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UN: Eritrea aiding Somali rebels

2010-03-14 22:29

Nairobi - Eritrea continued to support last year armed Islamist groups fighting the Somali government in violation of an arms embargo and new UN sanctions, UN experts concluded in a report.

In 2009 "the government of Eritrea has continued to provide political, diplomatic, financial and - allegedly - military assistance to armed opposition groups in Somalia," said the UN's Monitoring Group on Somalia.

The support violated a 2008 UN Security Council resolution that tightened an arms embargo and other bans on armed groups in Somalia, said the panel in a report to be presented this week to the UN Security Council.

"By late 2009, possibly in response to international pressure, the scale and nature of Eritrean support had either diminished or become less visible, but had not altogether ceased," it said.

Islamist rebels

The UN Security Council in December last year slapped an arms embargo and sanctions on Eritrea for aiding Somali rebels.

"Eritrea - once a major sponsor of armed opposition groups - appears to have scaled down its military assistance while continuing to provide political, diplomatic and possibly financial support," the report said.

It had concentrated this political support on Islamist insurgents with the Hezb al-Islam group of Hassan Dahir Aweys, whom Eritrea helped to return to Somalia in April 2009 after he had taken over as leader, the UN group said.

But in 2008 it established direct links with other armed opposition groups, including the Shebab and the Ras Kamboni militia, with average monthly payments of $40 000 to $50 000 going to each, the report said.

Arms embargo

The following year these financial contributions were directed mainly to Mukhtar Robow, one of the main leaders of the al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab.

The Shebab group and more political Hezb al-Islam launched an insurgency against the government in Somalia in May 2009.

The Shebab now control close to 80% of south-central Somalia and have marginalised Hezb al-Islam.

The reported also said that "arms, ammunition, or dual-use equipment continue to enter Somalia in violation of the general and complete arms embargo imposed in 1992, at a fairly steady rate."

Primary sources of this supply remained Yemen and Ethiopia, it said.