Somalia: Raiders Rule


April 23,2008: About a million people in southern (below Puntland and Somaliland) Somalia are refugees and dependent on foreign food aid. That aid is increasingly difficult to deliver. That's because many of the unemployed men among the refugees have guns, and have become bandits and raiders. Some align themselves with the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), to add a religious patina to their depredations. But it's all the same banditry and looting. The bandits don't seem to understand that raids on the foreign aid workers will interrupt the flow of aid.

France, the United States and Britain are preparing a UN resolution giving them authorization to suppress piracy along the Somali coast. Britain may not be actively involved, as many of its diplomats believe attacks on the pirates may violate their human rights, and that some of the pirates, if captured, may claim asylum.

April 22, 2008: In Bosasso, Puntland, troops seized the ship pirates had taken the day before, freeing the crew. The local government disagreed with the pirates over how merchant ships, headed for Bosasso, should be treated. Bosasso depends on seaborne trade to keep its economy going, and has the guns to deal with the pirates.

April 21, 2008: Over the weekend, there was intense fighting in Mogadishu, as Transitional National Government (TNG) gunmen and Ethiopian soldiers encountered stiff resistance in a neighborhood they were clearing of hostile clansmen. There were several hundred casualties, with nearly a hundred dead, most of them civilians. The Ethiopians use tanks and artillery, and shoot everyone if they are fired on. Somali gunmen will hide among civilians, an old trick the Ethiopians are on to. Meanwhile, a mobile (in a dozen or so trucks) group of Islamic Courts Union (ICU) raiders hit two more towns in the last few days, killing those who resisted and looting what they wanted (food, fuel and ammo, for the most part.) Several hundred hostile (to the TNG) civilians are living in refugee camps along the main road leading inland from Mogadishu. Armed men from these camps raid into Mogadishu and into interior towns. Such raiding is traditional. The clans driven out of Mogadishu are desperate to get back in, and are willing to continue fighting for it. But first they have to get rid of the Ethiopian troops, who are as ruthless as the Somalis, but better armed, organized and trained.

In Puntland, off the coast of Bosasso, pirates seized a Dubai cargo ship carrying food for sale in Somalia.

April 20, 2008: Somali pirates seized a Spanish fishing boat 400 kilometers off the coast. A Spanish frigate has been ordered to the Red Sea to offer aid.

April 17, 2008: The six Somali pirates captured last week by French commandoes insist that they are part of the "sea militia" (coast guard.) Somalis in the area where the pirates were captured, are demanding compensation from the French government, for death and damage done by the French troops during the rescue.

April 14, 2008: Islamic militants raided the town of Baladwayne, near the Ethiopian border, and killed four foreign teachers (two Britons and two Kenyans.) The Islamic radicals are particularly hostile to non-religious education. The two Britons were Somalis who had emigrated to Britain, gotten an education, and returned to establish a school. The Islamic militants deny that they targeted the teachers, and insist the victims were caught in the cross fire. One of the dead teachers had converted to Christianity, and such conversions are punished by death by Islamic radicals.

April 11, 2008: French commandoes swept in right after the $2 million ransom was paid to pirates in Puntland, and rescued the 30 members of the cruise ship "Le Ponant". Some ten percent of the ransom, and six of the pirates, was captured. Most of the pirates got away.


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