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Police reservist killed in Mandera Al-Shabaab attack

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MONDAY JANUARY 23 2017

Equity Bank, Mandera branch that was partially
Equity Bank, Mandera branch that was partially destroyed in an attack by the Al-Shabaab on January 22, 2017. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 
http://www.nation.co.ke/image/view/-/3060478/medRes/1246603/-/upw3bl/-/manase.jpgBy MANASE OTSIALO
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A Kenya Police Reservist (KPR) was killed Monday morning after suspected Al-Shabaab militants hurled explosives at a bank and two hotels in Mandera town.
Police and the Kenya Defence Forces on Monday morning secured Equity Bank, which had one of its walls destroyed and windows shattered.
KDF sealed off the bank, Jabane hotel and a food kiosk located opposite Mandera deputy governor’s home to check whether there are other explosives.
The back of Equity Bank, Mandera branch that
The back of Equity Bank, Mandera branch that was destroyed in an attack by Al-Shabaab on January 23, 2017. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO
Mandera County Commissioner Frederick Shisia said the police reservist was killed in the attack on the eatery near the deputy governor’s house.
There is a dusk to dawn curfew imposed in Mandera.











What President Trump’s policies mean for Somalia and security in greater East Africa

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http://www.hiiraan.com/images/logo/AfricaReview.jpg
Sunday January 22, 2017
By WACHIRA MAINA


News last week that President Donald Trump had asked for a review of the US role in Somalia should worry frontline states like Kenya and Ethiopia.

Over the past three years, President Obama’s support for the 22,000-strong Africa Union Mission to Somalia, Amisom, has been crucial in the fight against Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-affiliates trying to oust the Federal Government of Somalia. By providing intelligence, deploying Special Forces, airstrikes and drones, the US has degraded Al Shabaab’s fighting capabilities and decapitated its leadership.

In May last year, a US airstrike killed Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, a key military commander. He was one of many Al Shabaab leaders taken out by US drones and Special Forces in early 2016 among them Mohamed Dulyadin, architect of the 2015 Garissa University shootings; Yusuf Ali Ugas, an Al Shabaab recruiter; Mohamed Mire, the Al Shabaab governor for the Hiran region and Hassan Ali Dhoore, architect of both the 2014 Christmas Day attack on Mogadishu airport and the 2015 attack on Maka al-Mukarramah hotel, also in Mogadishu.

If Al Shabbab seems less fleet-footed and lethal today than it did a year and a half ago, part of the credit must go to the US. It now looks like President Trump — who is breathtakingly naïve about the threat that Al Shabaab-like groups pose — wants the review in order to cut back US involvement in Somalia. This would be a strategic and costly long-run mistake for US policy in the Horn of Africa.

The Red Sea

It also means that Kenya and Ethiopia, both allies of the US against Al Shabaab, could also soon bail out of Somalia. Should they do so, Al Shabaab will flourish, at least in the short-run. The silver lining, though, is that in the medium-term, the retreat by the US, Ethiopia and Kenya would give the Africa Union an excellent chance to redesign Amisom, its otherwise doomed mission in Somalia. Here is why:

To begin with, it is baffling that President Trump cannot see the strategic argument. The Red Sea — and so the Suez Canal — is vital to global commerce, a route not only for oil from the Gulf states to Europe but also for goods from Europe and North America to India, the Arabian Peninsula and China. The Red Sea shortcut — which carries about 8 per cent of global trade — eliminates 10 days and 8,900 kilometres (or 43 per cent) from the alternative route round the Cape of Good Hope. True, some oil tankers are now taking the long route but that is temporary, explained by low oil prices that offset the higher transport costs.

On all accounts, then, the Suez Canal route will remain critical. But it is vulnerable. The entry to the Red Sea, past the point where the Horn of Africa juts into the Gulf of Aden, is a 32km wide maritime chokepoint, the Bab-el-Mandeb, Arabic for the “Gate of Tears.” Looking north towards Suez, the strait lies athwart the Red Sea with Djibouti to the east, on the African coast and Yemen to the west, on the Arabian coast. Behind, the Red Sea funnels out to the Indian Ocean and on to the coast of Somalia. The strategic threat of a failed Somalia is obvious and has been for years.

In imperial times, Britain and France split sentinel responsibilities over the strait, Britain taking Yemen and France Djibouti. Today, two states at or near both ends of the strait, Somalia and Yemen, have slipped into chaos. In Yemen, there is a proxy war raging between Saudi Arabia and Iran pitting pro-Saudi government forces against pro-Iran Houthi militias. The chaos has energised terror groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The problem for global trade is that nearly 16,500 ships — a quarter of which are oil tankers — transit through the strait and the Suez Canal every year.

These are tempting for terrorists.

Somali piracy

One may resent the US as a self-appointed global cop but its naval and air capability has kept the Red Sea route safe. Seen thus, US withdrawal from Somalia poses risks.

One, it will embolden Al Shabaab to regroup and escalate attacks against both Amisom and the Somali government.

Two, other terror groups will see the retreat as a collapse of US military will.

A resurgence of Al Shabaab — or another terror group that targets the global maritime trade — would have a more lethal impact than what the world experienced over seven years of Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden from 2005. Piracy is a good example. It arose from the same circumstances that spawned Al Shabaab: A failed state in whose lawless coves and creeks pirates found safe harbour.

Using piracy as a touchstone gives perspective to the magnitude of the impact of maritime terror.

To fix ideas, take the Somali piracy numbers for 2011 and 2012. The year 2012 marked the first time since 2005 that there was a significant drop in the threat level posed by Somali pirates. According to the World Shipping Council, 54 per cent — 237 of 439 — pirate attacks and 62 per cent — 28 incidents of 45 — merchant vessel hijackings in 2011 happened off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, the gateway to the Bab-el-Mandeb. In the first quarter of 2012, another 51 out of a global total of 121 attacks took place off the coast of Somalia as did 11 hijackings out of 13 worldwide.

And yet these episodes don’t give the full picture. According to The Economic Cost of Somali Piracy, a 2012 report by One Earth Future Foundation’s project, Oceans Beyond Piracy, Somali pirates got over $31 million n ransom in 2012, which, though large, was nonetheless a remarkable drop from 2011 when they got over $160 million dollars. These numbers do not include logistical expenses, such as the costs of recovering hijacked ships and paying negotiators.

There were other costs too. In the same year, operations to combat piracy topped $1 billion. To hire on-board marshals and outfit vessels with additional security equipment cost between $1.65 billion and $2.06 billion. Evasive action, including rerouting vessels to avoid risky areas, cost another $290 million and the increase in hardship pay added another $471 million to the labour costs. And yet, for all that, piracy is not nearly half as disruptive as terrorism.

Geopolitics

Apart from geopolitics, a US retreat from Somalia would inevitably change the politics of the Horn. It must, for instance, lead to a retreat by Ethiopia, too. There are two reasons for this.

One, there is an incipient rebellion in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest, most populous and richest region. This will force the security-obsessed ruling party in Addis Ababa to re-deploy its armed forces. Late last year, Ethiopian troops withdrew from parts of central Somalia unannounced, in response, some say, to the Oromo rebellion back home. The unexpected move proved a boon to Al Shabaab who quickly occupied the towns that Ethiopia abandoned.

The second reason is more complicated and has to do with Ethiopia’s tangled relationship with both the US and Somalia.

Consular ties between the US and Ethiopia were established in 1903, paving the way for the first US ambassador to Ethiopia, Hoffman Philip, to present papers to Emperor Menelik II in 1908. Today, Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of US economic and military aid. One justification for this US investment has been Ethiopia’s frontline role in the fight against terrorism, especially its willingness to commit soldiers against the Islamic Courts Union in early 2000 and mid-2006. Without an active US interest in Somalia, aid to Ethiopia will surely fall, if not immediately then in the medium-term.

Without American money, Addis Ababa’s enthusiasm for military adventures in Somalia will wane.

But there are deeper factors at play too. Ethiopia’s historical relations with Somalia are fractious and incandescent and can inflame Somali nationalism like no other factors. By some accounts, ties go back to time of the Prophet Mohammad. Emollient renderings of Ethiopian history say that the Aksumite Kingdom, the historical heartland of modern Ethiopia, gave refuge to relatives and family of the Prophet fleeing from persecution by the rulers of Mecca, the Quraishi family, ironically members of the same Banu Hashim clan as the Prophet. A grateful Mohammad is supposed to have decreed that the Abyssinian Christians were never to be harmed. But his injunction was ignored: Muslims from Somalia — and later Sudan and Egypt — regularly raided Abyssinia, at one point occupying most of the Aksumite highlands and nearly vanquishing the kingdom. Ethiopia’s fight-back began in the late 19th century when King Menelik II invaded the Ogaden and, with the connivance of the British, occupied the region for a short time. Fifty years later, in 1948, the British handed Ogaden back to Ethiopia, claiming to rely on an agreement with Menelik II from 1897.

But Ogaden remained contested. From 1977 to 1978 the long cold war over the region turned hot, culminating in the defeat of Somalia, thanks to the Soviet Union’s turncoat diplomacy which saw them switch sides mid-stream, dumping their erstwhile ally Siad Barre of Somalia for Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia. Later still, in 1996 and then in 1999, Ethiopian forces made incursions into Somalia.

Throughout the 2000s, Addis Ababa tried to stoke insurrections against the shaky Transitional National Government in Mogadishu.

In July 2006, Ethiopia launched a full invasion, cherry-picked friendly warlords and, with the support of the US, arm-twisted them to set up the Transitional Federal Government, all against the vociferous opposition of the Islamic Courts Union, and many Somali nationalists. Ethiopia’s subsequent occupation was brutal: hundreds of thousands were displaced, civilians were killed and others brutalised.

Frequent Ethiopian spoliations were eventually repaid in the same coin: A radical and breakaway youth faction of the Islamic Court Union soon morphed into Al Shabaab, a bigger menace than the comparatively moderate ICU that the US and Ethiopia had battled so ruthlessly. Ethiopian forces eventually withdrew in 2009, 4,300 of them came back in 2014 as part of Amisom. This charged matters profoundly. All considered, it would be best if Ethiopia withdrew from Somalia and stayed away for good.

What of Kenya? A US and Ethiopian withdrawal would weaken the Federal Government of Somalia — the 2012 successor to the Transitional Federal Government. But a weaker Somali government would, ironically, tighten Kenya’s grip on Somali affairs even as it deepens Somali distrust of Kenya. Left the top dog by the exit of its allies, Kenya would be tempted to play the advantages of dominance. That would be a mistake; it would only add fuel to the mouldering resentments that Al Shabaab appeals to every time it attacks Kenya. Bluster and bullying would imperil Kenya’s security without removing the sources of threat. Kenya invaded “to stabilise Somalia so that state-building could start.” Instead, by relying on imprudent and self-serving advice from politically connected Somalis, it exported Somali clan politics to Jubaland.

Some security experts now argue for Kenya’s extended stay in Somalia pointing out that since 2015, Al Shabaab, attacks on Kenyan soil have dropped sharply. This, they say, is proof that military intervention has paid off. Not so fast: it is just a year after the deadly El Adde attack.

A more convincing explanation is better intelligence gathering, thanks to the new Director-General of Kenya’s National Intelligence Service, Maj-Gen Philip Kameru. Kameru’s quiet and methodical style — a sharp contrast to the style of Maj-Gen Michael Gichangi, his predecessor — appears to be paying off. He has restored professionalism. It is important that Kenya does not become complacent because terror groups are often most lethal when they seem weakest. More important, the military’s triumphalist account of its mission doesn’t match with events in Somalia. Since September 2016, Al Shabaab has stepped up attacks, in part to disrupt presidential elections in Somalia. Premature announcements that it is dead are ill-informed.

Options

If, in fact, Ethiopia and the US do pull out, Al Shabaab will, in the shortrun, grow strong again. That is a strategic menace to Kenya: an Al Shabaab re-energised may be tempted to attack Kenya this year, an election year, which would make credible elections impossible.

What to do? Kenya has no good options in Somalia. It really is the “Devil’s Alternative.” Kenya could stay on, engaged in an inept military mission that continues to inflame Somali nationalism and stoke Al Shabaab resentment. Or, it could withdraw and fret sleeplessly that Somalia will collapse back into the lawlessness that bred terror in the first place. Kenya’s ability to do good in Somalia has been eroded by partisan politicking in Jubaland. It is now reaping the very things it dreaded: A border as porous as before and a Somalia no safer than before. It is time for Kenya to leave.

That leaves matters to the pussyfooted AU, which must urgently rethink Amisom’s design. Amisom is congenitally defective. Five countries have contributed troops — Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Burundi and Uganda. Three of these — Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya — have territorial interests at odds with those of Somalia. Ethiopia has shown imperial tendencies in its interventions in Somalia and it also holds Ogaden. Djibouti was annexed by the French from Puntland and was then granted Independence totally delinked from Somalia. Kenya’s (now former) Northeastern Province was part of Jubaland and was hived off by Britain in 1925. In 1960, Britain lied that the province would be re-unified with Somaliland but promptly handed it over to Kenya even though an overwhelming majority of the population there wanted to secede to Somalia. So three of the troop contributing countries — Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti — sit on land that Somali nationalists make claims to. Since 2015, a fourth country, Burundi, has routinely suppressed its own people and brazenly cocks a snook at both the AU and the East African Community, daring either or both to take action against it if they will. It has no legitimacy to intervene in Somalia. It is a moral blot on the continent’s leaders that Burundi has been threatening to withdraw its troops from Mogadishu, because the European Union has imposed sanctions on its government, cutting off pay to its soldiers.

The solution to this mess has long been clear: Amisom needs a credible intervention force with a clear mission, tight timetable and definite milestones: To stabilise Somalia by taking control of key infrastructure, improve policing to provide civilian rather military security, rebuild the state to deliver basic services, create a framework for an inclusive national dialogue including rewriting the Constitution, hold elections to establish a legitimate government and, once done, leave Somalia to the Somalis.











Donald Trump: US will wipe out 'Islamic terror groups'

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After inauguration, White House announces immediate policy to 'unite civilised world' to defeat and destroy 'terrorism'.

The Trump administration pledged to use 'cyberwarfare' to disrupt ISIL propaganda and recruitment efforts [Reuters]
The Trump administration will make defeating "radical Islamic terror groups" its top foreign policy goal, according to a statement posted on the White House website moments after Donald Trump's inauguration as US president.
Trump used his inaugural address on Friday to promise to "unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth".
In the statement titled "America First Foreign Policy," the Trump administration said: "Defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups will be our highest priority." ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also called ISIL.
In order to "defeat and destroy" ISIL and similar groups, the new American administration said it "will pursue aggressive joint and coalition military operations when necessary", work to cut off funding for armed groups, expand intelligence sharing, and use "cyberwarfare" to disrupt propaganda and recruitment efforts.
The statement offered no indication of how Trump's policies might differ from those of his predecessor Barack Obama.
The Obama administration also pursued those broadly described strategies: working with European and Middle Eastern allies in a bombing campaign targeting ISIL leaders and their oil infrastructure, authorising US special forces operations against the group, and using sanctions and other methods to cut off its financing.
Trump's speech and the statement echoed his campaign criticism of Obama and his election rival, Hillary Clinton, for not using the phrase "radical Islamic terror" to describe ISIL and other hardline groups.
Obama argued that using the term would conflate "murderers" with "the billion Muslims that exist around the world, including in this country, who are peaceful".
Clinton said using the phrase would play into the hands of armed groups that want to portray the United States as at war with Islam.
Trump has been criticised after pledging during the election campaign to implement a "total and complete" ban on Muslims from entering the United States.





UN alarm that most of al-Shabab's force in Somalia are kids

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http://www.hiiraan.com/images/logo/AP.jpg
Friday January 20, 2017

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he is alarmed at reports that children may constitute a large part of the force recruited and used by al-Shabab Islamic extremists in Somalia.
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Guterres said it is estimated over half its force are children, citing as an example that at least 60 percent of al-Shabab "elements" captured in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region in March 2016 were youngsters. Some of those children said they were approached with the promise of education and jobs, he said.

Somalia has been trying to rebuild after recently establishing its first functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and plunged the impoverished nation into chaos. But the country is riven by clan rivalries and threatened by al-Shabab extremists opposed to Western-style democracy.

In a report to the Security Council circulated this week, the U.N. chief said al-Shabab used children in combat, with 9-year-olds reportedly taught to use weapons and sent to front lines. Children were also used to transport explosives, work as spies, carry ammunition or perform domestic chores, he said.

While al-Shabab was the main perpetrator, the report said the Somali army and other groups also recruited and used children.

According to the report, a task force in Somalia verified the recruitment and use of 6,163 children — 5,993 boys and 230 girls — during the period from April 1, 2010 to July 31, 2016, with more than 30 percent of the cases in 2012. After a downward trend in 2013 and 2014, the number of youngsters recruited increased to 903 in 2015 and to 1,092 in the first six months of 2016, it said.

Al-Shabab accounted for 70 percent — or 4,213 — of verified cases, followed by the Somali National Army with 920 children recruited, it said.

Guterres said he is "deeply troubled by the scale and nature of grave violations against children in Somalia and their increase since 2015." He urged all parties to stop recruiting children and committing violations against them and to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law.

The report said al-Shabab targeted poor children who lacked opportunities, recruiting primarily in rural areas of southern and central Somalia, frequently at schools, madrasas, mosques and religious events. "Teachers were often coerced into enlisting pupils," it said.

Guterres cited reports of recruitment of children from madrasas in refugee camps in Kenya, of young boys disappearing en masse from al-Shabab-run madrasas and of entire villages forced to give up their children to the extremist group.

"Children recruited and used by al-Shabab were victims of or were exposed to other grave violations including killing and maiming during military operations and air strikes targeting al-Shabab, and subjected to arrest and detention by Somalia security forces during military or search operations," the report said.

As for the Somali National Army, the report said, despite signing an action plan in 2012 to end child recruitment, it continues to recruit and use youngsters including as spies, checkpoint guards and bodyguards. It said al-Shabab has executed children suspected of spying for the army or the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.

The problem with photojournalism and Africa

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http://www.hiiraan.com/images/logo/Aljazeera.jpg
Thursday January 19, 2017

Whenever "Africa" is in the headline of mainstream US and European media sources, especially those that are highly regarded, I wince. I know the storyline is going to suffused by disappointment and resignation about Africa failing, once again.

While the rest of the world and its modern inhabitants are technologising and digitising, happily going about wearing jeans and t-shirts, there goes Africa, backwards into some apocalyptic, scarred past, wearing embarrassing tribal grab.

Sometimes, these media outlets allow Africa to come to the present, but of course, in dubious ways: embedded in the flow of "Islamic" terror-narratives: Nigeria and Boko Haram, Libya and its violent insurgents, Somalia and its troublesome "Islamic fundamentalists" raiding Kenyan universities.

It's as though the editorial board is shaking its collective head with an exasperated sigh, and showing us, with a lavish, full-colour photograph, exactly why they are frustrated with the entire continent.

Sometimes, though, I'm just confused. For instance, the influential New York Times recently published an article titled, "

Who Is Telling Africa's Stories
covering efforts to develop photojournalism in various African countries

The writer, Whitney Richardson, a photo editor for thepaper, provided
some contradicting points: Happy news about the growing number of talented photographers coming out of photography training institutes and collectives based in countries with divergent histories and presents - Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa - but also that these photographers do not produce work that is "professional" enough for agencies to hire them.

'Uncomfortable conversations'

Richardson offered some insight into continuing problems that locally based photographers face getting international news agencies' attention. What emerges as a solution is the need for young photographers to get international exposure, where, according to acclaimed photographer Akintunde Akinleye, they may also "learn the ethical standards of the industry". The takeaway: unless international news agencies based in the

North America and Europe like the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse pick your work, you are a nobody.
Yet, it is these very agencies that contribute to problematic views that simplify Africa into a repetitive trope.

Africa remains a monolithic space of violence and poverty uncomplicated by global politics and military action, because the images and narratives chosen by powerful news agencies and newspapers continue to speak to foundational myths that Europe
(and white ex-colonists and plantation owners in America) manufactured about Africa, in order to better ease their conquest and exploitation of a regionally, politically, and socially complex, dynamic continental shelf.

If the construction of the African as child-like, or not-quite-human,  who has little agency or intellect aided the colonial project, today, the narrative continues to aid the construction of the European self as civilised, maintaining the African and Africa as the location of savagery, helplessness, and devastation. It also creates Europe as a desirable location that those who have no agency and have done little to better themselves attempt to infiltrate - much to Europe's chagrin.


Aida Muluneh, Ethiopian-born artist, documentary photographer, and the founder of Desta for Africa (DFA) - a creative consultancy that curates exhibitions and pursues cultural projects with local and international institutions

- emphasises: "
photography continues to play a key role in how we are seen, not just as Africans, but as black people from every corner of the world. Stereotypes and prejudice are incited by images, and if it's used, yet again, to undermine those of us who are truly doing the difficult work, then we need to have some uncomfortable conversations.

And when it comes to payment, there are further "uncomfortable" discrepancies that international agencies never reveal: "When we do get assignments, they want to pay us less because we are from the country; but for a foreign photographer, they will not blink to pay an arm and a leg," adds Muluneh.

In Richardson's piece, the prevailing view is that, even though top photo agencies are looking for local photographers to "offset costs", the Africans do not compare to western photographers.








Countering Terrorists’ Use of The Internet

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POSTED BY MICHAEL ORTIZ
JANUARY 12, 2017

A man uses a computer at a computer shop in central London
Over the last several months, I traveled to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Silicon Valley to discuss our efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism (CVE) with government officials, civil society, and the private sector.  We discussed issues such as enhancing our collective understanding of the drivers of violent extremism (yes, they’re different in each neighborhood), developing new tools, and effectively organizing governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector to take on this challenge.  In each village, city, and country I visited, I also met with teenagers and university students, teachers and parents, tech experts, and cybersecurity experts.  One question consistently came up in every conversation:  How can we counter violent extremism online?
Many also wondered what does it mean to counter violent extremism online, exactly? It means countering the use of the Internet to radicalize and recruit individuals to violence. In other words, we are focused on stopping terrorist groups, like ISIL, al-Qa’ida, and al-Shabaab, among others, from exploiting social media and online communication platforms to inspire young people to travel to Syria, Iraq, and other places – including within their own countries -- to help these terrorist groups commit acts of violence. 
Terrorists’ actions can include developing and promoting terrorist messaging online or engaging with individuals one-on-one to entice them to violence. Terrorists aim to exploit the vulnerabilities of the young people they target, then isolate them, and finally offer incentives to travel to war zones or commit violence. Often times, siblings, friends, and parents are unaware their loved one is being enticed to travel across the world, likely never to return. If they do return, the experience will change their lives forever in terrible ways.
Countering terrorists’ use of online communication platforms is complicated. It involves multiple legal systems, freedom of speech protections, tech companies’ terms of service agreements, law enforcement, human rights, international agreements, and family relationships. What is clear is that the solution requires a whole-of-society approach to include governments, tech experts, parents, and community leaders, among others. 
Over the last year, tech companies have removed more and more terrorist content that violates their terms of service agreements. The Global Coalition to Counter-ISIL’s Communications Working Group (led by the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom) regularly convenes over 30 member countries with media and tech companies to share information and strategies to counter violent extremist messages online and present positive alternative narratives. These are all steps in the right direction.
At the State Department, we’ve created new programs and initiatives to address this growing threat. We have also applauded governments and tech companies for taking actions to counter violent extremism online, and supported third-party, credible messengers through various training programs.  Tech camps and media workshops, “Voices of Reason” public-private networking events in Istanbul and Tunis, and the Creative Minds for Social Good partnership between the Department of State, the Sawab Center, and Facebook in Dubai have all helped sharpen voices to counter the messages from terrorists. We also work closely with the Global Engagement Center, the interagency entity that is applying data-driven solutions to counter-messaging. 
I’ve been involved in a number of key programs, which are really moving the ball forward. These include the Peer to Peer (P2P) Challenging Extremism program, which empowers university students around the world to push back directly on terrorist messaging by developing and launching their own messaging campaigns. These campaigns are developed by young people for young people. The State Department also supported a new “Hacking for Diplomacy” course at Stanford University, which encouraged students to think creatively about global issues, including countering violent extremism, and develop innovative and technological solutions. 
In addition to these approaches, we also need to educate leaders in all arenas on how they can tackle terrorists’ use of the internet to recruit vulnerable citizens. Whether it’s figuring how to help someone who is being radicalized, or figuring out what questions to ask if a parent suspects a son or daughter is messaging with a recruiter-- communities around the world need support. When I travel, I regularly ask national and local government leaders and civil society groups about the resources they’re offering communities -- and whether or not families know where to turn if they suspect radicalization? How are they educating parents who do not use the Internet themselves but whose children do? Governments and civil society groups are thinking more and more about these issues, and we must support them.
We also need to make sure our actions aren’t making the problem worse. Let me give you a few examples. First, in some countries, the only resource for parents to turn to if they suspect a child is becoming radicalized is the police. Many times families are not comfortable turning their loved one in to law enforcement unless they believe violence is imminent. Second, when some governments see violent extremist messaging and recruitment material proliferating online, their first reaction is to take down accounts or sites -- or in more extreme cases, shut down the internet altogether. While this may temporarily limit terrorists’ online activities, it also can have a significant negative impact on positive uses of the internet, and may result in individuals becoming more frustrated with government institutions. We need to take great care as we proceed. 
It is clear, countering violent extremism online remains a complex challenge. Addressing it will require governments, private companies, civil society organizations, schools, and communities to work together to make progress on making the internet safer for all. 

About the Author: Michael R. Ortiz is the Deputy Coordinator of Countering Violent Extremism in the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism at the U.S. Department of State.

Al-Shabab Video Appears to Show Killing of Ugandan Soldier

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http://www.hiiraan.com/images/logo/AP.jpg
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

 HARGEISA, Somalia — Somalia's al-Shabab extremist group has released a video that appears to show the killing of a Ugandan soldier who had been held captive since an attack on an African Union peacekeeping base in 2015.

The footage released Tuesday shows the soldier, called Masassa M.Y., sitting handcuffed with someone holding a gun near the back of his head. The footage shows him falling backward onto the ground.

The video says he was captured during the attack in Janale town. Al-Shabab claimed it killed more than 50 Ugandan troops there, though Ugandan officials reported 19 deaths.

A Ugandan army spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
It is not clear how many soldiers might still be held captive from the Janale attack. The extremist group killed one in November 2015.