Somalia: Somali Federal Government forms counter-terrorism police unit

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The first squad of a new Somali police unit trained to fight terrorism will be deployed in Mogadishu soon to lead security efforts in the fight against al-Shabaab, officials told Sabahi.

The new unit, whose members received training in Djibouti, was formed to counter terrorism-related incidents in Somalia, said General Garad Nur Abdulle, head of the Somali Police Force Training and Planning Department.

“The Somali police did not have the expertise to counter the tactics al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda were using in the country; therefore, it became necessary to create this new unit,” he told Sabahi.

“This squad is the first group [under the new unit] to be trained and comprises 150 officers,” he said. “They are a special force with adequate training and equipment.”

Somalia needed a special force specifically trained to prevent acts of terrorism, and this new unit will conduct operations in areas where al-Shabaab has carried out attacks, Abdulle said.

Al-Shabaab has a history of attacking government buildings and taking hostages inside, he said, so the new force is trained to repel those attacks and rescue the victims. Officers have also been trained to control and combat riots during public demonstrations.

“The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is paying the expenses and the salaries of these officers, and governments such as Britain, Italy, Ethiopia and Djibouti will support us in skill building and vehicles,” Abdulle said.

Contributing partners provided police experts to carry out the three-month training in Djibouti, which concluded mid-December, he said.

“The force’s first [public] appearance was during the event to commemorate the anniversary of the police force on December 20th, but they are not yet operational,” Abdulle said, declining to say when they will be deployed for security reasons.

Security forces expand and unify
The police commission plans to increase the number of special police forces this year, Abdulle said, noting that after receiving training from British and Italian experts in Mogadishu, 1,000 additional officers will be deployed throughout Somalia.

A growing number of women are also joining the police force, he said, and there is an effort to recruit women to join the police after high school.

“The number of women in the police force has increased by 10% in the last two years,” he said. “Many educated women have joined the Somali police force and one of the police stations in Mogadishu has a female commanding officer. This has never happened before and it is an opportunity that we want to use to employ women.”

Somali police spokesperson Qasim Ahmed Roble said the new anti-terror police unit will work side-by-side with Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) forces.

“The special Gashan force, which is part of the intelligence forces, is the only Somali force that is currently trained to combat terrorism,” Roble told Sabahi. “This new police unit will work like that force and will strengthen them.”

Other efforts under way to strengthen Somalia’s security forces include counting the number of officers working in regional and state administrations, starting with Puntland and Galmudug, in order to unify the country’s police force and enable regional recruits to receive training, he said.

“In addition, extensive renovations have been made to police stations in Mogadishu. The 16 stations of Benadir region are all formally operational,” Roble said. “These are all part of the preparations we are making for the tasks that are coming our way, the most important of which is the 2016 election.”

“The goal is to improve the skills and capability of security forces to ensure that we can take responsibility for security during the elections,” he said.

There are also plans to strengthen the working relationship between the police and the public by creating a community policing and public relations unit, Roble said.

“The police is the community and the community is the police,” he said. “This is the slogan we operate under. We have put up billboards on some roads that detail how the police and the public work together.”

Women’s role in security
For her part, Halimo Mohamed Abiker, a member of the Somali National Women’s Association and a lawyer who advocates women’s rights, welcomed the security improvements and said including more women in the police force will help strengthen collaboration with the public.

“Having women join security agencies will help develop a closer relationship between the public and police because it is women who have knowledge of [what goes on in] the homes,” she told Sabahi.

More female police officers are also needed because terrorists routinely use women to smuggle weapons into the city and carry out attacks, and male officers are unable to search them due to Somali customs, she said.

“If there are a lot of women in the security forces, they can search women who are suspected of hiding explosives,” Abiker said, urging military and police officials to increase female recruits and give women the same opportunity to work as men.

Female recruits should also have the same opportunity as their male counterparts to receive training abroad, she said.

Police Corporal Fadumo Haji Abdirahman agrees with Abiker and said more should be done to attract and retain female officers.

Abdirahman said that while there has been an increase in the number of women on the police force since she first joined in 2009, women are still largely underrepresented.

“For every 100 officers, ten are women,” she told Sabahi. “We would like to see an increase in their number. We also would like to see women achieve the rank of general.”

Women can make an important contribution to security agencies and should not be overlooked, she said.

Source: Sabahi Online

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