Somalia to end military cooperation with the UAE: official

Somalia to end military cooperation with the UAE: official
The news came after the two countries traded barbs over the seizure of $9.6 million aboard a Mogadishu-bound flight.
2 min read
11 April, 2018
Somalian soldiers ahead of training at a Turkish Military Centre in Mogadishu [Getty]

Somalia on Wednesday announced it would end UAE funding for its armed forces as relations between the two countries continues to sour. 

Defence Minister Mohamed Mursal made the announcement to reporters shortly after the UAE condemned what it called an "illegal" move by Somalia to seize $9.6 million from an aircraft at the Mogadishu airport on Sunday.

The UAE's state news agency, WAM, said Emirati Armed Forces aboard the plane were held at gunpoint and assaulted. Abu Dhabi says the cash was earmarked for training and supporting the Somali army.

"The UAE deplores this violation of international law and norms at a time when the UAE has provided all kinds of political, economic, military and humanitarian support in the darkest conditions to establish security and stability" in Somalia, the foreign ministry said.

Somalia's government has dismissed the reports and said the cash was seized after the UAE ambassador refused to let the unmarked bags be scanned. 

A security ministry statement said Mogadishu is launching an investigation as to why the funds had been smuggled into the country.

The $9.6 million will be stored in Somalia's central bank pending the results of the official investigation, according to VOA News.

Somalia's defence minister said all UAE-trained Somali troops would be integrated into army units by Thursday. "It's our duty as the government to ensure the salaries for our army," he said.

Military officials have long claimed the UAE-trained troops were taking orders from Emirati advisers rather than Somalia's government, conducting unilateral raids aimed at politicians and other figures. In recent months the UAE-trained forces repeatedly clashed with other Somali forces, leaving dozens dead. 

Relations between Somalia and the UAE have deteriorated since the oil-rich Gulf country began operating a major port in Somalia's breakaway territory of Somaliland last year. The UAE also has invited Somaliland officials for state visits and is building a military base there, suggesting that the country is moving toward recognising Somaliland's independence.

Somaliland is located in the strategic Bab al-Mandeb area, and a military base there would allow the UAE to protect its shipping interests in the Gulf of Aden.

Somaliland is also located across Yemen, making a military base useful for the UAE, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country.

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