Somalia: Chaos Continues Without End In Sight

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September22, 2008:  The pirates operating off the north coast of Somalia are currently holding eleven ships and 200 sailors. Pirates are demanding a million dollars or more per ship from the owners. This has pushed up insurance rates to over $10,000 per ship moving through the Gulf of Aden (going to or coming from the Suez canal). Some 60 ships have been attacked off Aden this year, with pirates using two or three large fishing ships as "mother ships" to get pirates and their speed boats several hundred kilometers off the north Somali coast, in the middle of the Gulf of Aden, where most of the ship traffic is. More nations are sending aircraft and warships to patrol the Gulf of Aden. But none of these nations are willing to go ashore to destroy pirate bases, and some are restricting the use of force (against the pirates) by their warships.

The clan and warlord violence has left about 900 dead in the last three months. Some of the gangs are united by religion, but all are out to make money. Everyone has to live, and dozens of separate clan or warlord gangs use their guns to get whatever they can. The chaos has left a third of the population (nearly four million people) in danger of starvation. Yet the foreign aid groups that are trying to supply food, provide the best targets for attacks from armed gangs.

In Mogadishu, clans battling for control of the city, have turned their attacks on African Union peacekeepers. The attacking clans used to control the city, but lost out because they were allied with the Islamic Courts. These Islamic radicals tried to invade Ethiopia, which triggered an invasion by Ethiopian troops, who now help garrison Mogadishu, and support the new clan militias which have taken control of the city. But the clans that were forced out, keep attacking, and using refugee camps outside the cities as bases. Most of the attacks only hurt civilians, because the weapon of choice is mortars, roadside bombs or random rifle fire. The Islamic gangs cannot win in a direct battle with the Ethiopians, so they are trying to create more chaos to force the Ethiopians out.

September 17, 2008: Commercial aircraft have stopped using the Mogadishu airport, after threats of attacks by Islamic groups. But peacekeeper flights continue to come in.

September 15, 2008: Islamic Courts gangs have threatened to shut down the airport in Mogadishu. They can do this by firing on aircraft landing or taking off from the airport, which is by the seashore. Two Ugandan peacekeepers have been killed by roadside bombs in the past two days. The peacekeepers spend most of their time guarding their base and the airport, along with the roads that connect the two.

French commandos freed two French citizens in the north, who had their sailing ship seized by pirates on the 2nd.

September 14, 2008: Several hundred Ethiopian troops withdrew from the central Somali city of Beledweyn, and Islamic Courts gunmen moved in later. Gangs of Islamic Courts gunmen have been raiding throughout southern Somalia for the last few months.

Gunmen kidnapped two more aid workers (for the UN World Food Program). The two Somalis are apparently being held for ransom, as bandits know that the food aid groups have cash.

 

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