Somalia: Poor Little Bad Guys

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August 3, 2011:  Al Shabaab is taking a beating, and most of it is self-inflicted. The more publicized reasons for this include the growing list of lifestyle restrictions imposed on Somalis (what to wear, what to eat, what to do, or not do). This includes no foreign aid, which has caused more people to take up arms against al Shabaab, but simply caused many others to flee (to places where they can get free food). Al Shabaab is also unpopular because more and more of their fighters and leaders are foreigners (al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists seeking a safer place to operate from.) The foreigners have found Somalia to be less useful than they expected. The drought has made it more difficult to operate there, and the growing opposition (from armed Somalis, peacekeepers and Western counter-terror forces) has put the Islamic radicals on the defensive.

The NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) that manage most of the food aid world-wide, are beginning to demand that donor governments either send in troops (very unlikely) or pay Shabaab whatever they demand in order to get some food in (not as unlikely). But al Shabaab is itself split on food aid, with some factions not wanting any of it under any circumstances. Nearly four million Somalis are very short on food, and about half of them are in al Shabaab controlled areas. Food is getting into the famine areas, but is only available at markets (which al Shabaab taxes). The problem is that the famine has destroyed the livelihood (farming or herding) of many, and these people have no money to buy food. Some al Shabaab factions are blaming infidels (non-Moslems for somehow causing the drought), while other factions insist there is no drought and whatever happens is God's will anyway.

Meanwhile, more Somalis are fleeing their homes for Kenya, or TNG (Transitional National Government) controlled (for the most part) Mogadishu. There, some pro-TNG gunmen have been seen robbing refugees, as some al Shabaab members have done on the Kenyan border (sort of an "exit tax"). There are 55 refugee camps around Mogadishu, holding nearly 400,000 people, while the camps in Kenya hold over 400,000. The number of people fleeing to the camps is increasing, going from about 2,000 a day entering Kenya or Mogadishu, to more and more every day. It could soon reach 5,000 a day. In response, aid groups, including a major effort by Gulf Arab nations, are moving more food to Mogadishu.

The battle for Mogadishu continues, but al Shabaab is still losing. The TNG now controls about two-thirds of the city. Al Shabaab says they have recently sent reinforcements (300 gunmen), but the quality and quantity of al Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu has been declining over the last year. The TNG has over 15,000 trained troops, untrained militiamen and AU peacekeepers in the city. Al Shabaab only has a few thousand fighters in the city, and are forced to use more roadside and suicide bombs to have any impact. In direct combat with AU troops, al Shabaab usually loses, badly and quickly. Most of the offensive operations are carried out by the better trained, armed and led AU troops. The Somalis spend more time guarding neighborhoods. This can be dangerous. Al Shabaab likes to snipe at the enemy, or just launch hit and run attacks (roll up on foot or in vehicles, empty your AK-47 magazines and fire some RPGs) then quickly leave.

August 1, 2011: All the major international yachting associations have again issued a joint warning to their members, to stay away from the western Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, the Somali coast and Gulf of Aden. This is an area of some seven million square kilometers (larger than all of West Europe). At any given time, only about 30 warships, and a few aircraft, are patrolling the area. Most of the patrol effort is devoted to the Gulf of Aden. That's because 20 percent of world sea traffic passes through here (most going to or from the Suez Canal), and 95 percent of the sea trade of the EU (European Union.) Because of the heavy military presence in the Gulf of Aden, only about 20 percent of pirate attacks there succeed. Thus more and more pirates are hunting far from Somalia, using stolen fishing and small merchant vessels as mother ships. As a result, the Indian Ocean west of the Indian coast is dangerous.

In Mogadishu, two suicide bombers, disguised as TNG soldiers got into an AU (African Union) base and killed two AU peacekeepers.

July 31, 2011:  In Mogadishu, unidentified gunmen killed a member of the TNG parliament. The killers could have been al Shabaab, but given the corruption within the TNG, it could have been gangsters or business rebels. 

July 27, 2011: The EU (European Union) has extended its TNG training mission in Uganda for a second year. There, 150 EU personnel train 2,000 Somali volunteers a year.

On the Kenyan border, Kenyan policemen were attacked with a roadside bomb, by al Shabaab, leaving one policeman dead and several wounded. Al Shabaab has become more active against Kenyan border guards, largely because al Shabaab wants to maintain a presence (and some control) in the Kenyan refugee camps that hold over 400,000 Somalis.

 

 

 

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