Somalia: Showdown At Afmadow


October 27, 2011: Kenya admitted that its invasion of Somalia was not just in response to recent Somali kidnappings in Kenya. The invasion had been planned for years, but mainly as an option if the Somali violence spilling over into Kenya became intolerable. The recent kidnappings of foreign tourists and growing flood of Somali refugees was the trigger. Kenya plans to establish a buffer zone along the border, protected by clans that will be supplied and subsidized by Kenya. In addition, Kenyan troops will be available to move into the buffer zone if the pro-Kenyan clans come under major attack. The Kenyans know that their invasion risks turning al Shabaab into heroes, at least temporarily, and bringing other clan militias south to fight the Kenyans. So far that is not happening. But if the clans do rise up in support of al Shabaab, the Kenyans would be in big trouble. Meanwhile, al Shabaab is trying to portray itself as the victim, and the defender of Somalia. But for many Somalis, al Shabaab are a bunch of vicious bullies, and deserve some rough treatment.

Kenyan warplanes have been bombing al Shabaab bases (often just compounds or a few buildings in a village) throughout southern Somalia. Kenyan troops are ready to attack the town of Afmadow, which is 140 kilometers northeast of Kismayu. Afmadow is a major transit point for goods going to and from Kismayu. Al Shabaab has controlled Afmadow for two years and is apparently preparing to defend it.

The UN has joined the U.S. and other Western nations in backing an effort to identify and arrest anyone working with or for the Somali pirates. This would mean that the pirates could be arrested, and their assets seized, most anywhere in the world. Except Somalia, for the most part. That's because in Somalia, there is no law at all.

In Mogadishu, Burundian peacekeepers have suffered over a hundred casualties during a week of fighting al Shabaab remnants. These last few Islamic radicals have fought hard.

The president of the TNG (Transitional National Government) backed off his call for Kenyan troops to withdraw, and said Kenya had the right to pursue al Shabaab terrorists into Somalia. But those operations must be done in cooperation with TNG troops. There aren't many of those along the Kenyan border.

October 26, 2011:  Galmudug clan leaders in the northern statelet of Puntland say they have arrested some of those involved in kidnapping two foreign aid workers (an American and a Dane). Unfortunately, it is believed that the two foreigners have been sold to pirates, and that a large ransom will be demanded.

In Kenya, police arrested a man (Mohamed Seif) who confessed to making one of the grenade attacks in Nairobi. He said he was inspired by al Shabaab calls to attacks Kenyans because the Kenyan Army had recently invaded Somalia to attack al Shabaab. Seif also revealed a stockpile of weapons, and insisted that he acted on his own. Police say they are close to arresting the man responsible for the second attack.

October 25, 2011: Outside Mogadishu, bandits kidnapped three foreign aid workers (an American, a Dane and a Somali). The three worked with a landmine clearing effort.

October 24, 2011: In Nairobi, Kenya, two grenade attacks left one person dead and twenty wounded.

In Somalia, the president of the TNG asked Kenya to withdraw its troops. This call upset Western aid donors which believed that the TNG was determined to defeat al Shabaab. But the TNG is also nationalistic, and one thing all Somalis can agree on is the need to keep non-Somali gunmen out of Somalia (and the right of Somali gunmen to invade their neighbors).

October 21, 2011: Warplanes bombed al Shabaab facilities in the port city of Kismayu (located some 500 kilometers south of Mogadishu, and 200 kilometers from the Kenyan border.)




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