Somalia: Try a Little Intimidation


July 5, 2006: The Islamic Courts claim that they control the entire country (except Puntland and Somaliland in the north, which have seceded). In reality, the Islamic Courts only control portions of the country, most notably the traditional capital, Mogadishu. Clan and warlord militias still hold sway in most of the country. The Islamic Courts have a tiny "army" of a few hundred aggressive and well armed gunmen (and several thousand less able armed men). But these guys are not supermen, and the Islamic Courts does not want to see them wiped out, or worn down, by constant battles. So the Islamic Courts are using their newfound reputation as bad-ass brawlers, to convince more tribes and warlords to acknowledge the Islamic Courts as top dog. Negotiations are not going well, because many of the clans and warlords see the possibility of the Ethiopians or the United States taking on the Islamic Courts.

July 4, 2006: The emergence of the Islamic Courts has not interfered with the pirates operating along the coast. Several ships, and their crews, are still being held for ransom, and pirate boats can still be seen moving along the coast.

July 3, 2006: UN officials are negotiating with the Islamic Courts to arrange increased security for UN aid operations, and an increase in aid. In the past, warlords plundered much of the UN aid.

July 1, 2006: About a hundred Ethiopian troops crossed the border, although the Ethiopian government later denied this. Most of the border is unmarked, and Ethiopian troops, and Somali herders, wander back and forth across it without caring much about causing an international incident. The Ethiopians are intent on keeping Somali raiders out of Ethiopia, and patrol the border aggressively to make that happen. The Somali Transitional Government has called for military aid from Ethiopia, but has not received an official answer.

June 30, 2006: The U.S. believes that the Islamic Courts are receiving money from Islamic charities in Saudi Arabia, and similar groups in Yemen. Eritrea has allowed shipments of guns to enter Somalia, despite the UN arms embargo, for the Islamic Courts. Eritrea is doing this to weaken its enemy Ethiopia, which has a long standing border dispute with Somalia.

Osama Bin Laden released another audio tape, in which he called for Islamic radicals to go to Somalia to help establish an Islamic state there. The Islamic Courts promptly denounced this and warned foreign Islamic radicals to stay away.

June 29, 2006: Outside Mogadishu, Islamic Courts gunmen continued to battle warlord and clan militias, for control of lucrative checkpoints (which extort a "tax" from passing traffic.) Several days of skirmishing have left five dead and over a dozen wounded.

June 28, 2006: The Islamic Courts are willing to negotiate with Ethiopia over ownership of the disputed Ogaden region of southeastern Ethiopia (which has a Somali population, and many Somalis believe it should belong to Somalia).


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