by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Feb 22, 2012
Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said Wednesday he would welcome European air strikes against Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents in Somalia, as long as they did not hurt civilians.
As his government announced a strategic victory against the rebels, Ali told reporters on the eve of a major conference on the future of the war-ravaged nation that the Shebab were a "global enemy, not only a Somali enemy".
The Islamist group already faces the threat of US drone attacks, but Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday that Britain and other EU countries were considering military air strikes on Shebab training camps.
"I have had no discussions of that with the European governments. But targeted Al-Shebab airstrikes are a welcome opportunity," Ali said ahead of the conference on Thursday.
"But we have to make sure that the safety and the property and the lives of the Somali people are protected. This is the utmost priority for us."
A British government spokesman pointed out on Wednesday that UK forces were already involved in various military operations in the region, but stressed a permanent solution would not be secured by military means alone.
The spokesman praised African Union troops for forcing Shebab out of the capital Mogadishu, and urged them to push on into the insurgents' heartlands.
Britain led on a UN Security Council resolution to increase the African Union force in Somalia from 12,000 to 17,731 troops, which was agreed on Wednesday.
Ali announced on Wednesday that Somali and Ethiopian forces had seized back the southwestern city of Baidoa, which had been one of the Shebab's main bases, leaving the group's fighters in central Somalia increasingly isolated.
He is seeking a huge package of international help for Somalia at the conference, which will be attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
He wants aid and mentioned the US aid programme that helped rebuild Europe after World War II, to construct roads, schools and hospitals, saying: "The expectations for us is there's going to be a huge Marshall Plan for Somalia."
But he admitted he had received few concrete pledges of funds ahead of the meeting, adding: "I really have no clue of what they will say tomorrow."
One of the issues on the agenda will be piracy off the coast of Somalia, which has been plagued by lawlessness and famine since the collapse of the last strong government in Mogadishu two decades ago.
The prime minister welcomed international maritime efforts to tackle piracy, but said the problem must also be tackled at its root -- namely the lack of any real law enforcement, and the widespread poverty in Somalia.
For the pirates, he said, "the opportunity cost of going to the high seas is not very high. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain."
Ali, a Harvard tax law graduate who was appointed in June at the head of a transitional government, expressed confidence however that Somalia was finally on course to resolve its problems.
"Now people are ready to put that behind them and to move forward," he said.
Somalia: rebels and regional powers in the conflict
Somali and foreign leaders are meeting in London Thursday for a conference aimed at tackling the crisis.
Here is an overview of key groups in the conflict:
AL-SHEBAB. The Al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents, whose name means "youth" in Arabic, control large areas of southern and central Somalia. They are thought to number between 5,000 and 8,000. Around 2,000 of them are well-trained full time fighters, including a contingent of around 200 foreigners.
The Shebab have imposed draconian restrictions on foreign aid agencies, with some of the country's famine zones in areas they control. After pulling out of fixed positions in Mogadishu in August, they switched to guerrilla attacks there, including suicide bombings.
TRANSITIONAL FEDERAL GOVERNMENT (TFG) forces. Thought to number some 3,000 soldiers, but ghost troops boost the payroll to twice that number. Some troops in the national army of the fragile Western-backed government have benefited from training by Western military experts as well as Uganda, but large sections of the rag-tag force are prone to infiltrations and defections.
AFRICAN UNION MISSION IN SOMALIA (AMISOM). The 10,000 strong force is the best-equipped force in the conflict, deployed since 2007 to protect the TFG from the Shebab in the war-shattered capital.
The force is split between troops from UGANDA and BURUNDI, while the first 100 men of a promised 850 troop deployment from Somali-speaking DJIBOUTI arrived in December. The force has asked the UN for permission to boost its size to 17,000.
ETHIOPIA has an estimated 1,500 men in Somalia. The forces crossed into central Somalia in November, Addis Ababa's first large-scale incursion since it pulled out in early 2009, more than two years after sending at least 30,000 troops with US blessing.
That invasion crushed an Islamist administration but sparked a bloody uprising and spurred the emergence of the even more radical Shebab. Ethiopia is believed to have maintained intelligence operatives on the ground and is the foreign force with the best knowledge of Somalia.
Ethiopian troops were last reported to be heading towards the key Shebab stronghold of Baidoa.
KENYA sent tanks and an estimated 4,000 troops in an unprecedented incursion into southern Somalia in October to fight the Shebab. Despite carrying out heavy air strikes progress on the ground has been slow. It has also backed anti-Shebab proxy forces in southern Somalia.
Kenya's primary target is Kismayo, the main southern port and a major insurgent bastion.
COVERT WESTERN FORCES are also reported to be operating inside Somalia. The United States flies drones out of neighbouring Ethiopia as part of a counter-terrorism campaign, but says the aircraft are for surveillance only.
MULTIPLE MILITIA FORCES, including those backed by regional powers as proxies. These include AHLU SUNNA WAL JAMAA, an anti-Shebab militia some 2,000-5,000 strong, who follow Somalia's traditional Sufi branch of Islam, with ties to Ethiopia. Some factions are more closely allied to the TFG than others. The SHABELLE VALLEY ADMINISTRATION -- a clan-based militia in the Beledweyne area, is also said to be Ethiopian-backed.
KENYAN PROXIES in the south include Ras Kamboni and Azania, who are themselves rival forces and who number about 500 fighters each. RAS KAMBONI is headed by Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, a hardened fighter and a defector from Hezb al-Islam, a group that merged with Shebab in late 2010. AZANIA is headed by Mohamed Abdi Mohamed, also known as Gandi, an academic who spent many years in France.
DOZENS OF FREELANCE GROUPS also operate countrywide, banded together by clan affiliations or opportunistically for tasks such as looting or setting up roadblocks. These groups change allegiance on a regular basis.
Africa News - Resources, Health, Food
Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.
Kenyan troops make slow progress in Somalia
Tabda, Somalia (AFP) Feb 22, 2012
Draped in belts of bullets and carrying a machine gun, Kenyan soldier Philip Namanda peers out into the shimmering heat of the yellow scrubland of southern Somalia, waiting for guerrilla attacks. "It's tough work, but we are tough soldiers," Namanda says, an infantry soldier based in the sun-blasted outpost of Tabda, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) inside war-torn southern Somalia, where Kenya ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|