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Somalia Passes Historic but Controversial Anti-Terrorism Law

The lower house of Somalia’s Parliament on Wednesday approved a new anti-terrorism law that aims to provide a legal framework that will help government security agencies to better fight and eradicate terrorism in Somalia.

Members of Parliament approved the bill 133-3 — with 7 abstentions — in what Somalia’s intelligence director, Mahad Mohamed Salad, called a crucial law to make the Horn of Africa country a safer place.

The lower house’s approval of this bill comes amid Somalia’s tough war with al-Shabab, al-Qaida’s most lethal and powerful group in east Africa.

According to Somali law, the bill will go to the upper house of the Parliament for another round of approval. If it passes, it then would go to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for final signing into a law.

This is the second important bill that has gone through Somalia’s Parliament in as many months.

Early last month, both the lower and upper chambers of Somalia’s Parliament officially endorsed the bill of the National Intelligence and Security Agency of Somalia, NISA, some 53 years after the nation established its first intelligence agency. The bill is now in the president’s office awaiting his signature.

Human Rights Watch called on President Mohamud to withhold his signature for what they say is a “bill that will expand the powers of the country’s repressive intelligence agency.”

The draft law, which the Senate passed on February 22, 2023, grants the National Security and Intelligence Agency (NISA) sweeping powers of arrest, detention, and surveillance, and appears to have only minimal oversight of the security agencies.

Meanwhile, 13 al-Shabab militants convicted of murdering officials and carrying out terrorist attacks in the northeastern Somali region of Puntland have been executed by firing squad in three different towns in the region.

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