Despite the security gains during the last few years, Somalia isn’t safe. It is safer, especially if you are armed or have bodyguards. But if you are unarmed, you are still in danger, especially if you are a foreigner (and seen to have a lot more worth stealing). Too many Somalis are armed and many of those are also deliberately dangerous. It is also dangerous for Somalis, especially if they are journalists or Christians. Al Shabaab gunmen seek out both and often murder them in public. This sort of thing, and the continued presence of some al Shabaab men (and lots more bandits and larceny minded Somali men with guns), is discouraging many of the half million refugees in Kenyan camps from returning home.
The government is pleading with foreign governments (especially Britain and the U.S.) to let up on new banking regulations that cut off cash transfers to Somali money transfer services that will not or cannot comply with new rules meant to halt the use of these firms to move money for terrorists and other criminals. About a quarter of the Somali GDP comes from these transfers from Somalis outside the country.
The piracy problem off Somalia has declined so much in the last two years that in 2012 there was actually more pirate activity off West Africa. Over the last five years Nigeria (and neighboring countries) has seen a steady growth in piracy incidents. Last year ships containing 966 sailors were attacked off West Africa while off Somalia only 851 sailors were threatened. Nigerian pirates rarely try to ransom ships but instead prefer to loot them. This sometimes includes meeting with another (pirate controlled) ship to transfer cargo (bulk or oil) at sea. That sort of thing rarely happens off Somalia.
The fighting in Jubaland continues, with a lot of gunfire and few casualties. It is mainly about who will control the port of Kismayo, which is the second largest in Somalia and a cash cow for whoever controls it. Local clans cannot agree on who will get what and that has turned Kismayo into an occasional battleground.
June 23, 2013: The Somali government warned foreign fishing boats that if they don’t apply for, and pay for, fishing permits, their boats will be subject to seizure in Somali waters and the crews will be arrested until fines are paid. The government has been trying to create a new coast guard for work like this. Foreigners fear that the new permit system will turn into another extortion scam.
June 22, 2013: In the south (Lower Juba) a new peacekeeper base (manned by Sierra Leone troops) was attacked with RPGs and gunfire. There were no casualties and Al Shabaab took responsibility.
June 21, 2013: Two al Shabaab factions are fighting each other in central Somalia (near the town of Hudur, capital of the Bakool region). Al Shabbab has controlled Hudur on and off for over five years. A local militia was supposed to provide security but these fellows are often intimidated when large groups of heavily armed al Shabaab men roll into town. The government has been working with the militia to improve their effectiveness. Meanwhile, the local al Shabaab forces have been taking a beating and now different factions are fighting each other.
In northern Kenya two Somali clans have been fighting in and around a refugee camp for the last few days. This has left at least 16 dead and two dozen wounded. The fighting was apparently over several issues that have caused retaliatory attacks and growing violence between the Garre and Degodia clans over the last few months.
June 20, 2013: In northern Kenya police seized a truck seeking to enter Somalia while carrying 27 tons of chemicals, some of them used in making explosives for terrorists. The shipment had recently arrived in the Kenyan port of Mombasa and may have been legitimate. Police are still investigating.
In Brava (220 kilometers down the coast from Mogadishu) at least six al Shabaab men died, as two Islamic terrorist factions fought each other outside the town. Over the last two years al Shabaab has lost control of nearly all towns they once occupied and lived off, forcing the remaining Islamic terrorists out into the countryside where there is much less to steal.
June 19, 2013: In Mogadishu al Shabaab gunmen attacked a UN compound, leaving 14 dead and dozens wounded.
June 17, 2013: In the Kenyan port city of Mombasa police raided a house believed to be occupied by Islamic terrorists. Two men found there fired at the cops and were killed during a brief gun battle. The two dead men were believed to be members of al Shabaab and responsible for some recent terrorist activity in the area.
June 15, 2013: In Wanlaweyn (90 kilometers inland from Mogadishu) seven were killed and 12 wounded when a bomb went off in a tea shop popular with soldiers. Most of the casualties were civilians.
June 14, 2013: In the southern port city of Kismayo, at least ten people have died from clan violence over the last few days.