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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Somalia Peace Conference in Djibouti-update

Somalia groups want UN sanctions on warmongers

Published: Wednesday, 4 June, 2008, 01:57 AM Doha Time

DJIBOUTI: Somali civil groups yesterday urged the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on political leaders opposed to peace talks and to call for the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces backing the interim government.

The Somali government had said it hoped for a peace deal after members of the 15-nation Council met separately with its officials and opposition critics on Monday in Djibouti.

But leaders of the Islamist Al Shabaab insurgent group and more hardline elements of the Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) were absent.

The opposition figures who did attend demanded Ethiopian forces leave Somalia.In a statement released as Security Council members left for Sudan and the next leg of an African tour, nine Somali groups representing rights activists, women and elders lamented the “graveyards of missed and lost opportunities” in Somali history.

“The Security Council should impose targeted sanctions against any Somali leaders who are fomenting further violence and reject the Somali peace process,” it said.The group said Council members should also ask for the withdrawal of Ethiopian soldiers who helped the government oust an Islamist movement from the capital Mogadishu in late 2006.Since then, the Shabaab - remnants of that Shariah courts movement - have waged an insurgency of ambushes, roadside bombs and mortar attacks, sometimes briefly seizing smaller towns.

In March, Washington formally designated the militia as a foreign terrorist organisation, describing it as Al Qaeda’s main link in the Horn of Africa nation. Meanwhile, a prominent trader who had been instrumental in initiating a security scheme aimed at curbing violence in Mogadishu’s main commercial district was gunned down yesterday, witnesses said.Mogadishu traders committee spokesman Abas Mohamed Duale was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the capital’s southern Debke neighbourhood.

“I saw three men intercepting the spokesman’s car. They sprayed gunfire on the vehicle, leaving him dead and his driver badly wounded,” said eyewitness Husein Mohamed.“We are very upset because we lost a man who was very important for the business community in Mogadishu,” said Ali Mohamed Siad, chairman of the capital’s Bakara market.Bakara market is Mogadishu’s main commercial hub and had been ravaged by daily clashes between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces since 2007.

An initiative was launched earlier this year whereby Bakara traders were allowed to take charge of their own security, with a pledge from the government to stop raids so long as insurgents were also kept at bay.The murdered Abas was a key figure in the implementation of the measure, which received support from Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein but met with some resistance from other key officials, including President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

The scheme had so far been relatively successful in restoring some stability to the Bakara area, where much of the Horn of Africa nation’s trading is done. Meanwhile, gunmen holding a Dutch-owned ship off northern Somalia yesterday demanded a $1.1mn ransom for the vessel, a day after the UN Security Council gave countries the right to combat piracy off the coast.The MV Amiya Scan, managed by the Dutch Reider Shipping BV, was hijacked by Somali pirates on May 25 as it made its way to Romania from the Kenyan port city of Mombassa.

“The pirates holding the Dutch ship demand a ransom of $ 1.1mn while the owners say they are willing to pay $700,000,” said a close ally of the pirates who gave his name only as Abdullahi. The company was not immediately available to comment.“Negotiations are ongoing and the crew are in good health,” Abdullahi added about the nine Russians and Filipinos.Abdullahi said he took food and other goods to the gunmen who were holed up in Eyl, a fishing town along the Indian Ocean.

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Monday authorising some countries to conduct anti-piracy actions in Somali waters after a surge in hijackings.Some Somali residents praised the resolution.“I think it is not an easy task to eradicate pirates from Somali waters, but Western countries can do a lot about it if they mean what they say,” said Abdi Naeem Olad, a 40-year-old Mogadishu resident. But others were sceptical that the resolution would have an impact on piracy that has made that section of the Indian Ocean one of the world’s most dangerous waterways.“If they can really stop the piracy it will be good. But I don’t think they can. That’s mere talk,” said Abdirizak Ali Ismail, a resident of the northern port city of Bosasso. – Agencies

The Rest @ Gulf Times (Doha)

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