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UN experts report Eritrean-trained unit operating in Somalia

The UN panel of experts that monitors Somalia has established that an Eritrean-trained unit is operating in Somalia outside the country's formal security structure.

In a report released on 15 October, the panel said that the Federal Government of Somalia has recruited approximately 929 Somalis for military training in Eritrea. This figure was derived from documents obtained by the panel, as well as interviews with relatives of the recruits and security officials with inside knowledge. It noted that Somali National Security Advisor Abdisaid Ali said in a 13 August television interview that 5,000 Somalis had been sent for training in Eritrea.

The men are being recruited for a shadowy unit reportedly called the Dufaan that is not part of Somalia's security architecture, with some being told they would be trained in Qatar or Turkey, rather than Eritrea.

At least 450 have returned to Somalia, according to three sources cited by the panel. Although it is unclear what command structure they are operating under, they may have been involved in the fighting between rival Somali National Army units in Mogadishu after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed extended his term for two years in April.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble brokered a ceasefire, and has appointed a committee to investigate complaints that Somalis are being trained in Eritrea, which is yet to report any findings.

The panel of experts also said that it had seen no corroborated information that the Somali recruits had participated in the fighting in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, where the Eritrean military has joined government forces against the rebellion that began in November 2020.

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