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Osman Hassan Ali Atto (c. 1940 – August 5, 2013), also spelled Ato, was a Somali dissident, affiliated with the Somali National Alliance.
Atto owns the biggest landed property in Somalia, including many of the buildings in Mogadishu which are rented to relief agencies and the media. Atto 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.
Somali civil war
Atto was a manager of a US-oil company during the Civil War. Later he founded his own oil-company and he reportedly acquired a stake in the Bluebird Aviation during the early 1990s in order to import khat from close relatives based in Kenya.
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.
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 2002, 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.'" The arrest was portrayed in the film Black Hawk Down.
On 9 July 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.
Atto's war with Aidid
On 15 June 1995 General Aidid declared a government and was elected president by his coalition, but at the same time, his faction split. Atto declared that he was Chairman of the SNA. Aidid's self-declared government was not recognised internationally and was unable to administer the portion of the city it claimed to control. Fighting between the forces of Osman Ali Atto and of General Aidid in South Mogadishu lead to 200 dead between April and June 1996 and 150 in July 1996. A son of Atto was shot by a sniper in the so-called "banana war".
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. 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.
"On 26 July 2000, several heavily armed vehicles (called 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 Atto) 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.
Transitional Federal Government (TFG)
In 2006 Osman Ali Atto was involved in peace efforts between TFG and ICU. 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. On July 27, 2006 19 ministers resigned including minister 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 30 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.
Atto's financing of warfare
In a letter from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee (established pursuant to Resolution 751 in 1992) to the President of the Security Council (dated 25 March 2003) Osman Ali Atto is described as an individual who exemplifies "the interaction between looting and the exploitation of Somalia's ressources and infrastructure and the financing of warfare".
Airports and checkpoints
The most significant commodity brought to all airports in Somalia is khat, which accounts for 30 to 50 per cent of the total income for each airport. Daynile airport, located near Mogadishu, generates an estimated $1.5 million in revenues each year. In 2006, shares of those revenues are said to be split between the Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, Osman Ali Atto and the other two shareholders Omar Muhamoud Finnish and the Ifka Halane sharia court.
Atto collects $4.3 million from checkpoints 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 Jubba Valley region.
Looting and kidnapping
Criticism of film
In a 2002 interview with the BBC, Atto indicated that many aspects of the film Black Hawk Down, which depicts the events surrounding the Battle of Mogadishu, are factually incorrect. Among his criticisms, he took exception to the ostentatious character chosen to portray him; he does not look like the actor who played him, smoke cigars or wear earrings. Atto also stated that he was not consulted about the project or approached for permission, and that the film sequence re-enacting his arrest contained several inaccuracies:
First of all when I was caught on 21 September, I was only travelling with one Fiat 124, not three vehicles as it shows in the film[...] And when the helicopter attacked, people were hurt, people were killed[...] The car we were travelling in, (and) I have got proof, it was hit at least 50 times. And my colleague Ahmed Ali was injured on both legs[...] I think it was not right, the way they portrayed both the individual and the action. It was not right.
- United Somali Congress
- Hussein Mohamed Farrah
- Musa Sudi Yalahow
- Transitional Federal Parliament
- Jutta Baykoni, Instabile Staatlichkeit, Zur Transformation politischer Herrschaft in Somalia, 2001, pp. 89-90
- Letter dated 25 March 2003 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751, pt. 109 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council 
- Letter dated 25 March 2003 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751, pt. 110 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council 
- Report of the panel of experts on Somalia pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1474 United Nations 2003 a, p. 36
- Letter dated 25 March 2003 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council, pt. 107 
- The Pentagon Unleashes a Holy Warrior
- Warlord thumbs down for Somalia film, BBC News 29 January 2002
- http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Newsletters/HB7895_SOM.html "IN SOMALIA, A CHAMELEON THRIVES", New York Times 31 July 1995, by Donatella Lorch
- Extensive analysis of the "banana war" in Somalia: Fighting for the Plenty: The Banana Trade in Southern Somalia by Christian Webersik, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, USA, Oxford Development Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1, March 2005
- Indian Ocean Newsletter, 27 April 1996 and Indian Ocean Newsletter, 4 May 1996
- "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2000: Somalia". US Department of State. 2001-02-23. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/af/780.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- http://www.unhcr.org/home/RSDCOI/402d08b14.pdf UNCHR Somalia country report, chapter 3: groups at risk 3.18 (p.142)
- http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18226.htm Somalia, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2002, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 31, 2003, chapter: RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:, subsection: a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life (10th paragraph). The ambush was first reported in: Somalia, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2001, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 4, 2002, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/af/8403.htm
- Wed. June 28, 2006 08:52 am. Somalinet news
- http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1467-825X.2006.00431.x?cookieSet=1 Africa Research Bulletin 16709 Juli 1st -31st 2006
- Garowe Online - Home
- Letter dated 11 August 2004 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council
- Letter dated 11 August 2004 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council, pt.134-137
- United Nations S/2006/229 Security CouncilDistr.: General 4 May 2006 Original: English 06-30515 (E) 050506*0630515* Letter dated 4 May 2006 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council, p.17 and 18
- Jonathan Stevenson, Krazy Khat: Somalia's Deadly Drug War, in New Republic. Vol. 207, No 22, (23 Nov 1992), p. 17. cited in Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces, Journal V28 N1 (Jan-Mar 2002), Global White Powder Kegs: The Smoking Gun of Drug Money & Dirty Wars by MAJ Irvin Lim Fang Jau & LT Douglas Tastad
- Alessandro Politi, Analisi strategica dei nuovi rischi all'inizio del millennio nella Regione Mediterranea: Verso la fine degli anni '90 sembra che gran parte del traffico di droga sia stato controllato dal signore della guerra Osman Atto, che era precedentemente il vice di Aidid. Per Aspera ad Veritatem N.17 maggio-agosto 2000
- http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/SOMALIA%20S2004604.pdf Letter dated 11 August 2004 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council pt (e) 99
-  Letter dated 11 August 2004 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council, pt. 101
- Letter dated 25 March 2003 from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council pt. 108 
- "Warlord thumbs down for Somalia film". 29 January 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1789170.stm. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "In Somalia, a Chameleon Thrives" by Donatella Lorch, The New York Times, Monday July 31, 1995]
- "Letter from Mogadishu, a world of dust" by William Finnegan, The New Yorker, March 20, 1995. (interview with Atto begin sixth paragraph from the bottom)
- Somalis Try to Avert Showdown http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0201/17/se.06.html Transcript of interview with Atto by C. Amanpour on CNN, aired 17 Jan. 2002 20.00 ET
- BBC News Analysis: Somalia's powerbrokers, January 8, 2002 Includes picture of Atto.
- Land of the Gun, interview with Atto by Kevin Sites, Yahoo News, 29 September 2005
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