Somalia: Terrorists Fall Back


November 15, 2011: About 2,000 Kenyan troops have been in southern Somalia for a month now, and recent operations have been delayed by heavy rains. Even without that, the operation has been characterized by precise and deliberate movements and efforts to minimize Kenyan and Somali civilian casualties. Al Shabaab has been skirmishing with Kenyan troops, but not doing much damage (five dead so far). Kenyan troops go where they want and are frequently patrolling the area up to a hundred kilometers from the border. Most al Shabaab gunmen appear to have withdrawn to the towns of Kismayu (their major port) and Afmadow (a major trading center inland). Kenyan troops are moving to surround Kismayu, or at least control all the roads. Same with Afmadow, which is at the center of the local road network. Kenya is apparently reluctant to attack these two towns, and suffer heavy casualties.

The Kenyans have gained much support in southern Somalia by bringing with them food and other aid for locals. The troops reduced the widespread banditry, and the locals have been reciprocating by discreetly (to avoid al Shabaab retaliation) providing information. There are pro-Kenyan forces in the border area. These include troops working for the TNG (Transitional National Government) and the local Ras Kamboni militia (which has been fighting al Shabaab for years.) Kenya has offered to support an autonomous territory along the border (called Jubaland), if the Somalis in charge can keep al Shabaab out of Kenya.

Al Shabaab efforts to retaliate with terror attacks inside Kenya have not been very successful. In response, the Kenyans offered an amnesty to pro-terrorist Somalis in Kenya. Over 30 people in Kenya have accepted the amnesty and provided information on al Shabaab operations (mainly fund raising and recruiting) in Kenya.

In Mogadishu, the AU (African Union) peacekeepers believe that al Shabaab has been forced out of 98 percent of the city. There are still a hundred or more al Shabaab men operating in the city.

Somali pirates are running into more resistance, but are still getting large ransoms (over $100 million so far this year). The warship patrols are more effective, partly because of increased air reconnaissance. Merchant ships are more frequently protected by armed guards, and are more alert to approaching pirates. As a result, only about 12 percent of pirate attacks have succeeded this year. While many nations with large merchant marine fleets want to attack the pirate bases, no one has stepped up to do the deed. Meanwhile, about a thousand pirates and supporters (financiers, ransom negotiators) are in custody around the world.

November 14, 2011: In Mogadishu, gunfire again broke out during food distribution at a refugee camp. TNG soldiers returned fire and at least two people were killed.

November 13, 2011:  A large explosion in the town of Afgoye (40 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu) was believed to have been caused by UAVs firing missiles at an al Shabaab base there. There were secondary explosions from what was apparently an ammunition storage site. The town is currently a major al Shabaab base, and locals believed that al Shabaab leaders were holding a meeting when the attack took place. In the aftermath of all the explosions, hundreds of civilians fled the town, fearing more violence.

November 12, 2011: In the south, a Kenyan Army patrol found an al Shabaab camps, attacked, and killed nine of the Islamic terrorists, and wounding many more as the al Shabaab men fled. Four Kenyan soldiers were wounded.

November 8, 2011: In Mogadishu, a TNG legislator was shot and killed, apparently by al Shabaab.

November 7, 2011: In Mogadishu, two people were killed by a grenade tossed into a crowd. Al Shabaab took credit for this.

November 6, 2011: In the northern statelet of Somaliland, government troops clashed with a rebel militia, leaving four dead.

November 5, 2011: In northern Kenya, two people were killed by a grenade tossed into a crowd. Al Shabaab was believed responsible for this. Elsewhere in the area, a UN aid truck hit a landmine (which did not explode) and a bomb was found, and disabled, in an army camp. A roadside bomb did go off on a road to a refugee camp, but no one was injured.

Kenya has warned aircraft to stay away from al Shabaab controlled areas in southern Somalia. This is because of continued arms shipments being flown in from Eritrea. Kenya implies that such aircraft would be shot down.

In central Somalia, al Shabaab and local militias have been fighting for the last few days, leaving dozens dead or wounded.

The U.S. has warned its citizens to avoid Kenya until the al Shabaab terrorist threat subsides.



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