Somalia: Ambitious Young Men

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March 4, 2008: Warfare has returned to its clan based form. There is no national police force, so each village or rural district is controlled by whoever the local gunmen will pay attention to. Despite the drought in southern Somalia, money is coming in from outside the country to support relief efforts. This is particularly crucial as many relief agencies are withdrawing from Somalia because of increased banditry and violence directed at relief workers. Some of the money coming from expatriate Somalis, however, supports Islamic radical groups. This became obvious last year, when Islamic Courts Union (ICU) members, and their records, were captured. Names of foreign contributors were found and investigations ensued. In Norway and Sweden, six Somalis were recently arrested for raising money to support Islamic terrorism inside Somalia. The money doesn't go to help the sick or starving, but to buy weapons, fuel and provisions for groups of gunmen. There aren't many such groups, since the ICU was hammered last year by Ethiopian troops. But one ICU group, led by a former ICU security chief, is driving around the south, staging publicity events. Once notable recent event involved driving into the village of Dinsor, south of the Transitional National Government (TNG) in Baidoa. The raiders drove away some TNG soldiers, stayed for a few hours to take pictures, then left as Ethiopian troops approached. The main problem is that the TNG "soldiers" are just clan gunmen pretending to be soldiers. In places like Mogadishu, they set up roadblocks and demand bribes or "gifts" to let people pass. When local radio stations warn people of some of the "soldiers" doing this, the radio stations are raided, looted and shut down. The TNG leadership can't pay many of its troops, and tolerates a certain amount of looting. That's a very Somali way of getting by, especially if you are a bunch of guys with guns. The Ethiopian army is the only trained and disciplined force in the country. The ICU gunmen are not much better than their less religious counterparts. ICU will also rob you, but will do it in the name of God, and thank you for contribution to the cause.

March 3, 2008: A U.S. Navy warship fired at least one Tomahawk cruise missile at a house, believed occupied by al Qaeda members, six kilometers from the Kenyan border, in the town of Dobley. A Tomahawk carries a half ton warhead, which would destroy the kind of brick, walled compounds common in this part of the world. No one is sure how many people died in the explosion, as the compound was not there anymore after the missile hit. U.S. CIA and Special Forces personnel operating out of Djibouti to the north, have been expanding a network of informants in southern Somalia, which is probably how this house near the Kenyan border was selected for the missile hit. There aren't too many effective ICU and al Qaeda leaders in Somali. Kill a dozen or so of them, and things calm down quite a bit. For a while, anyway. Ambitious younger men will eventually fill in. There's no shortage of ambitious young men with guns, and religion, in Somalia.

 

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