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CIA boosts covert operations in Somalia
by Staff Writers
Mogadishu, Somalia (UPI) Sep 13, 2011

Two children die in Sierra Leone grenade blast
Freetown (AFP) Sept 13, 2011 - Two children died in a grenade explosion after they found the device, a remnant of the country's civil war, while searching for scrap metal in northern Sierra Leone, police said Tuesday.

A police statement said 13-year-old Ibrahim Kamara and 15-year-old Lamin Kargbo were among eight youths searching for scrap metal in Port Loko.

"The grenade exploded when the group tried to dismember the object into parts killing Kamara and Kargbo on the spot and seriously injuring the other six youngsters," said police superintendent Francis Bundor.

Scrap metal trading can be a lucrative business in Sierra Leone and children often skip school to search for items that can be sold to supplement household income.

Sierra Leone was home to one of Africa's bloodiest civil wars between 1991-2002 in which up to 200,000 people were killed, and many raped or maimed.

The clandestine U.S. campaign to counter Islamist forces in Somalia appears to be growing daily, with allegations the CIA is running covert operations from a base at Mogadishu airport.

These operations allegedly include the rendition of suspected jihadists seized in East Africa and spirited to an underground CIA interrogation center in Mogadishu and using mercenaries to train Somali assassination teams to hit al-Shabaab, the main insurgent group and which is linked to al-Qaida.

Jeremy Scahill, who specializes in security affairs, recently spent time in Somalia and reported in The Nation that the CIA operates from a heavily guarded compound at the capital's beachside airport secured by guard towers and has its own fleet of aircraft.

The agency, he adds, has a "secret prison" under the headquarters of Somalia's National Security Agency, an arm of the dysfunctional Western-backed Transitional Federal Government which is kept in power largely by a 9,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force known as AMSOM.

Suspected al-Shabaab operatives are held there along with prisoners seized in Kenya, Uganda and other East African countries, where al-Qaida is known to operate, and secretly flown to Mogadishu.

This is all part of an expanding U.S. counter-terrorism campaign that also embraces Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, even the Philippines and Indonesia.

It is spearheaded by the CIA, which has become increasingly militarized in recent years, and the U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command.

The Americans, aided by their allies, have killed or captured dozens of senior al-Qaida chieftains over the last couple of years as this new strategy has shifted into high gear under U.S. President Barack Obama's administration.

The administration shies away from putting large conventional forces on the ground as it quits Iraq and starts drawing down forces in Afghanistan as popular support for distant wars wanes in the United States a decade and trillions of dollars after 9/11.

Instead it has stepped up the use of armed drones to kill jihadist leaders.

On the ground, Scahill says the Americans are increasingly replaying the tactics and often unsavory alliances they made with warlords and tribal chiefs in Iraq.

"Over the past year, the Somali government and AMISOM have turned to some unsavory characters in a dual effort to build something resembling a national army and, as the United States attempted to do with its Awakening Councils in the Sunni areas of Iraq in 2006, to purchase strategic loyalty from former allies of the current enemy -- in this case, al-Shabaab," Scahill reported.

"Some warlords … have been given government ministries or military rank in return for allocating their forces to the fight against al-Shabaab.

"Several are former allies of al Qaida or al-Shabaab, and many fought against the U.S.-sponsored Ethiopian invasion in 2006 or against the U.S.-led mission in Somalia in the early 1990s that culminated in the infamous 'Black Hawk Down' incident."

Among these warlords is Yusuf Mohamed Siad, a notorious paramilitary chieftain known by his nom de guerre of Indha Adde, or White Eyes. He's also known as "the Butcher."

Siad, who was allied with Islamist militants before the CIA bought him off, is now a three-star general funded by the agency and armed by the U.S.-sponsored AMISOM.

At times, Scahill reports, there are up to 30 CIA agents operating in Mogadishu. They appear to function outside the ambit of the TFG and its president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.

The Americans reportedly have little faith in his corrupt administration in lawless Somalia, which has been without a functioning government since 1991.

The Americans appear to be focusing on building up an indigenous counter-terrorism force that they control, independently of the TFG in this 5-year-old proxy war.

That's where the mercenaries come in. They include Richard Rouget, aka Col. Sanders, a former French army officer who has fought in several African wars. He works for Bancroft Global Development, a private security company that has a 40-man team of "mentors" in Mogadishu.

Rouget and a group of former French, Scandinavian and South African military personnel help train AMISOM's Kenyan and Ugandan troops.

This has paid off, sort of. TFG forces, led by AMISOM, recently succeeded in pushing al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu in an offensive launched in May.

But that may have had more to do with crippling clan rivalries within the group than anything else.

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Burkina leader revamps army after mutinies
Ouagadougou (AFP) Sept 13, 2011 - Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, who faced unprecedented army mutinies this year, has revamped the military, replaced senior officers and merged regiments, officials said Tuesday.

Compaore, who has ruled since 1987, faced several army mutinies between March and June. The focus of many protests was high food prices, unemployment, the rising cost of living and looting by troops.

The long-serving ruler restored order by replacing his military chiefs and prime minister, paying out bonuses to soldiers and having dozens arrested.

But the anger, concern and controversy is still there, and the proposition of a constitutional amendment to allow him to stand again in 2015 has forged an opposition of politicians, civil society and the Church.

Compaore, in new measures announced Tuesday, changed the military chiefs of two key regions -- Kaya in the north and the southwestern economic hub of Bobo Dioulasso.

He also abolished some regiments, merged others and deployed units. There was no comment from either the defence ministry or the military on the reasons for the move.

Compaore's praetorian guard, the regiment for presidential security, was untouched by the changes despite a rebellion in its ranks which had forced the president to quit his official residence for his native village briefly.

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Sudan parliament okays Blue Nile military action
Khartoum (AFP) Sept 12, 2011
Sudan on Monday approved military action over the embattled state of Blue Nile bordering South Sudan just days after the rivals agreed to withdraw their troops from another flashpoint border region. Parliament approved "the military option" in Blue Nile, where rebels have close historic links with newly independent South Sudan, the head of a committee dealing with emergency matters said. ... read more

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