Somalia: No Peace, No Justice, No Future

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April 14, 2011: The fighting in Mogadishu continues, and the TNG  (Transitional National Government) believes that the Islamic terror groups will be  completely pushed out within a year. That's another way of saying that the Islamic radical fighters are being pushed back, and are not expected to make a comeback. Maybe. The Islamic radicals are not very popular (because they force people to live a certain, Islamic, way), but neither is the TNG (which is very corrupt and self-serving). However, the TNG troops are receiving professional training, and the AU troops are trained veterans and much more effective that the Islamic radical gunmen.

Fighting outside of Mogadishu, especially along the Kenyan and Ethiopian border, has caused over 30,000 civilians to flee their homes since February. This is the long awaited TNG offensive against Islamic radical groups (largely al Shabaab). The Islamic radicals have been losing ground, particularly along the borders. In Mogadishu, most of the TNG progress has been achieved by AU peacekeepers. The best TNG fighters are outside the city, where key towns on the border are being fought over.

About a thousand Somali pirates are imprisoned worldwide outside of Somalia. Those imprisoned inside Somalia (including Puntland and Somaliland) can easily be released via bribes or threats. Meanwhile, the UN is seeking to set up piracy courts in Somalia, run by the TNG. The biggest problem is the corruption, thus the UN is paying more attention to the Somali statelets of Puntland and Somaliland. Less corruption and more order up there. For those reasons, most of the pirates are operating out of Puntland.

So far this year, pirates have seized 16 ships and 280 crew. Imprisoned pirates almost all plan to go back to being a pirate once they are free. The major risk is from the sea (storms, engine breakdown), not anti-piracy measures. The potential rewards are huge for the pirates. Be part of the gang that takes a large ship, and your share of the ransom will change your life.

The UN is holding another conference in Nairobi, Kenya, to form a new Somali government. There is already a government, of sorts, the TNG. But this group was not invited, as the UN considers the TNG hopelessly corrupt and ineffective. Actually, the UN still supports the TNG, but is seeking more, and better, options.  There aren't many, but the UN keeps looking.

Off the north coast, an Australian warship arrested fifteen pirates, and freed the Yemeni crew of the fishing boat the pirates had taken over to use for attacks on larger ships. The pirates were disarmed and put in their speedboat and told to head for shore.  Australia, like most nations serving in the counter-piracy patrol, practices "catch and release" most of the time. But the warships have become very adept at spotting local fishing ships or coastal freighters that have been seized by pirates and put to use as mother ships. It's the mother ships that enable the pirates to operate everywhere east of Africa, as far as the west coast of India. Because of the need for mother ships, the pirates have become more of a threat to fishermen and small cargo ship crews around the Gulf of Aden. Thus the foreign warships are a welcome sight, but there are not enough of these combat vessels, because the area to be patrolled is vast. As a result, there is a lot less activity by fishing boats and coastal cargo ships.

April 10, 2011: Armed guards on an Iranian tanker, off the Pakistani coast, fired on, and drive off, two speedboats of armed men that were apparently intent on seizing the larger ship.  Armed guards are increasingly popular on the largest, and most valuable, ships.

April 6, 2011: In Puntland, American FBI agents and local police arrested pirate leader Mohammad Shibin, and sent him back to the United States for prosecution. Shibin was the leader of the gang that seized four Americans and their sail boat two months ago. Shibin handled the negotiations, but his men panicked when U.S. warships intercepted them at sea, and killed the four Americans. Most of the pirates were arrested and taken to the United States for prosecution. Shibin was a known pirate leader, and once he was identified as the guy in charge of seizing the Americans, plans were made to arrest him.

 

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