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Al-Shabab terror squad kills three north Kenyan quarry workers       

MANDERA (Xinhua) -- Three miners were killed and one injured by al-Shabab militants at a quarry in Mandera county in northeast Kenya on Thursday, an official confirmed on Friday.

Northeastern regional coordinator Mohamud Saleh said the militants stormed the Shimbir Fatuma Quarry, about 65 kilometres from the Kenya-Somalia border, where the miners were living, on Thursday evening.

“Reports from the scene of incident is that three were confirmed dead and one injured person is currently at Shimpir Fatuma health center while some are yet to be established where they are,” Saleh said.

He said two of the workers escaped with gunshot wounds. The quarry workers seemed to have defied government orders to vacate the area following increased cases of al-Shabab attacks in the restive region that borders Somalia

Two miners were killed by the militia in a similar incident a year go after they apparently sneaked back to the quarry in Mandera sub-county following a security operation.

The authorities in 2015 ordered all quarries in Mandera County near the Somali border be closed and all workers to vacate the places due to terror threats. The directive came after the murder of 14 quarry workers.

The workers however faulted the government’s move saying that they were not given reasons for the closure of the mines but only told to vacate their working places. They argued that the quarries near the Kenya-Somalia border were secure.

According to Kenyan authorities, more than 500 workers mine in the same quarry, something they said terrorists will capitalize on as they gain fame in killing a large number of innocent Kenyans.



UN expert calls for release of abducted children in Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- A United Nations human rights expert on Friday called for the immediate release of all children kidnapped or recruited as fighters in armed conflict in Somalia.

Bahame Tom Nyanduga, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, also condemned recent terrorist attacks in the country and urged action to stop use of children in armed conflict.

“The abduction of children by the al-Shabab group and their recruitment and use by government security forces in the armed conflict constitute a grave violation of the children’s rights,” Nyanduga said in a statement issued in Mogadishu at the end of a six-day mission to assess the human rights situation in the country.

He however lauded Somali government for measures taken so far to rehabilitate children captured in combat, and for recognizing that such children were victims.

The rights expert urged the authorities to act now to stop children being used in the fighting, calling on the government to build rehabilitation centres to address the plight of children associated with al-Shabab.

He also wanted to see a strengthening of the justice sector, in particular the police, judiciary, related ministries and other institutions crucial for underpinning security sector reforms.

The UN rights expert welcomed action by both the government and the international community to reduce loss of life from famine, but made clear that more had to be done urgently to help thousands of people forced to leave their homes because of flooding.

“The government must commit itself to addressing this recurring problem by adopting a range of durable solutions, including the relocation of victims to higher ground,” the expert said.

He lauded the government for some human rights improvements, including ending the practice of executing in public those convicted of terrorism-related offences, but made clear there was still much more to be done to improve human rights generally in Somalia.

“There has been a considerable improvement in the right to freedom of expression and opinion compared to the previous year, but I am still receiving reports of harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention without trial of journalists.  I call on the government to ensure respect for the right of freedom of expression and opinion, and a free media,” the expert said.


UN envoy calls for free, independent media in Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The UN top envoy in Somalia on Thursday called for free and independent news media in the Horn of Africa nation where journalists operate in difficult environment as the World Press Freedom Day is marked across the globe.

Michael Keating, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia also lauded the courage and dedication of the country’s journalists who operate in one of the world’s most dangerous environments for media workers.

“I salute the hundreds of Somali journalists who risk their lives on a regular basis to do their job,” said Keating in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

“A truly free and independent news media is indispensable in all democratic societies, an essential means to hold the powerful to account. An essential component for the media to do its job is ending the culture of impunity that, unfortunately, prevails for crimes committed against journalists,” he added.

The UN envoy urged lawmakers to resume their deliberations over an amended version of Somalia’s 2016 Media Law and give due consideration to a list of recommended changes to the law submitted by the country’s leading media associations last year.

He said this year’s theme “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law” is particularly relevant to Somalia.

According to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), no one has been brought to justice for the murders of 26 journalists over a ten-year period, and for the third consecutive year Somalia was given the worst track record worldwide for unsolved murders of journalists in the CPJ’s 2017 Global Impunity Index.

Keating said the Human Rights and Protection Group of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, which he heads, has documented continuing violations of the right to freedom of expression, including the closure or suspension of 14 media outlets in Somalia since August 2016.

He said the rights protection group has also documented media violations including arbitrary arrest and detention of 131 people for reasons related to freedom of expression since then.


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