Somalia: Al Shabaab Is Falling Apart


October 28, 2010:  Al Shabaab is falling apart. For the same reason Somalia has had no national government for two decades, al Shabaab has been split by clan and personal differences. Rival groups, mainly Hizbul Islam, and the Sufi coalition ASWJ (Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca) have grown stronger. So has the TNG (Transitional National Government), despite being the largest, most corrupt and most fragile coalition around. The net result is that the al Shabaab threat to dominate all of Somalia is gone. The internal feud is not just about clan matters, but also between those who accept al Qaeda foreigners, their money and their goals, and those who do not want to be dominated by these murderous foreigners. This has led to some justified anxiety among the al Qaeda members who have sought to establish terrorism bases in Somalia.

For the last week, TNG and al Shabaab gunmen have been fighting to control the southeastern town of Beled-Hawa. This has caused over 50,000 civilians to flee towards the nearby Kenyan border. While casualties in Mogadishu have declined to less than a hundred a week, it's been more than that down in Beled-Hawa.

The most recent survey of corruption finds that, to no one's surprise, Somalia is the most corrupt nation on the planet. Even foreign aid workers are expected to pay off numerous groups in order to deliver free food to the starving.

Twice this month, Somalis living in coastal villages used by pirates, have described helicopters that fired on people and killed some. But there have been no photos or other evidence of these attacks, which no one took responsibility for.

The pirates have had to adapt to more vigorous tactics to stay in business. The Gulf of Aden, where most of the targets are, is so heavily patrolled that most attacks fail. So more and more pirates are going farther away (out in the Indian Ocean, into the Red Sea, off the coast of Kenya and towards the Persian Gulf). But this long distance pirating requires larger "mother ships" ( usually stolen deep sea fishing boats) that the anti-piracy patrol looks for and destroys (when piracy gear is found on board). The pirates are sent back to shore, but their plans for piracy have been crippled.  The AU (African Union) is asking the UN to authorize, and Western nations to pay for, an air and naval blockade of Somalia, to keep out weapons and terrorists. This would be an expensive and risky enterprise, and unlikely to happen.

October 24, 2010:  Pirates seized a German cargo ship off the coast of Kenya, but the crew all fled to a safe room and shut off the engines. A call was put out to the anti-piracy patrol, and by the next day troops showed up. The pirates had already fled, knowing that this was how this works if they cannot take the crew captive.  

October 23, 2010:  A Greek tanker was seized by pirates off Kenya, just 12 hours after the unloading at the Kenyan port of Mombassa.


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