number of losses they've suffered in trying to pacify the situation. I seriously doubt that any other AU state (or anyone else, for that matter) will be willing to take on the task either, so long as there is no sign of a peace to keep in Somalia.

Brokering a truce is another matter. As you suggest, it's not easy to find a potential broker who isn't already identified as biased in favor of one side or the other. Much earlier on, the U.S. might have been -- and should have been -- helpful in identifying such a broker and promoting serious negotiations between (or among) the parties; but that opportunity is long since past, wiped away by Washington's incredibly foolish support for the Ethiopian invaders. For their part, the Europeans are viewed with suspicion by the Islamists because of their early support for the Transitional Federal Government, while the Arab governments are mostly suspected by the Ethiopians of supporting and arming the "radicals" in both Somalia and Eritrea.

If I were in a position to do so, I'd look to the Scandinavians -- especially the Norwegians -- who from early on have played a remarkably even-handed role behind the scenes, especially in channeling badly needed humanitarian aid to the thousands of victims of this foolish conflict. They have managed somehow to stay very well-informed of the tortured developments in this tangled situation, generally without raising hackles or making enemies of any of the parties. (BTW, if you're not already familiar with "Africa News Update," an excellent current events newsletter put out by the Norwegian Council for Africa "as a counterweight to traditional western news agencies" [their quote], you might check it out at . I regard it as an excellent source.)

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Somalia's political swords are drawn

By Daud Aweis
BBC News, Nairobi

As if Somalis do not have enough battles to contend with, their two leading politicians, President Abdullahi Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi, have fallen out.

And as parliament marshals to take stock of the achievements of the two men since they took office three years ago, it looks likely that one will get their marching orders.

The formation of the interim government had been a time of hope; President Yusuf declared himself a man of peace.

Yet violence once again reigns in the capital, Mogadishu, following the December ousting of Islamists, who had ruled most of Somalia for six months last year, by Ethiopian-backed government troops.

Insurgent attacks proliferate against Ethiopian and government targets. Even the presence of African Union peacekeepers is failing to reassure the city's residents, who continue to flee in their thousands.

The United Nations says in September alone 24,000 people left. In the same month some 300 people were admitted to hospital with serious gunshot wounds.

Donor fatigue

Neither Mr Yusuf nor Mr Ghedi has been spared the onslaught.

Thousands have been fleeing violence in Mogadishu

On a number of occasions Villa Somali, the president's residence has come under attack, as has the hotel hosting the prime minister.

Some argue that the current leaders are hardly better than the warlords whose feuds fed the city's violent disorder over the past 16 years.

Although the transitional government has the support of the UN and Western governments like the US, it has failed to win popular support on the ground.

There is also a growing fatigue, some foreign diplomats say, about picking up the tab for Somalia, in terms of government expenses, with no tangible returns.

Hence the clamouring call for a change of guard - and Mr Ghedi looks most likely for the chop.

He is seen as a political novice, installed as prime minister by the president with Ethiopian backing, who is now a stumbling block to progress.

While analysts complain that the cabinet it is made up of sycophants with little commitment to effect real change.

Fall guy

There has also been disappointment on the reconciliation front: the opposition - an alliance now based in Eritrea, which includes moderates of the Union of Islamic Courts - boycotted a much-touted reconciliation conference.

Mr Yusuf is under increasing pressure from foreign donors

Instead the event turned into a cosy gathering of government supporters.

Without the opposition on board, analysts say there can be little chance for future stability.

Not prepared to be the fall guy, the president has garnered the support of more than 20 ministers and a large number of the 275 MPs who are calling for a parliamentary vote of no confidence in Mr Ghedi's administration.

The prime minister is not taking this lying down and has forged an alliance with the Hawiye, a power clan which has been supporting the insurgency and long controlled Mogadishu where Mr Yusuf has always been unpopular.

The country is braced for a political duel.

But should Mr Ghedi get the boot, it may not be to the president's gain as it will renew his rivalry with the Hawiye who want him and his Ethiopian allies out of Mogadishu.

Mr Yusuf, under pressure from donors, also needs another favour from parliament: he must convince MPs to change the Somali Transitional Charter to co-opt non-politicians into cabinet.

Given that most Somali technocrats have aligned themselves with the opposition, this means this too could compromise what grip Abdullahi Yusuf still has on the reins of Somali politics.
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Saturday, September 15, 2007

War on Terror? or Genocide?

I find it awfully difficult to understand why the US government, and Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer in particular, do not see the contradiction in excusing the Ethiopian government for civilian casualties "because that's difficult [to avoid] in dealing with an insurgency" while labeling similar practices by the Sudanese government in Darfur as genocide. People in the region must surely wonder at our double standard.

Refugees claim mass killings in Ethiopia
By Shashank Bengali

The Ethiopian government is starving and killing its own people in the remote eastern Ogaden region, according to refugees, who describe a terrifying four-month crackdown in which security forces have sealed off villages, torched homes and businesses, commandeered food and water sources, and beaten, raped or executed anyone who resists.

Hundreds of civilians already might have been killed in the crackdown on a separatist movement known as the Ogaden National Liberation Front, according to interviews with dozens of Ogadenis who have gathered in a steadily growing refugee camp in this steamy port city 300 miles from the Ethiopian border. . . .

(Last week, after visiting one town in the Ogaden, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer condemned the rebels and said reports of military atrocities were unsubstantiated. "We urge any and every government to respect human rights and to try and avoid civilian casualties," Frazer said, "but that's difficult in dealing with an insurgency.")

"They strangled my wife with a rope," said Ahmed Mohammed Abdi, a 35-year-old farmer from Degehabur province, who came home one day this month to see his wife's body lying by the door, his 1-month-old son still suckling at her breast. That night, he fled into the bush and began a seven-day trek to the relative safety of northern Somalia.

"If you come and try to identify the dead body, the soldiers will beat you also," said the wiry, wide-eyed Abdi. "I was afraid to be killed, so I ran away."

A top aide to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi rejected the allegations. The government has barred reporters and international relief groups from most of the region, a vast desert that stretches from the central Ethiopian highlands to the border with Somalia.

In July, Ethiopia expelled the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross from the Ogaden, accusing its workers of aiding the rebels. Last week, the aid agency Doctors Without Borders said it also had been denied access, and it warned of a major humanitarian crisis.

Some aid workers worry that the Ogaden could become a second Darfur, referring to the Sudanese government crackdown on insurgents in that country's Darfur region, which the United States has labeled genocide.

In this instance, the United States has come out in support of Ethiopia, one of its most important African allies in the war on terrorism. The United States has helped train Ethiopia's military -- one of the largest and best equipped in Africa -- and backed its recent invasion of Somalia to topple a fundamentalist Islamic regime there.

Last week, after visiting one town in the Ogaden, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer condemned the rebels and said reports of military atrocities were unsubstantiated. "We urge any and every government to respect human rights and to try and avoid civilian casualties," Frazer said, "but that's difficult in dealing with an insurgency."

The accounts given by dozens of refugees in Bossasso this week paint a grim picture: Ethiopian forces burning or blockading scores of towns and villages in a strategy seemingly aimed at starving the population, which widely supports the insurgency. Since June, soldiers have confiscated food and medicine from shops, stolen camels and livestock and blocked people from using water wells, refugees said. Few commercial trucks have been allowed in, and relief workers say that food and humanitarian aid also has been stopped for most of the summer.

The people, mainly ethnic Somali nomads and farmers, are surviving on the meat and milk of their remaining goats. "They burned down my house," said Fatima Abdi Mohammed, a 40-year-old mother of six from a village near the eastern town of Warder. When she tried to protest, soldiers beat her with the handles of daggers, she said. "There is no water, no food, no health services. If people leave to fetch water with camels, they are killed or beaten." Many refugees said women in their villages had been raped.

Khadar Sherif Ahmed, 22, a villager from Degehabur, said he had watched security forces storm a mosque and fatally stab five people -- the oldest an 80-year-old man, the youngest a child of 8.

Bereket Simon, a senior aide to Prime Minister Zenawi, denied that soldiers were abusing or killing civilians. "We are singling out the terrorists. We know how to deal with insurgents," he said. "This army is well trained, and they know their mission." Earlier this month, Ethiopian forces escorted a U.N. fact-finding mission through parts of the Ogaden, but the team wasn't allowed to visit areas that refugees described as the worst affected.

Ethiopian officials accuse the separatist movement of fighting Ethiopian troops in Somalia and of receiving weapons and funding from archenemy Eritrea. The movement grew out of decades of neglect by successive governments in Addis Ababa, which left the region the least-developed part of one of the world's least-developed nations. Land-line and mobile phone networks barely function; walkie-talkies are the most reliable form of communication.

Roughly 1,000 refugees have made it to Bossasso, a port on the Gulf of Aden several hundred miles from the heart of the Ogaden, and there are new arrivals nearly every day. The U.N. refugee agency doesn't know how many Ogadenis have fled in recent months, although it thinks that several hundred are in Somaliland and neighboring Djibouti. "There hasn't been a refugee flood," said Alexander Tyler of the Somalia office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "That could be a reflection of the control that Ethiopia still has over the area."
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Escaping bombs in Mogadishu

Journalists in Somalia face more danger than ever before,
yet they persist in struggling to get their story out. Here's some insight into what they go through — and why.

Body of Somali journalist
Ali Iman Sharmarke

By Sahal Abdulle
First Published 2007-09-11, Last Updated 2007-09-11 12:24:48

I am in a car full of journalists driving from the funeral of a colleague murdered hours earlier in Mogadishu for doing his job. We don't get far.

An explosion throws our vehicle up and fills it with excruciating heat. Black smoke billows about us. I can feel the pressure rushing up inside my clothes, my neck splits open.

Climbing from the smoking wreck, blood spits through the fingers I clamp to my throat.

It was a remotely detonated bomb. Death is often random in Mogadishu, but in this case we were the target.

Journalist, friend, and founder of local media house HornAfrik, Ali Iman Sharmarke, lies dead beside the wreckage.

Amid the chaos and pain, I scan the crowd, looking for a doctor to help, or maybe the killer.

Somalia has become one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a journalist. I spent the last year there, staying in my family house, during some of the worst violence to hit Mogadishu in the last two decades.

I saw countless burned bodies in hollowed-out houses, the corpses of 90-year-olds and infants ripped to pieces. I watched colleagues die trying to get the Somali story out to a world already jaded by wars in Iraq, Darfur and Afghanistan.

Riven by conflict since the 1991 ouster of a military dictator left Somalia in anarchy, Mogadishu is wracked by an Islamist-led insurgency against the government and its Ethiopian military allies.

My colleagues and I in Somalia often talked about why we did the job. Some of us had left lives and families in the West. Mine was in Canada.

Ali and I asked each other that question many times. He too had a Canadian passport. Ali believed until the end that he was giving Somalis a voice and, like me, kept coming back.


We all had our own way of coping. A motley crew of reporters used to hide out at my Mogadishu home. They teased me about the hours I spent every day with my eyes closed, blocking everything out, listening to John Coltrane.

When the violence woke us before dawn, I tended to my garden. I planted 72 new species this year. The Australian at head office in Nairobi called me The Constant Gardener.

I once forced a reluctant taxi driver to help me save a tortoise. It was caught in the crossfire on a city street. I adopted him. You need to protect something amid such danger.

When I told my 11-year-old son, Liban, about the plants and the tortoise and his homeland, he sent me a text message: "Are you sure these bombs aren't going to your head, Dad?"

Swaying by the wreck in Mogadishu on Aug 11, sure that I've lost my left eye, that I am bleeding to death, that whoever detonated the bomb is near, a local man comes to our rescue.

The man recognises Ali, saying he would be homeless today had the journalist not helped him in hard times.

We race in his car towards Madina hospital, where my parents brought me in my childhood to see an Italian doctor.

The driver speeds through the city and I tell him I don't want to die in an accident on the way to hospital.

I had made myself a favourite of doctors and patients at the hospital this year, often berating journalists for intrusive behaviour: "One day you'll need these doctors to sew you up!"

Now that I need their help, the overworked doctors treat me with the same painstaking care as so many thousands of others I had seen wounded and wheeled through to the emergency room.

I'm with my family in Canada now. I don't know what I'll do -- if I'll go back.

Journalists in Somalia are in more danger than ever before, but if we all leave, there'll be no one to tell the story. Read more!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Two independent Somali journalists murdered; Mogadishu radio station shut down

11 August 2007

Two Somali broadcast journalists were killed just hours apart Saturday in Mogadishu.

Ali Iman Sharmarke, head of the HornAfrik media company, was killed by a roadside bomb as he was returning from the funeral of his employee, Mahad Ahmed Elmi, who had been shot to death earlier in the day.

Another journalist riding in Sharmarke's car was wounded in the bombing.

Elmi, who had a popular daily radio program, was often critical of the violence in Somalia. He was a manager of the Capital Voice radio station.

Somalia's transitional government temporarily shut down another radio station Friday. In an Internet posting, the station said it is closing after police arrested nine staff members, including the acting head of the station.

The radio station said the Ethiopian Embassy recently threatened to close the station.

Ethiopia has several thousand troops in Somalia to protect the fragile government.

In a separate incident Friday night, four government officials were killed in the capital.

The Islamic Courts Union took control of the capital last year before Ethiopian troops helped government forces oust the Islamists.

The government has battled an insurgency in Mogadishu since January, shortly after it seized control of the city.

The chaos in Somalia started in 1991 when warlords overthrew dictator Mohammed Siad Barre. The U.N. helped form a government in 2004, but it has not been able to restore peace.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.
Read more!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

U.S. readying new air strikes in Puntland?

No sooner do I get back to my Somalia blog after a month's absence than I find my government preparing to send attack aircraft into northern Somalia in supposed pursuit of terrorists seeking America's destruction in the desert hills of Puntland. This after having shelled the same area from warships off the Somali coast two weeks earlier, ostensibly to knock off the same al Qaeda-linked terrorists reported to be hiding there. Obviously the earlier attack was unsuccessful, but one wonders how much collateral killing and destruction resulted then—and how much more can be expected this time.

Why is it I find it difficult to believe that these U.S. attacks in Puntland are unrelated to the political interests of Interim President Abdullahi Yusuf, who hails from that very region of the country and who has for years—in his capacity as regional warlord—been engaged in a bitter power contest there with certain political opponents with ties to the Islamic Courts movement?

  • Is the U.S. military, under the fraying banner of the War on Terror, again proving its inability to learn from experience, either in Somalia or Iraq?

  • In what way does it serve American interests to become entangled, yet once more, in local clan rivalries and religious disputes that we don't understand and can't possibly resolve?

As my friend Sadia has remarked a propos of these air attacks, "Our president asked, 'Why do they hate us?' I think I am figuring it out."

AFP - Tuesday, June 12 08:08 pm

MOGADISHU (AFP) - US warplanes are overflying the northern Somali region of Puntland in preparation for air-strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda fugitives, more than a week after US warships shelled the area, officials said Tuesday.

The semi-autonomous regional government had authorised the overflights to pursue Al-Qaeda members believed to be hiding in the moutainous area, Puntland's security minister Ibrahim Artan Ismail told reporters. . . .

"We know that American warplanes are overflying Puntland territory. This air surveillance is part of an agreement reached between Puntland authorities and the Americans," Islamil told a news conference in northern Somali town of Bosasso.

"The warplanes are looking for Al-Qaeda hideouts and when they get them, they will bomb them," he said, adding that the air operation covers areas where intelligence shows Al-Qaeda elements are hiding.

Residents told Somali media that US planes have been overfying the area.

Ismail asked residents of the inland mountanious areas and the hilly shoreline "not to worry about planes flying over them."

A US navy destroyer shelled the coast on June 2, killing at least 12 Islamist fighters, including foreigners, who were believed to be allied to extremist groups, Puntland officials said.

CNN reported that the destroyer was targeting a suspected Al-Qaeda operative believed to have been involved in the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

Earlier this year, a US plane bombed positions in southern Somalia after Ethiopia-backed Somali government forces ousted a powerful Islamist movement from the country's southern and central regions. Local elders said more than 100 civilians were killed.

The targets were suspected Al-Qaeda operatives blamed both for the 1998 US embassy bombings and the 2002 suicide attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in the Kenyan port of Mombasa that killed 15 people.

Among the so-called "high value" Al-Qaeda militants believed to be in Somalia are Fazul Abdullah Mohammed from the Comoros, Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Sudanese national Abu Taha al-Sudani, an arms expert believed to be close to Osama bin Laden.

Others are Sheikh Dahir Aweys, the hardline cleric heading Somalia's Islamic Courts Union, and Adan Hashi Ayro, the commander of the Islamists' militia wing, the Shabaab.

A US force is based in Djibouti and patrols the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden as part of the US-led "war on terror".

US intelligence says Al-Qaeda has stepped up operations in Somalia, a nation of about 10 million people wracked by lawlessness since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Somalia's Puntland and neighbouring Somaliland regions have declared a form of autonomy and have enjoyed relative stability compared to Somalia proper, which has been wracked by lawlessness since 1991.

Read more!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Somalia loses a friend in Anthony Mitchell

Associated Press reporter Anthony Mitchell, who was killed with 113 others in a tragic Kenya Airways crash May 5, was one of a handful of Western journalists giving serious and balanced attention to recent developments in Somalia. Mitchell's reporting was notable for its focus on the impact America's so-called "War on Terror" was having on innocent Somalis and Somali-Americans caught in the crossfire.
It was Mr. Mitchell who brought to light U.S. collaboration with Somalia's neighbors Ethiopia and Kenya in capturing suspected "terrorists" and detaining them for interrogation at secret locations in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in the region. (Click here to read his revealing report posted one month ago on this blog.)

Amy Goodman, host of the radio news program Democracy Now!, captured the importance of Mr. Mitchell's reporting in a tribute entitled "A Shining Light Goes Out in Africa." "The world has lost another journalist," she said, "one who was taking the necessary risks to get at the heart of the complex and often ignored story of Africa." She continued:

Mitchell's exposé detailed the fate of some of the hundreds of thousands of refugees. They were fleeing war, but to the United States they were possible al-Qaida operatives who had found a safe haven in Somalia. According to Mitchell, dozens of refugees were "transferred secretly and illegally in recent months from Kenya and Somalia to Ethiopia, where they are kept without charge or access to lawyers and families."

Be sure to read Ms. Goodman's piece in its entirety, either by clicking on "Read More" below or following this link to her ZNet website.

A Shining Light Goes Out in Africa
by Amy Goodman
May 10, 2007

On Saturday, May 5, Anthony Mitchell died in the crash of Kenyan Airways Flight 507, which killed all 114 people on board. Based in Nairobi, he was an Associated Press reporter who had recently broken a story on secret prisons in Ethiopia and the U.S. involvement in the detention and interrogation of prisoners there. The world has lost another journalist, one who was taking the necessary risks to get at the heart of the complex and often ignored story of Africa.

Most Americans know of Somalia as the setting for the feature film "Black Hawk Down." This film depicted the failed 1993 U.S. military assault on Mogadishu. Eighteen U.S. soldiers died. Less well known is that more than 1,000 Somalis also were killed. Somalia, which had been mostly ignored by the U.S. media, was briefly in the news as the U.S.-backed Ethiopian military overthrew the Islamic Courts Union, which had been controlling most of Somalia.

Mitchell's exposé detailed the fate of some of the hundreds of thousands of refugees. They were fleeing war, but to the United States they were possible al-Qaida operatives who had found a safe haven in Somalia. According to Mitchell, dozens of refugees were "transferred secretly and illegally in recent months from Kenya and Somalia to Ethiopia, where they are kept without charge or access to lawyers and families."

In his groundbreaking report, Mitchell wrote, "CIA and FBI agents hunting for al-Qaida militants in the Horn of Africa have been interrogating terrorism suspects from 19 countries held at secret prisons in Ethiopia, which is notorious for torture and abuse."

The U.S. State Department documented Ethiopia's use of torture, and the FBI admitted to Mitchell that it was interrogating prisoners there.

Several prisoners have since been released, including 17-year-old Safia Benaouda, a Swedish citizen. She was the first to report that uniformed U.S. military personnel arrested her and directed the Kenyan soldiers who took her captive.

Amir Mohamed Meshal is also being held there. The 24-year-old U.S. citizen is from Tinton Falls, N.J. His family's lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, told me: "The U.S. admits that the FBI has interrogated him. The Red Cross and family have been denied access. We can't get a lawyer to see him because we don't know where he's being held. It has been over two months, with no charge. We are calling for congressional hearings."

Salim Lone, a columnist with the Daily Nation in Kenya, knows about terrorism. He was the U.N. spokesman in Iraq when the U.N. compound there was bombed in 2003. After the U.S. launched airstrikes against Somalia last January, Lone told me, "The world does want to help the U.S. end terror, but the way the U.S. repeatedly is doing it, from Iraq and Afghanistan to now in Somalia, this will increase the amount of terrorism that exists in the world."

Make no mistake about it, the Horn of Africa is in the cross hairs of the United States. There is oil in Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. The New York Times reported that after the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, the U.S. allowed Ethiopia to buy arms from North Korea even though the U.S. had just won tough U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

The Pentagon recently announced the formation of Africom, the "new unified, combatant command" for Africa. Columnist Salim Lone's response? "It's the last thing Africa needs. ... It's going to militarize Africa; it's going to inflame conflict. There is so much anger against the United States, especially if it's in the Horn of Africa, which is primarily Muslim."

Marc Lacey covered Africa for The New York Times from 2001 to 2006: "Africa correspondents spend a lot of time in the air, often on old planes. I think crashes are in the back of every reporter's mind. Anthony Mitchell was a fearless reporter. He understood the complexity of the continent and cared."

Our exchange with Africa must involve more than oil, guns and secret prisons. Once people know, they care. Shining a light, journalists provide understanding. We need more coverage of Africa, from African journalists and from reporters like Anthony Mitchell.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!

Read more!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Amy Goodman Gets It Right!

Mainline media in the U.S. have practically blacked out news of the tragedy unfolding in Somalia, while the State Department assures us that nothing dramatic is going on there. But Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! has slashed through the smokescreen to give us an authentic and altogether chilling account of the tragedy unfolding in Somalia and of the hurtful role being played by the Bush administration, which continues to support Ethiopia's lawless invasion and brutal occupation of the country in the name of combatting international terrorism and so-called "radical Islam."

In piecing together her devastating picture of what's happening, Ms. Goodman struck gold when she discovered Kenyan journalist Salim Lone, one of the few in the media who seem to understand what's really going on there, and why. Her detailed interview with Lone deserves careful reading in its entirety, as does her clip of Scott McClellan's clumsy justification of U.S. complicity in the widespread violation of human rights lately noted in the European media. Read the full text by clicking on the title line above. Better yet, click here and go straight to the full video of the program.

Democracy Now! deserves our deepest thanks for bringing the story of the Somali tragedy to broader public awareness. Some choice excerpts from the broadcast follow:

In Somali, fierce clashes in Mogadishu are being described as some of the heaviest fighting in the city's history. Some 329 people have been killed over the past ten days. This comes just three weeks after another series of battles claimed at least 1,000 lives. The United Nations says more people - over 350,000 - have been displaced in Somalia in the past three months than anywhere else in the world. [includes rush transcript] And here is the rest of it. Read more!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

IRIN film on Somalia you MUST see!

This just in from Bashir — a film you absolutely must see. Click here . . . but trust me, it will break your heart!

I hope you can watch this UN documentary by Lucy Hannah on Somalia. It is from December 2006, just before the "official" Ethiopian invasion, and it frames the Somali situation before the invasion. [It's] a sad juxtaposition to the current state of affairs. It is only 18 minutes long but it will bring tears to your eyes.

Bashir Read more!

I. M. Lewis: "TFG and Ethiopian war crimes no surprise."

"Much more surprising," says Professor Lewis, the distinguished Emeritus professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics, "is that European ministers and officials who have supported them may also be implicated [in these crimes]." His insightful comments, backed by a lifetime's study of Somalia and deep affection for its people, deserve everyone's thoughtful attention.

Ethiopia's Invasion of Somalia
by I.M. Lewis
Monday, April 16, 2007

Reports that the forces of 'transitional president' Abdillahi Yusuf and his Ethiopian allies have committed war crimes against civilians in the course of trying to subdue the citizens of Mogadishu is no surprise. Much more surprising, and morally satisfying, is the news that the European ministers and officials, who have so vociferously and uncritically supported Abdillahi in his bid to represent himself as Somali President, may also be implicated in these charges.

Whatever the judicial position, the European Union is certainly morally guilty of doing its utmost to prop up the essentially otiose transitional federal government, whose only significant political action since its formation has been to get the Ethiopians to try to force their authority on Somalia. What is particularly astonishing, and in my view inexcusable, is the imperialistic behaviour of the European politicians and bureaucrats in completely ignoring Somali public opinion and its overwhelming rejection of Col. Abdillahi and his followers.

There are many causal strands in the present conflagration of violence in Mogadishu, but the most obvious and the most regrettable is the external recognition that Abdillahi has been given by people who clearly have closed their minds to his lack of support within Somalia. One could say that it is only ignorance, but I am afraid that it is worse than that, it is willful ignorance on the part of those whose democratic values seem not to be applied to the Horn of Africa.

There is certainly no lack of ignorance within Somalia on how Abdillahi was appointed transitional president with massive Ethiopian support and how, with Ethiopian prompting, he chose as prime minister their candidate, a connection of Prime Minister Meles himself. These links to Addis Ababa underlie the Ethiopian invasion. Another obvious link is, of course, the loosely organised Islamic Courts whose unwisely bellicose threats to Ethiopia, were provoked by Abdillahi's reliance on the Ethiopians.

Thus, in Somali ears the uninformed chorus of EU approval appeared to embrace the supporting role of the Ethiopians and to attack the Islamists. It only remained for the Americans (for whom the Ethiopians acted locally) to enter the fray, inevitably against the Islamic Courts, a tiny minority of whose leaders were actually extremists. . . .

The Americans, of course, are equally ignorant of the really amazing achievements of the Islamists' brief months in power in southern Somalia. The Courts, with their mostly humble and poorly educated local leaders, did more to restore order and social progress there than the US has done in Iraq in four years. Nevertheless, the suspected connexions of a minority of the Courts' leaders played into the hands of Abdillahi who, not for the first time, portrayed his enemies as Muslim terrorists.

[Abdillahi] still does this, of course, and fails to distinguish those who actually fit the description and those who are simply local citizens who consider that he has no legitimacy. As a former separatist guerrilla leader, like his Ethiopian friend Meles, he might be expected to easily recognise birds of the same feather. However, he protests suspiciously loudly and in his claims to be fighting Islamist terrorists includes in the same rubric non-Islamist tribal militias representing the ordinary citizens of Mogadishu. After the terrible atrocities which have been committed in his name these local people will never forgive him.

Abdillahi thus has no chance of ever ruling Mogadishu—except under the kind of dictatorial oppression that his ignominious predecessor General Mohamed Siyad Barre practised with American and Italian support. Is this what the European Union wants? God knows what the Americans might want: the obscene results of their imperialist adventures in other parts of the Islamic world give little cause for optimism

I.M. Lewis
Read more!

Friday, April 13, 2007

WashPost: North Koreans Armed Ethiopians for Invasion of Somalia; U.S. Assented

More week-old news but weighty in its consequences. Why is no one pressing the administration for an explanation of its on-again, off-again position on U.N. Security Council arms sanctions? Are those sanctions only to be enforced when they're convenient for Washington?

North Koreans Arm Ethiopians as U.S. Assents

WASHINGTON, April 7 — Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country's nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials.

The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopia was in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the American policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.

American officials said that they were still encouraging Ethiopia to wean itself from its longstanding reliance on North Korea for cheap Soviet-era military equipment to supply its armed forces and that Ethiopian officials appeared receptive. But the arms deal is an example of the compromises that result from the clash of two foreign policy absolutes: the Bush administration's commitment to fighting Islamic radicalism and its effort to starve the North Korean government of money it could use to build up its nuclear weapons program. . . .

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, as the administration has made counterterrorism its top foreign policy concern, the White House has sometimes shown a willingness to tolerate misconduct by allies that it might otherwise criticize, like human rights violations in Central Asia and antidemocratic crackdowns in a number of Arab nations.

It is also not the first time that the Bush administration has made an exception for allies in their dealings with North Korea. In 2002, Spain intercepted a ship carrying Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen. At the time, Yemen was working with the United States to hunt members of Al Qaeda operating within its borders, and after its government protested, the United States asked that the freighter be released. Yemen said at the time that it was the last shipment from an earlier missile purchase and would not be repeated.

American officials from a number of agencies described details of the Ethiopian episode on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal Bush administration deliberations.

Several officials said they first learned that Ethiopia planned to receive a delivery of military cargo from North Korea when the country's government alerted the American Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, after the adoption on Oct. 14 of the United Nations Security Council measure imposing sanctions.

"The Ethiopians came back to us and said, 'Look, we know we need to transition to different customers, but we just can't do that overnight,' " said one American official, who added that the issue had been handled properly. "They pledged to work with us at the most senior levels."

American intelligence agencies in late January reported that an Ethiopian cargo ship that was probably carrying tank parts and other military equipment had left a North Korean port.

The value of the shipment is unclear, but Ethiopia purchased $20 million worth of arms from North Korea in 2001, according to American estimates, a pattern that officials said had continued. The United States gives Ethiopia millions of dollars of foreign aid and some nonlethal military equipment.

After a brief debate in Washington, the decision was made not to block the arms deal and to press Ethiopia not to make future purchases.

John R. Bolton, who helped to push the resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea through the Security Council in October, before stepping down as United Nations ambassador, said that the Ethiopians had long known that Washington was concerned about their arms purchases from North Korea and that the Bush administration should not have tolerated the January shipment.

"To make it clear to everyone how strongly we feel on this issue we should have gone to the Ethiopians and said they should send it back," said Mr. Bolton, who added that he had been unaware of the deal before being contacted for this article. "I know they have been helpful in Somalia, but there is a nuclear weapons program in North Korea that is unhelpful for everybody worldwide.

"Never underestimate the strength of 'clientitis' at the State Department," said Mr. Bolton, using Washington jargon for a situation in which State Department officials are deemed to be overly sympathetic to the countries they conduct diplomacy with.

Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, declined to comment on the specifics of the arms shipment but said the United States was "deeply committed to upholding and enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions." Repeated efforts to contact the Ethiopian Embassy were unsuccessful.

In other cases, the United States has been strict in enforcing the Security Council resolution. For instance, late last year, American intelligence agencies tracked a North Korean freighter suspected of carrying illicit weapons and pressed several nations to refuse to allow the ship to dock. Myanmar, formerly Burma, allowed it to anchor and insisted that there was no violation.

North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, and the Security Council resolution, adopted less than a week later, was hailed by President Bush as "swift and tough," and a "clear message to the leader of North Korea regarding his weapons programs."

Among the biggest sticking points during the negotiations over the resolution were Chinese and Russian objections to language requiring inspections of ships leaving North Korea. The United States repeatedly pressed China and Russia to agree to the inspections, saying they were essential to enforcing the resolution's embargo on North Korea's sale of dangerous weapons, like ballistic missiles. In addition to the ban on the purchase of weapons from North Korea, the resolution also called for a ban on the sale of luxury goods to it and the freezing of its financial assets in banks worldwide.

The measure had special relevance for several African states that have long purchased low-cost military equipment from North Korea. Ethiopia has an arsenal of T-55 tanks that it acquired years ago from the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations. For years, it has turned to North Korea for tank parts and other equipment to keep its military running.

The Ethiopians bought the equipment at a bargain price; the North Koreans received some badly needed cash. In 2005, the Bush administration told Ethiopia and other African nations that it wanted them to phase out their purchases from North Korea. But the Security Council resolution put an international imprimatur on the earlier American request, and the administration sought to reinforce the message.

"They really are one of the larger conventional arms purchasers from North Korea, and we're pressing them hard and saying, 'Let's get you out of that business,' " said the American official.

Another American official, who is involved in Africa policy, said: "These are cash on the barrel transactions. The Ethiopians know that they can get the best deal in Pyongyang," a reference to North Korea's capital.

In late January, the Central Intelligence Agency reported that an Ethiopian-flagged vessel had left a North Korean port and that its cargo probably included "tank parts," among other military equipment.

American officials said that the ship, the Tekeze, a modern vessel bought from a company in Montenegro and named after an Ethiopian river, unloaded its cargo in Djibouti, a former French colony where the United States has based Special Operations troops and other military forces. From there, the cargo was transported overland to Ethiopia.

The Security Council resolution's list of prohibited items included spare parts. Because the cargo was never inspected, some administration officials say the United States cannot say for certain that the shipment violated the resolution.

It is not clear if the United States ever reported the arms shipment to the Security Council. But because the intelligence reports indicated that the cargo was likely to have included tank parts, some Pentagon officials described the shipment as an unambiguous Security Council violation.

American officials said that the Ethiopians acknowledged that the ship was en route and said they needed the military equipment to sustain their Soviet-era military. Ethiopia has a longstanding border dispute with Eritrea, but of more concern to Washington, Ethiopia was also focused on neighboring Somalia, where Islamic forces that had taken over Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, six months earlier were attacking Baidoa, the seat of a relatively powerless transitional government that was formed with the support of the United Nations.

The timing of the shipment was extremely awkward, as the Ethiopian military was preoccupied with Somalia and also quietly cooperating with the United States. Ethiopia began an offensive in Somalia to drive back the Islamic forces and install the transitional government in Mogadishu late last year. The United States was providing it with detailed intelligence about the positions of the Islamic forces and positioned Navy ships off Somalia's coast to capture fighters trying to escape the battlefield by sea.

On Jan. 7, American AC-130 gunships launched two strikes on terrorist targets from an airstrip inside Ethiopia, though it did not appear that the casualties included any of the few top Qaeda operatives American officials suspected were hiding in Somalia.

After some internal debate, the Bush administration decided not to make an issue of the cargo ship.

American officials insist that they are keeping up the pressure on Ethiopia. While Ethiopia has not provided an ironclad assurance that it will accept no more arms shipments from North Korea, it has told the United States that it will look for other weapons suppliers.

"There was a lot going on at that particular moment in time," said the senior American official. "They seem to have the readiness to do the right thing."
Read more!

Salim Lone: "Kenya must take lead role in securing peace in Somalia"

The following opinion piece appeared this morning in Nairobi's Daily Nation. I agree wholeheartedly with the writer's call for more active European involvement in efforts to prevent the Somalia situation from unraveling further. Be sure to read the entire article by clicking on "Read more!" below.

The Iraq war continues to spiral out of control, the year leading up to its fourth anniversary this week, being the deadliest so far. Unless a political solution is sought, the destructive toll in lives is destined to reach an astounding one million in the next year, since it was already 650,000 a year ago according to a Johns Hopkins University study.

The world has also never been so unstable or threatened. With Somalia invaded, the world and our region are even more so, with four countries now occupied, all of them Muslim.

Once a war deepens, positions become entrenched and finding a peaceful exit becomes harder by the day. Peace and human rights advocates in Kenya must, therefore, take the lead in emphasising the need for a democratic, inclusive government devoid of the rampaging warlords rather than support the current aggression. . . .

WE MUST LEAD THIS CAMPAIGN because we are next door and directly involved, and the whole region could be engulfed by this crisis, as Mr Bethuel Kiplagat emphasised on Monday in these pages, although he advocated use of force as the way to end the resistance.

The same global paralysis and despair that could not prevent the ongoing Iraqi holocaust must not now be allowed to let Somalia unravel. The key for preventing this lies in Europe's hands, given its position as the most influential US ally with whom it shares many strategic goals. EU experts had warned last fall about the looming invasion, but as usual the EU decided not to challenge a major US strategic decision.

However, the EU's going public last week with its worries that, as a major funder of the concerned parties, it might be culpable in the war crimes that might have been committed in the massive assault on Mogadishu's civilian neighbourhoods shows the continuing extent of EU fears over Somalia. Behind the scenes, Europe needs to aggressively pursue with the US the case for finding a political solution, since inaction now will surely see the Horn of Africa become an even bigger powder-keg.

Other non-involved parties such as Russia, China, India and the Arab states must also take up the peace cause. The AU is in a harder position, having been boxed into backing the TFG.

There are very good reasons for the world to emphasise the folly of the current enterprise. One is the high-level turnout at the Somali Diaspora Conference last weekend. Two prime ministers from the 2000-2004 Transitional National Government, which preceded the TFG, and numerous ministers and MPs from that period, as well as Baidoa MPs, who resigned in the last year attended.

The decision of all these leaders to unite with the Diaspora and the Islamic Courts Union, along with the internal resistance, poses an insurmountable challenge to the occupiers. Somalis will not abide an occupation, and if it continues, the US and Kenya will be forced to become even more directly involved.

The other factor pushing for a negotiated settlement is the very pragmatic decision of the ICU to forego regaining control of the country, as indicated to me by Prof Ibrahim Addou.

Even though the Courts were primarily a moderate Muslim union, the offspring of businessmen, they nevertheless were vilified in the build up to war as extremists.

THEY WERE NOT ALL ANGELS, BUT they performed some remarkable miracles in bringing peace to most of Somalia and in driving out the warlords. They did not commit a single terrorist act. They made some miscalculations, but they were slated for destruction whatever they did, since the US and Ethiopia needed a client regime in Somalia, which the Courts were never going to be.

So the world stood by as a truly lawless invasion was mounted, involving not only Guantamo-type kidnappings, but violating also the UN Charter and three specific Security Council resolutions, including one on North Korea, all barring arms as well as neighbouring country troops from being sent to the country.

It is distressing in the extreme that the UN is silent on these breaches, and, in New York, I saw the spineless contortions of UN officials and spokesmen this week as they struggled to avoid commenting on war crimes that have been committed.

Read more!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Va. firm aids forces in Somalia"

This blows my mind! I guess it's old news, but it still shocks me to learn that the Department of State is responsible for out-sourcing a ten million dollar contract with a private U.S. firm to provide support for African Union "peacekeepers" in Somalia. Then again, hiring mercenaries to help suppress radical Islamist opposition to the Transitional Federal Government is consonant with our short-sighted War on Terror policy there.

Va. firm aids forces in Somalia

Richmond Times-Dispatch
From Wire Reports
Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The State Department has hired a military contractor to help equip and support international peacekeepers in Somalia, giving the United States a significant role without assigning combat forces.

Virginia-based DynCorp International, which also has U.S. contracts in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, will be paid $10 million to help the peacekeeping mission. It was not immediately clear if DynCorp employees would work inside Somalia under a contract signed three weeks ago.

It's a potentially dangerous assignment. When the first 1,500 Ugandan peacekeepers arrived in Somalia's capital Tuesday, they were greeted with a mortar attack and a major firefight. Yesterday, attackers ambushed the peacekeepers in Mogadishu, setting off another gunfight that wounded three civilians. . . .

Also yesterday, gunmen killed two police officers who were trying to search vehicles for weapons.

The support for the Ugandans is part of a larger goal to improve African forces across the continent and promote peace and stability in a region that's often lawless and a haven for terrorists, including some tied to al-Qaida. The U.S. has also begun to depend more on African nations for oil and minerals and wants to expand its influence.

The State Department has committed $14 million for the African Union peacekeeping mission to Somalia.

DynCorp had been contracted until April to provide assistance that includes supplying tents, vehicles and generators, said DynCorp spokesman Greg Lagana.

Somalia has seen little more than anarchy for more than a decade. The government, backed by Ethiopian troops, only months ago toppled an Islamic militia that controlled Mogadishu.
Read more!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

East African: "U.S. Sees Terrorists Under the Bed as People Die in Mogadishu"

April 10, 2007
By Charles Onyango-Obbo

Given the iron fist with which the Ethiopian army put down the protests in Addis Ababa two years ago following disputed elections, it was perhaps only to be expected that it would be only more vicious in its latest campaign against alleged Islamist extremist strongholds in Mogadishu.

Up to 400 people have died, and over 100,000 have fled Mogadishu in what the International Committee of the Red Cross has described as the worst fighting for 15 years in the Somali capital. . . .

The Ethiopian invasion was justified by both Addis Ababa and the US on the grounds that the Islamic Courts government in Somalia had given sanctuary to Al Qaeda elements and was harbouring terrorists who were behind the terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998. That if the Courts hadn't been kicked out of power, the terrorist network would have blossomed and consumed East Africa and the Horn.

IT IS indeed possible that some terrorist found safe haven in Somalia. Lately, though, I have become sceptical about the ability of events in one African country to seriously destabilise an organised neighbour.One suspects that with just an ordinary level of vigilance by the security forces, the threat that a Somalia ruled by Islamic Courts posed, could have been eliminated. Therefore, the need for Ethiopia to invade the country should not have arisen.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a good example. For many years, there was a terrible war in the DRC, which resulted directly and indirectly in the deaths of four million people. The media were full of stories about the likelihood that the conflict, which had drawn in Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola, would result in a "third world war" (this writer too penned a few such worried articles).

In the end, the conflict ended without any extraordinary effect on any country in the Great Lakes region. Most of the damage was confined to the DRC. There were very few, if any, Rwandans or Ugandans who didn't eat dinner or couldn't buy a new shirt or dress because of the DRC war.

ONE REASON for this is that life is still largely primitive in those parts of neighbouring African countries that refugees flee to.

The most damage refugees do is that they hasten the destruction of local environments as they demolish trees for fuel wood, and harvest all the grass for their huts. Otherwise the communities where they seek shelter live much the same way as before.

It isn't as if thousands of Congolese refugees are going to arrive in western Uganda and put new pressure on sewerage systems because they are using flush toilets. They will dig pit latrines and use the bush just like the local folks. Indeed, conflicts between refugees and their host communities have mostly arisen because, after the aid agencies set up water points, clinics and schools for the former, they immediately have a far higher standard of life than the local folks, who have nothing.

ALSO, FEARS of the conflict "spilling over" into neighbouring countries are often overstated. As President Yoweri Museveni observed some years ago, war in tropical Africa is still largely a rudimentary affair with barefoot soldiers in tattered uniforms fighting their way around trees in dense forests or banana plantations.

When they cross the border, they might steal a few chicken and goats, and kill some hapless peasants in their farms. But certainly, they are not going to be wiping out whole towns or trashing international airports with weapons of mass destruction. Besides, a determined militia can always disperse them.

Accepting these facts would help to reduce the hysteria that attended the capture of power by the Courts in Somalia, and encourage more intelligent interventions to solve such crises.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is Nation Media Group's managing editor for convergence and new products.
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Friday, April 6, 2007

NYT: "Somali Battles Bring Charges of War Crimes"

Published: April 6, 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 5 — European diplomats said Thursday that they were investigating whether Ethiopian and Somali government forces committed war crimes last week during heavy fighting in Somalia’s capital that killed more than 300 civilians.

Relatives buried a family member in Mogadishu on Thursday, days after fighting killed more than 300 civilians and prompted charges of war crimes against Ethiopian troops and forces of the interim government.

The fighting, some of the bloodiest in Somalia in the past 15 years, pitted Ethiopian and Somali forces against bands of insurgents. It reduced blocks of buildings in Mogadishu, the capital, to smoldering rubble. Many residents have complained to human rights groups, saying the government used excessive force and indiscriminately shelled their neighborhoods.

Eric van der Linden, the chief of the European Commission’s delegation to Kenya, said he had appointed a team to look into several war crime allegations stemming from the civilian casualties. “These are hefty accusations,” Mr. van der Linden said. “We are examining them very prudently.” . . . .

In an e-mail message to Mr. van der Linden marked urgent, a security adviser to the commission wrote that there were “strong grounds” to believe that Ethiopian and Somali troops had intentionally attacked civilian areas and that Ugandan peacekeepers, who arrived in the country last month, were complicit for standing by. The message was provided by someone who thought that the issue should become public; its authenticity was confirmed by commission officials.

Ethiopian, Somali and Ugandan officials denied that their soldiers had done anything wrong.

A war crimes case is about the last thing Somalia’s transitional government needs. Ever since it took control of Mogadishu in late December, the transitional government has struggled to pacify the city and win popular support.

Many Western diplomats have expressed hope that this transitional government, Somalia’s 14th, will end the seemingly interminable chaos that has enveloped the country since the central government collapsed in 1991.

But so far, the government has failed to deliver the same level of stability that an Islamist administration brought during its brief reign last year. It was overthrown by Ethiopian-led forces, with covert American help.

Mogadishu has become so dangerous — again — that many residents say they are now doubting whether the government will be able to hold a major reconciliation conference scheduled for mid-April. The Ethiopian military struck a truce with insurgents on Sunday, though, and the past three days have been quiet, giving beleaguered residents a chance to bury their dead.

The European Commission has no authority to prosecute war crimes and would have to refer any findings to the International Criminal Court. But commission officials said they were investigating the accusations because the commission has provided money and technical assistance to the transitional government and the peacekeeping mission there.

A Western official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic considerations predicted that even if there was compelling evidence of war crimes, the case would probably never get to court.

Another Western official, speaking anonymously for similar reasons, said, “At the end of the day, no one is going to want to further undermine the transitional government.”

Diplomats and analysts from Somali and international organizations predicted that the American government would resist the European effort because Ethiopia is a close American ally, valued as bulwark against Islamic militants in the Horn of Africa.

In the past week, human rights groups have been urging someone to look into the issue of civilian casualties. The Somali Diaspora Network, an American-based advocacy group, accused the transitional government and Ethiopian forces of “collective punishment” and genocide.

The Somali Disapora Network said Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the transitional president, warned in a recent radio interview that “any place from which a bullet is fired, we will bombard it, regardless of whoever is there.”

Several of the analysts said they believed that Ethiopian forces overreacted in the fighting last week. One analyst who works closely on Somali issues said Ethiopian soldiers might have panicked after they were surrounded by insurgents in Mogadishu’s main stadium and commanders responded by carpet-bombing the entire neighborhood.

Ethiopian officials denied that.

“Our forces have been praised for not attacking civilians and nothing in recent days has changed,” said Zemedkun Tekle, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government.

Abdirizak Adam Hassan, chief of staff for Somalia’s transitional president, did not deny that many civilians had been killed. “Unfortunately, this is what happens when you fight in a city,” he said.

But, he said, the government was simply trying to defend itself.

“For a good two months, these insurgents have been attacking our government compounds, planting land mines in the road, assassinating people,” he said. “Our job is to protect the people, not kill them.”
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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

AP: "U.S. interrogating at Africa's secret prisons"

Why am I not surprised? The Associated Press has confirmed my worst fears about the role U.S. intelligence agencies were playing in the "War on Terror" in Somalia, profiling and detaining suspected Muslim "radicals" by the dozen and using the facilities of cooperative Christian governments among Somalia's neighbors for purposes of interrogation.

I agree with John Sifton of Human Rights Watch, as quoted by AP: "The United States has acted as 'ringleader' in a 'decentralized, outsourced Guantanamo'."

My friend Bashir adds a comment of his own: "The fact that many Somalis have 'disappeared' into secret prisons is news to AP but so well known in Somalia that the warlords working for the US were nicknamed 'slave traders' in Mogadishu, i.e., they were selling Somalis into captivity for a few dollars."

NOTE: Click on image above to view larger version.

CIA, FBI agents eye secret prisons in Ethiopia looking for al-Qaida militants.

AP: U.S. interrogating at Africa’s secret prisons

The Associated Press
Updated: 8:58 p.m. ET April 3, 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya - CIA and FBI agents hunting for al-Qaida militants in the Horn of Africa have been interrogating terrorism suspects from 19 countries held at secret prisons in Ethiopia, which is notorious for torture and abuse, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

Human rights groups, lawyers and several Western diplomats assert hundreds of prisoners, who include women and children, have been transferred secretly and illegally in recent months from Kenya and Somalia to Ethiopia, where they are kept without charge or access to lawyers and families.

The detainees include at least one U.S. citizen, and some are from Canada, Sweden and France, according to a list compiled by a Kenyan Muslim rights group and flight manifests obtained by AP.

Some were swept up by Ethiopian troops that drove a radical Islamist government out of neighboring Somalia late last year. Others have been deported from Kenya, where many Somalis have fled the continuing violence in their homeland. . . .

Ethiopia, which denies holding secret prisoners, is a country with a long history of human rights abuses. In recent years, it has also been a key U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaida, which has been trying to sink roots among Muslims in the Horn of Africa.

U.S. government officials contacted by AP acknowledged questioning prisoners in Ethiopia. But they said American agents were following the law and were fully justified in their actions because they are investigating past attacks and current threats of terrorism.

The prisoners were never in American custody, said an FBI spokesman, Richard Kolko, who denied the agency would support or be party to illegal arrests. He said U.S. agents were allowed limited access by governments in the Horn of Africa to question prisoners as part of the FBI’s counter-terrorism work.

Western security officials, who insisted on anonymity because the issue related to security matters, told AP that among those held were well-known suspects with strong links to al-Qaida.

An 'outsourced Guantanamo'
But some U.S. allies have expressed consternation at the transfers to the prisons. One Western diplomat in Nairobi, who agreed to speak to AP only if not quoted to avoid angering U.S. officials, said he sees the United States as playing a guiding role in the operation.

John Sifton, a Human Rights Watch expert on counter-terrorism, went further. He said in an e-mail that the United States has acted as “ringleader” in what he labeled a “decentralized, outsourced Guantanamo.”

Details of the arrests, transfers and interrogations slowly emerged as AP and human rights groups investigated the disappearances, diplomats tracked their missing citizens and the first detainees to be released told their stories.

One investigator from an international human rights group, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak to the media, said Ethiopia had secret jails at three locations: Addis Ababa, the capital; an Ethiopian air base 37 miles east of the capital; and the far eastern desert close to the Somali border.

More than 100 arrests in January
More than 100 of the detainees were originally arrested in Kenya in January, after almost all of them fled Somalia because of the intervention by Ethiopian troops accompanied by U.S. special forces advisers, according to Kenyan police reports and U.S. military officials.

Those people were then deported in clandestine pre-dawn flights to Somalia, according to the Kenya Muslim Human Rights Forum and airline documents. At least 19 were women and 15 were children.

In Somalia, they were handed over to Ethiopian intelligence officers and secretly flown to Ethiopia, where they are now in detention, the New York-based Human Rights Watch says.

A further 200 people, also captured in Somalia, were mainly Ethiopian rebels who backed the Somali Islamist movement, according to one rights group and a Somali government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his job. Those prisoners also were taken to Ethiopia, human rights groups say.

Kenya continues to arrest hundreds of people for illegally crossing over from Somalia. But it is not clear if deportations continue.

The Pentagon announced last week that one Kenyan al-Qaida suspect who fled Somalia, Mohamed Abul Malik, was arrested and flown to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ethiopia denying secret prisoners
When contacted by AP, Ethiopian officials denied that they held secret prisoners or that any detainees were questioned by U.S. officials.

“No such kind of secret prisons exist in Ethiopia,” said Bereket Simon, special adviser to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. He declined to comment further.

A former prisoner and the families of current and former captives tell a different story.

“It was a nightmare from start to finish,” Kamilya Mohammedi Tuweni, a 42-year-old mother of three who has a passport from the United Arab Emirates, told AP in her first comments after her release in Addis Ababa on March 24 from what she said was 2½ months in detention without charge.

She is the only released prisoner who has spoken publicly. She was freed a month after being interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed by a U.S. agent, she said. Tuweni, an Arabic-Swahili translator, said she was arrested while on a business trip to Kenya and had never been to Somalia or had any links to that country.

She said she was arrested Jan. 10. Tuweni said she was beaten in Kenya, then forced to sleep on a stone floor while held in Somalia in a single room with 22 other women and children for 10 days before being flown to Ethiopia on a military plane.

Finally, she said, she was taken blindfolded from prison to a private villa in the Ethiopian capital. There, she said, she was interrogated with other women by a male U.S. intelligence agent. He assured her that she would not be harmed but urged her to cooperate, she said.

More families speak out
In a telephone conversation with AP, Tuweni said the man identified himself as a U.S. official, but not from the FBI. A CIA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday that the agency had no contact with Tuweni.

“We cried the whole time because we did not know what would happen. The whole thing was very scary,” said Tuweni, who flew back to her family in Dubai a day after her release.

Tuweni’s version of her transfer out of Kenya is corroborated by the manifest of the African Express Airways flight 5Y AXF. It shows she was taken to Mogadishu, Somalia, with 31 other people on an unscheduled flight chartered by the Kenyan government.

The family of a Swedish detainee, 17-year-old Safia Benaouda, said she was freed from Ethiopia on March 27 and arrived home the following day. Benaouda had traveled to Somalia with her fiancé but fled to Kenya during the Ethiopian military intervention, her mother said.

“She is exhausted, her face is yellow and she’s lost about 10 kilograms (22 pounds),” her mother, Helena Benaouda, a 47-year-old Muslim convert who heads the Swedish Muslim Council, wrote on a Web site she set up to help secure her daughter’s release. “She was beaten with a stick when she demanded to go to the toilet.”

The mother spoke briefly by telephone with AP, saying any information she had was being posted on the Web site. She declined to make her daughter available for an interview.

According to the Web site, an American specialist visited the location where Benaouda was being held and took DNA samples and fingerprints of detainees. It said the teenager was never charged or allowed access to lawyers. The teen was also concerned about a 7-month-old baby that was in detention with her, the Web site said.

One American among detainees
The transfer from Kenya to Somalia, and eventually to Ethiopia, of a 24-year-old U.S. citizen, Amir Mohamed Meshal, raised disquiet among FBI officers and the State Department. He is the only American known to be among the detainees in Ethiopia.

U.S. diplomats on Feb. 27 formally protested to Kenyan authorities about Meshal’s transfer and then spent three weeks trying to gain access to him in Ethiopia, said Tom Casey, deputy spokesman for the State Department.

He confirmed Meshal was still in Ethiopian custody pending a hearing on his status.

An FBI memo read to AP by a U.S. official in Washington, who insisted on anonymity, quoted an agent who interrogated Meshal as saying the agent was “disgusted” by Meshal’s deportation to Somalia by Kenya. The unidentified agent said he was told by U.S. consular staff that the deportation was illegal.

“My personal opinion was that he may have been a jihadi a-hole, but the precedent of ’deporting’ U.S. citizens to dangerous situations when there is no reason to do so was a bad one,” the official quoted the memo as saying.

Like Benaouda, Meshal was arrested fleeing Somalia. A Kenyan police report of Meshal’s arrest obtained by AP says he was carrying an assault rifle and had crossed into Kenyan with armed Arab men who were trying to avoid capture.

Meshal’s parents insist he is innocent and called on the U.S. government to win his release.

“My son’s only crime is that he’s a Muslim, an American Muslim,” his father, Mohamed Meshal, said from the family’s two-story home on a cul-de-sac in Tinton Falls, N.J., where he lives with his wife, Fifi.

“Clearly the U.S. government interrogated him, and threatened him with torture according to the accounts that we’ve seen,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law who has been assisting the family.

Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday to demand Meshal’s immediate release. “Our government cannot allow an American citizen to continue to be held by the Ethiopian government in violation of international law and our own due process,” he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, the guardian of the Geneva Conventions that protect victims of war, is seeking access to the Ethiopian detainees, said a diplomat from a country whose citizens are being held. He insisted on speaking anonymously because he is working for their release.

U.S. officials, who agreed to discuss the detentions only if not quoted by name because of the information’s sensitivity, said Ethiopia had allowed access to U.S. agencies, including the CIA and FBI, but the agencies played no role in arrests, transport or deportation.

One official said it would have been irresponsible to pass up an opportunity to learn more about terrorist operations.

Kolko, the FBI spokesman, also said the detainees were never in FBI or U.S. government custody.

“While in custody of the foreign government, the FBI was granted limited access to interview certain individuals of interest,” he told AP. “We do not support or participate in any system that illegally detains foreign fighters or terror suspects, including women and children.”

Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, declined to discuss details of any such interviews. He said, however: “To fight terror, CIA acts boldly and lawfully, alone and with partners, just as the American people expect us to.”

One of the U.S. officials said the FBI has had access in Ethiopia to several dozen individuals — fewer than 100 — as part of its investigations.

1998 bombings a focal point
The official said the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed hundreds are a major focus of the agents’ work. Law enforcement officials have long believed the bombings were carried out by members of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network who were later given safe haven in Somalia.

The official said FBI agents would not be witness or party to any questioning that involved abuse.

It wasn’t clear how many people the CIA interviewed or whether the agency’s officers were working jointly with the FBI.

The CIA began an aggressive program in 2002 to interrogate suspected terrorists at an unknown number of secret locations from Southeast Asia to Europe. Prisoners were frequently picked up in one country and transferred to a prison in another, where they were held incommunicado by a cooperative intelligence service. But President Bush announced in September that all the detainees had been moved to military custody at Guantanamo Bay.

One Western diplomat, who refused to be quoted by name for fear of hurting relations with the countries involved, would not rule out that additional suspects in Ethiopia could be sent to Guantanamo.

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua insisted no laws were broken and said his government was not aware that anyone would be transferred from Somalia to Ethiopia.

Lawyers and human rights groups argue the covert transfers to Ethiopia violated international law.

“Each of these governments has played a shameful role in mistreating people fleeing a war zone,” said Georgette Gagnon, deputy Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “Kenya has secretly expelled people, the Ethiopians have caused dozens to disappear, and U.S. security agents have routinely interrogated people held incommunicado.”

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