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Police turn over Djibouti offices of firm named by Bush

NAIROBI, Nov 10 (AFP) - Police and government financial investigators were Saturday raking over the Djibouti offices of Barakaat, a firm named by the US government as "a financier of terror", officials said. The Barakaat offices and those of another finance company in Djibouti, the Societe Adoubrahman Tara, have been closed since Thursday while authorities in the Horn of Africa nation sift through their files, an AFP correspondent said.

US President George W. Bush's administration has alleged that Barakaat, a Somali-based firm specialising in banking and telecommunications, helped fund the activities of the Al-Qaeda network headed by Washington's prime terror suspect Osama Bin Laden.

A Barakaat official in Somalia strongly denied the claim on Thursday. The other company being inspected here, the Societe Adoubrahman Tara, belongs to a Yemeni businessman of that name who lives in Djibouti and has dual nationality.

"The financial registers of both these companies will be inspected to find out the sources of funds provided for the activities of cultural associations and Islamic charities in Djibouti, Yemen and Somalia, as well as possible links with radical Islamic movements" an official taking part in the investigation said, asking not to be named.

"It's likely that these closures will only be temporary," he added. On Wednesday, Bush said Barakaat offices in the United States were being shut down. "We are taking another step in our fight against evil.

We are shutting down two major elements of the terrorists' international financial network, both at home and abroad," Bush said in reference to Barakaat and another company, al-Taqwa.

In Somalia Thursday, Barakaat official Abbas Abdi Ali said the Barakaat Group of Companies was "cooperating with the FBI in Mogadishu over the transfer of money. "Our services will not be available until we prove our innocence," he said.

In wake of raids, Somali immigrants fear for relatives

By Patrick Howe, Associated Press, 11/10/2001

Once each month, a call comes to Zaynab Awaleh's makeshift home in a bullet-ridden former high school in Mogadishu. It is the Al-Barakaat money tranfer agency, telling her the $100 from her uncle in Minneapolis her sole means of support for herself and his 10-year-old son has arrived.

Now the calls have stopped. Federal agents this week raided and shuttered the offices of Al-Barakaat and other money-transfer businesses in Minneapolis, Boston, Seattle and Columbus, Ohio. Neither Awaleh nor her uncle, Abdullahi Hassan, know what happens next.

But many shaken Somali immigrants fear the worst, saying the government raids put the lives of relatives back home in jeopardy. ''I don't know what they'll do,'' says Hassan, who runs a storefront business selling phone cards in a Somali mall in Minneapolis.

''Ramadan is the month they need the money. They are fasting. What I send is not enough for a whole month, but it is close.'' ''He is the only source of money we have,'' says Awaleh, 32. ''It's a bit of a squeeze, but since that is all, we have to manage.'' The $100 is also a squeeze for Hassan, who struggled to make a profit from a grocery store for two years before opening his phone card business only days ago.

The White House said the closed hawalas networks of money traders that operate largely on trust were helping terrorists. They said Osama bin Laden skimmed the profits of Al-Barakaat to fund evil. Boston-based Barakaat North America Inc. was closed Wednesday after its owners, brothers Liban and Mohamed Hussein, were charged with illegally operating a money transfer business without a state license.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft called the Boston business and others around the country ''offices'' of the al-Barakaat network, one of two organizations on a new list of entities with suspected terrorist ties whose assets were frozen. All Awaleh and her uncle know is that the transfer service was helping them. Hassan says he won't even try to explain the raids to his niece; he'll simply search for another way to get her money.

Throughout Minneapolis, which has the largest population of Somalis in America with an estimated 25,000, people are scrambling to find ways to get money to family members in the Horn of Africa. ''I was told my kid is sick and I don't have any way to send my kids money,'' pleaded Faysal Olad, among a group of men gathered outside one of the Al-Barakaat offices the morning after the closures. ''We don't have any other way. We don't have money to send to terrorists.

We have only money for our families.'' Somali refugees began pouring into this cold northern state in the mid-1990s and their presence has had an impact, providing needed workers during a labor shortage, leading to new businesses and restaurants and generally adding more diversity to an overwhelmingly homogeneous state.

The closure of Al-Barakaat, whose owners have denied any terrorist links, is particularly burdensome to these Somalis. Western banks and money-wiring businesses such as Western Union have no offices in Somalia, and Al-Barakaat is considered the only network large enough to reach family members in remote areas or refugee camps. Abdi Samatar, a Somali scholar at the University of Minnesota, called the hawalas a ''lifeline'' for hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia. ''If that lifeline is threatened, it will be a crisis of enormous proportions, to the point that there will be loss of life and starvation,'' Samatar said. There are eight such remittance companies in Somalia, but Al-Barakaat is the biggest.

In Mogadishu, Awaleh says it is the only one she has ever used. In Minneapolis, Hassan says he has not yet found another that will work. Large or small, the hawalas operate in essentially the same way. A customer brings the business cash as little as $50 tells who it is for, and pays a 5 percent handling fee.

The dealer then contacts a counterpart by phone, e-mail or fax to vouch for the cash, and it is picked up by or delivered to the relative, usually within a day. The cash from the individual transaction is not sent directly to the other dealer, however. Instead the dealers each keep a tally of the transaction and settle up only when the ledgers fall out of unbalance. Says Samatar: ''They are both more cost-effective and more efficient in transferring money to Somalia than the bank system.'' He said as hawalas have expanded to villages across Somalia, they have brought phone service and electricity with them, providing more infrastructure than the war-ravaged government.

Allegations of terrorist ties make many in Minneapolis' Somali community bristle. Most say they had never heard the name Osama bin Laden until Sept. 11. And they see it as unlikely that significant amounts of money could be funding his network when charges for the money transfers are so low. Their loyalty, they stress, is not to the hawalas but to their families. ''If a U.S. bank or any other bank could be in the bushes in Somalia, we would use them,'' said Ahmed Mohamud, who works at a Kodak office in Minneapolis. ''As a Somali community, our need is to send money. Whether that be Western Union or Barakaat or anyone else, we could care less.''

The hawalas are not now licensed by the state of Minnesota, and a federal law requiring registration has never been enforced. But a new state law will require money transmitters to post bonds and prove a net worth of $100,000 by Jan. 1. Lawmakers sought the law to stop money laundering, not terrorism, but concerns about both stem from the fact that the hawala transfers leave no electronic traces except when the dealers finally settle up.

State and federal officials say they are confident that Somalis have other ways to send money. But in Minneapolis the raids closed the city's largest hawalas and the owners of several remaining agencies have kept their businesses closed since out of fear the government will target them next.

A survey Friday found only one office, a franchise of the Dahab-Shiil network, open, and several Somalis said they are afraid of sending money now for fear it will be seized by the government en route and never get to relatives. In Mogadishu, Awaleh says her fate is now in the hands of Allah.

And, maybe, President Bush. ''It is (Bush's) government, his country. All that I can tell him is that he has gone against the livelihoods of the poor people like myself.''

Somalia: Youth suspects reportedly forced to admit links with Bin-Ladin

BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Nov 10, 2001

Reports reaching us from Gaalkacyo [central Somalia] say that on Thursday [9 November 2001], 21 Somali youths, all from Mogadishu, were arrested in the town. The youths were secretly travelling to Yemen.

Immediately after their arrest, they were forced to choose either to face death penalty, be handed over to Ethiopia or to accept pre-arranged video-taped questions and answers.

However, the youths refused to comply with the conditions, except one who yielded to the third option. When asked why did he have to accept the third option, the 20-year old youth, Muhammad Ahmad Abdi, said he wanted to save his life.

Mr Muhammad said he was forced to say that he was in a group of 20,000 people, who were from Luuq [south-western Somalia], where they had been taking a 60-month military training under the supervision of two Bin-Ladin's sponsored trainers - one Afghani and one Iraqi - and that each trainee was given 300 US dollars per month.

When asked to describe those who subjected him to the act, Mr Abdi said they consisted of an official from Abdullahi Yusuf [deposed Puntland leader] forces, some white men with two video tapes who arrived there in a land cruiser and a journalist from Gaalkacyo town who recorded Mr Abdi's voice. He said he did not know the fate of his colleagues.

 

Somalia: Southern faction leader proposes further talks in Kenya

Col Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud [Rahanwein Resistance Army leader], and his delegation, yesterday returned to Baydhabo [Baidoa, south-central Somalia] after holding a meeting in Nairobi with Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi [on 8 November].

Col Shatigadud and President Moi discussed the current situation in Somalia. Col Shatigadud proposed that all-inclusive Somali national reconciliation talks be held in Kenya.

 

Somalia: President on working tour of southern region

The president of the Transitional Government of Somalia, Dr Abdiqasim Salad Hasan, yesterday visited Wanle Weyne and Afgooye Districts in Lower Shabeelle Region [Southern Somalia], as his first trip to other regions outside Mogadishu since taking office a year ago.

The president, who was accompanied by the Speaker of the transitional assembly, Abdallah Derow Isaq, the deputy prime minister, Usman Jama Ali (Kalun) and other senior officials, addressed local area leaders and residents who turned up in large numbers.

 

Somalia: Government welcomes Ethiopian position on reconciliation process

The Transitional Government of Somalia [TGS], has welcomed recent Ethiopian statement, supporting the Kenyan-brokered reconciliatory talks between the TGS and faction leaders opposed to it in Nairobi. The TGS deputy premier, Usman Jama Kalun described the Ethiopian statement as useful to the process of reconciliation in Somalia. The premier appealed to the Ethiopian government to join other IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development] member countries and support the process.

Somalia: Foreign journalists arrive in Mogadishu over terrorist

Journalists from all over the world are rushing to Somalia, particularly Mogadishu to find out the true picture about the existence of Al-Qa'idah group or its affiliates in Somalia.

Journalists from AP, AFP, Reuters and Financial Times economic analysts arrived in Mogadishu yesterday.

The journalists have already begun interviewing officials of Al-Barakat [an international money-remittance] institution, suspected by the US administration as being one of the international terrorist organizations whose assets had been frozen.

Factions Agree to End Fighting, Share Power Posted

Saturday, November 10, 2001 Nairobi, (African Church Information Service/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -

Power-sharing involving all Somali clans and national disarmament were some of the major resolutions agreed upon by delegates at a Somali Reconciliation meeting here, chaired by President Daniel arap Moi.

The four-day meeting (November 1-4), which brought together delegates from the Transitional National Government of President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan and a number of political opposition parties (factions), under the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), also condemned violence as a means of settling political differences.

The two political parties pledged co-operation with the international community in the eradication of all forms of violence. According to a communique issued at the end of the meeting, the delegates

, who included politicians, intellectuals, women and youth representatives, supported the implementation of the resolution of the 8th IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) Summit of Heads of State and Government on Somalia and other relevant Organisation of African Unity and the United nations Security Council resolutions on the situation in Somalia.

The delegates to the Nairobi meeting also agreed that all state laws be reviewed in accordance with the requirement of the reconciliation process in Somalia. Meanwhile, as a gesture of the delegates' commitment to power-sharing, President Moi re-opened the Kenya/Somalia border he had ordered closed three months ago.

Officially opening the meeting, the Kenyan leader promised that "if this meeting gives us an all-inclusive government, then I will have the border opened tomorrow".

Speaking at the end of the meeting at State House, Nairobi, President Moi observed that the move to open the border was a goodwill gesture from Kenyans to the people of Somalia. "You have truly narrowed your differences significantly. This is history in the making," the Kenyan leader told the Somali political leaders. While ordering the closure of the Kenya-Somalia border last July, President Moi had cited insecurity because of illegal importation of firearms into Kenya as the reason that prompted him to take the action.

By closing the border, the Kenyan Head of State had effectively banned trade across the busy Kenya-Somalia border. While opening the meeting, President Moi emphasised the urgent need to deliberate on the future of Somalia, lamenting the anguish, suffering and loss of lives caused by the 10-year civil war and the destruction of the economy and infrastructure of Somalia.

He recalled that various peace initiatives in Somalia had failed due to clan wars, mutual mistrust and lack of an acceptable broad-based government. President Moi had observed that under the circumstances, Somalia could become a haven for international crime and drug syndicates, religious extremists and terrorists, a situation that could invite an international response.

"A strong and united government in Somalia would help check illicit trade and arms proliferation, influx of refugees and human trafficking", the Kenyan President observed.

Somali faction leader Aydid reportedly holds talks with Ethiopian minister

Reports from reliable sources in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, say that Husayn Muhammad Aydid, [Mogadishu faction leader] who is one of the SRRC's [Somali Reconciliation and Reconstruction Council] executive committee members, has held talks with Ethiopia's foreign minister, Mr Seyoum Mesfin.

It is not confirmed what the two men discussed, but reports say that their discussions were based on matters regarding the current situation in Somalia, and the reactions of the international community, and the USA in particular which believes there are terrorist groups in Somalia.

The reports further say that Husayn Aydid held talks with foreign envoys, among them the US ambassador to Ethiopia...


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