A third of the nearly 200 pirate
attacks in the world so far this year have occurred off the Somali coast.
Moreover, nearly all the serious piracy cases (where the ship is hijacked, not
just robbed) have occurred off Somalia. So far this year, 63 ships have been attacked
off the Somali coast. Pirates managed to seize 26 vessels (8 off the east
coast, 18 in the Gulf of Aden). Currently, 12 vessels are held for ransom,
along with some 250 sailors. NATO, the European Union and countries in the
region still have no solution to the piracy. The twenty or so warships off the
Somali coast can make life more difficult for the pirates, but won't stop the
piracy. They might reduce it a bit for a while, but more and more warlords are
setting up piracy operations along the north coast (in Puntland). The money is
too good to ignore, and the foreign warships are unwilling to shoot-on-sight
speedboats (even if weapons are not visible.) While the French have seized and
destroyed two such speedboats, most nations sending warships have given their
captains more restrictive ROE (Rules Of Engagement).
Ethiopian policy of driving away hostile civilians, led to 35,000 people
fleeing Mogadishu last month. These refugees go to camps along the roads
leading to Mogadishu. From there, the members of families belonging to Islamic
or clan militias that want to regain control of Mogadishu, commute to the city
(10-20 kilometers away) to fight. Ethiopia has agreed to withdraw from Somalia,
feeling that they have the rebellion in Ogaden (a province adjacent to Somalia
full of ethnic Somalis) under control, and can come back into Somalia if the
Somalis do not control their Islamic militants (who have been preaching for the
need to take Ogaden from Somalia).
warships have begun patrolling the coast of Somalia, and escorting aid ships
(especially those carrying food) to Mogadishu and other ports. Much of the food
is stolen by warlords once it gets ashore.
2008: In the southern port of Kismayo,
seized by Islamic militants two months ago, a woman was executed by stoning.
She had been raped, but was accused of adultery, for which Sharia (Islamic law)
prescribes stoning to death as punishment.
2008: The Alliance for the Re-liberation
of Somalia (ARS, a successor to the Islamic Courts Union) and the Transitional National
Government (TNG) signed a ceasefire, that calls for the withdrawal of Ethiopian
troops. However, about a third of the gunmen loyal to the ARS, the radical
third, refused to abide by the agreement. These radicals have over a thousand
gunmen available for fighting. This agreement calls for Ethiopia to withdraw from
Mogadishu by November 21st, and be out of the country in four months. The ARS
and TNG signed a ceasefire last June, but that one was wrecked by radical
factions of the ARS. This time, the TNG and ARS are to set up a security force
of 10,000 gunmen, who will fight those who violate the ceasefire.
2008: Another foreign aid worker (employed
by a woman's rights NGO) was killed, making it fifteen so far this year. The
Islamic radical groups are increasingly hostile to foreigners, or Somalis
working for foreign aid organizations. They will tolerate the free food coming
in, as long as the foreign aid workers do not try and stop the Islamic radicals
from controlling who the food goes to.
2008: Gunmen loyal to the Transitional National
Government (TNG) attacked and drove Islamic radical gunmen out of the town of
Bardale, which is 60 kilometers west of the TNG capital at Baidoa. Five people
were killed in this action.
2008: France turned eight pirates over
to the Puntland government, four days after capturing them at sea. The French
sailors burned the pirates two speed boats (the pirates had already tossed
their weapons into the water).
2008: Indian sailors are threatening,
through their union, to refuse to work on ships going near the Somali coast.
Pirates recently seized an Indian dhow (a type of sailing ship used throughout
the Indian ocean for centuries) off the Somali coast. Fortunately, Puntland
police were able to arrest four of the pirates (the other four escaped) and
freed the dhow and its crew of 13. Normally, when the pirates come ashore, they
do so at a heavily guarded village that has been taken over by a warlord. But
smaller groups of pirates are now out there, and these groups are not so
formidable on land.
2008: Two UN aid workers have been
killed in the past two days, and the UN is helpless to do much about it.