Somalia: Screw You

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September 24, 2009: The recent killing of senior al Shabaab leaders, by U.S. commandos, has unhinged the terrorist leaders in Somalia. The immediate response was a suicide bomb attack on AU (African Union) peacekeepers. This was followed by an open declaration of loyalty to Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda. There was also a repeated call for more volunteers, and cash contributions from Somalis who had gained asylum in the West (North America, Australia and Europe). Dozens of these volunteers are known to have joined al Shabaab, and some had been confirmed dead. One of the recent suicide bomb attackers (on the AU) may have been one of these refugees.  Al Shabaab also made threats to schools that used books supplied by the UN (which are considered un-Islamic). The Somali rebels in Ogaden responded to this by declaring that they had nothing to do with al Qaeda. Kenya sent more troops to the Somali border and braced for more violence by Somalis in northern Kenya.

Somalia continues to be a very difficult place to do good works. Aid groups continue to be under attack by bandits (who steal), Islamic terrorists (who extort and shut down programs they don't like for religious reasons) and warlords (who extort money and a portion of the aid, in return for allowing the aid program to continue.) Over a third of the population is dependent on food aid, but the aid groups have to battle a number of other tribal (clan) warlords and Islamic terrorist groups to get the food in. This is proving to be more and more expensive, as the groups in the way demand higher payments to allow passage. Donors are becoming discouraged with these attitudes, and are refusing to donate food and other aid to Somalia, instead sending that aid to other areas where it is less likely to be stolen, and more likely to be respected and appreciated.

The Somalis are very aggressive, and independent (from outsiders, and each other). Somalis are willing to let other Somalis die, in order to enable their clan, or group (like the Islamic radicals that are now popular) to gain an advantage. This is not a new development. The natural state of Somalia, over the last few centuries, has been violent anarchy. For the last century, however, order was imposed, first by colonial governments, and then by post-colonial dictators. But Somali dictators have been unable to maintain their rule over the entire region known as "Somalia." A government of sorts was always found in some of the coastal towns, which enabled trade with the outside world. But this has been threatened by the recent growth of piracy. Warlords and Islamic radical groups have taken over coastal villages and are running piracy operations from them. This is possible because of the current anarchy. In the past, piracy was suppressed by foreign navies destroying the towns of villages the pirates used as bases. This is no longer politically acceptable, and no one is yet willing to send troops ashore to fight the warlords who created and maintain the pirate operations. The nations with the military forces able to go into Somalia (like the U.S., Britain and France) are well aware of the region's history, and the willingness of the Somalis to just keep fighting. The availability of speedboats, satellite radio and GPS have made it possible to conduct piracy deep into the Straits of Aden (a major choke point for international shipping) and the Indian Ocean to the east. Many nations have sent warships to try and control the pirates at sea, without going ashore. This is expensive, but is believed to be ultimately less expensive than allowing insurance rates and operating costs for merchant shipping in the area to skyrocket. While anti-piracy patrol is making life more difficult for the pirates, it is still worthwhile for the pirates to try and capture ships. The ransoms are huge (over a million dollars a ship) by local standards, and as long as the pirate bases are left alone, the attacks will continue indefinitely.

September 23, 2009: Al Shabaab attacked AU peacekeepers in Mogadishu, leaving twelve attackers and civilians dead.

September 22, 2009:  Al Shabaab attacked an AU peacekeeper base in Mogadishu, leaving eight attackers and civilians dead.

September 17, 2009: Two suicide bombs went off near the main AU base in Somalia, killing 21 and wounding 40. Five of the dead were terrorists. UN vehicle was apparently used for one of the attacks.

 

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