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UN: Weapons for Somalia government diverted to militants

Weapons shipped to the Somali government have been diverted to al Qaeda-linked militants and clan leaders, according to a team of UN monitors. Senior Somali officials have been implicated in the illicit arms transfers.

A team of UN monitors on Friday called for the reinstatement of a full arms embargo against Somalia, after revealing that weapons shipments to the government in Mogadishu regularly fall into the hands of Islamist militants and clans.

The Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group found "high level and systematic abuses in weapons management and distribution" by Somalia authorities, according to a confidential report seen by the news agencies.

The UN monitors said that they obtained photographs showing weapons, officially destined for the Somalia government, on sale in the open market in Mogadishu.

Government complicity?

Senior Somali government officials have been implicated in the transfer of weapons to the Abgaal and Habar Gedir clans, according to the UN investigators. Somalia's current president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, is a member of the Abgaal clan.

In one case, weapons ostensibly destined for the Somali government were diverted to an al-Shabab commander. Al-Shabab is an al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group at war with Somalia's federal government.

The UN monitors said that the Somali government had denied them access to several weapons depots. The monitors said that they found discrepancies between inventory lists of weapons and ammunition and what was actually housed in some warehouses.

Arms embargo re-visited

A long-standing UN arms embargo against Somalia was loosened in February, 2013 in order to allow some weapons shipments to bolster the country's weak central government. Somalia's main allies, Ethiopia and Djibouti, have made large arms transfers to Somalia to equip the government's security forces.

The UN investigators said that if the arms embargo was not reinstated, then at least tighter regulations of arms shipments to Somalia should be introduced.

"However, an alternative recommendation to the committee would be to introduce, at the minimum, enhanced notification and reporting requirements, if not a partial tightening," the UN monitors said in their report.

slk/crh (AP, AFP)