Posts Tagged ‘charcoal’

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Somalia interdicts shipload of bombs and guns

November 16, 2014

First time for everything. Thanks to a UN resolution authorizing searches and seizures of ships by Somali security forces, one fewer Gulf-backed arms shipment is making its way into the arsenals of al-Shabaab. The resolution will also make it somewhat harder for al-Shabaab to profit from the illegal export of charcoal from Somalia into the ports of the Arabian peninsula.  From Sabahi Online (hat tip to Chris for sending this in):

Tightened security off Somalia’s coast aims to bankrupt al-Shabaab

The recent seizure of an illegal arms shipment off the Somali coast signals the government’s increasing ability to manage maritime security, analysts say, but it also highlights the need for more effective ways to degrade al-Shabaab’s access to weapons and money.

Somali security forces seized a shipping container filled with weapons and explosives October 28th, just days after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution authorising the inspection and seizure of vessels in Somali waters suspected of carrying prohibited items.

Under the resolution, states and regional partners can search ships in Somalia’s territorial waters and on the high seas when there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect they are transporting illegal arms or charcoal, a key source of funding for al-Shabaab militants.

Despite an international ban on charcoal exports, the illegal trade has increased, with al-Shabaab holding on to approximately one-third of the $250 million annual trade, according to a report by the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea released in June.

“Charcoal is giving Al-Shabaab a lifeline,” said British Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant after the resolution passed October 24th.

Grant said Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had written to the Security Council October 8th, requesting assistance. “Today we have responded to that call for help,” he said in a press statement, stressing that the fight against al-Shabaab was at the heart of the resolution.
Resolution provides welcomed support to Somali security agencies

Somalia’s security apparatus is not yet capable of monitoring and controlling all maritime traffic to the ports under its control and could use the help from its international partners, said retired Colonel Sharif Hussein Robow, a former intelligence officer during the Mohamed Siad Barre regime.

Robow praised the government for seizing the container of contraband weapons and explosives at Mogadishu Port last month, but said there are many more shipments carrying prohibited items that fall through the cracks.

“The entry of these types of weapons and everything else that is illegal in a country depends on the government’s capacity [to stop it],” he said.

Currently, security at Somalia’s ports is weak because personnel are not properly trained and officers lack motivation because they are not paid regularly and lack strong supervision, Robow said.

Nonetheless, the UN resolution will help Somalia’s international partners stop the flow of illegal weapons into Somali ports, he said. It can also help stop the export of charcoal, a key source of revenue for al-Shabaab.

“One of the ways [al-Shabaab] gets money includes collecting taxes from traders who bring charcoal from the forest,” he said. “The second way is they could actually own the charcoal that is being exported, and third, they extort money from the big businesses in the charcoal trade.”

Daud Abdi Daud, secretary general of Somali Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture, a non-profit organisation that aims to expand and improve media coverage of key issues from climate change to civil insecurity, said he welcomed inspections carried out by international partners off the coast of Somalia.

“Taking such a step to stop Somali charcoal exports is a good thing because this issue poses a big problem for both the Somali people and the environment,” Daud told Sabahi. “Cutting [trees for] charcoal has resulted in desertification in Somalia and the migration of wildlife out of Somalia because the trees they would have sheltered under are being cut.”

“Cutting trees is also a big part of the widespread drought and famine in Somalia because deforestation leads to a lack of rainfall, which ultimately results in droughts,” he said.

“When the government took control of Barawe, it was a crippling loss for al-Shabaab’s finances because the millions of dollars al-Shabaab earned from charcoal exports came from charcoal that was exported from the Barawe port,” Daud said.

However in its October report, the UN Monitoring Group said more than one million bags of charcoal are still being shipped out of Kismayo Port each month, even though the Somali government resumed control of Kismayo in 2012…

And Kismayo is just one of several ports being used for illegal charcoal shipping.

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Gulf charcoal purchases prop up al-Shabaab

July 7, 2014

Money Jihad has long reported on how al-Shabaab profits from Somalia’s charcoal smuggling business, particularly by charging a checkpoint tax authorized by Islamic law. A new report from the United Nations Environmental Programme and Interpol confirms that this activity is ongoing despite a UN ban against Somali charcoal exports, saying that “Al Shabaab retains about one third of the [charcoal] income, which alone constitutes about USD 38–56 million” annually.

A map in the report shows a key al-Shabaab tax checkpoint at Buulo Xaaji, main points of embarkation from Kismayo and Barawe, major delivery locations at Jizan (Saudi Arabia), Dubai and Sharjah (UAE), and Khasab (Oman), with additional deliveries in Egypt, Yemen, and Kuwait.

Somali charcoal exports

In addition to “normal” smuggling of charcoal from Somalia to the Gulf states, it is Money Jihad’s belief that rampant trade-based money laundering is occurring between al-Shabaab and these states in which wealthy Arabs are transferring funds to al-Shabaab through over-invoicing for charcoal purchased. In other words, terror financiers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are intentionally overpaying for Somali charcoal as a means of funding al-Shabaab without simple detection. The Gulf states are doing this to pursue larger strategic interests in Africa.

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Interpol targets al-Shabaab’s charcoal smuggling

March 30, 2014

Finally. Action against al-Shabaab’s exploitation of the lucrative Somali charcoal trade is long overdue. Al-Shabaab exacts a 2½ percent tax at several stages of production from the point the charcoal leaves the kilns until it is loaded and shipped illegally to Persian Gulf buyers in contravention of a UN ban on the trade.

From Thomson Reuters on Mar. 27 (h/t El Grillo):

…“The al Shabaab-controlled charcoal trade is emerging as the new security threat facing the country’s biodiversity,” Henry Wafula, a district commissioner in eastern Kenya, said in an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Charcoal worth more than 140 million Kenya shillings (about $1.7 million) is being shipped out of eastern Kenya illegally every month, Wafula said. The lucrative trade involves cutting down and burning mature trees, particularly in protected wildlife areas. The loss of trees reduces cover for wildlife and worsens soil erosion.

In 2013, the annual report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia estimated that al Shabaab’s charcoal exports from eastern Africa could be as high as 24 million sacks per year, for an overall international market value of $360 to $384 million.

Laws passed by Kenya in 2013 impose tough punishments on illegal logging and related activities, but concern about al Shabaab’s possible use of charcoal trade revenue has drawn INTERPOL, the world’s largest international police organisation, into an alliance trying to stop the trade, though there is scant evidence it is used for terror-related operations.

“We have reports linking illegal charcoal trade in Eastern Africa to terrorist activities in the region. But this is not something governments are responding to,” David Higgins, of INTERPOL’s environmental crime programme, told a recent media briefing in Nairobi.

He did not give details of the activities, but said he has information, mainly from non-governmental organisations, that there are links between the charcoal trade and terror cells operating in the region.

INTERPOL began taking an interest in the charcoal trade soon after Kenya passed the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, which spells out penalties up to life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of logging, clearing land or setting fire to vegetation in protected wildlife areas…

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UN lifts sanctions on al-Shabaab entrepreneur

March 24, 2014

UN sanctions against al-Shabaab financier Ali Ahmed Nur Jim’ale have been lifted.  The UN did not offer any explanation for the removal from their sanctions list.  Last year the government of Somalia itself requested the removal, saying that Jim’ale “is innocent.”

The UN delisting notice lays out the grounds for the original sanctions.  It is difficult to read their dossier and come away with an impression of innocence…

Ali Ahmed Nur Jim’ale (Jim’ale) has served in leadership roles with the former Somali Council of Islamic Courts, also known as the Somali Islamic Courts Union, which was a radical-Islamist element.  The most radical elements of the Somali Islamic Courts Union eventually formed the group known as al-Shabaab.  Al-Shabaab was listed for targeted sanctions in April 2010 by the United Nations Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 concerning Somalia and Eritrea (the “Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee”).  The Committee listed al-Shabaab for being an entity engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Somalia, including but not limited to acts that pose a threat to Somali Transitional Federal Government.

According to the July 18, 2011 report of the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee’s Monitoring Group (S/2011/433), Jim’ale is identified as a prominent businessman and figure in the al-Shabaab charcoal-sugar trading cycle and benefitting from privileged relationships with al-Shabaab.

Jim’ale is identified as one of al-Shabaab’s chief financiers and is ideologically aligned with al-Shabaab.  Jim’ale has provided key funding and political support for Hassan Dahir Aweys (“Aweys”), who was also listed by the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee.  Former al-Shabaab Deputy Emir Muktar Robow reportedly continued to engage in political posturing within the al-Shabaab organization during the mid-2011.  Robow engaged Aweys and Jim’ale in an effort to advance their shared objectives and consolidate their overall stance within the context of the al-Shabaab leadership rift.

As of fall 2007, Jim’ale established a front company in Djibouti for extremist activities called the Investors Group.  The short term goal of the group was, through the funding of extremist activities and weapons purchases, to destabilize Somaliland.  The group assisted in smuggling small arms from Eritrea through Djibouti into the 5th region of Ethiopia where extremists received the shipment.  As of mid-2008, Jim’ale continued to operate the Investors Group.

As of late September 2010, Jim’ale established ZAAD, a mobile-to-mobile money transfer business and struck a deal with al-Shabaab to make money transfers more anonymous by eliminating the need to show identification.

As of late 2009, Jim’ale had a known hawala fund where he collected zakat, which was provided to al-Shabaab.

As of December 2011, unidentified donors from the Middle East were transferring money to Jim’ale, who in turn used financial intermediaries to send the money to al-Shabaab.

In 2009, Jim’ale worked with other like minded individuals to undermine the Somali TFG by not participating in Somali reconciliation efforts.  As of late 2011, Jim’ale actively supported al-Shabaab by offering free communications, use of vehicles, food aid and political advisement and set up fundraisers for al-Shabaab through various business groups.

The request by Somalia for the UN to lift sanctions on Jim’ale suggests that the Somali government has been compromised by the very elements which it purports to be at war with.  Just a couple years ago, Jim’ale was considered to be a security threat and an important al-Shabaab money man.  Suddenly he’s free to roam about Africa again.

The lifting of the sanctions, which included an international travel ban, enables Jim’ale to resume his travels back and forth between Somalia and Djibouti.  He holds passports with both countries.

For more on the cryptic UN delisting process, see prior Money Jihad coverage here and here.

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Al-Shabaab’s charcoal business booms despite loss of Kismayo

September 17, 2013

UN says terror group’s annual revenues likely exceed 25 million USD

In what seemed like a major military and financial setback for al-Shabaab, the capture of the important port of Kismayo by Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops, and the Ras Kamboni clan militia in September 2012 has turned out to be mere window dressing for a profit sharing arrangement between militiamen, the Kismayo business establishment, and al-Shabaab itself.

The pre-existing agreements for taxes and royalties to be paid to al-Shabaab at each stage of the lucrative Somali charcoal production and supply chain appear to be intact despite the change in management of the port.  Add that to checkpoint taxes imposed on truckloads of Somali coal and expanded charcoal export operations at the beach port of al-Shabaab controlled Barawe, and you have a recipe al-Shabaab success.

In its exhaustive 400+ page report in July, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea lays out al-Shabaab’s unexpected ability to snatch victory from the jaws of seeming defeat:

…Overall, despite the fact that the KDF/AMISOM and Ras Kamboni forces replaced Al-Shabaab’s control of Kismayo, the charcoal business architecture remained intact. While the production and trade in charcoal has always existed in Somalia on a smaller scale, during Al-Shabaab’s control of Kismayo it became a large-scale international enterprise combining local clan and Al-Shabaab financial interests, as previously documented by the Monitoring Group (S/2011/433 and S/2012/544). The nature of the business enterprise forged by Al-Shabaab continues with Al-Shabaab, its commercial partners and networks still central to the trade. Essentially, with the changeover of power in Kismayo, the shareholding of the charcoal trade at the port was divided into three between Al-Shabaab, Ras Kamboni and Somali Kenyan businessmen cooperating with the KDF.

In addition to Al-Shabaab’s shareholding at Kismayo represented by individual charcoal traders in the local business community, there is seamless movement of charcoal trucks between Kismayo and Barawe and regular coordination between the two ports, not least because of the personal and commercial relations between charcoal traders, individuals in Ras Kamboni and members of Al-Shabaab.

This dramatic increase in scale of the charcoal trade since the time when Al-Shabaab exclusively controlled it, actually benefits Al-Shabaab as it draws considerable revenue from its partial shareholding in the expanded business. In fact, its shareholding in Kismayo charcoal, in combination with its export revenues at Barawe and its taxation of trucks transporting charcoal from production areas under its control are likely exceeding the revenue it generated when it controlled Kismayo, previously estimated by the Monitoring Group to be 25 million USD per year (see annex 9.2). As such, Al-Shabaab has managed to exploit and profit from the diversification of interests in the charcoal trade (see annex 9.2)…

Meanwhile, Persian Gulf countries flagrantly violate the UN’s ban on the Somali charcoal trade by continued importation.  If there is any saving grace to the charcoal fiasco, it is that the Monitoring Group believes al-Shabaab cells outside of southern Somalia may not be receiving increased revenue.

See prior Money Jihad coverage of how the Somali charcoal trade benefits al-Shabaab here, here, and here.

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UN charcoal purchases enrich Al-Shabaab

October 8, 2012

Money Jihad has been reporting for a year on how charcoal sales in Somalia help fill the coffers of the terrorist group al-Shabaab (see prior coverage here and here).  The United Nations was one of the first entities to publicize this phenomenon.  Ironically, it is the U.N. that has turned out to be one of the larger institutional buyers of Somali charcoal.

How can you beat the jihadists if you’re funding both sides of the conflict?  This is an outrage.  Please read this important article that hasn’t received nearly so much attention as it should.  From the Telegraph on Sept. 24:

Somalia’s Islamist war chest being boosted by UN funds

The war-chest of Somalia’s al-Qaeda-allied Islamists is likely being boosted with United Nations funds used to buy charcoal from areas the terror group controls, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

By Mike Pflanz, Nairobi

Al-Shabaab pays for weapons and fighters with the £800,000 a month it earns from charcoal sales and exports, now banned under a British-sponsored UN Security Council resolution adopted at the London Conference on Somalia in February.

The business has become the group’s “most lucrative source of income”, according to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.

But the UN has since April been buying 52 tonnes of charcoal a week for the kitchens of peacekeeping forces in Mogadishu, and one Somalia expert said it was “highly unlikely” that the deal was “not at least indirectly benefiting” the terrorists.

The contract, worth close to $1 million annually, also directly spurs the destruction of southern Somalia’s last remaining tree cover, worsening conditions that cause drought.

A spokesman for UNSOA, the United Nations Support Office for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (Amisom), said he was “unable to confirm” that supplies did not come from Kismayo, al-Shabaab’s remaining stronghold.

African Union forces this week closed in on the port city ahead of an expected offensive to push the Islamists out. Senior commanders are said to have fled already, and 10,000 civilians have also left, UNHCR reported yesterday [FRI].

The Daily Telegraph has seen an UNSOA Purchase Order for $17,722.50 (£10,950) for 52,125kg of charcoal due for delivery on August 31, among the most recent of the deliveries.

It was to be sent to Ugandan and Burundian peacekeeping troops based at Mogadishu’s airport and its university. The two countries’ soldiers make up the majority of Amisom’s 17,000-strong contingent in Somalia.

“It’s highly unlikely that Shabaab will not at least indirectly benefit,” said Andrews Atta-Asamoah, Horn of Africa analyst for the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.

“It’s not possible for that much charcoal to come only from areas the government controls. Even if Shabaab is not directly selling the charcoal, once money enters the system in south-central Somalia, Shabaab always takes its share.”

Read the rest of this entry ?

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How Saudi Arabia’s appetite for Somali charcoal funds terror

February 15, 2012
Wood transport lorry

A truckload of Somali charcoal

After Money Jihad’s latest post about Somalia’s charcoal trade funding jihadists, we received a note from a reader wondering how lucrative third world charcoal business could really be.  Some background is in order to answer that question.

Janice Hamilton notes that:

Somalis have long used charcoal in their homes for cooking.  Charcoal is also one of the country’s biggest exports.  To prepare charcoal, people chop down trees, stack the wood tightly, cover it with earth to limit the amount of available oxygen, and set it on fire.  Without much oxygen, the wood does not burn completely.  The partially burned pieces of wood are charcoal.  In the past, woodcutters used axes to cut down trees.  In modern times, woodcutters use chainsaws, and warlords largely control the business… As a result, acacia, mangrove, and other trees are rapidly disappearing.

Africa South of the Sahara adds these details:

Since 1991 Somalia has increased exports of acacia charcoal to Kenya and the Gulf states.  Areas of charcoal production include the region south of Kismayo, parts of Bay and Middle Shabelle, and several areas in ‘Somaliland’ and ‘Puntland’.  This charcoal trade has created a serious environmental problem, as widespread tree-cutting threatens fragile pastoral lands.

Lastly, in Somalia: Economy Without State, Peter Little writes: Read the rest of this entry ?