Somalia: Bluff and Blunder


March 16, 2007: Exaggeration and posturing are a major part of Somali warfare. For example, in the last year, filled with war and revolution, cities lost and taken and invasions and governments overthrown, the death toll is estimated to be about 1,500. Somalis are not good shots, and quick to retreat if it looks like they are going to lose. None of this "fight to the last man" stuff. A lot of the "fighting" in Somalia consists of some guys firing off a few dozen bullets, and RPG or two, then spending the rest of the day bragging about it, and creating a story of fierce, but fictional, combat. In line with this, some 40,000 people have fled Mogadishu in the last month, as the various clan militias increase their sniping at each other. The gunmen often do this from behind crowds of civilians, knowing that return fire is more likely to hit the civilians (out in the open) than the gunmen (inside vehicles or buildings). The bluffing and shooting is not decisive in a military sense, but it does disrupt commercial and domestic life. The Somalis are infamous for this kind of violence, which is often fueled by drugs and alcohol. Thus most business and shopping is best done in the morning, before the young men with guns get high enough to go looking for trouble.

March 15, 2007: The daily mortar attacks continue, with about half a dozen shells a day being fired. Gangs of pro-Islamic Courts gunmen will, every day or so, confront troops at a roadblock. There will be a lot of shooting, not much in the way of casualties, and then either the troops at the roadblock, or (usually) the attackers, will flee. The government says it will end this sort of thing in 30 days. Good luck.

March 12, 2007: The Transitional Government has agreed to move back to Mogadishu, but has not set a date.

March 11, 2007: The government wants the new AU peacekeeping force to disarm the hostile clans that are causing most of the violence in Mogadishu. This will intimidate the clans elsewhere in the country, and make it possible for commerce to revive. About a thousand Ugandan troops have arrived in the city so far.

March 9, 2007: A Russian built Il-76, landing at Mogadishu airport, caught fire shortly after it was on the ground. The rumor quickly spread that it had been hit by ground fire, but the cause was a mechanical failure on the aircraft (which is on loan from Algeria). The airport was closed for a day.


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