Somalia: Desperate Islamic Radicals


May 28, 2009:  The fighting in Mogadishu this month has killed or wounded a few dozen, to over a hundred, people a day. The radicals (al Shabaab and al Qaeda) are trying to wrest control of the city from the moderates (Islamic Courts) who control the government. Nearly 100,000 civilians have fled the city, mainly because about half the casualties have been civilians. The government is appealing to foreign governments, and the UN, to help with the surge, this year, of nearly 500 foreign Islamic radicals (al Qaeda and others.) There are several radical factions, and they don't get along. This has limited the effectiveness of the radicals, who are spending more time fighting each other, or refusing to cooperate with each other. There is a certain urgency in al Shabaab's attacks, because Western nations have agreed to give the government over $200 million for recruit and train and army and police force. This would make it a lot more difficult for al Shabaab to seize and hold ground. Another problem is that word is getting around that, when al Shabaab take over an area, the radicals try to impose Islamic conservative lifestyle rules. This does not go down well with many Somalis, and is contributing to growing resistance to al Shabaab and other radical groups. Most Somalis adhere to less radical forms of Islam (mainly Sufi). But these mellower Somali Moslems have guns, and are being compelled, by the radicals actions, to fight.

Two years of fighting in Somalia have killed over 18,000 and driven over a million from their homes and into refugee camps. The government accuses Eritrea of aiding al Shabaab, and other radical groups, by supplying weapons and transportation. International pressure on Eritrea is having little effect.

Off the coast, foreign warships continue to play catch (pirates) and release (pirates after seizing their weapons). The anti-piracy patrol is getting some help from clan and religious leaders ashore. The successful pirates are being criticized by their neighbors for spending money on booze and foreign whores. This is considered un-Islamic, and the conservative clan leaders (of clans not in the piracy business) and clergy (few are involved with the pirates) are hostile to all this debauchery. They also criticize the thievery and kidnapping (of ship crews). Some local leaders also fear retaliation by foreign countries. France and the United States has killed pirates, and there is growing fear that the United States will come ashore and go after the pirates, and anyone in the vicinity. Several hundred young men have publically renounced their pirate ways, but that's partly because so many have come north hoping to get a shot at pirate riches. But there were not enough opportunities (speedboats and mother ships) for all the adventurous young men. The pirate operations are becoming more organized and disciplined. These pirate groups are more successful at finding and seizing ships, mainly because they have agents in London and other shipping centers, where information (about ships headed for the Somali coast) can be obtained and passed on to the speedboat crews. So far this year, there have been more attacks since the 111 last year. 

May 25, 2009: Armed Somalis entered a Kenyan refugee camps and kidnapped a cleric who had been outspoken in his criticism of al Shabaab. These kidnappings have occurred several times in the past few years.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close