Maltese-Flagged Bulk Carrier Hijacked by Somali Pirates Raises Concerns of Houthi Alliance

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A Maltese-flagged bulk carrier, MV Ruen, has been hijacked by Somali pirates and is currently heading towards Yemen, sparking fears of a potential collaboration between the pirates and Houthi rebels. The vessel was en-route from Singapore to Gemlik in Turkey when it was boarded by pirates in the Arabian Sea on Thursday.

The distress signal sent by MV Ruen to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations portal indicated that six individuals had boarded the ship off the Yemeni island of Socotra. Maritime experts are deeply concerned about the chosen route of the seven-year-old carrier, seeing it as a possible indication of Somali pirates working in conjunction with Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels have been targeting shipping routes to express their opposition to the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

While Somali piracy has been an ongoing issue along the east coast of Africa, the involvement of the Houthis represents a relatively new development. On November 19, Houthi rebels executed a commando raid on the MV Galaxy Leader, a Japanese-operated cargo vessel. The MV Galaxy Leader has been held near Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeida ever since. Notably, the vessel’s investors included Abraham “Rami” Ungar, an Israeli tycoon.

“The recent series of unlawful attacks poses a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security in the Red Sea. The UK remains steadfast in countering these attacks to safeguard the unhindered flow of global trade,” stated Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary.

In response to the escalating number of Houthi attacks originating from Yemeni ports, the United States has announced plans to expand its maritime protection force. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to reveal the deployment of the force, tentatively named Operation Prosperity Guardian, during his visit to the region.

This development comes as major shipping companies, including Hapag-Lloyd of Germany and Danish shipping giant Maersk, have decided to suspend their shipping operations into the Red Sea until further notice. These companies have exerted pressure on President Joe Biden to take action against the Houthi militants.

The international community is increasingly concerned about the hijacking of the MV Ruen and the potential cooperation between Somali pirates and Houthi rebels. Efforts are being made to protect maritime security and ensure the uninterrupted flow of global trade in the Red Sea region.


Source: The Telegraph

African Union Transition Mission Resumes Handover of Security Responsibilities to Somali Government Forces

African Union Transition Mission Resumes Handover Of Security Responsibilities To Somali Government Forces

The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) has resumed the process of handing over security responsibilities to Somali government forces after a three-month pause, according to officials. The handover includes control of the State House, also known as Villa Somalia, where Somali President Mohammed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud resides and works, as well as the parliament building.

Since 2007, AU forces have been working alongside Somali forces to secure strategic sites in the capital, Mogadishu, including the presidential palace, parliament building, airport, and seaport. However, Somali forces now assume sole responsibility for these key seats of the executive and legislative branches of government.

In an interview with VOA Somali, Mohamed El-Amine Souef, the AU envoy to Somalia and the head of ATMIS, confirmed the resumption of the drawdown. He expressed that the handover of the State House and the parliament marks a significant achievement and a positive signal to international partners that the Federal Government of Somalia is ready to take on its responsibilities.

As part of the drawdown, the mission plans to withdraw 3,000 soldiers by December 31st, and the responsibility for ten bases will be handed over in this phase. The first phase of the AU drawdown was completed in June when 2,000 troops left Somalia. However, in September, the Somali government requested a 90-day pause due to military setbacks in the fight against al-Shabab militants.

Hussein Sheikh-Ali, the national security adviser to the president of Somalia, confirmed the transfer of the presidential palace to the Somali army and police and expressed gratitude to the Ugandan forces who protected it for the past 16 years.

The recent lifting of an arms embargo has provided a boost to the Somali government’s efforts. Souef stated that the Somali authorities now have the capability to acquire the necessary arms, equipment, and ammunition to effectively combat the enemy.

Looking ahead, plans are in motion for a new mission to support Somalia’s national army beyond the ATMIS handover. Souef explained that the African Union is required to establish a new mission with a new mandate by January 1, 2025. This mission, which will have a combination of troops and civilians, will focus on capacity building, protection of populated areas and strategic infrastructure in Mogadishu and other capitals of federal member states.

While the specifics of the new mission are still being negotiated, Hussein Sheikh-Ali revealed that the Somali government is discussing the establishment of a multilateral protection force that will work closely with the Somali Security Forces to safeguard critical infrastructures in major cities where international agencies and embassies operate. The possibility of the new mission falling under the AU umbrella has not been ruled out.

As the ATMIS drawdown continues and plans for the future mission progress, the African Union’s commitment to supporting Somalia remains steadfast. The transition may mark a new chapter in Somalia’s security landscape, but it does not signify the end of AU engagement in the country.


Source: VOA

Devastating Flooding in Somalia Sparks State of Emergency as El Nino Intensifies

Devastating Flooding In Somalia Sparks State Of Emergency As El Nino Intensifies

Somalia is grappling with a severe state of emergency as the country faces intensified flooding worsened by the El Nino weather phenomenon. Regions of Somalia have been hit hard by heavy rainfall, leading to destructive floods that have displaced thousands and left communities in turmoil.

One of the hardest-hit areas is the densely populated town of Beledweyne, located near the border with Ethiopia. The Shabelle River, swollen from the excessive rainfall, has breached its banks, resulting in the destruction of numerous homes and forcing residents to seek refuge on higher ground. The situation has compounded the challenges faced by families who had previously fled drought and violence, only to find themselves confronted with another calamity.

Hakima Mohamud Hareed, a mother of four, including a disabled child, expressed the desperate plight of her family. Having recently moved to Beledweyne to escape conflict, they now find themselves battling the floods. The displacement camp where they sought shelter, known as Kutiimo, was not spared from the devastation. Their small, tattered tent was washed away by the floodwaters, leaving them with nothing but their lives. It has been a traumatic experience for them, underscoring the urgent need for assistance.

Save the Children, a humanitarian organization, estimates that approximately 90% of Beledweyne’s population, or around 250,000 people, have been displaced by the flooding. The federal government of Somalia declared a state of emergency in October due to the extreme weather conditions exacerbated by El Nino. Homes, roads, and bridges have been destroyed, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

El Nino is a temporary and periodic warming of a portion of the Pacific Ocean, which influences weather patterns worldwide. Its impact is most severe during December through February. Scientists believe that climate change is amplifying the intensity of El Nino episodes. Consequently, Somalia, along with neighbouring countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia, continues to experience torrential rainfall. Aid agencies have described the flooding as an uncommon phenomenon, resulting in the loss of at least 130 lives across the three countries.

The United Nations-backed Somali Water and Land Information Management project has warned of a flood event of unprecedented magnitude, statistically expected to occur once in a century. The rainy season, which extends until December, poses a significant threat to approximately 1.6 million people in Somalia alone.

The devastation in Beledweyne is particularly severe, with homes being swept away by the floodwaters. Although Hakima’s family is safe from immediate flooding in their camp, they face new challenges of hunger and the desperate need for adequate shelter. They implore their fellow Somalis to come to their aid, as their survival hangs in the balance.

Mukhtar Moalim, the owner of a retail shop in Beledweyne’s market, recounted the frantic efforts he and his relative made to save their property when the river burst its banks. Their attempts to block the water from entering the shop proved futile as the water levels continued to rise, jeopardizing their residence above the store.

Hassan Issee, who manages emergency operations at the Somalia Disaster Management Agency, confirmed that the situation is grave, with at least 53 deaths reported across Somalia due to flooding. Efforts are underway to provide relief to the affected people, but the scale of the disaster requires substantial support.

Even the capital city, Mogadishu, has not been spared from the impact of the floods. Major roads, including the crucial route to the airport, have been submerged, further exacerbating the challenges faced by the population.

Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre, speaking from the Dollow district of the Gedo region, where numerous families have been displaced, appealed to the international community for assistance. While the government is making every effort to address the crisis, additional support is urgently needed to alleviate the suffering of the affected population.


Source: The Independent