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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

UN names states sending illicit arms to Somalia

Syria, Iran and the Hizbollah group, as well as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea and Libya, have all been accused of sending illegal arms, training or other support to Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union, in a report by a United Nations sanctions monitoring group.

The draft report, which comes as the US is being encouraged to co-opt Tehran and Damascus into finding a solution to the conflict in Iraq, also suggests Iran may be looking for uranium in return for its support.

The group’s findings underline growing fears of the widening international implications of the battle between the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which took control of the capital Mogadishu in June, and the struggling UN-backed Somali transitional government.

The interim government is receiving military support from Uganda, Yemen and Ethiopia, the report says, in what many see as a proxy war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. “Arms flows into Somalia . . . have dramatically increased in terms of numbers of arms, frequency of delivery and weapons’ sophistication,” the report says, “aggressively fed by a growing number of individual states, and to a lesser degree, arms trading networks.”

However, Matt Bryden, a regional analyst who specialises in Somalia, said nobody else in the intelligence or diplomatic community was aware of Hizbollah’s involvement and no one had ever suggested that Somalia has uranium.

Previously there had been false reports of terrorist groups trying to get their hands on uranium, he added.

The report says that while most of the arms supplied to the ICU were smaller-scale, “ominously, new and more sophisticated types of weapons are also coming into Somalia including portable surface-to-air missiles. . . multiple rocket launchers and second generation, infrared-guided anti-tank weapons.” While the bulk of arms for the Islamic Courts appeared to come from Eritrea, the UN monitors “received information that the government of Iran has provided at least three separate consignments of arms and ammunition, and medical supplies . . . to the ICU”, according to a draft of the report seen by the FT.

On 25 July, for example, an aircraft containing a shipment of arms from Iran arrived at Baledogle airport near Mogadishu and was met by the ICU head of Security Affairs. The shipment included 45 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

In a letter to the UN, Tehran rejected the arms-supply allegations.

The monitoring group consisted of four experts – from Belgium, the US, Kenya and Colombia.

They interviewed government officials in the region, including from the Transitional Federal Institutions and the ICU, as well as diplomats, civil society organis-ations, aid agencies and Somali businessmen.
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