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US shuts down Somalia internet




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BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/newsid_1672000/1672220.stm

Friday, 23 November, 2001, 13:02 GMT

US shuts down Somalia internet

Somalia's only internet company and a key telecoms business have been forced to close because the United States suspects them of terrorist links.

The two firms, Somalia Internet Company and al-Barakaat, both appear on a US list of organisations accused of funnelling money to the al-Qaeda network.

Both companies have stated they are not linked to terrorists.

Along with denying all internet access to Somalis, the closures have severely restricted international telephone lines and shut down vitally needed money transfer facilities.

Correspondents say the closure of the companies will have a devastating effect on the country, which desperately needs the services they provide.

Desperation

Hassan Barise in Mogadishu told the BBC's Network Africa programme the said more than 80% of Somalis depend on money they receive from relatives outside the country.

He said all internet cafes have now shut down and international phone lines run by two other companies are failing to cope with the extra pressure of calls.

He also pointed out that the United Nations, local and international aid agencies, as well as the government itself all relied heavily on internet access, now denied.

"I would say it is very depressing and if I could find any stronger word than that I would say it," he said.

He added the impact would be felt even more strongly because the cuts have come during the holy month of Ramadan.

Shutdown

On 7 November, the Bush administration released the list of 62 organisations and individuals accused of financial links with Osama Bin Laden.

Reports say the Somali Internet Company was forced to close when it realised that its international gateway had been cut off.

Al-Barakaat, Somalia's largest company with interests in telecommunications, banking and postal services, closed its financial businesses after its assets were frozen.

Its international telephone service was then shut down when its international gateway - run jointly by AT&T and British Telecom - was also cut off.

The company, which has 600 shareholders, is the largest employer in Somalia.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Somalis depend on it to transfer money throughout the world.

Somalis living abroad use it to send money to their relatives back home as there are no other banking systems in Somalia since the downfall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991.

Somalia's prime minister has issued a decree appointing a special committee to investigate al-Barakaat, as well as all other remittance companies.







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