Somalia: You Really Can't Make This Stuff Up


July 22, 2009:  The anti-piracy patrol has had an impact. Successful pirate attacks have declined from about 30 percent late last year, to about ten percent today. Moreover, most of the ships taken are less valuable to the pirates (ocean going fishing ships, private yachts, research vessels and seagoing tugs). Ransoms are lower, and not as much money is being made by the pirates, who have to work harder as well.

Al Shabaab continues to bully Kenya, and moves its people across the border freely. Kenya has moved more troops to the border, which means more firepower at border check points. But the Kenyan troops can be bribed, to let just about anything through.

Continued drought in the country mean that 40 percent of the population require food aid, to prevent starvation. Meanwhile, nearly 40,000 Somalis have officially fled to three UN refugee camps in Kenya. These camps are overcrowded and are being expanded.

July 21, 2009: France announced that it might be forced to use commandos if al Shabaab does not release two French officials recently kidnapped in Mogadishu. The French commandos have, on several occasions in the last year, killed Somali pirates and freed hostages. But Somalis with guns are pretty cocky, and usually have to be killed rather than intimidated. The French commandos have also captured Somali pirates, and put them on trial, and this has annoyed groups like al Shabaab. The French also believe that the two hostages are being held in different locations, to make rescue more difficult.

July 20, 2009: Al Shabaab men raided UN compounds in Wajid and Baidoa, and looted everything portable. Al Shabaab also banned three UN operations (the U.N. Political Office for Somalia, the Development Program, and the Department for Safety and Security) from Somalia, for being an "enemy of Islam."  Officials of these UN operations have criticized al Shabaab, which may have something to do with the looting. The UN supervises the delivery of food aid that keeps over a third of the population from dying of starvation. In effect, al Shabaab is mugging the UN, certain that the foreigners will want to make a deal to keep the food aid coming. And that's exactly what the World Food Program announced shortly after the raids. The UN will bring the three banned groups back in under different names and probably increase extortion payments to al Shabaab. An increasingly large portion of aid for Somalia (most of it contributed by the United States), goes for these extortion (and "security services") payments.

July 19, 2009: The Transitional Government said that it would assist French commandos in any attempt to rescue the two French hostages held by al Shabaab. France is taking the lead in training and equipping a new army for the Transitional Government. This new force is being created in Djibouti, largely with French help.

July 18, 2009: Three foreign aid workers were kidnapped just across the border in Kenya. Al Shabaab said it was not their doing, and that they would find out who took the aid workers. Al Shabaab also threatens to try it's two French captives under Sharia (Islamic) law, but won't say what they will be charged with.

July 17, 2009: Al Shabaab has seized the second French hostage from Hizbul Islam.

July 16, 2009: The two French officials, posing as journalists, staying at a hotel in Mogadishu, favored by foreign journalists, were seized by an Islamic radical faction of the Transitional Government's presidential guard. This faction then sold the two Frenchmen to one of the Islamic radical groups, Hizbul Islam. The larger Islamic radical group, al Shabaab found out about this, and sent a large force of gunmen to grab the Frenchmen. But Hizbul Islam leaders persuaded them to take just one of the Frenchmen. What all these radical groups want is money, as their rapid expansion has caused a cash shortage. While may Islamic radical fighters work for free, those with families often need financial assistance. Moreover, the fighters require food, ammo and other supplies. Kidnapping foreigners has always been a reliable way to raise cash. Kidnapping Somalis has been going on constantly, but it's not news to the outside world, and the ransoms are rarely more than $10,000. Al Shabaab needs a big payday to meet its expenses, and Western hostages often bring a million dollars or more in ransom.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) is recruiting Somalis to go to Djibouti to train as policemen. The AU plans to training 10,000 Somali police and 6,000 paramilitary troops. This recruiting and training will take 6-12 months. For it to work, there must still be some kind of national government, when the training is complete. Otherwise, the AU will have simply created another warring militia. The training program is paid for with $200 million provided by Western nations.

Six days after seizing a small Indian cargo ship, and using it as a mother ship, to stage attacks on larger ships, Somali pirates abandoned the ship and fled back to Somalia. The 14 man Indian crew were unharmed. The pirates fled because an Indian and a French warship had caught up with them, and was threatening to retake the cargo ship by force.




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