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Army chiefs reshuffled as Somalia declares 'war on al-Shabaab'

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Thursday declared all-out war against Al-Shabaab militants, shaking up security and intelligence chiefs a day after twin bombings killed six people and injured over 10 others.

The president named former ambassador to Britain, Mohamed Ali Sanbaloolshe, the new intelligence chief while Jimale Irfid will be the new chief of defense forces in a reshuffle that saw Sanbaloolshe return to his position three years after he was sacked by former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

President Mohamed also brought back former police Chief Abdihakim Dahir Said to head the police in a day while deputy ambassador to the United States Thabit Mohamed Abdi was named as new Mogadishu Mayor and Governor of Banadir, replacing Yusuf Hussein Jimale.

"The country is at war, this war is against Al-Shabaab.

"We give the fighters of this group 60 days to surrender to the government, and we will give them a good life," Mohamed told journalists in Mogadishu.

He said the new military and police leadership will steer the war against the militants who have killed several people in their effort to topple the Western-backed government.

"We have new military commanders, whether the army, police and intelligence.

"We want to strengthen efforts to fight anyone who tries to disrupt the security situation in the country," he said.


Senior Al-Shabaab member surrenders to government

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- A senior Al-Shabaab militant surrendered to Somalia government on Thursday in Jowhar town, a government official said.

Head of National Security and Intelligence Agency (NISA) for Jowhar town, Abdukadir Abdullahi Hayow told reporters that the Al-Shabaab militant had before communicated to government forces of his decision to abandon the group.

Jowhar town is in middle Shabelle region, about 90km north of capital Mogadishu.

"Senior Al-Shabaab militant surrendered to NISA command here, he had communications with us before and he finally came to us.

"He is Mohamed Ali Yusuf.

"We welcomed him and we will treat him well.

"We will try to improve his life," Abdullahi said.

The head of NISA in Jowhar town called on Al-Shabaab members to accept amnesty and abandon violence.

Al-Shabaab militants don’t often comment on its senior members surrendering to the Somali government. Jowhar town is the administrative capital for Hirshabelle State in Somalia.

At least 20 killed as landmine hit commuter minibus in Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- At least 20 passengers were killed when their commuter minibus they were traveling in was hit by a landmine in Lower Shabelle region of southern Somalia on Thursday evening, officials said.

Deputy Governor of Lower Shabelle region for Security Affairs Ali Nure Mohamed told reporters that Al-Shabaab militants planted the landmine on the ground to blow up African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) vehicles using the road.

"The deadly incident happened in Golweyne town this evening.

"Twenty civilians, mostly women on a minibus from Barawe town and heading to Marka town in lower Shabelle were killed in a landmine blast," said Mohamed.

He said that the militants intended to target AU vehicles that often use the way joining Barawe town and Mogadishu.

Deadly incidents of civilians on board often take place routinely in the region due to either landmine blasts or accidents involving AMISOM troops.

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack but Al-Shabaab militants are believed to be behind the blast as the group has previously carried out similar attacks on Somalia and AU troops in the Horn of Africa nation.

At least four injured in mortar shell attack in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- At least four people were injured after mortar shell rounds landed at a residential area near Qatari embassy in Somalia capital Mogadishu on Wednesday evening, the police said.

Police officer Mohamed Nur told Xinhua the mortar shells landed near the embassy shortly after 8 pm local time, hours after a car bomb claimed six lives and ten injuries in Mogadishu.

"A number of mortar shells hit an area near the Qatar embassy...we are still following leads on the incident," Nur said.

The police said the blast, the second attack in the restive city on the same day, happened at KM-4 intersection in the city.

Mogadishu city spokesman Abdifitah Halane blamed the incident on the militant group Al-Shabaab.

The group has not claimed responsibility so far.

A resident, Abdullahi Shire, 29, told Xinhua the explosion was huge and sounded like bomb explosions.

"We heard heavy explosions near the Qatari embassy and we thought they were bombs.

"We learn they were mortar shells," said Shire.

Britain seeks to help Kenya counter explosive devices

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Britain has donated six new remotely operated vehicles and associated equipment to help train Kenyan soldiers counter explosive devices during their peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Visiting British Minister for Armed Forces Mike Penning who handed over the equipment to the joint UK/Kenya Counter Improvised Explosive Device (CIED) wing of the Humanitarian Peace Support School said the training will help save soldiers’ lives in Somalia and contribute to the defeat of Al-Shabaab.

Speaking during the visit at the school late Wednesday, Penning said the vehicles allow improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to be destroyed or disarmed remotely at a safe distance, preventing specialized CIED operators from having to put their lives at risk.

"The equipment and expertise we give to this country is not one-off, we will keep on coming back with instructors," he said in Nairobi.

The Wing combines UK CIED support with Kenyan facilities and manpower.

The joint CIED Wing was established in 2015 and provides vital CIED training for KDF soldiers.

Nic Hailey, British High Commissioner to Kenya said the training and equipment being provided at this counter IED centre will help them deal with one of the biggest threats they face in that fight.

"It will bring together UK and Kenyan expertise and manpower to provide training which saves soldiers’ and civilians’ lives," Hailey said, noting that brave soldiers from Kenya and the region are daily risking their lives in the fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

The centre is part of a big international effort to build a more stable, secure and prosperous Somalia and to support countries such as Kenya which are giving so much to that effort.

The different CIED equipment to the Wing included six Remotely Operated Vehicles to assist with ‘IED Defeat’ training.

In addition to equipment, the Britain also provides CIED training through the joint Wing.

Over the past two years, 15 courses have trained a cross-government audience drawn from the KDF, the police, the airports authority, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) as well as other regional military forces.

Penning who was in Kenya as part of a regional tour in advance of the London Somalia Conference in May, said Britain intends to increase the number of courses delivered here by a further 50 percent over the next two years.

Last month, the UK Foreign Secretary chaired the UN Security Council on Somalia and next month, Prime Minister Theresa May will host the London Somalia Conference to inject new momentum into the international effort to support Somalia on its path towards stability and prosperity.

UNHCR repatriation of Somali refugees from Kenya nears 60,000

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency said Thursday it has repatriated some 59,829 Somali refugees in Kenya since the return exercise began in December 2014.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its bi-weekly update released in Nairobi that some 3,786 refugees were supported to return to their homes in Somalia in the past two weeks.

"Currently, 21,940 refugees are actively registered for voluntary repatriation," UNHCR said.

The move comes after a regional summit of East African leaders agreed on March 25 to facilitate the voluntary return of Somali refugees but the UNHCR immediately announced it would not back the returns to a country facing threats of severe famine.

The leaders of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) resolved to support the Nairobi Comprehensive Plan of Action for Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and a separate plan for regional response to the refugee crisis meant to assist Somalia to survive the ongoing drought and looming famine.

The leaders, who met in Nairobi for the Special Summit of IGAD, the first such meeting of its kind on the Somali refugee crisis, agreed they would create an enabling environment for safe, sustainable and voluntary return and reintegration of Somali refugees.

In its latest report, UNHCR said road convoys were organized from Dadaab in northeast Kenya to Southern Somalia’s Dhobley respectively on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"Flights to Mogadishu have resumed on Feb. 27 after a long suspension due to security restrictions in Mogadishu since December 2016," UNHCR said.

More than two million Somalis have been displaced in one of the world’s most protracted humanitarian crises that have now entered its third decade.

An estimated 1.1 million people are internally displaced (IDPs) within Somalia and nearly 900,000 are refugees in the region.

Continuing political and security stabilization progress in Somalia, along with growing pressures in hosting countries, makes this a critical moment to renew efforts to find durable solutions for Somali refugees.




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