Somalia: Islamic Radicals Fighting Each Other

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October 1, 2009:  There is gunfire and mortar shells exploding every day in Mogadishu, between Transitional Government/AU peacekeeper forces, and Islamic radical al Shabaab fighters. Al Shabaab has been unable to dislodge the government or peacekeeper forces, despite the use of suicide bombers and fanatic gunmen.

Over 200 Somalis a day are fleeing into Kenya, to escape a drought that has ruined agriculture and violence that prevents foreign food aid to get through. The Islamic radicals and bandits in southern Somalia have made it increasingly difficult to deliver food relief.

There have been 164 pirate attacks so far this year, nearly all of them off the north coast (the Gulf of Aden). But less than half as many of them succeed compared to last year. In the last two weeks, there have only been six attacks on ships. The warships and patrol aircraft have managed to spot and block many other pirate attacks. While the warships will only disarm pirates in speedboats, they will arrest pirates they catch attacking merchant ships. And the warships will kill pirates, at least enough to let the pirates know they are not dealing with complete wimps. In the last two years, the anti-piracy patrol has disarmed and released 343 pirates, held 212 for prosecution, and killed eleven. In effect, the anti-piracy patrol has caused a stalemate with the pirates. The anti-piracy patrol costs (to the nations contributing the warships) over half a billion dollars a year. The contributing nations see the effort as good training and great publicity for their naval forces. But the current tactics, which avoid going ashore and shutting down bases, means that, as long as the pirates grab a few ships a year, there will always be an incentive to keep trying.

In the north, Puntland is reforming its government administration, with UN help. This includes a computerized financial system (that will better track the use of UN donations, making it possible to encourage more countries to contribute aid, because there is some proof that the aid is not being stolen.) In neighboring Somaliland, the government is deadlocked by tribal politics.

September 29, 2009: Al Shabaab has declared war on its Islamic radical rival Hizbul Islam. Al Shabaab has declared itself an ally of al Qaeda, Hizbul Islam has not. Thus Hizbul Islam is considered "moderate," but they are still very conservative in terms of religion and lifestyle, and hostile to the Transitional Government and foreigners. The declaration of war came when the two radical groups could not agree on how to jointly administer the southern port of Kismayu. Al Shabaab is believed to be larger (with a few thousand members, including hundreds of foreign Islamic terrorists, most of them armed) than Hizbul Islam, but does not have as many local allies. The two Islamic radical groups will either work out a peace deal, after a week or so of violence, or al Shabaab will weaken itself considerably in defeating the smaller Hizbul Islam.

September 28, 2009: Transitional Government have taken control of the border town of Beledweyn. Earlier in the month, local warlord Abdirahman Ibrahim Maow had allied himself with al Shabaab, because of a disagreement with the government (over the use of Ethiopian troops to chase the al Shabaab out). The Ethiopians want to force al Shabaab away from the border, to lessen the risk of another invasion by Islamic radical Somalis.

September 25, 2009:  A small, Somali owned freighter, coming from Dubai with a valuable cargo, was boarded by pirates just outside Mogadishu harbor. The Syrian captain refused orders to turn the freighter away from the harbor, and was shot dead by the pirates. Port police noted the attack and rushed to the freighter, where there was a gun battle with the pirates, who fled. Normally, the pirates stay away from Somali owned freighters, because these are backed by warlords on land, who will hunt down and kill any pirates who mess with warlord owned, or protected, property. But Somalis are known for their boldness and ruthlessness. This group of pirates believed they could grab this freighter, and get away with it.

 

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