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Kenyan-Somali, black, Muslim and Canadian: new doc explores Canada's hyphenated identities

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Wednesday November 15, 2017

Short documentary 'Hyphen-Nation' by 22-year-old Torontonian puts five black women in conversation

A new documentary by a 22-year-old Toronto filmmaker is analyzing what is means to be an immigrant in Canada.

Directed and produced by Samah Ali, Hyphen-Nation features a 14-minute conversation between five women of colour that is inspired by her own cultural experience. 

The women discuss how their cultural heritage influences their identities as Canadians and immigrants.

"The whole conversation is what's your hyphen?" explained Ali, calling her debut film a "nuanced" discussion about what black Canadian identities look like.

"And that's what opens it up to so many people to identify with because whether it's themselves or their family members who have an immigration story, everybody typically has a hyphen."

The women are asked if they identify with being black Canadians.

Ali explains this is both liberating and tragic. She identifies as a Kenyan-Somali woman, along with a Muslim woman and a black woman.

"I don't know if I identify strongly as a Canadian, but definitely when I leave Canada I identify as a Canadian," she said despite being born and raised in Toronto.

"The other parts of my identity, the ones that are more visible, the ones that I practice everyday are definitely the ones that are on the forefront of my mind. Compared to my Canadianness, it's something that I'm not really aware of until I have my passport and I'm travelling to other countries."
Sojin Chun, programmer for Regent Park Film Festival, says the short documentary captures the theme of the festival.

"We really want to show different narratives that you wouldn't normally see through other means, through the mainstream media," she said.

The three day event is free and showcases the work of women of colour which reflects Toronto's east end neighbourhood.

"We really make sure we represent all the cultures that are present in Regent Park," said Chun.

Ali explains this is why she wanted Hyphen-Nation to premiere at the film festival.

"I want this film to foster a greater community, not only in Canada, but also worldwide." 

US-targeted ISIS in Somalia could be a 'significant threat'

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Tuesday November 14, 2017

Mogadishu - The Islamic State group's growing presence in Somalia could become a "significant threat" if it attracts fighters fleeing collapsing strongholds in Syria and Iraq, experts say, and already it seems to be influencing local al-Shabaab extremists to adopt tactics like beheadings.

The US military this month carried out its first drone strikes against ISIS fighters in Somalia, raising questions about the strength of the group that emerged just two years ago. A second strike targeted the fighters on Sunday, with the US saying "some terrorists" were killed.

The Islamic State group burst into public view in Somalia late last year as dozens of armed men seized the port town of Qandala in the northern Puntland region, calling it the seat of the "Islamic Caliphate in Somalia." They beheaded a number of civilians, causing more than 20 000 residents to flee, and held the town for weeks until they were forced out by Somali troops, backed by US military advisers.

Since then, ISIS fighters have stormed a hotel popular with government officials in Puntland's commercial hub of Bossaso and claimed their first suicide attack at a Bossaso security checkpoint.

This long-fractured Horn of Africa nation with its weak central government already struggles to combat al-Shabaab, an ally of al-Qaeda, which is blamed for last month's truck bombing in the capital, Mogadishu, that killed more than 350 in the country's deadliest attack.

The Trump administration early this year approved expanded military operations in Somalia as it puts counterterrorism at the top of its Africa agenda.

The US military on Sunday told The Associated Press it had carried out 26 airstrikes this year against al-Shabaab and now the Islamic State group.

For more than a decade, al-Shabaab has sought a Somalia ruled by Islamic Shariah law. Two years ago, some of its fighters began to split away to join the Islamic State group. Some small pro-ISIS cells have been reported in al-Shabaab's southern Somalia stronghold, but the most prominent one and the target of US airstrikes is in the north in Puntland, a hotbed of arms smuggling and a short sail from Yemen.

The ISIS fighters in Puntland are now thought to number around 200, according to a UN report released this month by experts monitoring sanctions on Somalia. The experts traveled to the region and interviewed several imprisoned ISIS extremists.

The UN experts documented at least one shipment of small arms, including machine guns, delivered to the Islamic State fighters from Yemen. "The majority of arms supplied to the ISIL faction originate in Yemen," ISIS defectors told them.

A phone number previously used by the ISIS group's US-sanctioned leader, Abdulqadir Mumin, showed "repeated contact" with a phone number selector used by a Yemen-based man who reportedly serves as an intermediary with senior ISIS group leaders in Iraq and Syria, the experts' report says.

While the Islamic State group in Somalia has a small number of foreign fighters, the Puntland government's weak control over the rural Bari region where the ISIS group is based "renders it a potential haven" for foreign ISIS fighters, the report says.

The ISIS group's growing presence brought an angry response from al-Shabaab, which has several thousand fighters and holds vast rural areas in southern and central Somalia, in some cases within a few dozen miles of Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab arrested dozens of members accused of sympathising with the Islamic State faction and reportedly executed several, according to an upcoming article for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point by the center's Jason Warner and Caleb Weiss with the Long War Journal.

Civilians in areas under al-Shabaab control have suffered. "Possibly in response to the growing prominence of ISIL, al-Shabaab imposed more violent punishments, including amputations, beheading and stoning, on those found guilty of spying, desertion or breaches of sharia law," the new UN report says.

Some Somali officials say al-Shabaab has begun to de-escalate its hostility against the ISIS fighters as its initial concerns about rapid growth have eased. Al-Shabaab has begun to see ISIS in Somalia as a supplementary power that could help its fight against Puntland authorities, said Mohamed Ahmed, a senior counterterrorism official there.

Officials also believe that the Islamic State group has difficulty finding the money to expand. Its fighters are paid from nothing to $50 a month, the UN report says.

"For them, getting arms is a lot easier than funds because of the tight anti-terrorism finance regulations," said Yusuf Mohamud, a Somali security expert.

For now, no one but al-Shabaab has the ability to carry out the kind of massive bombing that rocked Mogadishu last month. For the Puntland-based ISIS fighters to even reach the capital, they would have to pass numerous checkpoints manned by Somali security forces or al-Shabaab itself.

That said, two Islamic State fighters who defected from al-Shabaab and were later captured told the UN experts they had received airline tickets from Mogadishu to Puntland's Galkayo as part of the ISIS group's "increasingly sophisticated recruitment methods," the UN report says.

Scenarios that could lead to ISIS fighters gaining power include the weakening of al-Shabaab by the new wave of US drone strikes, a new offensive by the 22 000-strong African Union force in Somalia or al-Shabaab infighting, says the upcoming article by Warner and Weiss.

On the other hand, "it is a strong possibility that given the small size of the cells and waning fortunes of Islamic State globally, the cells might collapse entirely if their leadership is decapitated."

That's exactly what the US military's first airstrikes against the Islamic State fighters this month were aiming to do, Somali officials told the AP. The US says it is still assessing the results.



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According to a UN report obtained by Reuters, ISIS has increased from a dozen to some 200 foot soldiers this year in Somalia.
The report said: “the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) faction loyal to Sheikh Abdulqader Mumin – estimated … in 2016 to number not more than a few dozen…, has growing significantly in strength, and [now] consists of as many as 200 fighters.
“Even a few hundred armed fighters could destabilise the whole region.
“It (air strikes) is a recognition from the U.S. that the situation in terms of the (Islamic State) faction in Puntland is becoming increasingly critical.”
The increase in strength of ISIS in Somalia has attracted attention because some security officials fear it could offer a safe haven for terrorists fleeing military defeat in Syria or Iraq.
Only last week the US executed counter-terrorism drone strikes against ISIS fighters in Somalia for the first time killing “several terrorist”, US Africa Command said.
Somalia’s main terrorist group is Al-Shabaab who are aligned with Al-Qaeda. No confrontation between the two terrorist groups in Somalia have taken place.

slamic State's footprint spreading in northern Somalia: U.N

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Wednesday November 8, 2017
By Katharine Houreld

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A militant faction loyal to Islamic State (IS) has increased its following in northern Somalia from a few dozen last year to up to 200 this year, a U.N. report said, days after the group came under U.S. air attack for the first time.

The increase in strength of the IS spin-off group has attracted attention because some security officials fear it could offer a safe haven for Islamic State militants fleeing military defeat in Syria or Iraq.

“The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) faction loyal to Sheikh Abdulqader Mumin - estimated...in 2016 to number not more than a few dozen..., has growing significantly in strength, and (now) consists of as many as 200 fighters,” said the report by a panel of U.N. experts obtained by Reuters.

“Even a few hundred armed fighters could destabilize the whole region,” said a regional diplomatic security source. “It(air strikes) is a recognition from the U.S. that the situation in terms of the (Islamic State) faction in Puntland is becoming increasingly critical.”

Somalia has been riven by civil war and Islamist militancy, though more in the south than in the north where the Puntland region is located, since 1991 when clan warlords overthrew a dictator before turning on each other.

Friday’s air strikes failed to kill Mumin, the security source said. But Abdirizak Ise Hussein, director of semi-autonomous Puntland’s spy service, said the strikes killed about 20 militants, including a Sudanese fighter and two Arabs.

Almost all Mumin’s fighters are Somali, the U.N. report said, though the group is believed to include a Sudanese man sanctioned by the United States. The group also has contacts in Yemen. It was unclear if the Sudanese man under U.S. sanctions was the same one reported killed in the air strike.

“The number of IS fighters in Puntland has increased. Mostly they come from southern Somalia and a few, including foreigners, come from Yemen,” Colonel Abdirahman Saiid, a military officer in Puntland, told Reuters.

The U.N. report said defectors from Mumin’s faction reported the group had received money and orders from Iraq and Syria, and one member said he had seen Mumin and another leader using TrueCrypt software to communicate with them. The United Nations could not independently verify those claims.

Mumin’s group has been slowing increasing its activity over the past year. In late 2016, it occupied the port of Qandala in Puntland, a semi-autonomous region, for a month.

Earlier this year, it carried out its first attacks. Its fighters killed four guards at a hotel in Bosasso, the economic capital of Puntland, in February. The same month, the group beheaded three men it had kidnapped.

Somalia’s main Islamist insurgent group, al Shabaab, is aligned with al Qaeda and is most active in the Horn of Africa country’s south. It has repeatedly clashed with the Islamic State-aligned faction in the north.

Additional reporting by Abdiqani Hassan in Bosasso; editing by Mark Heinric

Somali Pro-IS Group Chief Survives US Strike, Says Regional Leader

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November 05, 2017 5:39 PM

·         Harun MarufFILE - A Somali government soldier walks in Eyl, in Somalia's northeastern region of Puntland. U.S. airstrikes reportedly targeted members of a pro-Islamic State militants group in a remote mountainous part of the region.
The leader of the Pro-Islamic State group in Somalia has survived U.S. airstrikes which targeted caves in a remote mountainous area in Puntland, the region’s president told VOA Somali.
Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said the leader of the group, Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, was the target of Friday’s U.S. strike.
“They [US] were targeting those troublemakers and their biggest leader Abdulkadir Mumin, they were looking for them,” he said. “Based on the information I’m getting he is still alive and is not dead.”
Ali said the U.S. did not share intelligence with his region but assessment is based on information from his region’s intelligence agencies.
On Friday, the United States Africa Command confirmed carrying out two strikes against IS militants in Somalia. The first attack occurred at around midnight and the second attack took place the following morning at 11:00am.
The U.S. Africa Command says several militants were killed in the strikes in Buqo Valley, 160 kilometers east of the city of Bosaso. The strikes were the first against the group by the United States.
On Sunday a senior Somali intelligence official told VOA Somali that they believe up to 20 militants were killed in the two strikes. He said some of the caves the militants were sheltering in collapsed on them as a result of the bombing.
The official who asked not to be named, told VOA Somali that it’s “likely” the leader of the group Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin survived the attack.
“Either he was not in those caves or he was missed, it is likely that he is alive,” he said.
Puntland, Somalia
Puntland, Somalia
Al-Shabab splinter group
The official said he believes two foreign figures including a Sudanese militant were also in the targeted area.
Intelligence sources say at least four missiles hit the caves in Buqo Valley in the first of two rounds of strikes. The second round of strikes occurred after the militants gathered in a place believed to be a burial site for those killed in the overnight strike.
Pro-IS militants emerged in Somalia in October 2015 after splitting from al-Shabab. The group has since recruited members in the eastern parts of Puntland, where Mumin’s clan resides.

The group has claimed responsibility for four attacks in Bosaso this year including the last incident which occurred just ten days ago where a would-be bomber pushing explosives hidden in a wheelbarrow detonated the device killing himself and injuring six others.

A month before, the group claimed an attack on a police commander at a coffee shop in Bosaso. The officer survived with injuries.

In February this year two gunmen attacked the International Village Hotel in Bosaso and exchanged fire with security forces. Four soldiers and the two attackers were killed.

In May a suicide bomber blew himself up at a police checkpoint near the Jubba Hotel in Bosaso, killing five people and injuring 17 others.

The group scored its biggest attack in late October 2016 when its fighters seized the ancient town of Qandala from Puntland forces and kept control of it for 40 days.

YouTube, Facebook removing hundreds of pages documenting war crimes in Syria, Iraq, Myanmar

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PublishedNovember 4, 2017

Smoke rises after shelling on an opposition-held area of Deraa, Syria, June 4, 2017 (Reuters Photo)
Social media giants YouTube and Facebook are removing hundreds of pages documenting war crimes on their platforms, The Intercept reported on Thursday.
Mentioning YouTube's new artificial intelligence system designed to identify terror propaganda videos published by groups such as Daesh, the website said that the Google-owned video sharing platform has shut down pages of 900 groups and individuals documenting the war crimes perpetrated by Daesh, Al Nusra and other terrorist groups, also the Assad regime.
The AI also shut down Bellingcat, a well-known U.K.-based watchdog devoted to analyzing images coming out of conflict zones including Syria, Ukraine, and Libya, Asher-Schapiro said.

YouTube, Facebook removing hundreds of pages documenting war crimes in Syria, Iraq, Myanmar
Civilians during a Daesh attack in Al-Bab (AFP Photo)
"YouTube also took down content from the group AirWars, which tracks the toll of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria," he added.
The report also touched upon the shutdown of pages documenting the oppression Rohingya Muslims are going through. "Meanwhile, in September, Facebook began removing photos and images documenting ethnic cleansing and torture of the Rohingya ethnic minority at the hands of the Myanmar government," The Intercept reporter Asher-Schapiro stated in the piece.
"Facebook would not answer specific questions about war crimes evidence. A spokesperson, who would not agree to sit for an interview or be named, said Facebook tried to be flexible and allow violent content to live on its platform when that content had some social or documentary value," the report added.
"YouTube defended the way it deals with war crimes evidence and its relationship with the human rights groups who collect that evidence," Asher-Schapiro said. "We are committed to ensuring human rights activists and citizen journalists have a voice on YouTube and are proud of how our service has been used to expose what is happening across the globe," Juniper Downs, YouTube's director of public policy, was quoted as commenting on the matter.
Reminding that Sweden has already prosecuted Syrian regime using evidence from both Facebook and YouTube, Asher-Schapiro added that there are 30 ongoing war crimes investigations in Swedish and German courts connected to crimes committed in Syria and Iraq.
Asher-Schapiro also stated that YouTube is more open to collaboration than Facebook, quoting human rights activists.
The author also mentioned an "egregious" incident, quoting Eliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat. According to Higgins, 80 percent of the firsthand reports of Syrian regime's chemical attack on the civilian population of Damascus were erased from Facebook. Facebook declined to answer a question about Higgins's claim, Asher-Schapiro added.

US strikes Islamic State in Somalia for first time

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 The chairman of the town of Qandala in the semiautonomous region of Puntland said six missiles hit an Islamic State base in Buqa village. PHOTO | GOOGLE MAPS 
In Summary
·         The first strike occurred around midnight Somalia time with the second strike coming at about 11am.
·         AFRICOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo said no civilians were in the vicinity of the strikes.
·         IS claimed its first suicide attack in Somalia in May, killing at least five people as it stepped up activities in a region dominated by the Shabaab.
The US conducted a pair of drone strikes against Islamic State fighters in Somalia on Friday, the first time America has hit the jihadists in the Horn of Africa nation, officials said.
The strikes occurred in northeastern Somalia and killed "several terrorists," the US military's Africa Command said in a statement.
According to Voice of America, which cited the chairman of the town of Qandala in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, six missiles hit an IS base in Buqa village, 60 kilometers away.
"Local residents and pastoralists were shocked and fled from the area," Jama Mohamed Qurshe told VOA.
AFRICOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo said no civilians were in the vicinity of the strikes.
"They struck their intended targets," he said, noting these were the first anti-IS air strikes in Somalia.
The first strike occurred around midnight Somalia time with the second strike coming at about 11am.
In recent months, the US has repeatedly hit Somali jihadists from the Shabaab rebel group that is aligned with Al-Qaeda, but Friday's development marks a significant step in the ever-evolving war against IS.
"US forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats," AFRICOM said.
IS claimed its first suicide attack in Somalia in May, killing at least five people as it stepped up activities in a region dominated by the Shabaab.
The militants are led by former Shabaab cleric Abdiqadir Mumin, who switched allegiance from Al-Qaeda to IS in October 2015 and was named a "global terrorist" by the US State Department in August.
Mumin was born in Puntland and lived in Sweden before moving to the UK in the 2000s, where he was granted British citizenship.