Somalia: Mystery Mercenaries Mass Up North


December 7, 2010: Puntland is building a coast guard to deal with the pirates operating along its coasts. The thousand man force is being paid for by an undisclosed Arab country (probably Saudi Arabia or the UAE) and led by two former U.S. government officials (a war crimes investigator and CIA station chief). Puntland tried this a decade ago, but that force fell apart quickly and some of the men trained to be coast guard went on to become pirates. This time, the former U.S. war crimes expert is advising the Puntland government on how to handle the legal and diplomatic aspects of fighting pirates. The first class of 150 coast guardsmen graduated from the training last month. The force is equipped with infantry weapons, pickup trucks and single engine aircraft for patrolling coastal waters.  The pirates currently hold 23 ships for ransom, along with nearly 600 crew. Some estimate over 30 ships held, but these could be local fishing ships or coastal freighters which may be working with the pirates, not captive.

Kenyan police have arrested 346 foreigners (mostly ethnic Somalis from Ethiopia as well as Somalis) after three policemen were killed in Nairobi in the last week. The murders were apparently carried out by Somalis, who have many Islamic terrorist supporters, and gangsters, among the large Somali population in Kenya (refugees and Kenyans). Al Shabaab continues to recruit among Somali refugees in Kenya, as well as ethnic Somali Kenyans. The prime recruiting prospects are teenage boys.

Another thousand AU peacekeepers have arrived, increasing the force to about 8,200 (four infantry battalions from Burundi and five from Uganda). Fighting in Somalia, mainly in Mogadishu (where most of the armed resistance to Islamic radicals is) has killed over 5,000 people so far this year.

The UN is trying to raise $530 million for relief efforts in Somalia next year. That's about 20 percent less than last year. This is because less food is going into Somalia (partly because Islamic terrorists keep a lot of aid out, and partly because the drought has ended and more food is being grown). But two million people are refugees and very dependent on food aid. Those refugees in areas where Islamic terrorists will not allow aid to enter, are fleeing into Kenya to avoid starvation. Foreign donors are reluctant to provide money for Somalia operations, because so much of it is stolen by Somali gangs or businessmen.

December 5, 2010: Pirates, suspected to be Somalis, seized a Bangladesh ore carrier, and its crew of 25, off the southwest tip of  India. The Indian navy is searching for the ship and Bangladesh has asked India to recover the ship by any means necessary.

December 4, 2010: In the last few days, fighting in Mogadishu caused nearly 500 casualties. Most of the dead and wounded were al Shabaab fighters. Some of the dead were the result of fighting between al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam gunmen. The two Islamic terror groups have been feuding for years, mainly over al Shabaab giving foreign terrorists sanctuary in Somalia, as well as over who should run all Islamic militant operations in Somalia. The two groups are battling in several locations throughout southern Somalia.

November 24, 2010: Six AU peacekeepers were arrested for shooting Somali civilians. The six will be prosecuted, but may be found innocent because it's difficult to prove deliberate targeting of civilians in an environment where civilians are commonly used as human shields by Somali gunmen.




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