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Experts reject Somalia claim of UAE role in Mogadishu bombing

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KEVIN J. KELLEY

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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Experts on Somalia say they doubt the claim by the Somali government’s intelligence agency that an unnamed “foreign country” planned the December 28 attack in Mogadishu that killed scores of civilians.

The National Intelligence and Security Agency of Somalia did not name the accused country, nor did it offer evidence for its explosive claim of foreign responsibility.

But a commentator for a Turkish newspaper asserted on Sunday that “the UAE is behind the bombing in Mogadishu.”

 “Evidence left behind from the bomb vehicle that exploded in Mogadishu leads us to the UAE,” wrote Ibrahim Karagul, a senior columnist for the Yeni Safak daily. “A massacre was conducted and the traces lead us to Mohammed bin Zayed.”

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Mr Karagul did not specify what evidence he was referring to in linking the United Arab Emirates crown prince to the attack that claimed at least 81 lives.

Yeni Safak has close ties to Turkey’s ruling party and consistently expresses strong support for the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But three analysts knowledgeable about Somalia’s civil war suggested on Tuesday in messages to the Nation that the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab probably acted on its own. The experts reject the contention of UAE involvement.

 “UAE complicity in a Shabaab truck bomb attack seems extremely unlikely,” US-based author Prof Ken Menkhaus wrote in an email on Tuesday.

 “UAE is staunchly opposed to Shabaab and everything it stands for.”

The Somalia specialist added, “Al-Shabaab already has years of expertise in assembly of car and truck bombs. Why would it need help from any foreign government?”

In addition, a spokesman for Turkey’s ruling party made no mention of the UAE in a statement on Tuesday that explicitly condemned al-Shabaab,

At the same time, there are indications that the UAE has acted in ways beneficial to Shabaab.

A United Nations report last year estimated the wholesale value in the UAE of illicit Somali charcoal exports to be $150 million a year.

Shabaab has reaped considerable profits from the charcoal trade which is prohibited under UN sanctions.

The UAE’s ambassador to the UN did not comment on that finding, but she did tell the Reuters news agency that her country is “in full compliance” with sanctions related to Somalia.

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Relations between the governments of Somalia and the Emirates, formerly close allies, have also deteriorated markedly in recent months.

The UAE abruptly ended its capacity-building and humanitarian aid programmes for Somalia in April after Somali authorities confiscated nearly $10 million in cash aboard a UAE airplane in Mogadishu.

The Emirates said the money was intended to cover the salaries of hundreds of Somali government soldiers whom it had been paying for years.

The UAE has also been displeased with the Somalia government’s diplomatic support for rival Gulf state Qatar.

Turkey, now a major benefactor of the Somalia government, has been aligned with Qatar and against the UAE in a dispute that has roiled the Arab world.

Two Turkish citizens were among the dead in the December 28 attack in Somalia’s capital.

But these are not sufficient reasons to link the UAE to the terrorist outrage in Somalia, says Joshua Meservey, a Horn analyst at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.

 “I find the claim of UAE’s involvement implausible,” Mr Meservey told the Nation. “It has bad relations with Mogadishu at the moment, but it still makes no sense that the UAE would partner with an avowed enemy (al-Shabaab), and particularly not for an attack that has no strategic benefit for the UAE.”

Noting that an Istanbul-based publication is the source of the allegation, Mr Meservey added that Turkey “would delight in a chance to embarrass or discredit the Emiratis in a region in which both countries (and others) are competing for influence.”

 “So I suspect the accusation of foreign involvement in the attack is a way for Mogadishu to please its patrons.”

Stig Jarle Hansen, the Norway-based author of a history of al-Shabaab, also placed the claim of UAE involvement in the context of Somalia’s friendly ties with Turkey and frosty relations with the Emirates.

Mr Hansen noted that the UAE has refrained from attacking civilians even while it has been waging war in Yemen. “I think this is Shabaab,” he declared in regard to the Mogadishu bombing.

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Kenya: Suspected COVID-19 Patient Fights Lonely Battles

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“I cannot wait for my quarantine days to be over so that I can mourn my mother; I will start wailing at the door.”

These were the painful words of Brenda Akinyi, 42, whose mother, Ursula Buluma, a Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) employee, passed away at a Mombasa hospital on April 2 and was buried the same day at Mbaraki cemetery.

Ms Buluma was the Coast region’s first Covid-19 fatality.

Speaking to the Nation on phone from her isolation bed at Coast General Hospital (CPGH) in Mombasa, Ms Akinyi, who is the late Buluma’s first born daughter, said her mother’s death was as a result of “carelessness and negligence” by the hospital’s management.

“I am yet to grieve. I didn’t see her body, nor attend her burial,” she said, adding: “My mother has been having health complications which she has lived with for years, so when she called me on Wednesday, March 25, to go to her house in Jomvu to take her to hospital, I did not find it strange because it was not the first time I was doing it.”

PNEUMONIA TREATMENT

They went to Bandari Clinic – which is usually the first stop for KPA employees – where her mother was diagnosed with pneumonia and referred to the Mombasa hospital.

“We went to Mombasa hospital on a KPA ambulance, where my mother was first taken to the emergency section and put on oxygen. However, she was removed from the intensive care unit and taken for what the hospital staff told me was screening, the same day,” she said from her Rahamtulla isolation ward at CPGH.

She was later told that her mother will have to be taken to an isolation ward as they suspected that she had Covid-19 disease.

She visited her mother on Friday and Saturday, staying next to her on both days and chatting as usual. But when she returned on Sunday, March 29, she was asked to stay away because her mother had tested positive.

“I was devastated. I also demanded to know why my mother was not put on pneumonia treatment at Mombasa hospital as was directed by doctors at Bandari Clinic, but no one gave me an answer.”

According Ms Akinyi, doctors visited her home on Monday, March 30, did some tests and left. They returned on Tuesday, March 31, to pick her.

TESTS TURN NEGATIVE

She was first taken to the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) isolation centre in Mombasa before being moved to the Coast General Hospital on Tuesday, April 1.

“I have been in quarantine for 10 days today and I have not exhibited any symptoms. I have been in touch with my children and none of them has exhibited any signs, which leaves me very confused as to why exactly I am here,” she said.

“I have not been given any results from the tests they did before they took me to KMTC and thereafter in this isolation ward. It is very frustrating because I am not aware of my condition. Am I on forced quarantine or under treatment?” she wondered.

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Ms Akinyi’s children are under quarantine at the KMTC, Mombasa campus. But given the poor condition of the facilities, the family transferred them to Mombasa Beach Hotel, one of the quarantine centres at the Coast.

According to her, life in isolation is tough because she is cut off physically from the rest of the world, depending on her mobile phone and internet connectivity to keep abreast with what is going on in the country and beyond.

“I am in a self-contained room staring at the walls the whole day, without anyone to talk to or even an opportunity to bask in the sun,” she said.

ROUTINE

Ms Akinyi said she wakes up as early as 4am to browse the internet and check on friends on social media until 7am, when her breakfast is served by hospital staff.

At 10am, she is served with tea, and thereafter lunch at noon. Four hours later, an evening cup of tea is wheeled into her room, before her dinner closes the daily meal routine at 7pm.

“They have made sure that we have our meals on time. That is all we get here, mostly because one is rarely visited by a medical doctor,” Ms Akinyi said, adding that the medics talk to her on phone mainly to ask if she is exhibiting any symptoms.