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South Sudan hunting for $4 billion in stolen cash

President Salva Kiir appeals to top officials to return missing funds, or face prosecution.
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South Sudan President Salva Kiir has appealed to top officials to return $4 billion in stolen cash. Here, Kiir arrives at the opening ceremony of the African Union's Global African Diaspora Summit on May 25, 2012 in Johannesburg (Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — South Sudan's president has written to dozens of government officials asking them to return $4 billion in stolen cash.

The letter, seen by GlobalPost, is dated May 3, 2012, and signed Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan. In it he writes, "The people of South Sudan and the international community are alarmed by the level of corruption in South Sudan ... The credibility of our government is on the line."

The letter continues: "An estimated $4 billion are unaccounted for or, simply put, stolen by current and former officials, as well as corrupt individuals with close ties to government." The letter was sent to 75 officials, past and present.

Kiir pleads for the swift return of the stolen money offering amnesty and anonymity to those who own up and pay up, and promising investigation and prosecution to those who don't. He says that he has already written to eight foreign governments seeking assistance in tracking down the pilfered cash. "Most of these funds have been taken out of the country and deposited in foreign accounts. Some have purchased properties, often paid in cash," he writes.

It is estimated that South Sudan earned around $12 billion in oil revenues between the 2005 peace deal that ended a long-running civil war and the South's independence last July. The 350,000 barrels per day pumped out of southern oilfields accounts for 98 percent of the government budget, but in January the South, which is embroiled in a dispute with its northern neighbor, switched off the pumps strangling both countries' economies.

The letter concludes on a somber note appealing to the ideals of the liberation movement the southern government once was: "We fought for freedom, justice and equality. Many of our friends died to achieve these objectives," Kiir writes. "Yet, once we got to power, we forgot what we fought for, and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people."


Israel to deport African migrants

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu speeds up plans to expel Africans as xenophobic anger grips country.
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Left-wing Israeli protesters raise a sign picturing a member of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) in opposition to a right-wing demonstration against African migrants in the city of Tel Aviv on May 30, 2012. (David Buimovitch /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Israel is planning to deport thousands of African migrants as xenophobic anger grips the country.

According to a report in the national Haaretz newspaper, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday ordered his government to speed up plans to deport 25,000 illegal immigrants from Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast and South Sudan and to build a holding facility in the desert for asylum seekers from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan.

"Whoever can be sent away should be sent away from here as quickly as possible," Netanyahu reportedly told cabinet ministers.

Israel is home to around 60,000 Africans, a mixture of economic migrants from poor nations and refugees from repressive countries.

In this BBC report, an elderly Israeli man advocates the shooting dead of illegal migrants while a young woman accused African migrants of sexual harrassment, criminal behaviour and, of course, of taking all the jobs and houses. A ruling party politician described migrants from Africa as "a cancer" while others regularly describe them as "infiltrators."

Tensions between Israelis and the country's African migrant community have been building for months. In December Israel announced a $160 million fund to block illegal immigration and last month violent riots erupted during an anti-immigrant protest in Tel Aviv.


Sudan: Young woman sentenced to death by stoning

International appeal over harsh sentence imposed on Intisar Sharif Abdallah, a teenaged mother accused of adultery.
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In Sudan a teenaged mother has been sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery. Here, a different Sudanese woman with her young baby. (Adriane Ohanesian/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A teenaged Sudanese mother accused of adultery has been sentenced to death by stoning, drawing condemnation and outrage from human rights groups and others.

Intisar Sharif Abdallah, who is believed to be under 18 and has a 4-month-old baby, was tried without a lawyer, found guilty and sentenced to death. She reportedly only admitted to committing adultery after being beaten by her brother.

“No one should be stoned to death — and imposing this punishment on someone who may be a child is especially shocking,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Sudan should immediately reform discriminatory laws and abolish both the death penalty and all corporal punishments that violate the international
treaty obligations it has promised to respect.”

Sudan is notorious for its brutal and archaic punishments. In 2009 a woman, Lubna Hussein, was sentenced to be flogged for wearing trousers, although the punishment was not carried out after an international outcry. In December 2010 a video appeared online of another woman being publicly flogged by zealous policemen. Under
Sudanese law a married person guilty of adultery should be executed by stoning while unmarried adulterers get 100 lashes.

Human Rights Watch called on Sudan to ban the death sentence, by any means.

“Sudan should uphold international and African standards,” Bekele said. “It should ban death by stoning and other corporal punishment, and revise laws that discriminate against women and girls.”

More from GlobalPost: Sudan and South Sudan: What were they thinking?


Somalia: Al Shabaab loses more ground

Rebels still hold Kismayo port and are able to launch suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks.
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Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers leave on 29 May, 2012 after a clash with Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab rebels, who ambushed the convoy of Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed near Elasha. Two Somali soldiers were wounded when Shabaab gunmen opened fire as Ahmed drove down the Afgoye corridor, some 18 miles northwest of the capital Mogadishu, a key road and home to the world's largest concentration of displaced people, for the first time since its capture on May 26. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Last week Somalia's Al Qaeda-aligned Islamists lost the town of Afgoye close to Mogadishu, today they were pushed out of Afmadow in the south, leaving them with only a handful of redoubts, most notably the port of Kismayo.

It's a remarkable turnaround for a group that just a year ago controlled pretty much everything in southern Somalia outside of a few blocks of the capital, Mogadishu.

The African Union offensive to take Afgoye was over in a matter of days. When the Kenyan army finally made its approach to Afmadow, roughly halfway between the Kenyan border and Kismayo, Al Shabaab, once again, did not put up much of a fight.

The commander of the nearly 18,000 strong AU force — which now includes Kenyan troops — has promised to take Kismayo by August. Taking and holding Afmadow will be key to the success of any assault on Kismayo as it lies on an important supply route.

Al Shabaab's constant claims of "tactical withdrawals" in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Afgoye and now Afmadow are beginning to wear a bit thin, nevertheless it remains a formidable force and predictions of its imminent demise would be premature.

Related: Somalia: Al Shabaab rebels ambush presidential convoy

None of its leaders have been captured, despite the military setbacks, and Al Shabaab operatives have proven themselves willing and able to blow themselves up to deadly effect, launch hit-and-run attacks with increasing frequency and their skill at improvised explosive devices is growing, according to Western security sources in Mogadishu. The asymmetric/guerrilla war that Al Shabaab has threatened is building.

There are thought to be around 6,000 Al Shabaab fighters including hundreds of foreign jihadis, including some from the US and UK as well as battle-tested veterans from Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the recent precedents it seems unlikely that Al Shabaab will stand and fight in Kismayo, but that won't mean the war is over.

More from GlobalPost: Somalia: African Union forces take key town of Afgoye


Somalia: African Union forces take key town of Afgoye

Al Shabaab rebels pushed further away from capital of Mogadishu.
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A field commander serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) walks in front of an armored personnel carrier on May 22, 2012, during a joint AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) operation to seize and liberate territory from the Al Qaeda-affiliated extremist group Al Shabaab in the Afgoye region west of Mogadishu. (Stuart Price/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — African Union forces in Somalia announced on Friday that they had taken control of  Afgoye, a town 18 miles outside the capital Mogadishu, after a three day offensive against Islamist insurgents who have used the area as a headquarters.


Somalia: African Union forces attack Al Shabaab stronghold

African troops fight to push back Islamist rebels but huge camp of displaced Somalis is in the way.
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Soldiers in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) walk in front of an armored personnel carrier on May 22, 2012, during a joint AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) operation to seize and liberate territory from the Al Qaeda-affiliated extremist group Al Shabaab in the Afgoye region west of Mogadishu. AMISOM Force Commander Lt. Gen Andrew Guti announced the beginning of 'Operation Free Shabelle' aimed at bringing security and economic revival to the 400,000 people of the Afgoye Corridor and beyond in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, located to the south and west of the country's capital Mogadishu. (Stuart Price/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A long-threatened offensive is underway just outside Mogadishu as African Union and government forces try to evict Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-aligned Islamist rebels, from the town of Afgoye 20 miles northwest of the capital. On Wednesday morning the assault entered its second day.


Yemen bomb: Somalia's rebels congratulate suicide bomber

What are the links between Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and Somalia's Al Shabaab?
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A Yemeni soldier is treated at a hospital in Sanaa after he was injured when a soldier packing powerful explosives under his uniform blew himself up in the middle of an army battalion in Sanaa on May 21, 2012, killing 96 troops and wounding around 300, a military official and medics said. The suicide attack was the deadliest in the country's capital since newly-elected President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi pledged to oust Al Qaeda militants from Yemen's mostly lawless and restive southern and eastern provinces. (Mohammed Huwais /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — In the aftermath of a suicide bombing of a military parade earlier today in the Yemen capital Sanaa that killed at least 96 people the official Twitter feed of Somalia's Al Qaeda aligned Al Shabaab insurgents offered its congratulations to Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) and its thanks to God.

"The Mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula have just carried out a Martyrdom operation targeting a Military parade in San'a" wrote @HSMPress at 11.27 a.m. on 21 May.

"May Allah Grant victory to our brothers in the Arabian Peninsula in their war against the Kuffar and Murtadin," read a second tweet a minute later.

Clearly AQAP and Al Shabaab have a shared ideology, but what of their other links?


A symbolic step towards a 'normal' Mogadishu

TEDx holds conference in Somalia's war-torn capital which would have been impossible a year ago.
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Spectators gather to watch a performance staged by artists at the open-air, Chinese-built Somalia National Theatre which was reopened for the first time in 20 years, on March 19, 2012, in Mogadishu. Just a few weeks later the theater was bombed by Al Shabaab. (Stringer//AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — On Thursday there was a TED talk in Mogadishu.

Under the logo "Ideas worth spreading" TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks have since 1984 developed into a global cottage industry with bright young things the world over getting together to share their bright ideas. TED talks — or their freelance franchise, TEDx — have appeared almost everywhere, but never before in Mogadishu.

The organisers — a small group of white foreigners and Somalis — set the theme as "rebirth" hitching their optimistic wagon to a couple of recent news stories (from Newsweek and the New York Times) which reflect some undeniable positive changes in the city over the last nine months.

GlobalPost has also reported extensively on the city's growing security and return to life.


An American jihadi, in his own words

Al Amriki, an American fighting with Somalia's Al Shabaab, tells of his upbringing in Alabama.
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American Omar Hammami, known as Al Amriki, is fighting in Somalia with the radical Islamic group, Al Shabaab. Here Somali women in a demonstration by Al Shabaab rebels on July 5, 2010. The demonstrators were carrying placards written with slogans against the African Union peacekeeping force. (Abdurashid Abikar /AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Something bizarre and unexpected appeared on the internet late on Wednesday: the autobiography of Omar Hammami, a 28-year old from Alabama perhaps better known as Abu Mansour Al-Amriki, one of the top commanders of the Somalia Islamist group Al Shabaab. The last time he was heard from publicly was a March video on YouTube in which he says his life "may be endangered" by his comrades.

And now this.

The 127-page document is just part-1 taking us through Hammami's family history, upbringing and schooling in Alabama, his (re)discovery of Islam, growing extremism and his travel to join al-Shabaab in Somalia.

It's a strange read, and faintly embarrassing, like paging through a teenager's diary.


Bosco Ntaganda: Congolese fugitive repeats his crimes

'Terminator' is forcing new child soldiers into his militia in eastern Congo, reports Human Rights Watch.
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A picture taken on January 11, 2009 shows the leader of the rebels and chief of staff of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) General Ntaganda Bosco. The International Criminal Court sought new war crimes charges against him on May 14, 2012. (LIONEL HEALING/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Bosco Ntaganda is the bogeyman of eastern Congo.

He is the source of the current fighting that has so far forced at least 8,000 people to flee their homes over the borders to Rwanda, and he is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, including the recruitment of child soldiers.

This week the ICC prosecutor leveled additional charges of crimes against humanity against Ntaganda.

More from GlobalPost: Bosco 'Terminator' Ntaganda's troops take over eastern Congo towns

In April Ntaganda, known as 'The Terminator,' deserted from the Congolese army into which he had been integrated under a 2009 peace deal. Hundreds of his loyal troops followed him in the mutiny. Ntaganda's move came soon after his former rebel commander, Thomas Lubanga, was himself found guilty by the ICC of recruiting child soldiers