Posts by Mohamed Odowa

Top Military and Police Officials Warn TFG Officials to Stop Bickering
Somalia's military officials have warned that the rifts between the top government leaders such as President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Prime Minister Mohamed Cabdullahi Mohamed, and Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden are disruptive to the fight against al-Shabaab, Somalia's Islamist extremist group battling the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) for control of the country.

General Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siyad Indha’adde, who was appointed as a military commander by the president, said Somali government leaders must be take responsibility by encouraging the troops to fight against the al-Qaeda inspired terrorist group instead of wasting time by creating challenges over the transitional period which is set to expire in August.

“Our troops have long been engaged in defeating perpetrators like al-Shabaab so we cannot accept the infighting among our leaders. I can say this political challenge may not only be disappointing to our soldiers, but the whole nation”, General Indha’adde told Somalia Report.

"It’s it important for us to kick al-Shabaab out of the country then the government can organize the general elections. I believe that is good for all people in Somalia and the outside world," continued Indha’adde.

"I fear the current divisions between the leadership of Somalia's Transitional Federal Institutions. I’m quite sure if this argument continues unsolved then it can help our enemy like al-Shabaab who are willing to oust the Somali government to run throughout the country with its strict interpretations of Sharia Law," said Police Spokesman C/llahi Hassan Barise.

"Finally I can tell you these days there are successfully ongoing operations to remove al- shabaab from the power in regions of Gedo and the capital city of Mogadishu," Mr. Barise told Somalia Report.

Aircraft of Unknown Origin Overfly Al-Shabaab Bases
Three unidentified helicopters and one fighter jet have been overflying Mogadishu, particularly militant Islamist group al-Shabaab’s bases, residents told Somalia Report Saturday.

The aircraft were first spotted on Friday flying over al-Shabaab bases, such as the football stadium, Warshada Bastada, and Maslaha, a camp where al-Shabaab has executed people accused of spying for the West, the Somali government and the AU peacekeeping force in Mogadishu. The sorties continued into Saturday.

“We saw four unknown aircraft - three are helicopters and the other one is a jet fighter, though we do not know exactly what the airplanes were looking for and their target,” Mogadishu resident Yonis Muse Isak told Somalia Report. “People are afraid of aerial bombardments.”

Other residents said the aircraft were flying very low, but did not open fire – although al-Shabaab forces took pot-shots at the passing craft. Sources said that senior al-Shabaab figures fled the area of Suqa Holaha, where many commanders reside, after the aircraft made their first appearances. Neither the Transitional Federal Government nor the peacekeeping force, known as AMISOM, have any air support, and neither would comment on the sightings.

In the past, the US has carried out raids from the air inside Somalia, killing top al-Shabaab members including former leader Aden Hashi Eyrow and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was wanted for terror attacks in Kenya. Foreign navies battling piracy off Somalia have helicopters on board their warships, while Kenya and Ethiopia has been accused of providing occasional air support to the government, although this is mainly in the border regions.

The government is in the middle of a renewed push to gain ground in Mogadishu and, backed by African Union peacekeepers, has edged closer to the al-Shabaab stronghold of Bakara Market.

Al-Shabaab Forces Seen Leaving Insurgent Stronghold
TFG Preparing to Re-Take Bakara Market
©Somalia Report
TFG Preparing to Re-Take Bakara Market

Transitional Federal Government troops on Sunday entered the insurgent stronghold of Bakara Market in Mogadishu as some fighters from Islamist militant group al-Shabaab were seen withdrawing from their positions, officials and residents said.

Fierce fighting could be heard around the market Sunday morning. At least ten people were killed and forty injured as the TFG took control of the main road linking the city center with the market, the defence minister said. A Bakara trader, who asked for anonymity, said three people were killed at the entrance to the main market as TFG forces pushed right up to the entrance.

Major Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the AU peacekeeping force (known as AMISOM), told Somalia Report that pro-government forces had taken control of a few streets inside the market area, and that operations would continue to expand territorial control.

The government, backed by African Union peacekeepers, early this month launched a new push against al-Shabaab, seizing new ground and coming to within a few hundred meters of the market.

Residents say that they saw several vehicles carrying al-Shabaab fighters, whose morale has been damaged by recent losses, retreat from the market. Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mahmoud Rage Ali confirmed that some militants had left their positions for "tactical reasons".

“We will the attack the AU and TFG, and we will stay in the market,” he said in a brief interview with a pro-al-Shabaab radio station.

AMISOM had earlier called on residents to reduce movements outside government-controlled zones, and promised to minimize civilian casualties in operations to gain control of the market.

Government Confirmation

TFG forces near Bakara on Saturday
©Somalia Report
TFG forces near Bakara on Saturday

Speaking at a press conference held in Villa Somalia, Abdishakur Hassan Farah, the minister of interior and national security, and Defense Minister Abdihakim Hajji Mohamoud Fiqi confirmed that the government has retaken parts of Bakara Market from al-Shabaab fighters.

“Our troops, backed by African union peace keeping forces, have fully taken over Wadnaha Road and the most important bases of al-Shabaab in Bakara market. We are warning the businessmen helping and fighting alongside al-Shabaab. We are asking our community to give us a hand to clean anti peace militias and the foreigners whom want to make Somalia a terrorism base” said Mr. Fiqi.

"We had already prepared special security for Bakara Market. We will protect the security of the properties in the Market. We are only fighting against al-Shabaab,” said Mr. Farah.

Should the government manage to seize significant portions of Bakara, it would be a major blow to the insurgents, who rely heavily on taxes on traders in the sprawling business center - along with revenues generated from the ports of Kismayo and Marka - to fund their battle to oust the government.

Aweys Cadde also contributed to this report.

Move Follows on From Order Forbidding Viewing of Foreign Games
Football match in Mogadishu
©Somalia Report
Football match in Mogadishu

Militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has announced a blanket ban on playing or watching football in areas under its control, following on from an earlier order forbidding the viewing of international matches.

Al-Shabaab officials toured the Afgoye district of Lower Shabelle over the weekend, proclaiming the ban from loudspeakers.

“If people defy our order against bad traditions like football, which infidels want to spread in Muslim society, then from today they will be punished,” a Senior al-Shabaab official, who wished to remain anonymous, told Somalia Report.

A local football fan, Jama Isse Muse, told Somalia Report that youths in Afgoye were extremely upset with the order.

“Such an order is incredible, but there is no way out for fans and players, as al-Shabaab may harm or kill anyone who opposes its words,” he said.

Somalia’s football federation condemned the decision.

“We are telling youth who love playing football to continue without fear of al-Shabaab,” Said Mugabe, chairman of the Somali Football Federation, said. “It is a shame and unreasonable to order the community to stop watching and playing football.”

The hardline Islamist group has already issued a range of bans on things it sees as un-Muslim, such as musical ringtones, school bells and chewing khat.

Ibrahim Mohamed Hussein 'Jeeky'
©Somalia Report
Ibrahim Mohamed Hussein 'Jeeky'

Somalia, which has not had strong functioning government in almost two decades, is listed as Africa’s deadliest country for journalists with 34 journalists killed since 1991, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Despite these killings and daily death threats, a few reporters remain in the country to provide the world with an inside view of the fighting that plagues Somalia.

In Mogadishu, journalists have to deal with the often-horrific events of warfare which are unavoidable when filing unbiased reports and in a city that has been at war for twenty years. This type of reporting, which can often cast clans, militias, and warlords in a very negative light, can attract reprisals, such as physical harassment, intimidation, and even arrest and, at its worst, torture and death.

Oftentimes, those militant groups being covered by the journalist may demand the reporter turn over their photographic equipment. This is usually due to the fact that these groups, “don’t want to let journalists take video or photos of their combat losses or document civilian casualties, whether intentional or through collateral damage,” according to a local journalist who spoke with Somalia Report on the condition of anonymity.

Al Qaeda affiliated Somalia terrorist group al-Shabaab is currently engaged in fighting against the African Union, and the Western-backed Somali government is increasingly intolerant to journalists and the idea of freedom of the press. For these reasons, many journalists have opted to flee to neighboring countries, justifiably concerned about their safety, should they be reporting on a militant group that takes issue with their reporting.

Despite these risks, some journalists have chosen to return to Mogadishu to continue their work in providing unbiased accounts of the ongoing conflict.

"I know it is surprise for some people to return from Stockholm, Sweden just to report from Mogadishu, but for me it is as a normal duty because I want to tell the truth about my people and it needs us to sacrifice,” said Abukar Albadri, a Somali freelance journalist reporting for The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Aljazeera English, and other major media outlets.

Abukar Albadri
©Somalia Report
Abukar Albadri
"When I am away from the country, I feel that I am in exile, missing the most awful events and abuses targeting the innocent people," he explained. “All I want is to update my people's situation to the entire world and record the violations against the people.”

“The violence against journalists motivated some media workers to turn away from their profession and stayed at home all the time sharing their destiny with their family’s while doing nothing for occupation,” former Somaliweyn editor Burhan Diini Farah told Somalia Report.

Burhan’s Station and other radio broadcasts included the popular HornAfrik radio had been seized by al-Shabaab insurgents, saying the seized stations will instead serve to broadcast pro-Islamic content. “I am still jobless since al-Shabaab took Somaliweyn Radio in the last year,” said Burhan. “To be an independent journalist inside Mogadishu and the south and central Somalia is a matter of detention or death.”

“As you may know, al-Shabaab accused many journalists of passing sensitive information about its operations in Somalia to Western governments. They also looted several media stations and had forced many journalists to flee the country after accusing them of espionage,” explained Burhan Diini.

Journalist Ibrahim Mohamed Hussein 'Jeeky', the director of Universal TV for their Mogadishu office, said, “I want to keep my role in media and it had never occurred to me to give it up. You know we want to bring the world to our people experiencing these frightful events first hand.”

Wearing a bulletproof vest, Ibrahim was shown on television as he was ventured out in Mogadishu war zones to video reporting. “I did it for the audience and people liked to see it,” he said.

Ibrahim told Somalia Report that he decided to leave Mogadishu for the neighboring capital of Nairobi, Kenya. "It was almost four months ago,” he said. “I want to remind you that some colleagues including myself are denied access to militia-controlled portions of the city, but are allowed to cover the government-controlled areas."

In June 2009, Ibrahim was arrested and tortured by al-Shabaab insurgents. He was later released and immediately sought refuge into neighboring countries.

"It's a very, very hard moment for all journalists. Despite the risks, we have a duty to report the truth," said Ibrahim proudly.

Editor's Note: Somalia Report's own correspondent, Muhyadin Ahmed Roble, was held by a militia in Hobyo. To read his terrifying account, click here.