DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates denounced on Tuesday the seizure by Somali security staff of several million dollars from one of its civilian aircraft at Mogadishu airport this week.
The UAE said it was sending the money to the Somali army to support its operations against Islamist militants, and a government minister said internal Somali politics appeared to lie behind the incident in which the aircraft was also temporarily seized.
About $9.6 million in cash was taken from the plane that had landed from the UAE, Somali police and government sources had said.
The UAE foreign ministry issued a statement on the state news agency WAM to protest Sunday’s incident.
“Money allocated to support the Somali army and trainees was seized at gunpoint by Somali security personnel, who disrespected some members of the UAE forces,” it said, adding that the plane was allowed to depart several hours later.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the UAE was trying to resolve the issue with the Somali government.
He noted that the UAE backs counter-terrorism efforts in Somalia, where Al Shabaab militants stage regular attacks, and that it had been sending money there as part of its commitment to Somalia’s “stability and prosperity in the fight against terrorism”.
“The money came in for our usual payments to various security and other commitments that we have in Somalia,” he told Reuters on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, we are seeing some internal Somali dynamics that are trying to present it otherwise and I think it will be clear in the coming few days.”
The speaker of Somalia’s parliament Mohamed Osman Jawarire quit on Monday after a dispute with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, in a sign that a crisis in the Gulf may be spilling over into the country’s politics.
Analysts say the resignation may be linked to the perception that the two rivals back opposing sides in a diplomatic dispute that erupted last year involving Qatar and Turkey against Saudi Arabia and its ally, the UAE.
The cash seizure is the latest incident in apparently frayed relations between the two countries. Last month, Somalia voted to ban DP World from the country. The port operator, owned by the UAE’s Dubai government, is developing a port in Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region in Somalia.
It is unclear how Somalia’s federal government could enforce the ban given Somaliland has acted as a de-facto state since 1991.