Somalia: Oppressed Bandits Strike Back

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June 28, 2007: So far this month, about 3,000 people have fled the violence in Mogadishu. That's far less than the 400,000 who fled the major fighting in February-April. Since then, about 120,000 of those refugees have returned. The terror campaign in Mogadishu mainly consists of throwing hand grenades into markets or commercial buildings, or firing a pistol or assault rifle and fleeing. There have been a few roadside bombs. The local terrorists are inspired by what al Qaeda is believed to be doing in Baghdad. But the Somali terrorists don't have access to the large amounts of explosives, weapons, cash and technical expertise available in Iraq. So the terrorism in Mogadishu is much less frequent, and not nearly as deadly. In one respect, the two situations are similar. The Islamic Courts terrorists are receiving support from clans that lost out (on monopolies and criminal activities shut down) when the Transitional Government and Ethiopian troops showed up. It's mainly about money. The government believes that the terrorism can be stopped if the rest of the AU peacekeepers were sent. But the African countries who pledged the additional 6,000 peacekeepers are backing off, claiming that no one (like the United States) has provided money for needed equipment, supplies and transportation. The Somali government has also asked that Western counter-terrorism forces in Djibouti be sent in as well. Some of these troops, or at least small teams of commandos, have been in Somalia, but unofficially and for short periods. The main problem is that Somalia appears as chaotic and hostile as ever, and no one really wants to get involved with this.

June 27, 2007: Islamic Courts death squads have made several attacks on members of the Transitional Government and parliament. Most of these attacks have failed, but indicate an attempt to terrorize government officials into negotiating with the Islamic Courts. So far, this isn't working either.

June 24, 2007: Everyone is unhappy with Kenya, which has closed its border, in response to the fighting in Somalia, since last January. Now UN food aid trucks are being stopped as well. Nearly 300 trucks, carrying 8,500 tons of free food aid, are stuck at the border. This not only upsets the hungry Somalis and relief groups, but also the warlords that maintain over 200 roadblocks throughout southern Somalia. At each of these roadblocks, trucks have to pay a fee to pass. No trucks, no payoffs. The warlords are not happy with this lack of traffic. In some parts of the country, hungry people are storming relief centers. In Mogadishu, this led to security guards firing on the crowds, killing five people. The clans, which often operate like bandits, are fighting each other over dwindling resources.

June 23, 2007: The government declared a nightly curfew for the city. In the last week, at least ten people have been killed in terrorist attacks. This is not a lot by normal Mogadishu standards, but now the attacks are directed at government officials and soldiers, not merchants and shoppers, as is usually the case. Moreover, there's now more foreign media in the city, to record each attack and declare it the harbinger of a major terrorism campaign.

June 22, 2007: In Kismayo, the second largest port in the country, rival clans fought to see who would control the docks area, and collecting fees for ships and trucks using that area. At least fifteen have been killed so far. The port is a major source of revenue for whoever controls it. The two clans are loyal to the government. Technically, many of those fighting at government troops. But, long term, the port revenue is more important. There is similar fighting in Baidoa, and other smaller towns.

 

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