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Somalia gets new navy force after years of absence

DRILLING in the open ground of the dusty and dilapidated Old Port in the north of Mogadishu are nearly five hundred young men recruited to serve Somalia's nascent navy force, the first in nearly two decades.

"We expect this force to receive intensive training in four months and then be armed and start protecting the Somali coast against foreign intrusion and criminal activities," Admiral Farah Omar Ahmed, newly appointed Chief Somali Navy Commander, said at an opening ceremony for the navy training.

Admiral Ahmed said the force were the first batch of an expected five thousand navy force Somalia will eventually have to protect its territorial waters and fight rampant piracy, two decades after the force has collapsed with the overthrow of the late Somali government of former Somali President Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991.

With an ever growing high seas piracy off the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden, the east African nation's urgent need for a navy to combat the menace is ever more apparent.

The new Somali navy, with dozens of instructors, receives a minimal wage and monthly food rations during their training.

The Somali government is fighting a deadly insurgence by the radical Islamist insurgent groups of Al-Shabaab and Hezbul Islam who want to establish an Islamic state in Somalia.

Hundreds have been killed or wounded in the latest clashes between government forces and insurgent fighters in Mogadishu where more than a hundred thousand Somalis have been displaced in the fighting that started in early May.

The chaos on land in Somalia led to the growth in piracy that has wrecked havoc in the seas of the war torn country where dozens of ships, with hundreds of crews and passengers on board, have been hijacked.

Some of the abducted ships have been released following marathon negotiations with pirate leaders and the payment of huge sums of ransoms which local Somali officials believe encourages further abductions.

The scourge of piracy has not faded away even after foreign countries send naval force to the Gulf of Aden following the authorization by the UN Security Council early last year.

"This local force knows the pirates and is capable of tackling them, who mainly operate from the ground, better than any foreign navy," said Somalia's new State Defense Minister Yusuf Mohamed Siyad, known as "Indha Adde".

Indha Adde, who was a senior member of the Hezbul Islam but defected to the Somalia government last month, said the Somali government will make it a top priority the fight against piracy and that the newly establish navy would "receive all it needs to carry out its duties".

Many of the newly recruited young men are optimistic about the work they would be doing to defend the country's territorial waters and combat high seas criminal activities.

Mohamed Nor is one of the young recruits receiving training at the Old Port building in the north of the Somali capital Mogadishu. He says he is pleased with his role.

"I am really pleased that I am one of the new trainees for the Somali navy and I will serve my country and defend its honor because there are bad people spoiling the good name of our country and others taking advantage of its current situation."

Admiral Ahmed calls on foreign countries to support the newly formed Somalia navy which he said would relieve the burden of protecting Somalia's territorial waters from the menace of high seas criminal activities.


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