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Somalia confirms rescue of 35 children from 'al-Shabaab'

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The Somali government confirmed Wednesday its security forces rescued 35 children who had been taken as recruits by the Islamist militant group, Al-Shabaab.

The ministry of information said the government is looking after the un-accompanied children who are now receiving full protection and rights after being rescued from terrorists groups on Jan. 19.

“The government will provide all basic services to these children, as the necessity in rehabilitating these children is indeed critical to their long-term physiological and mental well-being,” the ministry said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

The security forces rescued 35 kidnapped male children from an Al-Shabaab indoctrination camp in southern Somalia after receiving credible information on the location of the camp and the activities that were going on for a while.

“As soon as the information was verified Somali National Security Forces began their operation, which was very successful,” the ministry said.

The militants claimed during the rescue operation that government forces backed by drones stormed the school in Middle Shabelle region, killing four children and a teacher.

There has been no comment on the government on the claim.

The government expressed its commitment to carrying out military operations in order to bring peace and safety in the country and vowed never to accept children to be used as militias.

“Terrorists group, Al-Shabaab has no regard to the welfare of children and they demonstrated their cruelty to children. Al-Shabaab indoctrinates children and they force them to terrorist’s activities,” the ministry said.

It said the government has made significant progress in stabilizing the country by retaking several territories from the terrorists in order to prevent them from re-grouping and planning further attacks.

The rescue operation came after international human rights group said the militants were forcibly recruiting hundreds of children in recent months.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report launched on Jan. 15 that the recruitment started in mid-2017 and has so far gathered thousands of children for indoctrination after terrorizing elders, teachers in Islamic religious schools, and communities in rural areas.

The rights group said armed group has opened several training centers, under the guise of being religious schools in areas under their control.

They use strengthened indoctrination, they teach children of a very young age and have pressured teachers into teaching Al-Shabaab approved programs in schools, HRW said.



U.S. military confirms killing five terrorists in Somalia raid

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The United States military has confirmed that five Al-Shabaab militants were killed and six others injured during a joint raid last week at a school run by Al-Shabaab that rescued 35 children.

The U.S. Africa Command, which oversees American troops on the continent, said some of the terrorists killed in the raid conducted by U.S. and Somalia forces on Jan. 19 in Middle Shabelle region appear to have been under the age of 18.

“During the mission, the Somali National Security Forces received hostile fire. The Somali forces returned fire in self-defense. In the ensuing firefight, five enemy combatants were killed and six were wounded,” Africom said in a statement issued on Wednesday night.

“The U.S. personnel were in an advisory capacity, and did not fire their weapons,” Africom said of the raid which resulted in the recovery of 35 male children from an Al-Shabaab indoctrination center.

The U.S. military said it supports the Horn of Africa nation government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s efforts to reunite these children with their families.

The U.S. forces alongside Somali and African Union forces have increased ground and air offensives against the militant group Al-Shabaab in the last few months.


UN Security Council welcomes progress in Somalia

UNITED NATIONS Somalia (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Thursday welcomed Somalia’s progress and urged the parties to make 2018 a year of implementation of various reforms.

In a press statement, the Security Council welcomed the political commitment to security sector, economic and political reforms.

The council stressed the importance of making progress on the political settlement in preparation for elections in 2020/2021.

It welcomed the Nov. 5 agreement between the federal government and states on taking forward security and federalism, and urged the federal government to ensure high-level dialogue with states to make progress on key issues, including the constitutional review, elections, fiscal federalism, and power and resource sharing.

The council raised concern about ongoing instability in Somalia and urged all parties to resolve political differences through peaceful dialogue.

It welcomed Somalia’s commitment to working with partners to develop a conditions-based transition plan with clear target dates.

Briefing the Security Council on Wednesday, Michael Keating, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Somalia, reported “definite progress” in the country thanks to the new federal government that embraces reforms.

Since the peaceful transition of power almost a year ago, the new government led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has crafted a commendable national agenda embracing financial reform, job creation, inclusive politics, conflict resolution and reform of the security sector, said Keating.


UN official sees progress in Somalia amid daunting challenges

UNITED NATIONS Somalia (Xinhua) -- Somalia is making definite progress thanks to the new federal government that embraces reforms, although daunting challenges remain, a UN official told the Security Council on Wednesday.

Since the peaceful transition of power almost a year ago, the new government led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has been through a steep learning curve and has embraced reforms to bring job creation and conflict resolution, said Michael Keating, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Somalia.

“It has crafted a commendable national agenda embracing financial reform, job creation, inclusive politics, conflict resolution and reform of the security sector.”

He also observed that the relationship between the federal government and states has stabilized following a period of tension. “The form and structure of Somalia’s federal system is still a matter of vigorous debate, but the renewed commitment of the federal government and federal member states to cooperate to address Somalia’s needs is essential in order to make progress on political, security and development priorities.”

But he warned that Somali politics remain turbulent. In December 2017, tensions were sharply raised by the violent arrest of a prominent opposition politician and the raid on the house of a leading member of parliament, he noted.

He also warned that corruption undermines reform efforts, limits the confidence and trust of Somalis in their leaders and institutions.

Keating stressed the need for all Somali actors to respect the rule of law and resist the use of violence against their political opponents. “Otherwise the risk is that the many positive developments under way will be overshadowed, and the government’s ability to implement its broad agenda and improve the lives of the population will be undermined.”

The scale of challenges facing the country are daunting, warned Keating.

Chronic poverty and persistent humanitarian needs cast an ominous shadow over the Horn of Africa country. The risk of famine still looms after four consecutive failed rainy seasons. The country needs 1.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 for humanitarian assistance targeting 6.2 million people, he said.

Malnutrition reached emergency levels in many parts of the country and is expected to rise. Drought and conflict have displaced more than 2 million people within the country, up to 1 million of them in the last 12 months, including many children and more than 80,000 pregnant women, he said.

On the security front, Keating said the African Union Mission in Somalia has been fundamental and has allowed space for political progress. But he warned that the mission cannot stay in the country indefinitely, and this will require the government, the United Nations and other partners to help strengthen the Somali security sector.


Somalia set to establish regulatory body for telecom industry

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The Somali government said on Wednesday it will establish the first-ever ICT body, the National Communications Authority (NCA), to help regulate the country’s telecommunication sector.

Abdi Ashur Hassan, Minister for Post and Telecom, told a three-day forum in Mogadishu that his first priority is to establish a credible and effective regulatory authority that is operationally independent and strong enough to regulate the sector.

“You have an exceptional opportunity to create a new institution not restricted by organizational challenges in our existing institutions,” Hassan told telecom operators, consultancy firms and Implementation Task Team that will provide technical assistance to the establishment of the country’s NCA.

“You will be responsible for the success or the failure of this institution so I would urge you to do your utmost as individuals and as a team to ensure the establishment of a credible and effective institution,” said the minister.

He said his ministry had requested the World Bank for a technical support to the establishment of NCA by way of providing expertise to the ministry on best ways to establish the regulatory body.

Hassan urged the team to keep their role in mind as the Horn of Africa nation’s government embarks on this important task of creating a new institution.

“We want the regulatory authority to become an exemplary organization that other institution to emulate and benchmark,” he added.

The move comes after Somalia’s President in October last year signed into the National Communications Act to regulate the country’s telecommunication sector.

The telecommunications bill calls for the creation of telecoms regulatory authority, development of the country with telecommunications technology, protecting corporate and consumer rights and more participation by private sectors in developing the sector.


Somalia inks new justice, corrections framework

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Somalia government and federal member states on Thursday signed a new agreement seeking to streamline the justice and corrections system, critical institutions shattered by over two decades of civil war.

The accord provides a framework within which the federal and state-level governments can support the rebuilding of the country’s justice and corrections system.

“This agreement will enable the systematic building of justice and corrections institutions at state and federal levels and increased provision of basic justice chain services for the Somali people,” said Staffan Tillander, Director of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Rule of Law and Security Institutions Group.

UNSOM said in a statement that its activities include supporting the country in the next phase of building a justice system that upholds judicial independence and benefits all Somalis and a humane and secure corrections system.

The UN mission said the political agreement, which is considered an important aspect of Somalia’s state-building and federalization process, is the culmination of two years of technical consultations and negotiations between the Federal Government and Federal Member States.

The New Policing Model, which sets out a future structure of police services, was agreed upon in March 2016 by internal security ministers from the Federal Government and federal member states.

It was subsequently endorsed by the National Leadership Forum, and that backing was confirmed by the agreement on a national security architecture that was reached in April 2017.

“It (accord) will complement progress that has already been achieved in policing and the implementation of the New Policing Model, which has been successful in allowing international partners to identify areas to provide support,” Tillander added.

According to UNSOM, the model codifies a two-tier approach for policing by state-level police services and a federal police service, with each reporting to their respective state-level and federal ministries of internal security.

Each component will be responsible for recruitment and training of police personnel, it said.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Somalia Justice Minister Hassan Hussein Haji lauded the collaborative efforts of all those involved.

“This is a victory for Somalia. It is an agreement on how we are going to organize our justice and corrections system,” Haji said.



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