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UAE halts Somali military training after cash seizure

World News | Published:

Tensions between the countries spiked when the UAE said Somali soldiers boarded an Emirati plane in Mogadishu, assaulted its soldiers at gunpoint and confiscated 9.6 million US dollars.

The United Arab Emirates has said it will end its military training mission to Somalia after an incident that saw its soldiers assaulted and 9.6 million US dollars (£6.7 million) seized at an airport in Mogadishu.

The announcement by the UAE’s foreign ministry marks the latest decision by a Gulf nation that affects East Africa, home to a growing web of Arab military and commercial interests.

The UAE has trained thousands of Somali soldiers in the mission it began in 2014, which both helped the conflict-ravaged nation rebuild after decades of chaos and give Emirati soldiers more experience abroad.

But tensions between the countries hit a high on April 8, when the UAE said Somali soldiers boarded an Emirati plane at the Mogadishu airport, assaulted its soldiers at gunpoint and confiscated 9.6 million dollars. A Somali security ministry statement at the time said the bags were full of undeclared US dollars and an investigation is under way.

The UAE’s foreign ministry said it would end its training mission in Somalia, where it also built training centres and a hospital. The UAE has been working with an anti-piracy force in Puntland and paid the salaries of 2,407 Somali soldiers.

The statement said: “The UAE has expressed its denunciation of the seizure incident which flies in the face of diplomatic traditions and ties between world countries and contravenes the agreements signed by both countries.”

Somali officials did not immediately comment on the UAE’s decision. However, Somali officials said last week that it would end UAE funding of its armed forces.

Relations between Somalia and the UAE have been strained over the ongoing diplomatic crisis engulfing Qatar. Somalia’s government has remained neutral in the conflict, despite Saudi and Emirati pressure to denounce Doha.

Dubai-owned DP World port operator is also operating a major port in Somalia’s breakaway territory of Somaliland. The UAE also plans to open a military base there and has invited Somaliland officials to visit the Emirates.

A United Nations Security Council report in November also alleged the UAE handed out cash to influence voters in Somalia’s presidential election last year.

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