Somalia: Barbarians And Backlash

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August 20, 2009: Al Shabaab, in a process seen elsewhere in the Moslem world, have made themselves even more unpopular by trying to impose strict lifestyle rules. This includes burqas for women (which are unknown in Somalia), no bras (which even the strict Saudis allow) plus the usual bans on music, video, and clean shaven men. Al Shabaab gunmen beat, fine, or even kill those who do not comply.

Kenyan police are seeking nine Somali al Shabaab members who are using a humanitarian NGO they established in Kenya, as a cover for an organization to recruit young Kenyan Somalis for non-existent jobs distributing relief supplies in Somalia. The young (mostly teenagers) men are kept captive once in Somalia and indoctrinated to become gunmen or suicide bombers.

Al Shabaab is having a hard time recruiting Somalis for its fighting forces. This is because al Shabaab, and other al Qaeda influenced militias, are seen as puppets for foreign Islamic radicals. This is partly because of all the foreign ideas al Shabaab spouts, and partly because of the hundreds of foreign fighters al Shabaab uses to keep their Somali gunmen in line, and to impose the more brutal punishments on Somalis who give al Shabaab a hard time.

Al Shabaab is particularly unpopular because of the radical groups hostility towards foreign aid operations. This NGO effort, led by the UN (and largely paid for by the United States) keeps about 40 percent of the population from starving, and provides the only medical care available to over half the population. Al Shabaab has stirred up a hornet's nest with all this nasty behavior against aid workers, and many clan militias are being organized to oppose them. The Transitional Government offers ammunition (always in short supply) and some weapons (not in such short supply) to these militias, after they have shown a willingness to go after al Shabaab, and other Islamic radical groups (which occasionally fight each other, as not all agree on the hostile policy towards foreign aid groups.)

August 19, 2009: Pro-government forces captured the town of Luuq, 500 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu. The town is on the Ethiopian border and was held by al Shabaab fighters.

August 17, 2009: Pro-government forces captured the town of Bulo Hawa, 520 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu. The town is on the Ethiopian border and had been held by al Shabaab fighters.

August 16, 2009: For the fourth time in two months, armed men attacked a UN compound in southern Somalia, seeking to loot the office equipment, vehicles and aid (medical and food) stored there. This time, the Somali security guards were able to defeat the ten attackers, killing three of them. While al Shabaab is hostile to the foreign aid (it's non-Islamic when coming from infidels), it has not led the attacks, but has let it be known that it would not go after the attackers. There are plenty of bandits and warlords in the country that would like to plunder an NGO compound. Somalia is the most dangerous place, in the world, for foreign aid groups. In the last two years, about fifty foreign aid workers have been killed in Somalia, and hundreds more injured, robbed or kidnapped.

August 15, 2009: Ethiopian troops have closed the border with Somalia, and are setting up more border checkpoints, apparently with the intention of regulating, more intensely,  traffic in and out of the Ogaden (an Ethiopian province with a largely Somali population.)

August 14, 2009: In Puntland, officials are trying to find out who was responsible for the murder of seven Pakistani imams. The religious missionaries were from a non-radical sect (the Tabliqi), and it's unclear who was behind the killings, or why they were carried out.

August 13, 2009: Off the coast of Puntland, 34 Egyptian fishermen, in two boats held hostage since April, fought their captors, killing seven of them, and escaped. The Egyptian effort was led by the owner of one of the boats, who came by with $200,000 in cash, as a down payment on the ransom demanded by the pirates. This was a ruse to get on his boat with his Somali bodyguards. The ship owner, Hassan Khalil, then led his Somali gunmen and the fishermen (who were in on the scheme) in attacking the pirates on board the two fishing ships (which were anchored near each other). With the pirates dead or fleeing (except for eight taken  prisoner, and held for prosecution in Egypt), the Egyptian boats fired up their engines and headed for the Red Sea and home. The crews turned down an Egyptian government offer to fly them home from Yemen. The pirates were demanding $1.5 million ransom for the two boats, but the owners would only pay $200,000.

Djibouti, Somalia's neighbor to the north, has offered to send troops to join the AU (African Union) peacekeepers in Mogadishu. Details (like how many troops and how much money Western nations will pay to equip, maintain and transport the troops) are being negotiated.

 

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