Somalia: Let's Make A Deal


March 25, 2009:  Yemeni police found evidence that a recent suicide bomb attack in Yemen (which killed four South Korean tourists) was carried out by a Yemeni who received training in Somalia. Each month, over a thousand Somalis are smuggled across the Gulf of Aden into Somalia, and it's easy enough to get a ride on one of the smuggling boats heading to Somalia. Apparently, Yemeni Islamic terrorist groups have found it convenient to set up bases in Somalia, because Yemeni police have made it  too difficult to do so in Yemen itself.

The UN announced what everyone already knew, that there were two major pirate operations in Somalia. One operats from five fishing villages in the north (Puntland), and parks most of its captured ships off the village of Eyl. The other group operates on the east coast, in the town of Xarardheere. The east coast group also operates in the Gulf of Aden.

Battles between al Shabaab and government gunmen in the south have caused several thousand civilians to flee, and left over a hundred fighters dead or wounded. Most go to other parts of Somalia, but an increasing number are going to Kenya, where a growing number of Somali refugees live in UN administered camps. The UN believes that Somalia has stabilized enough for a peacekeeping force to be useful. The economy is actually growing, thanks in part to about a billion dollars a year sent by expatriate Somalis. The $30-40 million in pirate ransoms is tiny compared to the remittances. There are also many parts of the country that have been relatively peaceful (mainly because local warlords know that peace is more prosperous that constant fighting and banditry).

The Islamic groups that now control the government, don't want peacekeepers, but do want the weapons ban lifted so that it's easier to import guns. The new government would also like to get more weapons donated by foreign nations. This is unlikely, as none of the foreign powers trusts the Somalis. At the same time, the Somalis are very hostile to foreign peacekeepers.

Uganda has sent a third battalion of troops to Mogadishu, and now has about 2,000 there. The Somali government is raising a force of 10,000 fighters to pacify the southern part of the country, and would like the UN, and other foreigners, to help with money and guns. In return, the Islamic clerics who run the government now, will keep al Qaeda out. Osama bin Laden recently released a recorded audio message backing al Shabaab against the more moderate Islamic Courts militias and the Islamic Scholars Association that now control the government (which has U.S. backing, something al Qaeda cannot tolerate.)

March 23, 2009:  Pirates attacked three cargo ships off the north coast, but failed to capture any of them.

March 21, 2009:  Somalis captured an Indian freighter off the north coast, and left the ship eight hours later after robbing the crew of their cell phones and cash, and carrying away things they could transport in small boats.

March 20, 2009:  Al Shabaab beheaded two local leaders in the south, who supported the government and refused to switch sides.

March 19, 2009: Pirates seized a Greek freighter off the north coast. An attack on a Turkish freighter failed, when a warship arrived to chase the pirates away.

March 18, 2009: Off the north coast, some villagers seized an Iranian ship, not for ransom, but because the ship had damaged the fishing nets of local villagers. Meanwhile, in the southern town of Rab Dhure, several dozen died as government militias came to drive out al Shabaab fighters. In Mogadishu, four AU peacekeepers were injured by roadside bombs.

March 17, 2009: Four UN employees were kidnapped, then released several hours later. The kidnappers had a disagreement with the UN over jobs, and this was the traditional way to deal with such disputes.




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