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Somali Government Says It Seized Military Shipments Bound for Al-Shabab


FILE - Al-Shabab fighters march during military exercises in the Lafofe area, 18 kilometers south of Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 17, 2011.

Somalia's National Intelligence Agency (NISA) said Thursday that it had seized two illicit shipments of military hardware and explosive materials that were apparently bound for the al-Shabab militant group.

At a news conference in Mogadishu, Somalia's State Minister of Defense Mohamed Ali Haga said the agency found the arms at Mogadishu's port and airport.

"At the port of Mogadishu, NISA personnel discovered a shipment of military hardware and explosive materials concealed within containers posing as authorized business imports," Haga said. "Our forces have [also] seized military equipment at Mogadishu's Aden Ade International Airport."

A statement from NISA said an investigation relating to the illicit shipments led to the arrest of 10 individuals associated with a smuggling network.

"Our agency has been following the activities of these individuals in Somalia and outside Somalia," Haga said. "It has been following their involvement in this smuggling network. Fortunately, all of them are in custody, and none has escaped."

Neither Haga nor NISA gave further details on the components of the seized shipments, where they were from, or the identities of those involved.

Arms embargo

The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in 1992 because of a civil war and factional violence.

The country has an unguarded coastline that's more than 3,000 kilometers in length and open borders.

Following the establishment of a functioning transitional government in 2012, the successive governments have been working to rebuild stability, good governance and other benchmarks that would help the country's arms embargo be eased.

In 2013, the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to partially lift its ban on selling arms to Somalia for a year.

The resolution allowed Somalia's government to buy small arms to help its security forces develop and fight the Islamist militants, but kept restrictions on heavy weapons.

The remaining sanctions, which require requests for certain weapons to be approved, are renewed annually, despite government objections that al-Shabab still seriously threatens peace and stability in the region, and sanctions are needed to degrade its activities.

The government's stance is backed by Ethiopia and Uganda, both of which have suffered al-Shabab attacks.

The government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has for months been engaged in an offensive against al-Shabab, including efforts to shut down its financial network and a campaign to counter the group's ideology.

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