The pirates operating off the
north coast of Somalia are currently holding eleven ships and 200 sailors. Pirates
are demanding a million dollars or more per ship from the owners. This has
pushed up insurance rates to over $10,000 per ship moving through the Gulf of
Aden (going to or coming from the Suez canal). Some 60 ships have been attacked
off Aden this year, with pirates using two or three large fishing ships as
"mother ships" to get pirates and their speed boats several hundred kilometers
off the north Somali coast, in the middle of the Gulf of Aden, where most of
the ship traffic is. More nations are sending aircraft and warships to patrol the
Gulf of Aden. But none of these nations are willing to go ashore to destroy
pirate bases, and some are restricting the use of force (against the pirates)
by their warships.
The clan and
warlord violence has left about 900 dead in the last three months. Some of the
gangs are united by religion, but all are out to make money. Everyone has to
live, and dozens of separate clan or warlord gangs use their guns to get
whatever they can. The chaos has left a third of the population (nearly four
million people) in danger of starvation. Yet the foreign aid groups that are
trying to supply food, provide the best targets for attacks from armed gangs.
Mogadishu, clans battling for control of the city, have turned their attacks on
African Union peacekeepers. The attacking clans used to control the city, but
lost out because they were allied with the Islamic Courts. These Islamic
radicals tried to invade Ethiopia, which triggered an invasion by Ethiopian
troops, who now help garrison Mogadishu, and support the new clan militias which
have taken control of the city. But the clans that were forced out, keep
attacking, and using refugee camps outside the cities as bases. Most of the
attacks only hurt civilians, because the weapon of choice is mortars, roadside
bombs or random rifle fire. The Islamic gangs cannot win in a direct battle with
the Ethiopians, so they are trying to create more chaos to force the Ethiopians
17, 2008: Commercial aircraft have
stopped using the Mogadishu airport, after threats of attacks by Islamic
groups. But peacekeeper flights continue to come in.
15, 2008: Islamic Courts gangs have
threatened to shut down the airport in Mogadishu. They can do this by firing on
aircraft landing or taking off from the airport, which is by the seashore. Two
Ugandan peacekeepers have been killed by roadside bombs in the past two days.
The peacekeepers spend most of their time guarding their base and the airport,
along with the roads that connect the two.
commandos freed two French citizens in the north, who had their sailing ship
seized by pirates on the 2nd.
14, 2008: Several hundred Ethiopian
troops withdrew from the central Somali city of Beledweyn, and Islamic Courts
gunmen moved in later. Gangs of Islamic Courts gunmen have been raiding
throughout southern Somalia for the last few months.
kidnapped two more aid workers (for the UN World Food Program). The two Somalis
are apparently being held for ransom, as bandits know that the food aid groups