Somalia: Islamic Radicals Reluctantly Retreat

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March 6, 2011:  In Mogadishu, the 8,000 AU (African Union) peacekeepers have pushed back al Shabaab, and seized several compounds the Islamic radicals were using as bases. The peacekeepers have about half their troops in action, and have suffered some 200 casualties in the last two weeks. Al Shabaab suffered over five times as many, including at least 500 dead. The Islamic radicals have been calling in reinforcements since the AU/TNG (Transitional National Government) offensive began in late February, but most of the new gunmen arriving were inexperienced, and took heavy casualties during their first encounters with the AU troops. Total casualties, including civilians, are closer to 2,000 dead and wounded. Al Shabaab is suffering heavy losses as it tries to counterattack and retake lost positions.

The TNG has several thousand pro-government clan militiamen in the city, but the AU troops have done most of the fighting. Although the TNG fighters have received some military training, they are not nearly as effective as the professional soldiers serving in the AU peacekeeping force. The TNG troops, however, have been invaluable in locking down parts of the city controlled by the TNG and protecting the advancing AU troops from surprise attacks.

Al Shabaab has increased its recruiting efforts, not just to replace over a thousand dead and wounded from the two week old TNG offensive, but to replace the growing number of deserters. Al Shabaab has become increasingly unpopular because of its use of terror, and imposition of unpopular lifestyle rules (no drinking, videos, music, dancing or sports). Al Shabaab has also threatened to launch more terror attacks in Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi and Uganda. All four countries provide some kind of support for the TNG and UN relief efforts.

March 5, 2011: On the Kenyan and Ethiopian border, a pro-TNG militia drove al Shabaab out of the town of Belet Hawo, killing or wounding nearly 40 of the Islamic radicals in the process.  In Mogadishu, peacekeepers foiled an al Shabaab suicide car bombing attack.

March 3, 2011: Far off the Somali coast, Somali pirates boarded a Dutch yacht, but were quickly drive off when a nearby escort boat, and its six armed guards, opened fire. The crew on the yacht had already locked themselves into a safe room, but were soon out when the security firm (The Naval Guards Company) men boarded to check for damage (bullet holes) and injuries (none).

March 2, 2011: The TNG has asked the UN to persuade nations with naval forces in the area to blockade the al Shabaab controlled ports of Kismayu, Barawe and Marka. This would keep the rebels from receiving weapons, ammo and other supplies. But it would also force merchants to bring all their goods in through Mogadishu. Currently, Kismayu is the preferred ports, because smaller bribes are demanded there by al Shabaab, than by the pro-TNG militias that control Mogadishu.

The U.S. has announced that it is fed up with the Somali pirates and is looking at new strategies and considering trying something different. The problem is that the only way to stop pirates is by destroying or capturing the ports they operate from. It's been that way for thousands of years, but none of naval powers operating in the area are willing to so. Too messy, too much bad publicity from all the dead civilians. Somali gunmen are enthusiastic users of women and children as human shields, because it works so well against Western troops and their governments.

February 27, 2011: Far off the coast, Somali pirates seized a Danish yacht, and its seven crew and passengers (including three teenagers).

 

 

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