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UN chief says Islamic extremists routinely kill civilians despite government peace efforts

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

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Al-Shabab Islamic extremists in Somalia are routinely killing civilians in attacks on soft targets and have regained some territory in areas where a security vacuum emerged despite efforts by the new federal government to consolidate peace, the U.N. chief said in a report circulated Monday.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that, eight months after forming a government, Somalia was on the path to stability but "al-Shabab's presence continues to create insecurity," in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

"Targeted killings and attacks were routinely reported," Ban said, and "incidents involving improvised explosive devices rose in 2013 in comparison with 2012."

Somalia had not had a functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and turned on each other, plunging the impoverished nation into chaos. But since African Union forces ousted al-Shabab fighters from Mogadishu in August 2011, a relative peace has returned to the war-battered city, creating a new sense of hope and opportunity.

Last year, a new interim constitution was approved, a new parliament was seated, a new president was elected, and a new government and Cabinet started work, replacing a weak and largely ineffective transitional government. Ban said the government continues to commit itself to building new institutions and advancing toward the establishment of regional administrations.

In the deadliest attack so far this year, Ban said over 30 people died when al-Shabab used multiple gunmen and bombs against a courthouse in Mogadishu on April 14. He added that on the same day, a likely suicide bomber's vehicle hit a Turkish aid agency convoy.

On March 17, al-Shabab quickly retook the town of Xuddur in the Bakool region following the withdrawal of Ethiopian and Somali forces, killing at least one civilian and arresting several others, Ban said.

"The seizure of Xuddur marked the insurgents' first territorial gain in several months and demonstrated the challenge of maintaining control over recovered areas," he said.

Ban's report also cited abuses by undisciplined elements of the Somali National Security Forces and human rights violations including attempts to repress freedom of expression.

In the first quarter of 2013, he said, 552 violations against children were verified — a decline from the 1,288 cases reported during the same period in 2012 — including 37 killings, 63 maimings, 205 abductions, 219 recruitments and 19 acts of sexual abuse. Al-Shabab committed 63 per cent of the violations and the Somali security forces 27 per cent, Ban said.

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