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AU to withdraw 1,000 troops from Somalia by end of December

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) announced on Tuesday that some 1,000 soldiers will be withdrawn from Somalia by Dec. 31 in line with African Union and UN Security Council resolutions.

The Special Representative of the African Union Chairperson for Somalia, Francisco Madeira, stressed that the withdrawal of AMISOM troops from Somalia will be “gradual” and “conditions-based.”

“AMISOM has begun its drawdown from Somalia and will have its troop numbers reduced by 1,000 by Dec. 31. Our drawdown and transition must be gradual, conditions-based, responsible and done in a manner that does not compromise the safety and security of the Somali people,” Madeira told journalists in Mogadishu.

As result of this, he said, troop movements have started in different parts of the Horn of Africa nation and will continue for the coming as security responsibilities start to shift to the local military.

“This is a process of re-alignment to effect the reduction in numbers and begin the handover of security responsibilities to Somali forces. I want to assure all that this exercise’s being conducted with caution to ensure the security of the Somali people is not compromised,” he said.

Madeira said as part of the military drawdown, the pan African body will deploy an extra 500 police officers who will strengthen training and mentoring for Somali Police

“The deployment of additional police officers will help extend law and order in Somalia hence further securing the country,” the AU envoy said.

AMISOM will reduce its troops by 1,000 by December, followed by further cuts next year, an exercise expected to end by 2020 as part of its exit strategy.

However, AMISOM’s exit is also pegged on the ability of the Somali National Security Forces, particularly the SNA to ably take over the security of the country.

The AU envoy’s remarks came a day after AMISOM launched a massive security operation to flush out Al-Shabaab militants in Middle Shabelle region in southern region.

The major offensive comes barely a month after the country’s Oct. 14 deadly attack killed 358 people and left several others injured.

Madeira said the ongoing troop movements should not cause alarm, but the withdrawal has begun earlier than expected.

“The re-alignment of AMISOM troops is a process that must be implemented as part African Union and UN Security Council resolutions. We are proud and envisioned a time when we could hand over responsibility to the Somali National Security Forces,” Madeira said.

He said the Somali forces urgently need to be equipped with necessary weapons and key logistical support including timely payment of stipend to enable them to flush out the militants out of the country.

“Other urgent support includes provision of quality medical care and establishment of key infrastructure - barracks and training centers,” he said.

Some Western countries including the United States have expressed concern that Somalia’s security forces will not be ready by then.

AMISOM is comprised of troops drawn from Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Burundi who are deployed in six sectors covering south and central Somalia.

Ugandan troops are deployed in Sector 1 which comprises the regions of Banadir and Lower Shabelle.


East Africa bloc to train Somalia officials on Kenyan, Ethiopian experience

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- Africa’s regional bloc said Saturday it will hold an experience sharing workshop on federalism and devolution for Somalia government officials in Ethiopia next week.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Mission to Somalia (IGAD SMS) said the Nov. 7-9 meeting is to enhance the capacity and understanding of Somali government officials and experts, learning from Ethiopian and Kenyan experiences on federalism and devolution respectively.

“In addition, the workshop will also provide the participants with an opportunity to learn how institutions of the Somali Regional State Government in Ethiopia are structured, harmonized and functioning at the local levels,” the bloc said in a statement.

IGAD SMS has over the years been working with the Somali government on peace building, security and institutional capacity building process in the country.

Senior officials and experts from the Somalia government, as well as the regional state administrations of Puntland, Jubaland, South West, Galmudug, Hirrsheblle and Banadir are among delegates.

Representatives of civil society organizations, youth and women groups will also attend the two-day meeting.



Kenyan security officers pursue Al-Shabaab after border attack

MANDERA (Xinhua) -- Kenyan security officers have launched a manhunt for Al-Shabaab militants who on Monday attacked and burnt two police vehicles escorting a commuter bus in Mandera county.

Mandera South Deputy County Commissioner Daniel Bundotich said the militants sprayed bullets on two police land-cruisers escorting passenger service buses en-route from Nairobi to Mandera.

“Security officers are still pursuing the attackers who had ambushed the passenger bus en route to Mandera from Nairobi. No arrest has been made,” Bundotich said.

He said the Monday attack in Dabacity area, Mandera County which borders Somalia, left no casualties after police in the escort engaged the militants in a gun battle.

“We can account for all our officers and passengers in the two bus convoy and the burnt land cruisers but our men are on the ground pursuing the invaders,” Bundotich.

He confirmed the Islamist militants crossed over the porous border with Somalia barely five kilometers from the Mandera-Nairobi road.

Mandera County Commissioner Fredrick Shisia said security chiefs in the region have laid elaborate measures to lead the area of the attackers.

The area has borne the brunt of Al-Shabaab attacks in the past after the militants’ ambushed police and military vehicles burning them to ashes by planting improvised explosive devices on the sandy road.

Ex-Mandera Governor Ali Roba’s security vehicles were attacked early this year by an improvised explosive device planted by the militants killing five bodyguards before crossing the border.

The Al-Shabaab have changed tactics and resorted to abductions and using improvised explosive devices to carry out attacks in parts of Coast region and northeastern Kenya, according to police.

Kenya continues to suffer several attacks as terrorists change tuck to beat heightened security and carry on with their heinous acts undetected.

In the recent past, there have been numerous attacks involving landmines, grenades, or other explosive devices in northeast Kenya.

Most of these attacks occurred in northeastern Kenya, mainly in Lamu in the coastal region, Dadaab, Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera counties in northeastern region.


Kenyan police officer missing after suspected Al-Shabaab attack

MANDERA (Xinhua) -- A Kenyan police officer is missing after suspected Al-Shabaab militants attacked and burnt two police vehicles escorting a commuter bus in Mandera country on Monday evening.

A senior police officer confirmed on Tuesday that the vehicles with 12 police officers on board had been ambushed by militants in Dabacity area, Mandera County, which borders Somalia.

“The rescue team comprising of Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) and police officers have successfully evacuated 11 officers from the scene and unable to trace one who is said to have made a communication to the station from his hideout,” said the officer who declined to be named.

He said the vehicles with 12 officers were escorting a commuter bus to Mandera when they were hit by rocket propelled grenades. A firearm is also missing amid speculations the terrorists escaped with it.

Another officer was injured during the ambush as the militants moved to burn the vehicles before escaping.

Efforts to locate the missing officer is ongoing.

The police officer said no passenger in the bus was affected as the ambush happened when the vehicle had passed the scene.

The officer said the attack came after a lull of three months during which no incident was reported.

Al-Shabaab militants, which have been mounting cross-border attacks in Mandera, are said to be grouping in the area. It has become difficult to attack them due to heavy rains.

Al-Shabaab has vowed to attack Kenya after the east African nation sent troops into southern Somalia in 2011 to help flush out the insurgents blamed for kidnappings of tourists.

Kenya now has more than 4,000 troops in the 22,000-strong African Union force in Somalia helping the United Nations-backed government battle Al-Shabaab, which is allied to the Al-Qaida terror network.


Ethiopia awards medical team for helping terror victims in Somalia

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia on Monday awarded its four-surgeon medical team for their service in helping terror victims in Somalia.

The Ethiopian team spent 10 days in neighboring Somalia to help victims of the worst terror attack in Mogadishu’s history.

At least 358 people were killed and many others wounded in the Oct. 14 attack.

Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu said the team’s humanitarian service “signifies a pan-African solidarity and people-to-people relationship in action.”

In addition to dispatching the medical team, Ethiopia has also provided 8 tons of medical supplies to Somalia.



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