/ 14 April 2010

Obama addresses deteriorating Somali security

President Barack Obama on Tuesday gave treasury officials broader power to deal with a deteriorating security situation in Somalia.

Obama’s action would allow the treasury department to sanction or freeze the assets of individuals involved in piracy off Somalia’s coast or militants who have done anything to threaten the shaky nation’s stability.

The piracy and eroding security in Somalia, where al-Qaeda-linked insurgents are finding sanctuary, “constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” Obama said in an executive order.

The order targets anyone who threatens the peace, interferes with the delivery of humanitarian assistance or violates the United Nations (UN) arms embargo in the lawless nation.

Earlier on Tuesday, treasury officials imposed new sanctions on nearly a dozen suspected Islamist militants, including some linked to the al-Shabab terrorist group in Somalia.

Under the new sanctions, treasury officials are targeting Somali Islamist leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is on the United States and UN lists of individuals with links to al-Qaeda. Last year Aweys said he was working to unite his Islamic Party with al-Shabab, a Somali militant faction allied with al-Qaeda.

Al-Shabab is battling to overthrow the weak, US-backed Somali government. Somalia has not had an effective government for about two decades.

The move by treasury would freeze any of the Somali militants’ assets in US jurisdictions. US authorities say they are increasingly concerned that Somalia has become a safe haven for Islamic extremists and a sanctuary for al-Qaeda-linked training camps.

The move to sanction the Somali militants comes as US diplomats and defense leaders are working with the shaky government in Mogadishu to determine how to support its offensive against al-Qaeda linked insurgents.

The treasury department said that it would also freeze the assets of: Abshir Abdillahi (44); Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki (66); Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed (33); Yasin Ali Baynah (44); Mohamed Abdi Garaad (37); Yemane Ghebreab (59); Fuad Mohamed Khalaf; Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud (28); Mohamed Sa’id (44); and Fares Mohammed Mana’a, a Yemeni who reportedly holds a diplomatic passport from Yemen. All of the ages are estimates provided by the department.

Mana’a, one of the biggest arms dealers in Yemen, has been arrested and in the custody of Yemeni authorities for more than a month. — Sapa, AP