Somalia: March 18, 2003


More futile gestures from the UN Security Council - they have nobly condemned the continuing fighting in Somalia, calling for an immediate end to all acts of violence and for safe access to humanitarian personnel. The UN statement called on all states and other actors "to comply scrupulously" with the UN arms embargo and prevent the flow of weapons into the country. It stressed that "persons and entities must not be allowed to take advantage of the situation in Somalia to finance, plan, facilitate, support or commit terrorist acts from the country".

The UN's aid efforts are hogtied by the continued fighting, particularly in Baidoa. The instability has spawned a wave of banditry and assassinations. Meanwhile, UN Aid vehicles are often looted or ambushed with landmines, which forces humanitarian conveys to take circuitous routes or simply abandon the missions. The situation is growing worse, now that the dry season means the people are facing water shortages.

The Ethiopian government has also denied accusations by Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia that Ethiopian forces have invaded Somali territory. However, in a recent BBC interview, Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi admitted that his country had occasionally sent troops into Somalia to attack members of the Islamist Al-Ittihad al-Islami group.

The United States also warned US citizens about possible new terrorist threats in East Africa from Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers. While specific countries were not named, kidnappings and attacks on airliners (with portable missiles) and seaports were mentioned. Somali informants told Kenyan security officers to expect an Al Qaeda cell to start planting bombs in Nairobi if war starts in Iraq (and maybe even if it doesn't). The list included 'soft targets' frequented by foreigners, like movie theaters and a shopping mall with ground floor arcades wide enough for a car. Similar terrorist "chatter" was heard in places like Rome and Pristina, Kosovo, before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States. - Adam Geibel


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