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News in Brief


Somalia's patient friend

The Guardian - United Kingdom;
Dec 11, 2001

James Astill (Wrong target, December 4) includes in his article the phrase "to strike Somalia on Ethiopia's advice would be like invading Pakistan on a tip-off from India".

This assertion is wrong. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have sought refuge in Ethiopia. We have never closed our doors to them, despite limited domestic resources.

Ethiopia continues to be a venue for national reconciliation talks among the warring factions in Somalia. It has been mandated by the Organisation of African Unity and the Inter- Governmental Authority on Development to help with the peace and reconciliation process in Somalia. We proudly continue to carry out this role with patience.

We share thousands of kilometres of common border with Somalia. We share people, culture and destiny. We are their friends in their time of need and they know this. No one involved in the peace process needs a distant witness with their own sinister agenda about Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has never advised anyone "to invade" any country. Ethiopia has fought terrorist groups when they tried to destabilise our country through a series of assassination attempts, bomb blasts and sabotage activities. Al-Itihaad has a well proven track record of terrorist activities. As we have fought against terrorism in the past, so shall we continue, now as a member of the international coalition, contributing our share to defeat it.

Fisseha Adugna
Charge d'Affaires, Ethiopian embassy

Wanted sheikh captured in swoop along Kenya's border with Somalia

The Independent - United Kingdom;
Dec 11, 2001

AN ALLEGED senior al-Qa'ida member accused of complicity in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Kenya has been arrested by Kenyan authorities. Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, who was on a list of America's 22 most-wanted terrorists, was held at Mandera, on Kenya's Somalia border. He is expected to be taken to the capital, Nairobi, 500 miles away.

The sheikh is accused of helping to destroy the embassy in Nairobi almost simultaneously with the one in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam. He is named on an indictment, which also lists Osama bin Laden as mastermind of the attack, in which 219 people were killed.

Tony Blair has also identified him as an al-Qa'ida operative who helped to buy a truck used in the bombing. Kenya's Daily Nation said 18 people had been arrested in Mandera at the request of the FBI. The indictment, which offers a $5m (pounds 3.5m) reward for the sheikh, describes him as armed and dangerous. President George Bush said: "These 22 individuals do not account for all of the terrorist activity in the world, but they're among the most dangerous, the leaders and key supporters, the planners and strategists.

They must be found. They will be stopped, and they will be punished." An American military mission flew to Somalia at the weekend and discussed possible terrorist targets with the country's warlords. Sources close to them said the officers had been talking about where a second phase of a military operation could be centred. "They were discussing whether [the warlords] know of any terrorist bases in south and south-west Somalia," one of the sources said.

"They discussed possible co-operation if they make an operation in Somalia." The sources said five American officers visited the town of Baidoa, 150 miles south- west of the capital, Mogadishu, for talks with leaders of the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA), a faction opposed to Somalia's fledgling central government.

The American officers were accompanied by four Ethiopian officers. Somalia's government has accused neighbouring Ethiopia of backing the RRA. There has been widespread speculation that America could turn its attention to several other countries after its campaign in Afghanistan ends. Al- Qa'ida operatives are known to be living in Somalia, where 18 elite US Rangers were killed by warring factions in an ill-fated military operation in 1993.

Yesterday, Paul Wolfowitz, the American deputy secretary of defence,warned it would be wrong to expect an imminent military operation in Somalia, although al-Qa'ida operatives in other countries were being watched. "People mention Somalia for obvious reasons," he said. "Our focus is on Afghanistan. There is a great danger that if we lose our focus, if we try to spread our net too far, we lose our focus, which has to be kept."

US war planes reportedly conducting surveillance flights over Somalia

Sensitive reports are emerging regarding US war planes conducting military reconnaissance flights over Somalia. British newspapers have reported that US war planes are flying over Somalia with a view to identifying Al-Qa'idah military basis in Somalia and target them in USA's war on terrorism.

According to reports from important sources, US navy pilots have been conducting several surveillance flights over two military camps on the Kenya-Somalia border.

This is in preparation for an imminent strike on Somalia. Further reports say US warships have positioned themselves on the shores of Mogadishu in order to stop Usamah Bin-Ladin from entering Somalia.

The US State Department has asked the humanitarian agencies in Somalia to prepare themselves for possible evacuation, the British newspapers reported.

Somalia: US military officers tour facilities in southcentral town

A delegation of US officials yesterday arrived in Baydhabo [southcentral Somalia], Bay Region.

The nine-member delegation, that was accompanied by RRA [Rahanwein Resistance Army] officials, visited some areas including Baydhabo airport and some former military barracks e.g. Baynuna, Manat [all phonetic] and others. The officials who were US military officers, left Baydhabo yesterday.

Their mission was not divulged. We contacted RRA official Muhammad Ali Adan Ali Qalinle, who confirmed the visit by the delegation, but refused to divulged their identity and mission. He said the delegation was an ordinary one that visited the town frequently.

He also declined to confirm whether the officers were American or UN officials.

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