Friday, March 27, 2015

VIDEOS

CCTV — To Somalia now, and we focus on a long forgotten job; traditional blacksmithing. A good number of people in Mogadishu still work as blacksmiths. Now it could be tough, and even dangerous but for many blacksmiths, its their only way to make a living. Mohamed Hirmoge reports

VOA — The United Nations says remittances from abroad are key to food security in Somalia, and that a recent decision by Western banks to bar money transfers into the country could have disastrous effects. VOA’s Abdulaziz Billow reports.

CCTV — The recovery of basketball in Somalia is gaining momentum; the latest addition is a night tournament featuring 10 teams in Mogadishu. Quite unthinkable in recent years, but as fans attest, night basketball has apparently become not only the most popular but also the most competitive. Mohamed Hirmoge went to the night games and filed this report.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled the country by sea Wednesday on a boat from Aden, as Shiite rebels and their allies advanced on the southern port city where he had taken refuge, captured his defense minister and seized the city’s airport.

Hadi’s departure marks a dramatic turn in Yemen’s turmoil and means a decisive collapse of what was left of his rule, which the United States and Gulf allies had hoped could stabilize the chronically chaotic nation and fight al-Qaida’s branch here after the 2011 ouster of longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Over the past year, the Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who are believed to be supported by Iran, have battled their way out of their northern strongholds, overwhelmed the capital, Sanaa, seized province after province in the north and worked their way south. Their advance has been boosted by units of the military and security forces that remained loyal to Saleh, who allied with the rebels.

With Hadi gone, there remains resistance to the Houthis scattered around the country, whether from Sunni tribesmen, local militias, pro-Hadi military units or al-Qaida fighters.

Hadi and his aides left Aden after 3:30 p.m. on two boats, security and port officials told The Associated Press. The officials would not specify his destination. But Hadi is scheduled to attend an Arab summit in Egypt on the weekend, where Arab allies are scheduled to discuss formation of a joint Arab force that could pave the way for military intervention against Houthis.

His flight came after Houthis and Saleh loyalists advanced against Hadi’s allies on multiple fronts. Military officials said militias and military units loyal to Hadi had “fragmented,” speeding the rebel advance. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters

Earlier in the day, the rebels seized a key air base where U.S. troops and Europeans had advised the country in its fight against al-Qaida militants. The base is only 60 kilometers (35 miles) away from Aden.

In the province of Lahj, adjoining Aden, the rebels captured Hadi’s defense minister, Maj. Gen. Mahmoud al-Subaihi, and his top aide on Wednesday and subsequently transferred them to the capital, Sanaa. Yemen’s state TV, controlled by the Houthis, announced a bounty of nearly $100,000 for Hadi’s capture.

Hadi then fled his presidential palace, and soon after warplanes targeted presidential forces guarding it. No casualties were reported. By midday, Aden’s airport fell into hands of Saleh’s forces after intense clashes with pro-Hadi militias.

Aden was tense Wednesday, with schools, government offices, shops and restaurants largely closed. Inside the few remaining opened cafes, men watched the news on television. With the fall of the city appearing imminent, looters went through two abandoned army camps, one in Aden and the other nearby, taking weapons and ammunition.

The takeover of Aden, the country’s economic hub, would mark the collapse of what is left of Hadi’s grip on power. After the Houthis overran Sanaa in September, he had remained in office, but then was put under house arrest. He fled the capital earlier in March with remnants of his government and declared Aden his temporarty capital.

Yemen’s Foreign Minister Riad Yassin told Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV satellite news network that he officially made a request to the Arab League on Wednesday to send a military force to intervene against the Houthis. Depicting the Houthis as a proxy of Shiite Iran, a rival to Sunni Gulf countries, he warned of an Iranian “takeover” of Yemen. The Houthis deny they are backed by Iran.

Mohammed Abdel-Salam, a spokesman for the Houthis, said their forces were not aiming to “occupy” the south. “They will be in Aden in few hours,” Abdel-Salam told the rebels’ satellite Al-Masirah news channel.

Earlier, Al-Masirah reported that the Houthis and allied fighters had “secured” the al-Annad air base, the country’s largest. It claimed the base had been looted by both al-Qaida fighters and troops loyal to Hadi.

The U.S. recently evacuated some 100 soldiers, including Special Forces commandos, from the base after al-Qaida briefly seized a nearby city. Britain also evacuated soldiers.

The base was crucial in the U.S. drone campaign against Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which Washington considers to be the most dangerous offshoot of the terror group. And American and European military advisers there also assisted Hadi’s government in its fight against al-Qaida’s branch, which holds territory in eastern Yemen and has claimed the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

U.S. operations against the militants have been scaled back dramatically amid Yemen’s chaos. U.S. officials have said CIA drone strikes will continue in the country, though there will be fewer of them. The agency’s ability to collect intelligence on the ground in Yemen, while not completely gone, is also much diminished.

The Houthis, in the aftermath of massive suicide bombings in Sanaa last week that killed at least 137 people, ordered a general mobilization and their leader, Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, vowed to send his forces to the south to fight al-Qaida and militant groups.

In Sanaa, dozens of coffins were lined up for a mass funeral of the victims Wednesday. Among the victims was a top Shiite cleric. Yemen’s Islamic State-linked militants have claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September and have since been advancing south along with Saleh’s loyalists. On Tuesday, they fired bullets and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters in the city of Taiz, known as the gateway to southern Yemen. Six demonstrators were killed and scores more were wounded, officials said.

The Houthis also battled militias loyal to Hadi in the city of al-Dhalea, adjacent to Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city. Taiz is also the birthplace of its 2011 Arab Spring-inspired uprising that forced Saleh to hand over power to Hadi in a deal brokered by the U.N. and Gulf countries.

Hadi on Tuesday asked the U.N. Security Council to authorize a military intervention “to protect Yemen and to deter the Houthi aggression” in Aden and the rest of the south. In his letter, Hadi said he also has asked members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League for immediate help.

Saudi Arabia warned that “if the Houthi coup does not end peacefully, we will take the necessary measures for this crisis to protect the region.”

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Associated Press writer Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

CTV — This film charts the United Nations’ story in Somalia from 1992, when, faced with overwhelming conflict and hostility, they began to withdraw on-the-ground support.

The Guardian — The X-Files is set to return to television screens for the first time in 13 years, with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson resuming their roles as Mulder and Scully.

The US broadcaster Fox has confirmed that a six-episode series will begin production in the summer. The broadcast date has yet to be revealed.

The series creator Chris Carter described the show’s absence as “a 13-year commercial break” and added: “The good news is the world has only gotten that much stranger, a perfect time to tell these six stories.”

The six-episode run is shorter than most US TV series, and Fox described the X-Files return as an “event”. Dana Walden and Gary Newman, chair and CEO of FoxTelevision Group, said: “We had the privilege of working with Chris on all nine seasons of The X-Files – one of the most rewarding creative experiences of our careers – and we couldn’t be more excited to explore that incredible world with him again.

“The X-Files was not only a seminal show for both the studio and the network, it was a worldwide phenomenon that shaped pop culture – yet remained a true gem for the legions of fans who embraced it from the beginning. Few shows on television have drawn such dedicated fans as The X-Files, and we’re ecstatic to give them the next thrilling chapter of Mulder and Scully they’ve been waiting for.”

The original series was cancelled in 2002, although Duchovny and Anderson returned for a feature film, X-Files: I want to Believe, in 2008. Rumours of the show’s return have swirled around the internet for years, and in 2013 Anderson and Duchovny generated much excitement when they hinted during an online discussion that another X-Files film might be in the works.

Such was the on-screen chemistry between FBI investigators Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in their quest to explain the unexplained that Anderson and Duchovny themselves became a story – according to the press at various times during the height of the show’s popularity, they were having an affair, hated each other or both.

This year Anderson told the Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone: “I mean, yes, there were definitely periods when we hated each other … Hate is too strong a word. We didn’t talk for long periods of time. It was intense, and we were both pains in the arse for the other at various times.”

Since the last X-Files series, Anderson has starred in a string of literary adaptations – as Lady Dedlock in Bleak House, Lily Bart in The House of Mirth, Miss Havisham in the BBC’s Great Expectations, and Mrs Castaway in The Crimson Petal and The White – and more recently she played Supt Stella Gibson inmurder drama The Fall, which has been recommissioned for a third series set to air next year.

Anderson also received warm reviews for her performance as Blanche in a fetedYoung Vic revival of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Duchovny found further success in the US with Californication, which finished a seven-season run last year. This year he published his debut novel, Holy Cow, in which a cow called Elsie, a pig called Shalom and a turkey called Tom escape a farm in upstate New York in search of a better life.

Al Jazeera speaks to Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke about security, investment and changing perceptions about the nation.

Al Jazeera – Doha, Qatar - Most would agree that being the prime minister of Somalia is a tough job. Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke has taken it on twice, first in 2009/2010 and then again from December last year.

Three months into the role, his biggest tasks are battling the dogged al-Shabab armed group and preparing the complex country for a transition to a new type of administration in 2016.

Somalia has recently made significant gains against the rebels, but they still pose a potent threat, both to the Somali state and to bordering, and watchful, neighbours such as Kenya and Ethiopia.

A sizeable African Union force and the Somali army have managed to push al-Shabab out of major cities, but the fighters still control large swathes of the countryside in the nation’s south.

The group is also capable of launching periodic attacks in the capital Mogadishu, including against the state buildings where Sharmarke conducts his business, and hotels frequented by top officials.

Al Jazeera’s Barry Malone spoke to the prime minister about the hunt for foreign investment, the desire to change Somalia’s image abroad and the possibility of ever sitting at a table with al-Shabab.

Al Jazeera: What are you doing in Qatar?

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke: Somalia is no longer equated with the negative aspects: piracy, terrorism. Now the country is ready for business. And we want to solicit with whomever wants to invest. In the end, it’s economic growth and poverty reduction that really can get so many youth in our country out of disparity. So we are pushing to move onto the investment. So we discussed ways in which Qatar could invest in the country.

AJ: You said Somali had a negative reputation around security: piracy, al-Shabab etc. Do you think that hinders investment? How can investors trust their investments will be secure in Somalia?

Sharmarke: I think Somalia is the number one country that has seen a steady decline in terrorism activities in the last few years when you compare it to other hot spots in the world. So I think Somalia is less vulnerable and the country is really moving out of this, gradually but surely.

AJ: Last night the Pentagon put out a statement saying that a US drone had killed a senior al-Shabab leader, Adan Garar. They say this man was one of the masterminds of the Westgate attack in Kenya. What do you think the impact of that strike will be?

Sharmarke: There’s no safe haven for terrorists in Somalia. Whoever commits crimes wants to be punished. The United States cooperates with us on containing and destroying terrorist activities in Somalia. I think in the last couple of years most of the key leaders of al-Shabab were taken out. In that sense, the al-Shabab organisation is really weakened and even some are defecting to the government side. We’ve had the defection of high-profile individuals.

And there is also an amnesty in place. Whomever denounces violence, we’re ready to deal with and accommodate.

AJ: What about drones? US drone strikes get a negative press and many populations have turned against them because they say there’s a high civilian death toll. Is that a problem in Somalia?

Sharmarke: Drones have taken out key leaders of al-Shabab. The US and Somalia cooperates on that.

AJ: Is the amnesty to al-Shabab members working? How many have taken up the offer?

Sharmarke: A lot have taken up the offer. We’ve really had some high-profile people defecting. They are in the government’s hands. And we are ready to continue with this so that our young kids are not lured into these kinds of activities for nothing.

AJ: What would you say to people who say these men should be tried in court?

Sharmarke: I think whoever denounces violence and is ready to become part of society again should be given a chance.

AJ: Do you ever see a day in which you will sit down at a table with al-Shabab and speak to them?

Sharmarke: I think al-Shabab would have to denounce all violence and must denounce all the terrorist activities that they have conducted. They must really not only denounce but show that these were appalling acts that they committed.

AJ: 

Sharmarke: I think there will always be a small number who will never denounce violence and the only way is going to be to contain them and destroy them. But I think, anyone who denounces violence, we are ready to accommodate.

AJ: So those people could enter politics?

Sharmarke: It is a process, for them to get into politics. They’d have to transform in a very drastic way.

AJ: One man, one vote for the 2016 elections was what your government promised when it came to power. But you’re not in control of the entire country. So how can everyone get a vote?

Sharmarke: Districts controlled by al-Shabab are very few now. Most of the country is in the hands of the government. I think, for 2016, we are expecting that all those districts will be in the hands of the government.

AJ: A lot of your success at pushing al-Shabab back is thanks to an African Union force (AMISOM), which is made up of about 20,000 troops. When do you hope that these foreign troops can go home?

Sharmarke: Actually it wasn’t AMISOM who only did this. It was also our forces. We are grateful for AMISOM’s contribution. I think our brothers have done a tremendous job. Also our forces are doing great work to liberate all those districts. I think we are into two phases: one is to contain and destroy al-Shabab. The other is to build a national army with a national character.

Once we succeed in that, there will be a downgrading of AMISOM forces.

AJ: So when do you see that happening?

Sharmarke: I think the process might start 2016/2017.

AJ: 

Sharmarke: I think it’s not only Somalia that’s going through such problems. And I’m glad to say that Somalia is making progress on all of those. Piracy is down almost 90 percent. There haven’t been any incidents in the last year or so. Terrorism is going down. And a large part of the country is in the hands of the government.

I think compared to other parts of the world, with what’s going on in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, Somalia is the only country that really shows some success in really dealing with terrorism.

AJ: You lived in the United States for many years. What do you think of the portrayal of Somalia in popular culture in the West, in Hollywood movies? Black Hawk Down, Captain Phillips etc. 

Sharmarke: That is why I came here to change the narrative and get away from that. Somalia is ready for business. It is no longer the country in which piracy and terrorism dominate the news. There are millions of Somalis that are moving on with their own lives. I think the country is rebuilding. I think most Somalis now have decided to pick up their own pieces and do whatever they can to better their lives.

I think that should also be part of the news. That negativity no longer fits the country. The world should now look at Somalia with different eyes.

Barry Malone is an online editor at Al Jazeera. Twitter@malonebarry

Additional reporting by Al Jazeera’s Hamza Mohamed.

Kismaayo(Bartamaha) Wafti uu hogaaminayo wasiirka arimaha gudaha xukuumada federaalka Soomaaliya C/raxmaan Xuseen Odawaa ayaa goordhaweyd gaaray garoonka diyaaradaha magaalada Kismaayo halkaasoo ay si diiran ugu soo dhaweeyeen masuuliyiinta maamulka Jubba.

Waftiga wasiirka arimaha gudaha xukuumadda Soomaaliya ayaa waxa aka mid ah xubno ka tirsan golayaasha wasiirada iyo baarlamaanka federaalka Soomaaliya,waxayna hada kulamo la leeyihiin masuuliyiinta maamulka Jubba.

Afhayeenka wasaaradda arimaha gudaha xukuumadda Soomaaliya C/fataax daahir oo warbaahinta la hadlay ayaa sheegay in ujeedka safarka wasiirku ay la xiriirto sidii ay wasaaraddu kaalinteeda uga qaadan lahayd soo xulista xubnaha baarlamaanka maamulka Jubba oo ka socota magaalada Kismaayo.

Afhayeenka ayaa sheegay in wasaaraddu ay ka qayb qaadanayso sidii ay odayaasha dhaqanka gobolada Jubooyinka iyo Gedo usoo xuli lahaayeen xubnaha ka mid noqonaya baarlamaanka maamulka Jubba,wuxuuna sheegay in gudi ka kooban wasaaradda iyo maamulka Jubba iney odayaasha kala shaqaynayaan soo xulista xubnaha baarlamaanka Jubba.

 

Al Jazeera

A massive security wall divides the city of Mogadishu, Somalia, in two. On one side, millions of Somalis live with the daily threat of violence. On the other side is a UN compound that houses international diplomats, aid workers and peacekeepers. Movement between these two worlds is severely restricted. What do people on each side imagine is beyond the wall?

Al Jazeera – Somalia’s government has executed more people than any other country in Sub Saharan Africa, according to Amnesty International.It says more than 150 death sentences have been handed down since 2013 and 86 people have been executed.Al Jazeera’s Hamza Mohamed visited the death row wing at a prison in the city of Bossasso, in Somalia’s Puntland region.

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Screen shot 2015-03-07 at 1.19.19 AMICRC – Fatuma and her family fled armed conflict in Mogadishu and have been living in a camp for the displaced in Beletweyne city, Hiraan region in central Somalia for several years. The ICRC is helping vulnerable families in the Beletweyne camps with cash assistance through mobile phone platforms. Fatuma is one of 875 women who have benefited from the programme, which aims to ensure that pregnant and lactating women have some financial freedom to invest in a business and buy essential food.

 

muslim canadians

CBC News – “I’m a Muslim. I’m labelled a terrorist. I trust you, do you you trust me? Give me a hug.”

That’s what Mustafa Mawla’s handwritten signs read as he stood in Toronto’s Dundas Square on a frigid day in January. 

It was part of a social experiment he and a group of young Muslim-Canadian filmmakers undertook to explore their feelings in a country where politicians are ramping up the talk about fighting terrorism.

muslim canadiansStanding there blindfolded, arms outstretched, waiting for hugs on a busy street corner, Mawla wondered if they would ever come.

“I was thinking that most of the time I would be left standing there, that people are going to walk by and that I am going to be cold,” he says.

Mawla and fellow young Muslims know Canadians’ safety in the era of ISIS is about to become a ballot-box issue and they’re nervous, not necessarily about terrorism, but about hate and suspicion.

They have a request for Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Ease up on the rhetoric.

“I would ask him to to take it easy with the words ‘Islam’ and ‘terrorism’ and scaring people that there are jihadis or terrorists among us,” says Assma Galuta, a university student who conceived the “Give me a hug” project and hopes one day to do humanitarian work abroad.

“There are unstable citizens from any faith, any religion, but to target Islam and scare your own citizens… [Harper is] creating a barrier between a lot of people.”

Galuta doesn’t just talk theoretically. The changes she has witnessed in Canada have been swift and at times cruel.

She maintains she lost friends after the attacks on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in October, which were perpetrated by a man thought to have been sympathetic to Islamic extremism. 

 ‘Kill the terrorists’

One friend, a Canadian soldier, was so angry after the shootings that he told her it was time to “go and kill the terrorists.” 

She says she tried to talk calmly with him, but he said, “What your people are doing is wrong.”

Your people. That hurt, she says.

Galuta says she has stopped wearing her headscarf. That’s a big deal. She wore it from the age of nine, but now feels targeted because of it.

“As a woman walking home alone at night, it’s one thing to be scared about. But with the scarf on, it’s traumatizing,” she says.

These 20-something Canadians are smart, eloquent, well-read and deeply passionate, but they all agree they are now more careful about expressing their opinions, especially about Canada’s foreign policy or the way this government is handling threats of domestic terrorism. 

Parents are concerned

Maaz Khan, a university student, says his parents are particularly concerned. 

“They don’t want us to get hurt, or us to feel unsafe when we go to school or anywhere. They want us to be safe, that’s why they want us to stay away from these [topics],” he says. 

Mawla’s parents have offered similar cautions. 

“When we go out, my mom tells me, ‘Don’t go out of your way and say things, do things against the media and stuff because if it is taken out of context, then you will be in trouble. The police will say, “Oh, you said this before, so you might be doing this.”‘ Taken out of context, [any commentary] can be used any way.”

It doesn’t feel like the Canada they grew up in. Of that Galuta seems certain.

The good news, however, is that sometimes human kindness wins over fear. It did on the day of the experiment in Dundas Square. 

Mawla, who thought he’d be left standing alone, was hugged — repeatedly. 

One man even stopped his car in the intersection, ran to him, gave him a big bear hug and got back into his car. 

That’s the Canada these young Muslims love and want to defend.

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Screen shot 2015-03-03 at 2.54.43 AMMINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some local immigrants say they, and their families, are being unfairly affected by an anti-terrorism effort.

Most banks that have helped east African immigrants wire money home are no longer doing that.  Some are afraid the money could end up in the hands of terrorist groups, such as al-Shabaab. But local immigrants said the hold on transfers could ruin the economy in places like Somalia.

Mustafe Abi spent Sunday going from money transfer store to money transfer store and is trying.

He’s been trying for weeks and he’ll try again.

“We try because they don’t have nothing,” Abi said.

Abi moved to the U.S. in 2006 from a refugee camp in Kenya. He goes to school and work here to support his mom and brother back home.

“Their school is not free, food is not free, they are not working, they don’t have income other places. It just depends on what I am sending them,” Abi said.

Now that most banks have stopped wring money to places like Somalia, it’s been trickier than ever.

Representative Keith Ellison said it’s a major problem among his constituents.

“I have tons of examples personally and specifically about people trying to get money to their loved ones,” Ellison said.

Ellison said he’s been trying to make that point in Washington, to encourage banks to allow the flow of small amounts of money to Somalia.

“We want to stop money from going to the terrorists but we don’t want to be so inflexible that we can’t get the money to the overwhelming majority of people,” Ellison said.

While most banks have decided to stop the transfers completely, he said a few are continuing to quietly help east Africans out. Abi said he’ll find one.

“My mom’s not getting anything for food, my brother’s not getting school, nothing. So money wire closing, I see it as death and life,” Abi said.

Ellison worries that al-Shabaab could gain momentum by stepping in and offering money to these families who aren’t getting it.  But the banks of course are backing out, afraid of fees and afraid of helping pass money to dangerous hands.

WCCO also spoke with Omar Jamal, a local Somali activist. He said he believes millions are being affected and he also thinks it could give al-Shabaab momentum.

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Xinhua – MOGADISHU — At least two people were killed and two others injured on Friday in a car explosion in Somali capital Mogadishu, police said.

The explosion, which the police say may have been targeting a security official who owned the car that took place in Al Kamin junction in Mogadishu, killed two occupants of the car, but the security official was not present at the time.

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 3.05.12 AM“Two occupants of the car died instantly and two others have been rushed to a nearby hospital. The bomb may have been remotely detonated, but the police are investigating the matter,” said Area Deputy District Commissioner Mohamed Deeq Ali.

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion, but the militant group Al-Shabaab has in many occasions used car explosions and drive-by shootings targeting government officials.

The explosion comes a day after mortar barrages landed at the presidential palace in Mogadishu, but no casualties were reported.

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Insight News – The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office released a new video aimed at strengthening relationships between law enforcement and the Somali community. The video discusses the public safety responsibilities of the Sheriff’s Office, opportunities for community members to connect with the Sheriff’s Office, and describes the Sheriff’s Community Engagement Team (CET). The video is approximately six minutes long and the narration is in the Somali language.

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 2.43.37 AM“Hennepin County is very diverse, and we recognize the need to be reflective of the multicultural communities we serve. This video allows us to share our message in a manner that is culturally specific so that we can continue to build trust and positive relationships in the Somali community,” says Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.

The CET will utilize the video at community gatherings, roundtable discussions, citizen’s academies, and other events. In the video, Sheriff Stanek introduces the CET and explains the importance of ongoing outreach efforts in order to address public safety concerns and build trust. The Sheriff’s Office East-African Liaison, Abdi Mohammed, describes the role of law enforcement, current issues affecting the Somali community, and how residents can effectively partner with the Sheriff’s Office to reduce crime.

Hennepin County is home to nearly 100,000 Somali, and 40,000 Oromo residents.

The CET was established in 2010, and is responsible for partnering with community organizations and law enforcement agencies to improve outreach efforts within Hennepin County. The CET attends community gatherings and celebrations, they respond to citizen requests for assistance, and also promote diversity recruitment efforts for the Sheriff’s Office. Since its inception, the CET has become a model program for agencies worldwide.

REMITTENCE 2

REMITTENCE 2VOA – Once a month for years, Ahmed Ahmed has been going to Dahabshil, a money service agency catering to the Somali community outside Washington.  The taxi driver has sent $200 every month to his family of eight left behind at home — until recently.

The service has been stopped, leaving Ahmed very worried.

“Forget the medicine or anything else,” he said. “The priority is food.  If they don’t get the money, they don’t have food.  They don’t have any jobs.”

After years of civil war and anarchy, there is no formal banking system in Somalia, so families overseas rely on informal money transfer networks known as hawalas to deliver cash to their needy relatives.

Merchants Bank of California was the last U.S. bank to handle wire transfers to Somalia. In early February, the bank announced that it would shut the service down. The reason most likely pertains to the U.S. fight to stop the flow of money that helps fund extremist groups in the region, such as al-Shabab.

Census data show that 80,000 Somali immigrants live in the U.S.  A majority of them send money to their families in their impoverished homeland.

Osman Yusuf, manager of the Dahabshil money transfer agency, said the customers send about $200 to $300 on average. “We also have a lot of people who send $20, $30, $50,” he said.

In all, more than $215 million in U.S. remittances went to Somalia last year. Now, without cash transfers, Somali community leaders worry about the future for Somalia’s chlidren.

Farah Mohamed, a Somali community leader, and his group have been building a school with donations from Somali immigrants. “The school will definitely stop,” he said. “There is no way we can build a school or we can do anything.  There are a huge number of Somali kids that are just growing up.  Unless they get the right education, right assistance, we don’t know what their life will be.”

Some lawmakers and aid groups have raised concerns about the humanitarian consequences and have called for an emergency plan.

Scott Paul, a senior adviser at international aid group Oxfam America, noted that “there are communities of Somali refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya that have no other way of supporting themselves.  If these companies [money transfer agencies] close down, those refugee camps and refugee communities are going to be in severely dire straits, maybe even worse off than people in Somalia.”

Congressman Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, also said a disruption in remittances would cause greater security risks.

“When you know that al-Shabab and other recruiters will offer a young man a gun, a wife and a few bucks, it becomes clear how critical it is,” he said. “We must fix this remittance problem.”

The U.S. Treasury Department says officials recognize the importance that remittances play in Somalia and are working across the government to consider different options to address the issue.

But no solution has yet emerged. Somali immigrants are in fear for their loved ones.

“Really, really, I am worried about I cannot send money back home,” Ahmed said. “I don’t know what do.”

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Screen shot 2015-02-27 at 12.19.39 AMABC6 – COLUMBUS (Lisa Ranta) — In court, prosecutors revealed new information against a suspected terrorist who’s accused of laundering more than $1,000 to terrorists and providing them electronic devices.

Abdirahman Mohamud, 23, pleaded not guilty to two counts of terror Wednesday afternoon in a rare case filed by the state.

Franklin County prosecutor Ron O’Brien told ABC 6/FOX28 that federal investigators called him last week requesting that he file his first ever terror case on a state level. He says they had yet to obtain a federal arrest warrant, but wanted Mohamud off the street after their year and a half investigation.

During the investigation they’d subpoenaed his bank records and searched his home.

In the indictment, Mohamud is accused of traveling to the Middle East to support terror and providing them with materials and funds.

His attorney says the Somali born man came to central Ohio when he was eight and has been living with his mother and other relatives here. The judge set bond at $1,000,000.

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Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 3.50.04 AMYoutubeKeith Ellison, U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district discusses Violent Extremism on MSNBC’s NOW With Alex Wagner

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Screen shot 2015-02-24 at 3.49.08 AMGlobal News — EDMONTON — Edmonton’s large Somali community is “disgusted” and “insulted” to be mentioned in a recent video allegedly released by Somali-based extremist group Al-Shabab.

“This group is known to have caused a lot of destruction and death back in Somalia,” said Jibril Ibrahim, the president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton. “They are despised both inside and outside [of Somalia].”

“This is kind of an act of desperation on their side,” he added.

“Mentioning our name in one of the threats they are making is kind of disgusting and an insult to our community.”

The video, posted Saturday to a YouTube account allegedly linked to Al-Shabab, encourages an attack on West Edmonton Mall. The more than hour-long video discusses the September 2013 attack by the al Qaeda-linked terror group at a Kenya mall that lasted days and left more than 60 people dead.

In the video’s last few minutes, a man with his face covered speaks in perfect English, appealing for the viewer to “imagine” the scope of destruction possible. He then lists shopping malls that could be targets, including the Mall of America and West Edmonton Mall.

“We call on our Muslim brothers, particularly those in the West, to answer the call of Allah and target the disbelievers,” says the man in the video. “The disbelievers have no right whatsoever to rejoice in the safety of their lands until safety becomes a reality in Palestine and all the lands of Islam.”

The video has yet to be authenticated by any major law enforcement agency, but the RCMP is aware of the threats made against the mall in the video and is investigating.

“There is no evidence at this time of any specific or imminent threat to Canadians,” RCMP Staff Sgt. Brent Meyer said Sunday morning. “We take any threat to our country’s national security very seriously.”

Ibrahim says the Somali community in Edmonton has been working with police and spoke with them Sunday. The EPS said all threats against public safety are taken very seriously but that there is no imminent threat to Edmontonians or Canadians.

“The discussion that we had with the police department is that we also have to do our best to take whatever precautions that we need to take,” said Ibrahim. “On the community level, we’re doing our best to make sure that no inappropriate activity takes place.”

“We share information within the community and the police. We work together on two fronts. When they hear something they let us know. When we hear something, we let them know as well.”

The Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton website states Canada is home to one of the largest Somali populations in the Western world, with as many as 20,000 Somalians living in Edmonton.

Edmonton mayor Don Iveson released a statement saying Edmontonians should feel confident the city is safe, and people should not overreact. He also said it’s “equally concerning to hear the appeal directed toward a specific group.”

“For this kind of group to come out and use our name here in Edmonton is kind of insulting,” echoed Ibrahim. “We don’t anticipate anybody acting on any threat from those kinds of groups.”

“All the Somalis from our community from Edmonton, Alberta are hard-working people.

“They are part of the fabric and trying to make Canada the best place. They’re not here to try to cause damage to anyone.”

University of Alberta political science professor Tom Butko feels people should balance vigilance with calm.

“This is a serious situation, but at the end of the day, I think people need to take that vigilance but also realize that they need to live their lives and not let fear encompass everything.

“The terrorists win and that’s really true if we’re living our lives in fear.”

(Source: Global News)

Blackwater Founder, Erik Prince

Washington Post

Blackwater Founder, Erik Prince
Blackwater Founder, Erik Prince

Was Blackwater founder Erik Prince trying to avoid legal trouble with the United Nations when he allegedly distanced himself from a Web site called “The Somalia Report?”

It depends on who you believe in a marathon legal battle being waged in a Northern Virginia court between Prince, founder of what was once the world’s most notorious security contracting firm, and a former business partner, journalist Robert Young Pelton. Each man claims he is owed $1 million by the other.

In his lawsuit against Prince, Pelton claims that Prince made an agreement in 2010 to invest in the writer’s “The Somalia Report,” a news source on piracy and kidnappings. But Prince denies he ever made the agreement, and Pelton thinks he knows why.

In his court documents, Pelton argues that a U.N. monitoring group’s 2012 report implicated Prince of “suspected violations” of the United Nations 1992 arms embargo on Somalia. His motion argues that Prince was “suspected to have been affiliated” with a private security contractor called Saracen International Lebanon that helped establish the counter-piracy Puntland Maritime Police Force in Somalia. It was dubbed “the most brazen violation of the arms embargo by a private security company” in the U.N. monitoring group’s report.

Here is the Trailer

“Given the severe legal consequences that could result from his alleged involvement in these violations of international law,” Pelton says in court documents, “it is perhaps not surprising that Prince would be highly motivated to deny his personal involvement in contracting for and financing the Somalia Report in this case.”

But Mark Corallo, a Prince spokesman, disputes the U.N. monitoring group’s assertions. Corallo says in a statement to the Post that Prince “never worked with or trained the Puntland Maritime Police Force”; and he had “no financial or ownership interest in, and no managerial or operational responsibility with either Saracen or Sterling.”

A year after that U.N. group’s report naming Prince was issued, the same U.N. body released another report saying that the U.N should support the Puntland army. The report called the army “one of the most organized, trained and equipped security force[s] in Somalia.”

In any event, Prince couldn’t have been too shy about his interest in the Puntland force. He appears in a documentary about the army called “The Project,” a 2013 film that profiles the “shadowy group of pirate hunters,” according to the film’s promotional material.  The movie was screened last year at the Tribeca Film Festival and earned decent reviews. Prince is listed in the credits as an interviewee and someone who helped provide videos and photographs.

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