Somalia: Al Qaeda Forms New Group


June 21, 2007: NATO has agreed to provide air transport for African Union peacekeepers in Somalia. Meanwhile, Ethiopian troops have succeeded in seizing thousands of weapons in neighborhoods containing anti-government populations (clans that believe the government is trying to reduce clan power.) The government has not been able to get the clans to even begin negotiating a peace deal. Apparently the anti-government clans are waiting to see if the African Union sends the full peacekeeping force (8,000 troops), and if someone gives Ethiopia money so Ethiopian troops can stay in Somalia. If all those foreign troops arrive, the clans will negotiate. Otherwise, the clans believe they can win the traditional Somali way, with force.

June 20, 2007: Al Qaeda has organized about a hundred Islamic Courts fighters into Shabbab, a new terrorist organization that is responsible for the attacks of the last few months. Also called the Mujahideen Youth Movement,Shabbab is long on fanaticism, but short on skills. The bombs are poorly made and the suicide bombers not well prepared for their work. Some Shabbab members attack government officials or troops with firearms and grenades, but these attacks often fail as well. Compared to the other armed groups in Somalia, Shabbab is not a major player. A lot of the violence in Mogadishu is related to gangs feuding over money and territory. It's often difficult to tell what is the work of Islamic terrorists, or of the more common criminal ones.

No change in the piracy situation. Maritime insurance companies still list Somalia as the highest level risk in the world, and warn ships to stay 400 kilometers from the coast. But fishing boats still come in close, to go after the relatively abundant fish. The UN is having a hard time getting ships willing to carry food into Somali ports. Some foreign government are working with the Somali government to take out the coastal towns that host the three or four known pirate organizations via attacks from the land side.

June 19, 2007: On the Kenyan border, a suspected Islamic terrorist was killed by Kenyan police. The Kenyans are looking for Islamic terrorists along the border, and in the capital, Nairobi, to see if the terrorists are planning more attacks in Kenya. At present, criminal gangs are setting off bombs in Nairobi, as part of a campaign to intimidate the government. But no one is taking credit for some of the attacks, and the police want to be sure these are not the work of Somali Islamic terrorists. In Mogadishu, the government offered amnesty to Islamic terrorists, hoping that some would accept, and thus weaken groups like Shabbab.

June 18, 2007: A bomb went off in the capital, killing two bystanders. The Islamic Courts terrorists are trying to get a terror campaign going, but they don't have the skilled team leaders to make it happen. Most of the bombing attacks are poorly planned, miss their target, and kill civilians instead. As a result, civilians, even those who would normally back the Islamic Courts, have turned on the terrorists, providing the police, Ugandan peacekeepers and Ethiopian troops with tips on where the killers are.

June 17, 2007: There are several terrorists operating in Baidoa. The favorite weapon is the hand grenade. The terrorists toss the grenade into a a crowd, or building, and, so far, get away undetected. This is typical Somali tactics, whether it is in support of Islamic radicals or some gangster warlord running an extortion scam.

June 16, 2007: The Ugandan peacekeepers in Mogadishu brought a medical detachment with them, and they set up a clinic. The medical personnel have been overwhelmed, because the various warring factions in the city have destroyed nearly all the other medical facilities. The Ugandan clinic remains in operation because it is guarded by Ugandan troops, but it is out of supplies because of the large number of civilians it has been treating (300 a day). To the south, a hundred Kenyan security forces have crossed the border, seeking the killers (last week) of two Kenyan policemen.




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