From Melbourne to Mogadishu

Somali community in Australia expresses differences over alleged links to fighters.

    Dr Hilole says several Somalis have left
    Melbourne to join the fighting in Somalia 
    Renewed fighting in Somalia's capital Mogadishu has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, threatening a humanitarian crisis.


    Its impact is being felt as far away as Australia, where federal police are investigating possible links between the local Somali community and fighters who are opposed to Somalia's transitional government.


    Dr Hersi Hilole, an Australian Somali leader, believes some groups in Australia are sending money and helping recruit young fighters from the city of Melbourne.


    One Australian recruit has already been killed in fighting in Somalia. Hilole believes many more have left to join the conflict.


    "Some people say 10, some people say 20 - but I believe the number is greater than what has been mentioned," he said.


    The police are investigating the possible transfer of funds from Australia to help fighters in Somalia, but Dr Hilole believes Somalia's tight-knit tribal culture will make it difficult to trace the money.


    "Even if you ask them they will give you wrong names. They are not going to give you their real names, so how are you going to get information from them? That's very difficult, extremely difficult," he says.


    'Little support'


    The Melbourne suburb of Flemington is home to Australia's largest population of Somalis.


    Ninety-nine per cent of people here are just worried about sending money to their relatives

    Most welcome the investigation but believe Somalis here are more interested in supporting their families, than helping to fund fighting.


    "Ninety-nine per cent of people here are just worried about sending money to their relatives," says Abdirizak Gurhan, a Somali resident of Melbourne.


    "The majority of the people here are immigrants which means they hardly can make ends meet."


    Sheik Isse Musse of the Werribee Islamic Centre agreed that money was channeled to relatives rather than towards fighters in Somalia. 


    "I myself send money to my 95-year-old mother so everyone is like me," he says.


    "Everyone now is tired and sick of the war. People see the increasing number of refugees leaving their home."


    Australia's Somali community hopes the police investigation will clear any doubts over who is funding what.


    More importantly, they hope peace can be restored quickly in Mogadishu.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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