Somalia: Another Ceasefire To Ignore

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October 29,2008:  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).

The 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).

NATO 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.

October 27, 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.

October 26, 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.

October 25, 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.

October 24, 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.

October 23, 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).

October 21, 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.

October 20, 2008: Two UN aid workers have been killed in the past two days, and the UN is helpless to do much about it.

 

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