Somalia: Islamic Radicals Beset On All Sides


June 28, 2011:  AU peacekeepers in Mogadishu continue to lead the offensive against al Shabaab. More foreign terrorists are being encountered, as al Shabaab has increasing problems recruiting Somalis to fight. The AU has to face sniping and roadside bombs from al Shabaab, but uses its superiority in artillery and mortars to blast al Shabaab out of any defensive positions. This angers civilians, because al Shabaab fighters keep trying to use human shields to protect themselves. This does work against the AU troops (from Uganda and Burundi).

The AU has received Raven UAVs. These 2 kg (4.4 pound) aircraft are launched by throwing them. A video game-like controller enables the operator to see what's below the UAV for up to 45 minutes per sortie. Replace or recharge the battery, and launch it again. American and other NATO forces have been using Raven in Iraq and Afghanistan for over five years. The AU troops know all about Raven, and had asked for them. This is part of $45 million in military aid the U.S. is providing  Uganda and Burundi for their peacekeepers in Somalia.

Outside of Mogadishu, al Shabaab is having increasing problems holding back the Sufi militias of Ahlu Sunna Waljama (ASW). It's gotten to the point where ASW is going from village to village, arresting known al Shabaab supporters. Al Shabaab is also getting more resistance because of attempts to tax farmers and merchants. Al Shabaab is short of cash, and trying to get it from the locals (during the longest drought in decades). This is producing armed resistance. Al Shabaab has also made itself unpopular by arresting and executing those it suspects are spying on them. That could be just about anyone.

Kenya now has the largest refugee camp in the world, at Dadaab near the Somali border. Currently, about 10,000 starving and dehydrated Somalis, mostly women and children, enter the camp each week. Current population is over 350,000.

In Puntland, a pro-al Shabaab warlord (Mohamed Atom) and his Islamic radical followers continues to battle government troops around the coastal town of Galgala. The Puntland government has been fighting warlord (and arms dealer) Mohamed Atom for years. It's the kind of divisive behavior that has kept southern Somalia in turmoil for decades. Mohamed Atom and his allies have joined forces with al Shabaab to try and take control of Puntland. But so far the Puntland militias have been too powerful. The seizure, last month, of Galgala, was more of a media stunt than anything else. Government troops soon arrived and chased out the Atom forces. But groups of Islamic radical gunmen still roam the area, killing and terrorizing. Puntland has other problems with criminal activity by some clans, as well as the warlords who have taken over several towns as bases for piracy operations. There is also violence next door in Somaliland, where government troops fight clans from Puntland. These disputes are largely over land use.

June 25, 2011: Apparently after bribes were paid, six foreigners were freed in Mogadishu. The six were arrested last month as they were caught transporting $3.6 million in ransom north, to pay for the liberation of a ship held by Somali pirates. While technically illegal to move that kind of cash through Mogadishu airport, it had long been tolerated. But apparently someone wanted a larger fee, or something like that, and the arrests were made.

June 23, 2011:  About ten kilometers south of the southern port of Kismayo, armed helicopters attacked an al Shabaab base near the Kenyan border. At least 15 al Shabaab men were killed, and U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) is suspected of carrying out the attack. SOCOM has done this sort of thing before.

June 22, 2011: Abdiweli Mohamed Ali has been selected to replace Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as Prime Minister. Both men moved back to Somalia, from the United States (there they had worked, after obtaining graduate degrees) to help build a new government. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was seen as an honest reformer by most Somalis, but was disliked (for the same reasons ) by most of his fellow government officials, and was forced to resign on the 19th. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali is seen as someone more willing to go along with the corrupt practices.

A senior al Shabaab leader died from wounds received in central Somalia, while leading fighters against Sufi militias.





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