Italian intelligence chief visits Mogadishu ahead of Somalia's polls
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The head of Italian Intelligence visited Mogadishu over the weekend in what is said to be a "secret" trip which comes days before the country goes for elections, but the political leadership is yet to agree on the composition of the Federal Government electoral representatives.
Giovanni Caravelli's trip was announced by Somalia's National Intelligence Security Agency [NISA] in a tweet that would later be deleted. It's not clear why NISA chose to pull down the tweet which informed the country about the trip on the official Twitter handle which they use to issue critical briefs.
But the agency had said that Giovanni Caravelli held a closed-door meeting with his Somalia counterpart Fahad Yasin, a fairly divisive figure and that the two discussed areas of close cooperation. NISA has often been under pressure from Somalia's opposition leaders over partiality in the handling of political matters.
For instance, the plans to hold elections are still on a stalemate after Fahad Yasin was accused of installing former spies in the Federal Government Electoral Committee. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo dismissed the claims recently, terming the committee members "seasoned civil servants".
But the opposition team has insisted that the committee members are apologists of the regime who were implanted to rig elections. The country will hold parliamentary elections using an improved clan-based electoral system from December and presidential elections are scheduled for February 2021.
Fahad Yasin's cooperation with Italy may be as well be subjected to scrutiny given his previous record of collaborating with Qatar, a country that has often been accused of interfering with Somalia's domestic politics. Doha, which is often accused of funding Al-Shabaab along with NISA, has vehemently denied the allegations.
NISA took out the tweet it sent yesterday to announce the meeting between its chief Fahad Yasin and Italy's spy head Giovanni Caravelli who is on a secret trip in Mogadishu. It remains equivocal why the post was removed.
However, the visit comes just months after the Somali spy agency NISA worked with the Italian Intelligence team to secure the release of aid worker Silvia Romano. Sources claimed that Turkey also participated in the sophisticated mission which was concluded after 18 months.
Ms. Romano, reports indicated, had been abducted in Kenya's south coast before being taken across the border by bandits, who are believed to have conspired with the Al-Shabaab militants. By the time she was rescued, Italian media said, the heavily pregnant aide worker had converted to Islam.