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Kenyan Policemen Freed After Two Years Of Captivity In Somalia

Two Kenyan policemen have been freed after over two years being held hostage in Somalia by Al-Shabaab militants, Kenya’s police chief said.

The police constables, Joseph Wambugu and Fredrick Chirchir, were kidnapped in an attack in May 2013 in Kenya’s northeastern Garissa district, when four other officers were killed. The pair were taken across the porous border into war-torn Somalia, where “they were moved from one Al-Shabaab hideout to another in a bid to defeat any rescue efforts by Kenyan security forces,” Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet said late Thursday.

He said the men, who were freed on June 25 but whose release was only made public on Thursday, were in “good health but traumatised.”

Kenyan troops have been in southern Somalia since 2011 when they crossed into their neighbour to attack the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab. They later joined the African Union force, AMISOM, which is supporting Somalia’s internationally-backed government.

Boinnet gave no details of how they were freed, but thanked the “several security agencies which undertook this delicate rescue mission.” Under pressure in Somalia, Al-Shabaab is now increasingly targeting Kenya. It has also stepped up attacks during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, including killing 14 Kenyans on Tuesday in the northern town of Mandera.

In April, the Al-Qaeda-linked militants massacred 148 people at the region’s Garissa University, most of them students. In 2013, four Al-Shabaab gunmen killed at least 67 people in an assault on the Westgate mall in the capital Nairobi.

Source: The Guardian

Mombasa

Kenya’s main port sacks 27 strike leaders as losses hit $2 mln

East Africa’s biggest port in the Kenyan city of Mombasa said on Saturday it had dismissed 27 workers it believed were behind a strike this week that paralysed operations for two days and cost the port at least $2 million.

Over 2,000 workers went on strike on Wednesday and Thursday in protest against higher deductions for the government’s national health insurance scheme, prompting port management to threaten to fire them, having advertised their positions.

The work stoppage has disrupted business at the biggest port in the region, which handles imports such as fuel for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

“The management has identified the organizers of the strike and they have been summarily dismissed,” the port’s managing director, Gichiri Ndua, told a news conference in Mombasa, adding that the strike was illegal and more workers could be dismissed.

He said losses suffered by the port as a result of the strike had reached 200 million shillings ($2 million) with the work stoppage costing the entire region served by the port an estimated 1 billion shillings.

The strike also resulted in a backlog of 2,500 containers at the port, said Ndua, but added that nearly all the striking workers had resumed work after the sacking warning, and that they would clear the cargo by Monday.

Union officials vowed to fight on.

“It is going to result in the calling of another bigger industrial action,” Simon Sang, the union secretary general, told Reuters, as he went into a crisis meeting with other union officials.

At a nearby college owned and run by the port, at least 10 people were injured in a stampede on Saturday morning, as thousands turned up for the advertised interviews to replace the earlier striking workers.

The strike was to protest the government’s decision to increase the monthly National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) deductions from 320 shillings ($3.22) to 1,700 shillings without increasing their salaries, union officials say.

igad

Regional bloc lauds Kenya for lifting ban on Somali remittance firms

East Africa’s bloc on Tuesday commanded the Kenyan government for lifting ban on Somali remittance firms that was imposed in April, and urged Western countries to follow suit.

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim said the unlocking of the ban will help to avert poverty and build resilient communities in the Horn of Africa nation.

“This is a bold move by the president who has in mind the interest of not only Kenyans but the wider region at large,” Maalim said in a statement released in Nairobi.

Kenya’s central bank (CBK) lifted the suspension on 13 Somali remittance companies on Monday, enabling the firms to resume their operations.

The Horn of Africa nation has no formal banking system, and money transfer operators provide the services people in foreign countries would expect from a bank.

About 40 percent of Somali families depend on remittances to meet their most basic needs, including food, health care and education, and 80 percent of the capital for start-up businesses comes from the Diaspora.

Maalim stated that the Kenyan government had been very consistent in its protection of flow of remittances to those who need it most, including refugee population on its soil.

The Executive Secretary also appealed to Western governments and banks to continue providing services to Money Transfer Operators (MTOs) with a view to helping the region alleviate poverty, and by extension, reduce insecurity.

In February, principal banks facilitating money transfers to Somalia from the U.S., Britain and Australia broke ties with the Somali remittance companies over terrorism fears.

The East Africa’s bloc also said it plans to host a regional meeting on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development that will take place in Ethiopian July.

Maalim said the meeting will bring together finance ministers from Member States to review linkages between remittances and household food security in the region, with a view to formulating appropriate policies that enhance remittances contribution to local, national and regional development.

Experts of this roundtable discussion will also assess the impact that banking legislations in the U.S., Britain, and Australia have had on Money Transfer Operators or remittance companies.

United States Somalia

Ugandan police issue terror alert

The Ugandan police on Monday issued a terror alert, warning that Somali militants Al-Shabab are planning to carry out a series of attacks in the ongoing Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, told Xinhua by telephone that the security agencies have received credible intelligence reports indicating the plans by Al Shabab to carry out attacks in Somalia, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia during this period. The alert comes barely a day after a car bomber and gunmen attacked the Somalia National Intelligence Agency training center in the capital Mogadishu on Sunday.

“Yesterday [Sunday], they did it in Somalia. We suspect that they are planning to do the same here and the other countries as the holy month continues. We appeal to the public to be vigilant and cautious,” said the spokesperson.

Uganda continues to be on terror alert following threats from Al-Shabab to avenge on the East African country for sending troops to the war-ravaged Horn of African country. The East African country has contributed the bulk of troops in Somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia since 2007. On July 11, 2010, Al-Shabab carried out twin bombings that left over 76 dead and dozens injured in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

United States Somalia

Somalia’s Al-Shabaab militants assassinate Kenya official in northeast

A Kenyan government administrator in the country’s restive northeast has been gunned down by suspected members of the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, police said Sunday.

Mohamed Barre Abdullahi, a local chief in Wajir, which is close to the Somali border, was shot dead after finishing evening prayers at a local mosque on Saturday.

“The assailants trailed him to the mosque before taking cover to wait for him as he was praying. They then followed him until he was some short distance away from the place of worship, before pulling the trigger,” said Wajir County police commander Samuel Mukindia.

He said the attackers were pursued by a police patrol but managed to escape under cover of darkness.

Kenyan security sources said the attack was likely carried out by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab, which has stepped up operations in Kenya’s northeastern border region, including drawing up an alleged “hit list” of local government officials who have spoken out against the group—branding them “agents of infidels”.

The assassination came only three days after the Kenyan government lifted a two-month dusk-to-dawn curfew in the region bordering war-torn Somalia. The curfew was lifted to mark the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a period commonly marked by an upsurge in Shebab attacks.

Under pressure in Somalia where they are fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government, al-Shabaab is now increasingly targeting Kenya, particularly the border counties of Mandera, Wajir and Garissa.

In the group’s deadliest attack to date, four gunmen killed 148 people, mostly students, at a university in Garissa in early April.

In 2013, four Shabaab gunmen killed at least 67 people in an assault on the Westgate mall in the capital Nairobi