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Published On: Thu, Feb 3rd, 2011

POLICE chief Elmi Furreh removes his sunglasses to mop his brow as he describes crime fighting on one of the world’s toughest beats.

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First he motions towards the 1,000-mile Somali coastline where 28 hijacked ships – the multi-million-pound bounty of ruthless pirates – are anchored.

 

The boats have been seized by the modern-day Blackbeards’ “motherships” which, armed with grappling hooks, AK47s and rocket-propelled grenades, now strike far into the Indian Ocean.

The captured vessels and their crew members – totalling 654 – are being held to ransom by the pirates.

 

Commissioner Furreh then points south towards the war-ravaged city of Mogadishu. Here terrorists al-Shabaab – The Youth, in Arabic – have created their own Taliban-style fiefdom where women are flogged, limbs are chopped off as punishment and music is banned.

“We take on the terrorists and the pirates wherever we find them,” the Commissioner assures me. “It’s a fight we have to win for your country and mine.”

 

Less than five months ago Somalia was described as a “seedbed for terrorism” by MI5 Director-General Jonathan Evans.

In a rare public speech, the spy chief revealed: “I am concerned that it is only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al-Shabaab.”

Somalia, a Mad Max land in the Horn of Africa, has had no real government for two bloody decades.

It is a lawless “failed state” where festering extremism and bitter civil war has seen millions killed or forced to flee the violence and anarchy – with as many as 250,000 estimated to have reached Britain.

Now drought stalks this land and some 2.4 million are hungry and need emergency help.

The tyranny of youth ... fighters from the Taliban-style extremists al-Shabaab ('The Youth')

The tyranny of youth … fighters from the Taliban-style extremists al-Shabaab (‘The Youth’)

Commissioner Furreh is chief of police of Somaliland, a breakaway enclave in the north that was a British colony until 1960.

His 6,000-strong force bristles with AK47 rifles. It includes a crack unit of women – with blue berets keeping their headscarves in place – patrolling in a battered pick-up.

I asked police officer and mum-of-four Firdoos Abdillahi, 29, what the major law and order issue was in the region.

“Murder,” was her one-word reply.

Foreign Office travel advice for Somaliland is to the point – don’t.

Officially it doesn’t even exist. Although Somaliland has its own president and elections, it is not recognised as a nation state by any other country.

Landing at the would-be nation’s capi

Fighting back ... female police officers in Hargeisa

Fighting back … female police officers in Hargeisa

tal, Hergeisa, bombed out Russian-made MiG fighters – relics of a civil war – lie abandoned at the runway’s edge.

A printed sign at the tiny concrete terminal warns: “No chewing jadd”.

Jadd or kat is the narcotic leaf used by many in the region which, if chewed in large enough quantities, gives a high.

We pass the UN compound where a terrorist car bomb caused devastation and death in 2008. The villa of then president Dahir Riyale Kahin was also targeted.

In Hargeisa’s ramshackle camel market barefoot youngsters in Manchester United or Arsenal strips welcome me with smiles and handshakes.

On a visit to Baidoa in southern Somalia several years ago I was greeted by cut-throat gestures. One man hissed: “Signor, you have come here to die.”‘Very grateful’ for UK’s aid … Sun man Olivermeets Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo
'Very grateful' for UK's aid ... Sun man Oliver meets Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo

 

Home Secretary Theresa May warned last year that British jihadis had already travelled to train and fight with al-Qaeda associated al-Shabaab in Somalia.

According to the UN, Somalian piracy is becoming an “organised industry”, which is estimated to cost the world economy more than £4billion a year.

Centred in another breakaway Somali region called Puntland, piracy rose ten per cent last year, with some 445 attacks, 49 ship hijackings and 1,000 sailors taken hostage.

The latter-day buccaneers now use freighters and factory fishing vessels as motherships loaded with smaller skiffs to strike near Pakistani and Indian waters.

It was in the Indian Ocean in October 2009 that Somali pirates captured Kent couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, only releasing them a year later following a payment of more than £450,000.

Commissioner Furreh reveals: “We arrested ten terrorists and 20 pirates in the past six months. Some of them will be in jail for life.”

Somaliland’s Interior Minister Dr Mohamed Gabose, 61, said: “Many people flee the fighting around Mogadishu and bring the young Shabaabs with them.

Fighting Somali anarchy ... Commissioner Furreh meets Andrew Mitchell MP, Secretary of State for International Development

Fighting anarchy … Commissioner Furreh meets Andrew Mitchell MP, Secretary of State for International Development

“These terrorists then blend in with the local community. We fight them night and day but we need more resources.”

Britain’s Coalition Government has realigned our aid budget so Somalia and other nations plagued by war and terrorism, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, get a greater slice.

This week International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell travelled to Somaliland to announce £10.5million in emergency aid to help the hungry.

 


He also revealed Britain is increasing Somalia’s aid package from £26million this year to £80million by 2014 to build peace and stability.

“It’s about our national interest,” Mr Mitchell, 54, told The Sun. “Spending this money makes Britain safer as well as being morally right.”

Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo, a genial 73-year-old said he was “very grateful” for Britain’s aid.

He said: “We need jobs and education to stop young people joining extremist groups like al-Shabaab and the pirates.”

At Hargeisa Group Hospital the human cost of Somalia’s drought is all too clear.

On the children’s ward is Catherine Novi, 33, who gave up life as a London investment banker to work for the UK-based Tropical Health and Education Trust in Somaliland.

Malnourished babies such as six-month-old Zuwid Abdi are given fortified milk through feeding tubes. Currently 80 per cent of Somalis are without healthcare and one in five children dies before their fifth birthday.

Single Catherine said: “Life for people here is a struggle. Water shortage is a huge problem, leading to malnutrition.”

The rule of law ... posters around the airport in Hargeisa, Somaliland's would-be capital

The rule of law … posters around the airport in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s would-be capital

She said vital UK cash channelled through the Department for International Development is helping rebuild Somaliland’s health service, with NHS volunteers training new doctors.

In Al Najah Koranic school – also funded with UK cash – the lesson today for a gaggle of schoolgirls is English. One of the teachers is speaking Somali with a distinct Brummie twang.

In black headscarf and flowing robes Asiya Yussef, 21, tells how her parents and five siblings fled this war-ravaged land to the safety of Britain in 2000, settling in inner-city Aston in Birmingham.

“We were terrified for our lives, we had to escape the fighting,” she said. “But this is my homeland. If there was security here, jobs and healthcare, I would come back for good.

http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk

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