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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
Somalia gets new telecoms firm
al-Barakat sign
al-Barakat was forced to close by a US asset freeze
A new Somali telecoms company has bought out al-Barakat, the firm that was forced out of business last year after the US government alleged it had links with the al-Qaeda network.


I repeat over and over again that my company is innocent. I hope the economic sanctions will be lifted against my company once it has been proven that we have no ties with any terrorists.

Ahmed Nur Ali Jim'ale
al-Barakat
The new company, Hormud Telecom Somalia, has spent $2m buying the equipment and premises of al-Barakat Telecommunications, said shareholder Abdikarim Ali Mohamed.

"We are trying to make up for the telephone setback which the al-Barakat clients suffered," he said.

The company said it had no links with al-Barakat, which had more than 40,000 subscribers.

Al-Barakat operated telecommunications, construction and foreign exchange operations around the world, and was Somalia's biggest employer.

Allegations unproven

Ahmed Nur Ali Jim'ale, al-Barakat's Dubai-based chairman, said the company was forced to sell its equipment after it was economically crippled by US-led sanctions.

"I repeat over and over again that my company is innocent," he said.

Money changer in Mogadishu
The closure of al-Barakat increased suffering amongst Somalia's poor

Al-Barakat closed in November after the US led international efforts to freeze the company's assets.

The US alleged the company was channelling money to Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda network blamed for the 11 September attacks.

"I hope the economic sanctions will be lifted against my company once it has been proven that we have no ties with any terrorists," Mr Jim'ale said.

Several investigations are underway, but so far the US has not provided any formal evidence of its claim.

The US sanctions meant tens of thousands of impoverished Somalis were denied access to funds from relatives abroad who used al-Bakakat's transfer system to remit money back to Somalia.

Competitive market

Somalia, which has not had an effective central government for more than a decade, has one of the cheapest telephone services in Africa.

Hormud, which means "vanguard" in Somali, is owned by 250 shareholders and will compete against two other telecommunications companies in the country's unregulated market.

Fixed-line local calls within Mogadishu are free, while local mobile phone calls cost 11 US cents per minute, while international calls cost 50 cents per minute.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stefan Armbruster
"So far the US has not provided any formal evidence of its claim."
See also:

03 Apr 02 | Africa
US team visits Somalia
17 Mar 02 | Africa
US watches Somali al-Qaeda links
22 Jan 02 | Africa
Internet returns to Somalia
07 Nov 01 | Business
Will Bush's asset freeze work?
12 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Somalia
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