Osman Ali Atto has 22 children, 3 of whom went to college in the United States. Atto and his family live, much of the time, in safety outside Somalia. The family owns a residence at the South c Sungara Estate in Nairobi, and derives significant profits from a tanker-trucking company which operates from a strategically situated truck yard at Eldoret, in north-western Kenya. From there, Atto ships gasoline to Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. This business is allegedly operated by his relatives. In addition to his Somali passport Atto uses passports from Kenya, the United States and possibly Italy.
As commander of his militia Osman Ali Atto is alleged to be responsible for indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, targeting and killing of civilians, kidnapping of civilians and the recruitment of children under 15. All these are considered war crimes.
Osman Ali Atto was already wealthy and strategically well positioned when the civil war started in the spring of 1990. Atto had also been involved with the construction industry. He had been able to acquire trucks and heavy construction machinery, making him the only Somali capable of being a reliable contractor for construction projects by Western companies. Among the Somali country managers of international oil companies, Atto was known as “Monsieur Dozer” because of his ability to cut through the most difficult territory and establish access roads to remote sites. His monopoly made him powerful before other warlords started to ascend. He used this power to become the right hand of general Mohammed Aidid of the USC faction in Mogadishu.
In 1992, Osman Ali Atto helped pave the way for the food airlift and later the American troop landing. He was the Americans' main contact and negotiator with General Mohammed Aidid and Aidid's most important financial backer. Within half a year as the tension escalated and the United Nations began an all-out assault against General Aidid, the American military bombed Osman Ali Atto's garages, destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars of bulldozers and other equipment as well as equipment that gave him the ability to build technicals. American military officials described him as "General Aidid's evil genius." As they searched for Aidid, the American military arrested and imprisoned Osman Ali Atto. In prison on an island off the coast of Somalia for four months, he suffered from malnutrition and severe neglect, former Western diplomats in Somalia say. A year and a half after his release, Osman Ali Atto's garages were running and making technicals (pick-up trucks mounted with heavy artillery) again.
The event has received much attention in the media: The abduction by Task Force Ranger took place on September 21, 1993, from a location near Digfer Hospital. The rangers had made an earlier attempt at Atto's capture, but missed him by seconds. Atto would later be interviewed by CNN. In a speech at a church in Daytona, in January 2003, William Boykin, responsible for the operation, recounted, "There was a man in Mogadishu named Osman Atto... He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me.' Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol. The arrest was portrayed in the film Black Hawk Down.
On 7/9/1994 the Lower Jubba Peace Conference lead to a peace agreement signed by Osman Ali Atto as the SNA representative and by general Hersi Morgan of the SNF. However, general Hersi Morgan's adversaries in Lower Jubba, the Absame clan, did not take part, making the peace accord stillborn. In late 1994, Osman Atto's car drove over a land mine and broke both his feet.
On April 27 1996, the faction of the United Somali Congress/Somali National Army (USC/SNA) which supported Osman Ali Atto decided on a programme to enforce the sharia (Islamic court and laws) in southern Mogadishu, where Atto's forces were trying to impose control. A committee was nominated to prepare the installation of Islamic courts and an appeal was issued to Islamic leaders to decide on the religious personalities most suited to head these courts. Islamic courts were already in place in the northern part of Mogadishu controlled by Ali Mahdi Mohammed, Osman Ali Atto's new ally.
After the death of Aidid, fighting continued between Osma Ali Atto and Aidid's successor:
The U.S. Department of State asserted, in its Country Report for Somalia for the year 2000, that the killing of Yusuf Tallan, a former general under the Barre regime was connected to Osman Ali Atto. The report did not provide specific corroboration for the assertion.technicals), accompanied by about 50 militiamen, attacked the compound of the NGO Action Internationale contre la Faim (ACF) in Mogadishu south. A local warlord (Osman Ali Ato) is believed to have ordered that attack. Two international staff members (French administrator Francoise Deutsch, 46, and British logistician Jonathan Ward, 31) of ACF were taken hostage. They were only released after the International Committee of the Red Cross intervened on their behalf.
Militiamen loyal to Osman Ali Atto are alleged to be responsible for a July 14, 2001 ambush of a World Food Programme (WFP) relief convoy near Mogadishu, in which six persons were killed. The 2002 USA Country Report on Human Rights Practices reported that no actions were taken by the end of 2002 against the militiamen who were said to be responsible.
Leaders included the head of the autonomous region of Puntland, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, and General Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan as well as General Adam Abdullahi Gabyo and General Hassan Mohamed Nur. They were meeting other faction leaders from Mogadishu including Mohammed Farah Aidid, Osman Hassan Atto and Musa Sudi Yalahow who had announced that they had resolved their differences.
President Moi convened a round of reconciliation talks among Somali leaders in Kenya, from 13 to 24 December 2001, at the conclusion of which three separate agreements were signed between the Transitional National Government and the opposition groups represented there, including: the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council, led by Osman Ali Atto (none of the five co-chairmen of the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council was present); the United Somali Congress/Somali Salvation Alliance, led by Omar Muhamoud Finnish; and the United Somali Congress/Somali National Alliance. The three near-identical agreements called for an all-inclusive government to be formed within one month, with the Transitional National Government proposing to the Transitional National Assembly.
In the course 2001 the Transitional National Government (TNG), led by President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, had brought on board two of the five faction leaders based in Mogadishu, originally opposed to it. In December 2000, Hussein Haji Bod reached an agreement with the TNG, and in February 2001, Mohamed Afrah Qanyare joined the TNG as Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources. Osman Ali Atto held several positive discussions with the President and provided the TNG with technical assistance in the "Clean-up of Mogadishu” campaign. The other two faction leaders in Mogadishu - Mohammed Farah Aidid and Musa Sudi Yalahow - continued to challenge the authority of the TNG. Ali Atto signed the Nakuru peace deal on a national unity government in December 2001.
In the middle of January 2002 Osman Ali Atto also announced that he was taking the side of the government but keeping forces loyal to him. He did not disclose his motives but reportedly he had been persuaded to do so by mediators of Ali Mahdi Mohammed who had gone into the shadow but still remained in touch. Many analysts believed that the government was formed largely thanks to the support of Ali Mahdi Mohammed. It was he who helped President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan by placing about 10,000 loyal militants under his command.
After his election, Abdullahi Yusuf formed the first Transitional Federal Government TFG, replacing the Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia by appointing cabinet ministers in November 2004. One of his appointments was Osman Ali Atto as minister of housing and public works.
In 2006 Osman Ali Atto was involved in peace efforts between TFG and ICU. Atto is of the same clan (the Saad sub-clan of Habar Gedir) as his former (Aidid) comrade in arms Abdi Hasan Awale Qeybdiid, a warlord whose militia lost their checkpoints. Atto said Abdi Hasan Awale Qeybdiid should recognize the legitimacy of Islamic Courts Union as new ruler in the capital. He told the media that he welcomed the operations by ICU to the eradication of all illegal checkpoints formed in and out of the capital.
Following the success of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council in taking Mogadishu, and the entry of Ethiopian troops into Somalia, members of the transitional government started to resign. Before the resignations started, the government consisted of 42 full minsters and a further 60 assistant ministers. On July 27, 2006 19 ministers resigned including minister Osman Ali Atto. Atto said he came back from the capital with an agreement from the Islamic courts that fresh talks be held. But he said that Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi was "an obstacle to progress" and had refused to listen.
On May 30th he was kidnapped by the Islamic Courts union who are waging an Insurgency against the Ethiopian troops and the Somali government Soldiers. Osman was kidnapped by Insurgents manning a checkpoint while he was driving to Mogadishu. The Islamic Courts later released him.
Checkpoints are spread throughout Somalia, and particularly in central and southern Somalia. They are one of the most immediate sources of cash for warlords. They have been in existence in Somalia since the early 1990s, when the civil war erupted and warlords and clans started to seek sources of revenue to allow them to buy arms and ammunition and other supplies that would permit them to continue fighting. Before the collection of revenues from airports and seaports started, checkpoints were the fastest and probably the easiest way to collect regular and substantial amounts of money. They continue to provide hard currency on a daily basis, enabling warlords to have enough cash on hand to purchase arms, ammunition and khat supplies for the militias. There are approximately 32 checkpoints in the Bay region, compared with about 51 in the Mogadishu area alone. Checkpoints in the Madina district of Mogadishu, Darmoole (a road between Mogadishu and Balad) and at Balad (a town about 30 kilometres north of Mogadishu) provide Muse Sudi Yalahow, the dissident TFG Minister of Commerce and member of the Mogadishu-based opposition, with approximately $1.3 million a year. This amount is exceeded by the approximate $4.3 million that are collected annually by Osman Hassan Ali (Atto), at Afgooye, a town located about 30 kilometres west of Mogadishu.
Hashish from Asian countries was smuggled into Kenya and Tanzania on Somali vessels and small boats. Osman Hassan Ali Atto was said to be involved in this trade. Information indicates that they recently exported more than 400 kilograms of hashish to neighbouring countries. There has also been information about marihuana plantations in Camba, Jilib and Merere in the Juba Valley region.
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