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    Soma Oil Executive Cleared Of "Extremist Links" By UN Investigation

    A director of Soma Oil and Gas, which is chaired by former Conservative party leader Michael Howard, has been cleared of having any possible ties to extremist groups in Somalia.

    Carl De Souza / AFP / Getty Images / Tom Øverlie/ NRK P3

    Michael Howard (left), former home secretary and Conservative party leader, chairs Soma Oil and Gas. Hassan Khaire (right), the company’s executive director for Africa, was investigated by a UN panel over “possible links” with extremist groups including al-Shabaab. It found no evidence of any such connections.

    A UN panel has cleared an executive at an oil exploration company chaired by former home secretary Michael Howard of having any connections with extremist groups in Somalia.

    Hassan Khaire, the company's Africa director, was the subject of inquiries from the UN monitoring group to the UK and Norwegian governments after the panel began checking for "possible links" between Khaire and al-Shabaab – as BuzzFeed News revealed in March.

    The inquiries into Khaire were part of a wider investigation – believed to be ongoing – into Soma's activities in Somalia that was set up by the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), which reports into the Security Council.

    BuzzFeed News has seen a dispatch from the panel's coordinator to Security Council officials last month saying Khaire was no longer under investigation.

    "The SEMG has investigated links between Mr Hassan Khaire and extremist groups," it states. "I wish to confirm that the SEMG has not found credible evidence of such links and that, in the absence of any new information received by the SEMG clearly demonstrating such links, we now consider this line of inquiry to have reached a conclusion."

    In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a spokesman for Soma said: “We are unsurprised that the investigation by the SEMG failed to find any evidence of links between Mr Khaire and East African extremist groups.

    "The allegations were patently ridiculous and were no doubt contrived to cause damage to Mr Khaire and, by extension, to Soma. What is surprising is that the SEMG decided to conduct an investigation in the first place; and that the fact of the investigation was leaked to the press.

    "Also surprising is the fact that the SEMG failed to reply to correspondence and ignored all offers of assistance from both ourselves and our lawyers in connection with this matter. Regrettably, this is not the first time that the SEMG has been prepared to engage with third parties who may have ulterior motives but has refused to engage with Soma or those affected by the allegations.

    "We remain very concerned at what we consider to be a lack of due process and the SEMG's questionable approach to investigations."

    A spokesperson for the UN declined to comment on the ongoing work of the panel.

    • James Ball

      James Ball is a special correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London. PGP: <a href=";search=0x05A89521181EE8F1" target="_blank">here</a>

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