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Somali jihadists battered by airstrikes
by Staff Writers
Mogadishu, Somalia (UPI) Jun 30, 2011

36 charged in Liberia over arms cache found near Ivory Coast
Monrovia (AFP) June 30, 2011 - Thirty-six people have been charged in Liberia in connection with the discovery of a large arms cache in a village near the border with Ivory Coast, police said Thursday.

"A town chief identified as Augustine Darbo is charged with criminal facilitation while the others are facing charges of mercenarism," according to a police statement.

The weapons stash, which included war weapons and ammunition, including Kalachnikovs and rocket launchers, was discovered in eastern Liberia in the U'gbo Barro district just over two weeks ago.

Police said the weapons were believed to have been sent to Liberia after a lengthy post-electoral crisis in neighbouring Ivory Coast which turned violent as former strongman Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in November polls to arch-rival Alassane Ouattara, who was sworn in as president last month.

Gbagbo was arrested on April 11 in Abidjan, after some 3,000 people died in the violence in which Liberian mercenaries were alleged to have taken part.

The police statement said the arms had been turned over to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to be destroyed.

Somalia's al-Shabaab Islamist group is reported to be transferring foreign fighters to Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden, possibly to reinforce al-Qaida militants there who have seized southern cities as the country teeters on the brink of civil war.

The reports from Somalia coincide with an apparent escalation in U.S. airstrikes against al-Shabaab, which is linked to al-Qaida, at the same time the U.S. covert war against al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate has also been stepped up.

There have been at least three airstrikes against al-Shabaab in recent weeks. The first was April 6, when a jihadist commander was killed in the town of Dhobley in southern Somalia. Some reports said 35 fighters were slain.

On June 23, unidentified helicopters carried out a nighttime missile strike on a convoy at the al-Shabaab military camp at Qandal outside the southern port of Kismayo.

Two fighters were killed, al-Shabaab communiques said. But other reports say there were 39 fatalities, including foreign fighters.

The targets of the airstrike were reportedly operatives close to Anwar al-Awlaki, a key U.S.-born leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Americans have marked him for assassination for his involvement in jihadist attacks against the United States.

He escaped a drone strike in Yemen carried out by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the elite unit responsible for the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Some reports say the raid was carried out by a U.S. armed drone. If that's correct, it would be the first such attack by the Americans in Somalia.

It would add weight to evidence that the Americans are stepping up operations against al-Shabaab as well as AQAP.

All previous airstrikes in Somalia have been carried out by helicopters, AC-130 Specter gunships or cruise missiles.

On June 28, three helicopters were reported to have hit a training camp in the Afmadow district of Lower Juba province near the border with Kenya in a nighttime raid.

There has been no official confirmation of these airstrikes by U.S. authorities.

The BBC reported Tuesday the United States has supplied drone aircraft to Uganda and Burundi, East African states bordering Somalia.

Those countries provide most of the troops for the 8,000-strong Africa Union peacekeeping force backing Somalia's Western-backed Transitional Federal Government, which al-Shabaab is battling to overthrow.

The U.S. Africa Command, based in Germany, said four drones had been provided under a $45 million military aid package to boost their counter-terrorism capabilities.

But as far as is known these have not been in action, and neither country has the capability to conduct precision airstrikes at night like those carried out in June.

For the intelligence services of the West and Saudi Arabia, a hookup between AQAP and al-Shabaab to seize control of the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, a key oil artery linking the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, has long been a nightmare scenario.

Such a merger would also intensify the jihadist threat against Saudi Arabia, Yemen's northern neighbor and the world's leading oil producer.

One report from Somalia said 76 foreign fighters, including several commanders, left Kismayo for Yemen aboard a small boat following the June 23 airstrike.

It was not clear why, but it also followed a series of serious military setbacks for al-Shabaab inflicted by the TFG army and its allies in recent weeks.

That suggests foreign fighters decided to pull out and join AQAP, one of the jihadist network's most effective groups.

It's also coming under increasing attack by U.S. Special Forces, now aided by the CIA, as government authority crumbles in the face of a major uprising to topple longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was badly wounded in a June 3 bombing inside his presidential palace compound in Sanaa, the capital. The blast killed and maimed several of his key aides.

Saleh, 69, was airlifted to neighboring Saudi Arabia for treatment. He remains there as his impoverished country, increasingly a key battleground in the U.S. war against al-Qaida, falls apart.

AQAP, striking while Yemen's divided military fights among themselves, has seized towns in the south, such as Zinjabar, capital of Abyan province on the Arabian Sea coast.

That's a dangerous development the Americans would want to crush as quickly as possible before it spreads.

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New delay in trial for Rwandan general's shooting
Johannesburg (AFP) June 30, 2011 - The trial for the shooting of an exiled Rwandan general in South Africa was delayed Thursday after the magistrate fell ill, dragging out the diplomatically sensitive case.

Three Rwandans and three Tanzanians are accused of attempting to kill former Rwandan army chief Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa outside his Johannesburg home on June 19, 2010. They have all pleaded not guilty.

"I'm telling you this case is jinxed," said South African prosecutor Shaun Abrahams of a trial that has been repeatedly delayed because of translation troubles, faulty court equipment and on Thursday a sick judge.

The state's first witness, Rwandan national Kalisa Mubarak, began testifying about the events that took place on the day of the shooting, but the magistrate cut short the hearing after less than an hour.

Mubarak testified on Wednesday that one of the accused, Rwandan national Amani Uriwani, had told him that Rwandan "military men" from Europe with lots of cash and cars had asked for help "to shoot at a military person".

The key suspect in the case is Rwandan businessman Pascal Kanyandekwe, who allegedly offered South African police a bribe of one million dollars when they arrested him in July 2010.

He is also accused of plotting to kill Nyamwasa while he was hospitalised after the shooting.

Kanyandekwe and four men linked to the hospital plot are expected to appear in a separate case in the Johannesburg Magistrates court next month.

Nyamwasa has kept a low profile since the shooting. His driver, Rwandan national Richard Bachisa, has also been charged in the case, along with Tanzanians Hassann Mohammedi Nduli, Sady Abdou and Hemedi Denengo Sefu.

The case has strained relations between South Africa and Rwanda, which wants to bring Nyamwasa home to serve a 24-year prison sentence after a military court convicted him in absentia of desertion, defamation and threatening state security.

Spain and France are both seeking to extradite him for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people were killed. He has denied the charges.

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Tanzania says Serengeti highway project still on
Dar Es Salaam (AFP) June 30, 2011
Tanzania still plans to build a highway through the iconic Serengeti park, a minister said Thursday, contradicting an announcement by UNESCO that the project had been abandoned. "The government will continue with the project, but leave out 120 kilometres (in the park) as gravel. Gravel road will not have a big impact on wildlife," Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Ezekiel Maige told r ... read more

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