Somalia: Making Headlines And Staying In The News

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November 7, 2015: In the north (Puntland) one of the leaders of the al Shabaab stuck up there (because of peacekeeper pressure) has declared allegiance to ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant). Earlier this year al Shabaab appeared to be considering becoming an ISIL affiliate, meaning that more extreme violence was required in order to meet ISIL “standards.” Earlier in the year it became known that al Shabaab leaders were dismayed that other Islamic terror groups like ISIL in Syria and Boko Haram in Nigeria were crowding al Shabaab out of the media. Al Shabaab needed that media attention for fund raising and recruiting, both of which were in decline for other reasons as well. Al Shabaab was seen as less attractive to Somali expatriates seeking to become Islamic terrorists. In part that’s because al Shabaab made itself very unpopular inside Somalia because of how they mistreated civilians, many of whom had kin in the West. This unpopularity made it easier for the UN and AU to get a peacekeeping force in and build a new Somali Army and government. The few Somali expats still seeking Islamic terrorist adventure were heading for Syria. Somalis were less likely to go to Nigeria because Somalis are less popular in the rest of Africa, but that’s another issue entirely. In August there was an al Shabaab “Ramadan Offensive” that may have been undertaken in part to convince ISIL leadership that al Shabaab was worthy. That is important because most major Islamic terror organizations are dominated by Arabs who, in general, look down on dark-skinned Africans (like Somalis). While Somalis consider themselves “Arab” (and speak a Semitic language) most Arabs do not agree. It’s an old problem that Islam was supposed to have by solved in theory but didn’t in practice. Meanwhile many al Shabaab leaders have made it clear that they are not willing to betray al Qaeda, which long supported al Shabaab, by switching to ISIL (which is at war with al Qaeda in many parts of the world). The new al Shabaab ISIL faction in Puntland is small (less than fifty men) and apparently now has to face the Puntland security forces as well as the other al Shabaab factions up there.

Meanwhile further south the peacekeepers, Somali soldiers and local militias continue to pursue mobile groups of al Shabaab men who live off loot and sometimes seize control of and occupy towns or villages for weeks before security forces show up to chase them away. These groups of al Shabaab men do not want to fight but rather seek to survive and terrorize. It’s all about making headlines and staying in the news. Al Shabaab will still attack, but usually in the form of bombings and ambushes. This happens a lot out in the countryside with occasional attacks in Mogadishu (where most foreign journalists hang out).

Somalia is now involved with the effort to defeat Iranian aggression in Arabia. The Arab coalition fighting Shia rebels in Yemen recently persuaded (with cash and other favors) three more African nations (Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan) to send troops to join the coalition. Most of these (about 12,000) will come from Sudan. Eritrea is sending about 400 troops and Somalia is sending a token number of troops but is mainly allowing the Arab coalition to use Somali territory and air space The coalition needs more professional (and disciplined) troops to augment the often undependable and unpredictable tribal militias. Senegal has already agreed to send about two thousand troops. The Sudanese forces have been arriving since early October and are apparently already in action. Meanwhile Kuwait and other Gulf oil states are providing the cash to take care of nearly 100,000 Yemeni refugees in northern Somalia (Puntland).

In the last few weeks India and Somalia have agreed to cooperate in dealing with Indian Ocean piracy and are devising ways to implement that cooperation. This comes after a recent EU (European Union) decision to reduce the piracy “high risk” area to exclude the west coast of India. Since 2010 shipping companies have been advised to take additional precautions while moving through the Indian Ocean between India and Africa. Now only the area off Somalia and Kenya are considered at risk. The EU recommendation carries a lot of weight because it influences maritime insurance rates and the legal liability of major shipping companies. Thus is was more expensive to operate in a high risk area and these higher costs were passed on to the customers of the shipping companies (Indian firms and consumers). There has been no known Somali activity off the west coast of India since 2012. There is a lot less piracy off the Somali coast as well, mainly because the international anti-piracy patrol has made it virtually impossible for Somali pirates to seize ships of any value.

November 6, 2015: In the south, near the Kenyan border, peacekeepers caught up with a truckload of al Shabaab men and killed nine of them. The truck was also carrying a small boat the Islamic terrorists were using to get back and forth across the nearby Juba river,

In central Somalia (Galgadud) soldiers raided a house where four Iranian fishermen were being held for ransom. Two of the pirates were arrested. Iran insists that no Iranians were being held by the Somali pirates, perhaps because Iranian fishermen have been illegally fishing off Somalia with greater frequency as the pirate threat diminished. Despite the denials in August one of two Iranian fishing boats captured by pirates on March 26th managed to escape (from the central Somali coast port of Ceel Hur) with its crew of 19. No one was willing to pay the small ransom demanded and the pirates did not have good security on the two boats. Somali pirates seized several Iranian fishing boats earlier in the year.

November 5, 2015: Somalia was declared free of polio. That happens when an areas has been a year or so without a case of polio. There was an outbreak in 2013, the first in Somalia since 2007. Over 200 people, mostly children, were infected and because al Shabaab was on the run it was possible to rapidly inoculate potential victims and prevent the spread of the disease. Polio is a viral disease that can only exist in a human host and if no humans have it the virus dies out in a population. Smallpox was eliminated in the 1970s using this approach but polio has been more difficult to eradicate because a growing number of Moslem clerics came to believe that the vaccination program was actually a Western plot to poison Moslems (despite the fact that many of those being vaccinated were not Moslem).  

November 4, 2015: Kenya and the UN have agreed on a plan to move all the Somali refugees in Kenya back to Somalia. Since 2013 Kenya has been trying to persuade the 500,000 (at least) Somali refugees in the Dadaab to go home as soon as possible. The UN, which runs the camp, says it could take up to ten years to persuade the refugees to leave. Kenya says it has persuaded 45,000 Somalis to return since 2013 and the new agreement has the UN putting more money into Somalia to make it worthwhile for the Somali refugees in Kenya to voluntarily go home. Meanwhile since September Kenya has increased security efforts to find and arrest Islamic terrorists operating in the refugee camps. The Dadaad population is a source of crime and economic disruption in northern Kenya which makes it very unpopular with the locals. Islamic terrorists are known to live there and were often recruited there to begin with. In addition to Dadaab there are also over 500,000 Somalis in Kenya illegally, often using false documents. Since 2011 Somali Islamic terrorists in Kenya have killed over 500 Kenyans. This has led to a great sense of fear and hatred towards Somalis in Kenya.

November 1, 2015: In Mogadishu al Shabaab attacked a heavily guarded hotel popular with foreigners and wealthy Somalis. A pre-dawn suicide car bomb was used against the security force at the front gate followed by al Shabaab gunmen who got inside. There followed several hours of shooting that left 17 dead, including six attackers as well eleven others (security personnel, hotel staff and guests). Several hours after the first suicide car bomb exploded another went off outside the hotel killing several bystanders.

October 27, 2015: UN investigators are pressuring the Kenyan government to do something about Kenyan peacekeepers in the Somali port of Kismayo working with al Shabaab backed sugar smugglers. This provides bribes to some officers and soldiers but is a major source of income (over $100,000 a year) for the Islamic terrorists. The Kenyan government is notoriously corrupt and will often overlook corruption by officers and troops, especially for those serving in combat zones. This is considered a form of “hazardous duty pay.”

October 25, 2015: In the south (Juba) Kenyan peacekeepers attacked an al Shabaab camp, killing fifteen Islamic terrorists and destroyed two boats al Shabaab used to move people and goods across a nearby river into Kenya. This base had been at the center of an al Shabaab operation that smuggled people, weapons, explosives and goods into Kenya.

October 23, 2015: In northern Kenya police issued a public warning that there might be al Shabaab terror attacks over the next few months. This alert was triggered by the discovery of al Shabaab training Kenyan Moslems (usually ethnic Somalis) to be suicide bombers and then sneaking them back into Kenya along with bombs. Some of these smuggling was intercepted and the government ordered more operations against the smuggling on both sides of the border. The peacekeepers on the Somali side of the border are largely Kenyan troops. The government has also distributed posters with the names and pictures of men it believes are involved in this al Shabaab operation.

October 19, 2015: In central Somalia (Hiran) at least ten people died when two clan militias fought over who had the right to collect “taxes” from vehicles on a main road.

 

 

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