Somalia: Kenya Closes In On Fortified Cities

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November 4, 2011: Kenyan forces are preparing to attack Kismayu, and al Shabaab has responded by preventing civilians from fleeing, forcing them to help dig trenches and prepare buildings for defense. Some civilians have been armed, and told to fight back when the Kenyans attack, or be killed by al Shabaab. Kismayu is considered a key economic asset for al Shabaab, which collects fees from merchants bringing goods in via the seaport, or the airport outside town. Kismayu is believed to bring in over $4 million a month to al Shabaab. Kenya has also warned people to stay away from nine other towns in southern Somalia, where al Shabaab is known to operate. All of these places will be bombed, and eventually attacked by Kenyan ground forces. Al Shabaab is forcing civilians to stay in some of these towns, and using them as human shields against Kenyan bombing attacks.

Al Shabaab has been retreating from the advancing Kenyan troops. In the few clashes that have taken place, the Islamic terrorists have gotten the worst of it. In response, al Shabaab has increased its media activity, claiming that Kenyan bombing raids are killing civilians and that Kenya is suffering high casualties during battles with al Shabaab. There is more proof for Kenyan claims, but al Shabaab is more skilled at playing the media.

The TNG (Transitional National Government) has responded to accusations of corruption in food distribution by firing one official and suspending another. This came after foreign aid agencies provided proof that food aid was being stolen and that these two guys, among others, were organizing the thefts. After years of pleading, more Moslem nations are sending aid personnel, and these have an easier time dealing with al Shabaab. But any aid worker, no matter what their religion, is at risk from the bandits and warlords who swarm the countryside. Al Shabaab "control" extends a hundred meters or so from wherever a group of their gunmen are. There is no government in Somalia, there is no law.

The UN call for more peacekeepers has been answered. Djibouti will send a battalion (850 troops) later this month and Sierra Leone will send a battalion in 7-9 months. The AU (African Union) peacekeeper force in Mogadishu has 9,000 troops, and the UN and AU are trying to increase that to 12,000. The AU believes 20,000 troops are needed to deal with unrest throughout the country.

Kenya claims that al Shabaab has received three arms shipments, flown in from Eritrea, in the last week. Eritrea denies this. But al Shabaab power is largely because of their control of Kismayu (a port 500 kilometers south of Mogadishu) which get sea and air shipments of weapons from Eritrea. Attempts to stop Eritrea (which denies everything) have failed, and the weapons keep coming. Eritrea supports al Shabaab because the Islamic terror group is seeking to invade Ethiopia (the major foe of Eritrea.)

Kenya also wants to establish a naval blockade of Kismayu, but the United States refuses to help out. The U.S. wants the approval of the AU and UN before helping with a blockade (which is, technically, an act of war.) Kenya has already warned everyone not to fly over the battle area (especially Kismayu). This is an effort to halt arms shipments to al Shabaab, via the airport outside Kismayu.

November 3, 2011: Pirates in northern Somalia (Puntland) released an Algerian ship they had held for ten months. They now hold 15 ships, one as long as 19 months.

November 2, 2011:  A Kenyan warship caught a boat carrying 18 al Shabaab and a shipment of fuel, destroyed it and killed all on board.

The AU is sending some peacekeepers to Galkayo, a town northwest of Mogadishu that is under increasing pressure from al Shabaab.

October 31, 2011:  A Greek chemical tanker was taken by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. At the same time, Britain announced that it would allow its merchant ships to carry armed guards.

October 29, 2011: In Mogadishu, al Shabaab attacked an AU base using two suicide bombers and several other al Shabaab gunmen dressed as TNG soldiers. The attack failed, after a two hour gun battle, and al Shabaab claimed one of the bombers was a Somali-American.

The head of the Kenyan armed forces announced that Kenyan troops would remain in Somalia until armed groups there were no longer able to threaten neighboring nations (particularly Kenya, and especially if the threat is al Shabaab).

October 28, 2011:  In northern Somalia, a pirate gang said they had kidnapped three deminers (two foreigners and a Somali) and demanded a ransom.  

The U.S. confirmed that it was operating armed UAVs out of an Ethiopian airbase. These UAVs are seen regularly over Somalia, and the Kenyan army is believed to be receiving intelligence on al Shabaab because of these UAV flights.

 

 

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