Somalia: Death And Disappointment From The Sea

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September 17, 2009: The Somali pirates are having a harder time because of the 25-30 foreign warships patrolling their coast. The warships interfere with attacks, and have arrested 110 pirates and jailed them in Kenya (where lawyers, diplomats and judges argue over how to prosecute them). There are now about as many merchant sailors held by the pirates in northern Somalia, on four ships. In the last two months, only one ship has been taken, although 13 were attacked. So far this year, 28 ships have been taken. But the warships have adapted faster than the pirates. The warships aggressively go after any speedboats with armed men in them. These are increasingly halted, disarmed and, if any of the men had fired on a warship, all the pirates are arrested and shipped off to jail in Kenya. It's become harder to be a pirate.

The two statelets that comprise northern Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland, have been coming apart over the last two years. Both are squabbling, and sometimes shooting, over possession of the Sool region, that lies astride their border. Both sides claim it, and both are willing to fight for it. The dispute has been going on since Puntland was formed in 1998, and declared they controlled the Sool because the inhabitants belonged to a Puntland tribe. Somaliland based their claim on borders drawn by the colonial governments of Italy and Britain a century ago. Years of negotiations have not settled anything. Meanwhile, both statelets have been coming apart because of internal problems. Despite that, northern Somalia has been better governed since breaking away from Somalia in the 1990 to form Puntland (2.5 million people) and Somaliland (3.5 million). The other two-thirds of the Somali population to the south, has been in perpetual chaos since 1990. But now, the tribal (clan) agreements that brought peace, and created the two governments, have unraveled. Somaliland is sliding towards civil war, while Puntland has been split between those who back (and profit from) the pirates, and those that don't. The result is no power that can stop the pirates.

British officials believe that up to a hundred British Moslems (nearly all young men, not all of Somali ancestry) have travelled to Somalia in the past year. There, the travelers often receive terrorist training, and some have returned to Britain. Al Shabaab is also recruiting among Moslems in northern Kenya. Only ten percent of Kenyans are Moslem, and most of these are ethnic Somalis and Arabs living in the north and along the coast. There has always been tension between the majority of Kenyans, who are black Africans and non-Moslem, and the Moslem minorities. The growth of terrorism among young Moslems in Kenya has exacerbated these tensions.

The September 14th U.S. commando operation that killed five al Qaeda terrorists in southern Somalia, required pretty precise intelligence to carry off. It's known that al Shabaab is increasingly unpopular in southern Somalia, where the group has imposed a strict form of Islamic law (Sharia). Apparently, the Americans have plugged into that unrest, to obtain precise information about terrorist movements.

Ethiopian troops continue to take control of Somali villages just across the border. This is part of an operation to keep militant Somalis away from the four million ethnic Somali Ethiopians living in Ogaden province, just across the border. Somalia has long claimed Ogaden, but Ethiopia has been strong enough, and tough enough, to hang on to the place. The Ethiopians have more incentive now that oil has been discovered in Ogaden. The Ethiopians have let the people in Ogaden, and Somalia, know that any attempt to grab Ogaden, or disrupt oil operations, will be met with much violence. While the Somalis have a reputation for being fierce fighters, the Ethiopians have proved their equals over the centuries. But when the two fight, it tends to get nasty.

September 16, 2009:  Al Shabaab, on their web site, confirmed that terrorist leader, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, had been killed in an American raid on the 14th. The attack took place along the coast, about 200 kilometers south of Mogadishu. The terrorist group vowed revenge. Nabhan was wanted for organizing a 2002 bombing of a Kenyan hotel (that killed 15), and attempt to shoot down an airliner, as well as some earlier attacks. Nabhan is one of five al Qaeda leaders known to be hiding out in Somalia, and was in charge of training foreign recruits and integrating them into al Shabaab combat or terrorist units. This includes suicide bombing operations.

The death of Nabhan, coupled with the yearlong campaign to kill al Qaeda leaders via UAV missile attacks in Pakistan, has al Qaeda leaders very upset. It's not just the deaths, as these guys know they are in a dangerous business, but how the Americans are finding out the details of terrorists movements. The U.S. won't say, for obvious reasons, how they are getting the information. It's a combination of electronic eavesdropping and local informants. That's because, even when al Qaeda leaders stop using cell phones, the American missiles or commandos still find them. There must be spies, and it's believed that hundreds of innocent Pakistanis, Afghans and Somalis have been murdered because it was suspected that they were spying for the Americans.

September 14, 2009: U.S. commandos (Navy SEALs in two U.S. Army helicopters flying from U.S. warships offshore) attacked a vehicle containing the leader of al Shabaab, killing him and five of his followers. The helicopters landed and the SEALs took bodies and other items from the shot up car, and then returned to the warship.

September 12, 2009: In Somaliland, three people died when political demonstrators clashed with police.

September 11, 2009: In Mogadishu, al Shabaab mortar shells fired at the port area, hit a hospital for disabled veterans of the 1977 war, killing nine and injuring 19. The victims are generally regarded as national heroes, and the Islamic radicals refused to comment to the media on the incident.

 

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