Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Somalis Helped Hezbollah

NEW YORK TIMES

November 15, 2006
U.N. Says Somalis Helped Hezbollah Fighters
By ROBERT F. WORTH
UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 14 - More than 700 Islamic militants from Somalia
traveled to Lebanon in July to fight alongside Hezbollah in its war against
Israel, a United Nations report says. The militia in Lebanon returned the
favor by providing training and - through its patrons Iran and Syria -
weapons to the Islamic alliance struggling for control of Somalia, it adds.
The report, which was disclosed by Reuters on Monday, appears to be the
first indication that foreign fighters assisted Hezbollah during the 34-day
conflict, when Israel maintained a tight blockade on Lebanon.
The report also says Iran sought to trade arms for uranium from Somalia to
further its nuclear ambitions, though it does not say whether Iran
succeeded.
The 86-page report was issued by four experts monitoring violations of a
1992 United Nations arms embargo on Somalia, which was put in place after
the country lapsed into civil war and remains in effect. The report is to be
discussed Friday at the Security Council.
The panel does not say how the information was obtained. But the members had
access to information from the intelligence agencies of the Security Council's
15 current members, including Britain, France, China, Russia and the United
States, a United Nations official said.
Any involvement by Somalis would be surprising because Hezbollah's
effectiveness is widely attributed to its deep familiarity with the region.
Hezbollah officials could not be reached Tuesday night for comment.
An official at the Israeli mission to the United Nations said he had not
seen the report, and was not aware of any Somali fighters having taken part
in the conflict with Hezbollah. The official asked not to be identified,
citing diplomatic protocol.
While the sources of the information remain unclear, the report is dense
with details about arms shipments to the groups vying for power in Somalia.
It states that in mid-July, Aden Hashi Farah, a leader of the Somali
Islamist alliance, personally selected about 720 combat-hardened fighters to
travel to Lebanon and fight alongside Hezbollah.
At least 100 Somalis had returned by early September - with five Hezbollah
members - while others stayed on in Lebanon for advanced military training,
the report says. It is not clear how many may have been killed, though the
report says some were wounded and later treated after their return to
Somalia.
The fighters were paid a minimum of $2,000 for their service, the report
says, and as much as $30,000 was to be given to the families of those
killed, with money donated by "a number of supporting countries."
In addition to training some Somali militants, Hezbollah "arranged for
additional support to be given" by Iran and Syria, including weapons, the
report found. On July 27, 200 Somali fighters also traveled to Syria to be
trained in guerrilla warfare, the report says.
It also indicates that Iran appears to have sought help in its quest for
uranium in Dusa Mareb, the hometown of Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader
of the Islamist alliance in Somalia, which is known as the Council of
Islamic Courts.
"At the time of the writing of this report, there were two Iranians in Dusa
Mareb engaged on matters linked to the exploration of uranium in exchange
for arms" for the Council of Islamic Courts, says the report, which is dated
Oct. 16.
Those claims, if proved, could worsen global tensions over Iran's nuclear
program. Iran ignored an Aug. 31 deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment,
and the United States has been leading a United Nations effort to impose
sanctions.
The United Nations report is focused mostly on the increasingly volatile
situation in Somalia, where Islamists took control of the capital,
Mogadishu, in June from warlords backed by the United States.
Not only has the volume of arms flowing into Somalia grown, according to the
authors, but more sophisticated weapons like surface-to-air missiles are
being brought in. The conflict could grow into a regional war, with Somalia's
neighbors, Ethiopia and Eritrea, backing opposing sides.
The report also accuses Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Syria
of supplying the Somali Islamists with arms, advisers and fighters. It says
three nations - Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen - are aligned with the so-called
transitional government based in Baidoa, an inland city.
Asked about violations of the arms embargo, the report states, officials in
those countries either denied any involvement or failed to answer.
The report recommends that the Security Council blockade Somalia. It also
warns urgently against sending any peacekeepers to the country, saying such
a force could become "the catalyst that sparks a serious military
confrontation between the opposing sides.

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