Reuters & Wanjohi Kabukuru / Daily Nation – 2007-01-24 23:35:41
US Confirms Second Air Strike in Somalia
MOGADISHU (January 24, 2007) – The United States this week conducted a second air strike in Somalia, US officials said today, as the top US envoy in East Africa met an ousted Islamist leader to press for reconciliation with the government.
The new air strike came roughly two weeks after an AC-130 plane killed what Washington said were eight Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters hiding among Islamist remnants pushed to Somali’s southern tip by Ethiopian and Somali government forces.
One official said the targets were from the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC), a militant group defeated by government troops with Ethiopian armour and air power in a two-week war started before Christmas.
A second source said the target was an Al Qaeda operative. A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment.
Washington believes Somali Islamists have protected Al Qaeda members accused of bombing US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and an Israeli-owned Kenya hotel in 2002.
The United States and other countries are pushing on diplomatic and military fronts to help the government build on the gains it made in the war, which let it enter the capital for the first time since it forming at peace talks in Kenya in 2004.
Today, US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger met SICC leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who is being held by Kenyan intelligence in an upmarket hotel on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
A US embassy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the meeting but gave no details. Another source with knowledge of the meeting said it happened today.
Ranneberger, also responsible for Somalia, has said Ahmed is among those who could play a role in the inclusive reconciliation process Washington and many diplomatic players, believe is necessary to unify Somalia’s multiple factions.
Ahmed, one of the most visible faces of the SICC during its six-month rule of most of southern Somalia, surrendered at the Kenya-Somalia border and is under the watch of Kenya’s National Security Intelligence Service.
Diplomats say Kenya, with US support, has pushed the Somali government leaders to sit down with Ahmed for talks.
“What we will do with him will depend on what type of man he is. But we will go back to our country, sit with my cabinet and decide what to do with him,” Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf told a press conference in Kigali, where he met Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
A senior Kenyan official told Reuters today Ahmed is seeking refuge in Yemen and Kenya will not send him to Somalia because he would be killed there.
Washington has long feared Somalia, strategically located at the tip of the Horn of Africa, could become a playground for militants, since it has been in anarchy since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Even with a still-strong Ethiopian military presence in Somalia, attacks continued in Mogadishu – a city full of military-grade weapons and people who oppose the government.
The latest attack struck the Mogadishu international airport, witnesses said.
“Two mortars were fired. One hit us and the other one hit the airport,” Ahmed Abdi told Reuters from his bed at Madina hospital, where he was treated for shrapnel in his leg and shoulder.
A hospital official there said five people, including a 10-year-old boy, were hurt. A government source earlier said one person was killed, but it could not be confirmed.
Many blame hardcore Islamist remnants for a spate of similar attacks against government and Ethiopian troops in the coastal capital. The SICC has vowed a guerrilla war, but some experts question their ability to mount a sustained campaign.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi today said 200 soldiers were pulled out on Tuesday as part drawdown on his troops to make way for a proposed African Union force of nearly 8,000 troops, which is still being cobbled together.
“We have organised that the last phase of withdrawal will coincide with deployment of AU forces,” Meles told a news conference in Addis Ababa. “There will be no vacuum.”
Uganda and Malawi have agreed to contribute, while South Africa and Nigeria are mulling whether to participate.
A communique from the meeting between Kagame and Yusuf said Rwanda would limit its help to training the fledgling Somali forces.
Oil, Not Terrorists, the Reason for US Attack on Somalia
Wanjohi Kabukuru / Daily Nation
KENYA (January 22, 2007) — Just why did the US attack Somalia two weeks ago? Of course, the answer given for the US military intervention and the generally accepted notion is the hunt for terrorists. But is it?
Are terrorists the only bone of contention the US has with Somalia? When the US military devised “Operation Restore Hope” in 1993 which was short-lived after they were whipsawed by rag-tag militia in and around Mogadishu, were they fighting the ‘war on terror’?
They couldn’t have been because this war was to start much later, If anything it is a post-Sept 11 phenomenon. So then why did the US bomb ICU extremists in the name of Al Qaeda terrorists and not throughout last year when they occupied Mogadishu?
Just why is Somalia so important to the US, and by extension the big boys of Europe and some Gulf states?
A UN Somalia Monitoring Group report released in November 2005 reveals that a dozen countries, namely Yemen, Djibouti, Libya, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria, Eritrea, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Uganda were all poking their noses into the Somalia pie.
What the UN Somalia Monitoring Group didn’t reveal, however, is that these were not the only countries which were interested in the country.
The little known yet well-heeled contact group, consisting of Norway, the US, UK, France and Tanzania (just an appendage) are also deeply enmeshed in Somalia.
While the terrorism theory holds some water, the reality of the factors contributing to the mess in Somalia is pegged on natural resources. Oil and gas are Somalia’s Achilles heel. It is an open secret that four US oil giants are sitting pretty on money-spinning concessions expecting to reap huge windfalls from massive resources of both oil and gas in Somalia.
The story of Somalia and oil goes back to the colonial period. British and Italian geologists first identified oil deposits during that period of imperialism.
The first oil wells historically referred to as the Daga Shabell series were dug in the 1960s. Tiny gas discoveries adjacent to Socotra were also noted..
The race for these precious natural resources took a new turn in 1988, when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, with the support of the governments of Britain, France and Canada and backed by several Western oil companies financed a regional hydrocarbon study of the countries bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Eden.
The countries were Somalia, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was later dropped, but not before it had been established that within the study area, massive deposits of oil and gas existed.
The results of the findings were presented to a three-day American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Eastern Hemisphere group conference, in London in September, 1991. Is there oil in Somalia? Listen to the answer:
“It’s there. There’s no doubt there’s oil there,” said geologist Thomas E. O’Connor, the World Bank’s principal petroleum engineer, who steered the in-depth, three-year study of oil prospects in Somalia’s Gulf of Eden in the northern coastal region.
The study was intended to encourage private investment in the petroleum potential of eight African nations. The conclusions of their findings are quite telling as the geologists put Somalia and Sudan at the top of the list of prospective commercial oil producers.
While presenting their results during the conference, two geologists involved in the study (an American and an Egyptian) reported that the investigation of nine exploratory wells dug in Somalia pointed out that the region was “situated within the oil window, and thus (is) highly prospective for gas and oil.”
Geologist, Z. R. Beydoun, who was involved in the survey, noted that “the geological parameters conducive to the generation, expulsion and trapping of significant amounts of oil and gas” were within the offshore sites. Soon after a race for lucrative deals kicked off in earnest.
Four US oil companies, namely Conoco, Chevron, Amoco and Philips have concessions in nearly two thirds of Somalia. This quartet of oil conglomerates was granted these contracts in the final days of Somalia’s deposed dictator, Siad Barre. The US first military engagement in Somalia was fully supported by Conoco.
Mr Kabukuru is a Nairobi-based freelance journalist
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