US Drones Kill 9 Civilians in Somalia; 1 Al Qaeda Leader in Pakistan

September 19th, 2011 - by admin

The Nation (Pakistan) & Agence France-Presse & The Gulf Today & McClatchy Newspapers – 2011-09-19 01:04:05

US Drones Kill 9 Civilians in Somalia
The Nation

LAHORE, Pakistan (September 15, 20110 — Senior Al-Shabaab leaders said that the drone attacks were carried out early on Thursday in the outskirts of Kismayu town, killing nine women and children and wounding 30 others. Kismayu, which is located 528 kilometers south of Mogadishu, is the largest Somali port controlled by al-Shabab.

Over the past few weeks, numerous US remote-controlled drones have crashed in Somalia. Somalia is the sixth country where the US military has used pilotless aircraft to conduct deadly bombing strikes.

Air Raids Heard in Southern Somalia
Agence France-Presse

MOGADISHU (September 16, 2011) — The sound of aircraft and heavy explosions was heard around Somalia’s Islamist controlled Kismayo region in the south of the conflict-torn country, residents said on Friday. The blasts late Thursday in a jungle near the port town of Kismayo followed several over-flights by suspected military planes.

“We heard planes flying over Kismayo and minutes later there were at least three explosions,” local resident Mohamed Ali told AFP by phone. “I think the planes fired missiles because there were also sounds of anti-aircraft weapons fired by the Shebab fighters,” Ali added, referring to the Al-Qaeda linked rebels that control huge swathes of southern Somalia.

Abdikarim Samow, another resident, said he heard explosions and saw terrified residents. “The aircraft fired heavy missiles into a jungle area where the Shebab established training camps, but we don’t know more,” Samow said. Other residents confirmed the explosions, but it was unclear who was behind them.

In June, residents and Islamist rebels reported similar explosions around Kismayo. The United States has in the past conducted several raids on southern Somalia, targeting senior regional Al-Qaeda figures.

In January 2007, a US air raid left dozens of people dead in Ras Kamboni in the far south of the country. One of the presumed targets was Al-Qaeda’s chief in east Africa Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, who survived the raid but was gunned down at a roadblock in Mogadishu in June this year. The Shebab recently pulled out of the capital Mogadishu.

On Thursday, Somalia officials and residents said Kenyan helicopter gunships fired missiles around Elwak region near the Kenyan border. “Kenyan forces carried out aerial bombardment on several locations near the border where terrorist militants are likely to be hiding, but we don’t have details about the incident,” Somali government official Salad Mohamed said.

The Kenyan army was not reachable for comment. But a Shebab commander told AFP that their fighters were not in the area targeted by the Kenyan forces. “The mujahideen fighters were not there when the Kenyan aircrafts fired missiles.”

Copyright 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

When West Donates Drones in Horn of Africa
Commentary: Matovu Abdallah / The Gulf Today

KAMPALA (September 19, 2011) — In this piece, I am arguing that for its own good and image building, the West has to clean its approach of handling every issue with an iron fist, especially in the Muslim world.

The simple example is on Somalia and its regional neighbours, an area called the Horn of Africa (HoA). While a number of Muslim countries are competing to donate cash, food and medical assistance, some in the “very powerful” West, are busy sending drone planes or picking the bill for their proxy countries fighting the Al Shabaab opposition: Burundi and Uganda. Forget that these two countries are in Somalia under the aegis of the African Union.

Remember, the cash raised from anywhere by anyone has to be vetted by the UN’s Financial Tracking Service (UN FTS) “lest it goes in the hands of terrorists.”

Anyway, the Al Shabaab opposition fighters were not lucky like the Libyans, for the former were simply designated a terrorist group by the USA, UK and of course the UN. This is not to insinuate that aid that goes to Somalia is intended for the Al Shabaab, but it is for the Somali people — many of them are living in Al Shabaab controlled areas.

You need to pause here and reflect on three issues. One, those who donate have to be almost grilled for their donation while the beneficiaries are at the mercy of those who vet donations, the UN FTS.

Two, the trapped Somalis who are in need but in the areas controlled by Al Shabaab have either to starve to death or the donors have to be escorted by the partial “peacekeepers”, Burundi and Uganda who abuse all the rules in the books of peacekeeping under the guise of “clearing the way.” Meanwhile, fighting continues.

Three, can’t there be a solution to this stalemate? It is possible, that is by having the International Community (read the US and the UK) swallow their pride and engage the Al Shabaab opposition fighters into negotiation. It took them ten years to resort to the same with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is not too late to save over seven million people from dying of hunger.

What I am writing about here is political morality as opposed to political correctness. The Founder and President of the UK based Humanitarian Forum, Dr Hany Al Banna, shares my view.

“The Al Shabaab fighters should not be labeled terrorists. We [humanitarian agencies] can deliver where the government has failed to deliver if we take a neutral and positive approach. We should advocate negotiation. What we need is culture and wisdom to stay as permanent players in areas such as Somalia, Chechnya or Kosovo. We need the West’s wisdom and art of negotiation but not money because that we can raise.”

Doesn’t this approach tally well with what the UN Under Secretary General in charge of Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, noted on Sept.12:

“2011 has been an extraordinary year, presenting aid workers with unprecedented challenges — many of them in the Islamic world,” she told aid agencies from the Middle East and the Muslim world who were sharing information for better humanitarian action in Kuwait City.

Effective partnership means working closely together to identify needs and determine ways to best meet them for the benefit of the affected communities.” So, the affected communities in Somalia are not interested in hearing more drones sent to them, but aid that reaches. It can only reach when there are peaceful political steps taken.

Unfortunately, like Abraham Maslow observed, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail,” the trapped Somalis have little chance of surviving hunger even in the presence of food because the opposition fighters are still viewed as “terrorists unworthy to negotiate with.”

Forget that the current President of the “Interim government of Somalia”, Ahmad Sharif, is among the founders of Al Shabaab which metamorphosed from the Union of Islamic Courts (ICU) which, when still in charge of the country, a foreigner could peacefully drive throughout Somalia. The ICU’s problem before the International Community was: it was too Islamic and “wanted to rule by the Islamic law” in a country where 100 per cent are Muslims.

Now Sharif switched to the interim government, he is a good guy. Again never mind that, like the Eritrean Consul General in Dubai told The Gulf Today in August; “Somalia is for all the Somalis. It does not start and end in (the interim government-controlled capital city of) Mogadishu.” Surely, Al Shabaab has to be brought to the negotiating table when there is still life to protect.

The author is of Ugandan origin

US Drone Kills another al Qaida Leader in Pakistan
Saeed Shah and Jonathan S. Landay / McClatchy Newspapers

ISLAMABAD and WASHINGTON (September 15, 2011) — A US missile strike in Pakistan has killed al Qaida’s operations chief for the country, US officials said Thursday, further shredding the terrorist group’s upper ranks as it struggles to cope with the death of its founder.

Abu Hafs al Shahri was said to be in line for increasingly important duties as other senior leaders were eliminated around him. In May, US special forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and a drone attack in August killed al Qaida’s new deputy leader, Atiyah Abd al Rahman. Earlier this month Pakistani forces arrested the head of the group’s operations against the West, Younis al Mauritani.

Experts on al Qaida said the strike reflected a closer working relationship against the terrorist group among Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States, despite US-Pakistani tensions over the bin Laden raid, in which American troops attacked a target in Pakistan without notifying the country’s authorities in advance.

“Al Qaida is withering away in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region,” said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a professor of politics at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. “With this new technology and this greater cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States, al Qaida doesn’t stand a chance of regrouping.”

Still, while US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal area, which borders Afghanistan, have decimated al Qaida’s “core” leadership — made up almost entirely of Arabs — the group’s local affiliates remain deadly and potent, especially the Pakistani Taliban

Thursday, a suicide bomber struck a funeral, during prayers, in the Lower Dir region in Pakistan’s northwest, killing at least 31 people. They were targeted for being from a tribe that opposes the Pakistani Taliban. Similarly, four schoolchildren were gunned down in the northwest earlier this week for being from a clan that’s resisted the Pakistani Taliban.

US officials think that Ayman al Zawahiri, an Egyptian who succeeded bin Laden as al Qaida chief, is hiding in Pakistan, most likely in the tribal area. Al Qaida made the tribal area its base after the US-led invasion chased the group out of Afghanistan in late 2001.

“Al Qaida’s made a lot of mistakes since bin Laden’s death. They are now reduced to being like any other Middle Eastern criminal group, no more than that,” said Mehmood Shah, an analyst who was formerly a senior security official in the northwest. “Zawahiri doesn’t have the same stature as bin Laden.”

A US official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because drone strikes are classified operations, confirmed Shahri’s death. He described Shahri as al Qaida’s chief of operations in Pakistan, and said he’d played a key operational and administrative role for the terrorist network.

Shahri worked closely with the Pakistani Taliban, aiding them in launching attacks in the country, the US official said.

An analyst who follows al Qaida closely and who didn’t want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue said Shahri was a Saudi who once served in bin Laden’s security squad and now supervised military training for al Qaida members in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Drone strikes have quadrupled under the Obama administration, as Washington focused on the problem of al Qaida in Pakistan’s tribal area, a largely lawless zone. Since January 2008, drones have killed 25 mid- and senior-level commanders of the core organization. The drones, operated over Pakistani territory by the CIA, are highly controversial in Pakistan, however, where it’s widely believed that hundreds or even thousands of civilians also have been killed in the strikes, a claim that Washington rejects.

The US operation to kill bin Laden in the northern Pakistani town of Abbottabad turned tension between Islamabad and Washington into outright hostility.

Pakistani intelligence claims that al Qaida’s top commanders, including Zawahiri, have now fled the drones to safer countries such as Yemen and Somalia, but US officials said this week that there was no evidence that Zawahiri had left Pakistan.

Among al Qaida leaders probably still in Pakistan are Saif al Adel, the group’s long-term military commander, Abu Yahya al Libi, a leading al Qaida ideologue, Adam Yahiye Gadahn, an American who’s said to run al Qaida’s media arm, and Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah, who grew up in the United States and whom some consider the organization’s operations chief.

Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent. Landay reported from Washington.

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