Kenya to lift Somalia cash transfer freeze

Kenya’s president ordered Thursday the central bank to issue regulations and then lift restrictions on key money transfer services vital for Somalia suspended over suspected links to the Al-Qaeda-allied Shebab.

Kenya in April froze transfer companies as part of a crackdown on alleged Shebab supporters following the university massacre of almost 150 people by the Islamists.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a statement released to mark Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, said he had “noted the proposal to lift the suspension of licences” for 13 registered money remittance providers (MRPs).

“I direct the Central Bank of Kenya to immediately issue comprehensive regulations that guide the operation of MRPs, upon which their suspension would be lifted,” Kenyatta added.

No date or further details were given for when the suspension would end.

Aid agencies criticised the shutting down of transfer services, warning it would hit the poorest hardest and jeopardise their operations.

With no formal banking system in the poverty-striken country, diaspora Somalis use money transfer services to send cash back home to support their families, sending some $1.3 billion (1.1 billion euros) each year, dwarfing foreign aid.

Kenyatta also called for a security “review” during Ramadan. In past years Shebab fighters have intensified attacks during the month of fasting.

“Aware that the enemies of our country may wish to exploit this season, I call upon the entire Muslim fraternity and its leadership to remain vigilant, and do everything in their power, to cooperate fully with the security agencies in order to safeguard this holy month,” Kenyatta said.

Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia in 2011 to fight the Shebab, and later joined the African Union force, AMISOM, which is supporting Somalia’s internationally-backed government.

The Shebab have since stepped up their operations in Kenya, dealing a blow to plans for the troops to serve as a buffer and protect the long and porous border.

Photo Credits : AFP

KDF jets bombs two al Shabaab bases in Somalia after Garissa attack

The Kenyan air force bombed two al Shabaab camps in Somalia on Sunday, in the first major military response to last week’s attack by the militant group on a Kenyan university.

Kenya Defence Forces spokesman David Obonyo confirmed the attacks but did not give more details.

A military source told Reuters that jets pounded the camps in Gondodowe and Ismail, both in the Gedo region bordering Kenya.

Cloud cover made it difficult to establish how much damage the bombings caused or estimate the death toll.

“We targeted the two areas because according to information we have, those (al Shabaab) fellows are coming from there to attack Kenya,” he said, in reference to Thursday’s massacre at Garissa University College, some 200km (120 miles) from the Somali border.

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Somalia calls for closer security ties after ‘barbaric’ Kenya massacre

Somalia and Kenya must boost security cooperation between them, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said Friday, as he offered his condolences a day after “barbaric” Islamist gunmen massacred 147 students.

Mohamud said he mourned the “lives of innocent students” killed in the university in the northeastern Kenyan town of Garissa, offering his “condolences to the families of those who have died in this attack by the merciless terrorists.”

Masked gunmen from Somalia’s Shebab Islamist group killed the Kenyan students Thursday in a day-long college campus siege, the country’s deadliest attack since the 1998 US embassy bombings.

All four of the gunmen wore suicide vests packed with explosives, detonating themselves in huge blasts as the dramatic assault finally ended after some 16 hours.

Hurling grenades and firing automatic rifles, the gunmen had stormed the university in the northeastern town of Garissa at dawn as students were sleeping, shooting dead dozens before setting Muslims free and holding Christians and others hostage.

The government said at least 79 people were wounded in the assault near the lawless border with war-torn Somalia, several seriously, and there are fears the death toll may still rise.

In the final hour before darkness fell, Kenyan troops stormed a student dormitory where the gunmen were holed up as blasts and fierce gunfire rang out.

Interior Minister Joseph Nkaiserry said the four died detonating their suicide vests as soldiers burst in shooting, with Western security sources reporting that several soldiers and hostages may have died in the final blasts.

Troops then continued to search the campus for any possible insurgents until the siege was declared over late on Thursday, with the national disaster operations centre saying it had “ended with all four terrorists killed.”

The attack was claimed by Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab fighters, the same insurgents who carried out the Westgate shopping mall massacre in Nairobi in September 2013, when four gunmen killed at least 67 people in a four-day siege.

Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP the gunmen had taken non-Muslims hostage, and that their mission had been “to kill those who are against the Shebab.”

– Senseless and barbaric –

The university siege marks the worst attack on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi by Al-Qaeda, when 213 people were killed by a huge truck bomb.

The United States condemned Thursday’s attack in the “strongest terms”, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for those responsible to “be swiftly brought to justice.”

British Minister for Africa James Duddridge called the killings “senseless” and “barbaric”, while the French presidency said it stood “ready to work” with Kenya in its fight against terrorism.

It was not clear if any of the students the Shebab said they had held were alive at the time of the final assault by troops. However, officials said over 500 students had been rescued from the fighting.

“Kenya is at war with Somalia,” Rage said, referring to the thousands of Kenyan troops in Somalia as part of an African Union military mission.

Soldiers with tanks were deployed around the campus.

A $215,000 (200,000 euro) bounty was offered for the capture of alleged Shebab commander Mohamed Mohamud, a former Kenyan teacher believed to now be in Somalia and said to be the mastermind behind the Garissa attack.

The garrison town is around 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of Somalia and has been targeted in the past by militants from the Shebab.

– ‘Gunmen shot indiscriminately’ –

Police chief Joseph Boinet said “the gunmen shot indiscriminately” after storming the compound.

The sprawling campus on the outskirts of town has both teaching areas as well as residential blocks.

The university has several hundred students from different parts of Kenya, and the first bodies of some of those killed were flown to Nairobi late Thursday for families to collect on Friday, the start of the Easter weekend, a major holiday in the country.

A dawn until dusk curfew has been imposed on several northern and eastern Kenyan districts for two weeks.

Kenya has been hit by a wave of grenade and gun attacks, often blamed on sympathisers of the Shebab and sometimes aimed at police targets, since the army crossed into southern Somalia in 2011 to attack Islamist bases.

A series of foreign travel warnings in response to the threat have crippled Kenya’s economically important tourism industry.

On Wednesday, just hours before the Garissa attack began, President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenya “is as safe as any country in the world.”

He also ordered the “urgent” enrolment of a planned 10,000 police recruit boost, warning Kenya had “suffered unnecessarily due to shortage of security personnel.”

Kenya’s government has been under fire since the Westgate attack. In June and July last year Shebab gunmen killed close to 100 people in a series of attacks on the town of Mpeketoni and nearby villages.

In November, the Shebab claimed responsibility for holding up a bus outside Mandera town, separating passengers according to religion and murdering 28 non-Muslims. Ten days later 36 non-Muslim quarry workers were also massacred in the area.

Photo Credits : AFP

Several killed in Somalia airstrike

Several people are believed to have been killed in an airstrike in southern Somalia apparently targetting a house used by members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab militia, officials and witnesses said Sunday.

A Shebab source confirmed a missile hit the Islamist-held stronghold of Dinsoor, 270 kilometres (170 miles) west of the capital Mogadishu, late Saturday, but declined to give details on who was targeted and how many casualties there were from the attack.

Abdukadir Mohamed Nur, a Somali government official in the lower Shabele region, said several Shebab militants died.

“Many Al-Shebab militants were killed in the airstrike,” he said, without giving details on who was targeted and which country carried out the attack.

A resident in Dinsoor, Ali Yare, told AFP by telephone that four civilians may have been wounded or killed in the attack.

“We heard a very loud explosion and a few minutes later I saw cars rushing to the scene, some of them returned with casualties. Four civilians were among the casualties,” he said. “We don’t know who was the target because the area was sealed off.”

In September last year the Shebab’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a US airstrike, and Washington carried out another strike in December, killing who Somali officials said was a top Shebab intelligence official.

The United States has no permanently deployed ground force in Somalia but supports the government and sometimes deploys air power or special forces against targets linked to Al-Qaeda.

Photo Credits : AFP

Somali parliament endorses new PM

Somalia’s parliament on Wednesday endorsed a new prime minister, appointed last week after the war-torn country’s president fell out with the previous premier amid bitter infighting.

Political heavyweight Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, 54, becomes the first person to hold the post twice and was given unanimous approval, parliament speaker Mohamed Osman Jawari said.

“There is huge task ahead of the endorsed prime minister including the formation of a quality cabinet,” the speaker added.

Sharmarke, a dual Canadian and Somali national, replaces sacked prime minster Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, ousted by parliament after just over a year in the post and following a falling out with President Hassan Sheik Mohamud.

The United Nations, United States and European Union — all key backers of Somalia’s fragile government — have all warned that power struggles in Mogadishu were a damaging distraction for the country as it tries to battle Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels.

United Nations special envoy Nicholas Kay also said the tensions put at risk political goals including a referendum on a new constitution due to take place next year, ahead of elections in 2016.

Soldier kills 5 women to avenge his wife’s killing

BBC – A soldier in Somalia has avenged the killing of his wife by shooting dead five women related to militant Islamists, an official has said.

He suspected that the women had colluded with the murderers of his wife, who was also a soldier, he added.

Al-Shabab gunmen killed his wife and another female soldier in the small south-western town of Tiyeglow on Tuesday night, the official said.

Al-Shabab is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.

The killing of all seven women has shocked women’s rights groups in Somalia, who have noted that it is extremely rare for so many women to be shot dead, he adds.

Mohamed Abdalla Hassan, a government official in Tiyeglow, said al-Shabab gunmen shot dead the two female soldiers during a hit-and-run raid on Tuesday night.

Government forces then picked up the five women on Wednesday on suspicion of helping the gunmen identify their targets, he said.

As the women were being taken to the police station, the soldier confronted them and shot them dead, Mr Hassan added.

KDF says 49 more al Shabaab militia killed in Somalia

The Kenya Defence Forces on Wednesday evening said it has killed 49 al Shabaab fighters.

In a statement, the KDF said, its troops under AMISOM carried out an air strike on al shabaab camps at Hargeisayere and Minyonta in Jilib at 12.15pm on Tuesday.

Among those killed were five senior commanders, while 27 others were injured. KDF said two technical vehicles were also destroyed during the air strike.

“The two camps are important Al Shabaab logistics and operational bases which have been key transit points for militia movement to other areas.” KDF said in the statement.

This comes after the KDF on Monday released photos on an alleged rain on the militias in which it said more than 100 militiants in Somalia were killed following a bus attack in Mandera that claimed 28 lives.

 

Al Shabaab Islamists claim responsibility for deadly Kenya bus attack

Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamists on Saturday claimed responsibility for a deadly bus attack in neighbouring Kenya in which gunmen slaughtered 28 non-Muslim passengers.

A spokesman for the Islamists said the attack was in revenge for raids that Kenyan security forces carried out over the past week on mosques in the port city of Mombasa.