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Somalia: On The Defensive But Still Fighting
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December 14, 2012: Efforts to build a Somali coast guard, particularly in Puntland, continue without much success. Nearly a decade of effort in this area has failed because of the rampant corruption in Somalia. This results in the coast guard taking bribes from the pirates and sometimes engaging in pirate activities themselves. This leads to the decline and disbanding of the coast guard organization. Corruption in the coast guard is a global problem, as smugglers are often willing to pay large bribes to be ignored. But a recent international survey found Somalia to be one of the three (with Afghanistan and North Korea) most corrupt countries in the world.

Meanwhile, the Somali pirates are having a very bad year. Only five ships were taken so far in 2012. This compares to 25 in 2011, 47 in 2010, and 46 in 2009. The drop in ransom income has devastated the economy along the “pirate coast” of northeast Puntland. Now some nations are calling for outlawing the payment of ransoms to pirates. This would be difficult because the Somali pirates have not hesitated to torture or kill captured seamen when ransom negotiations stalled. In the last four years the Somali pirates have received about $300 million in ransoms. Many of the thousands of eager young men who went north to join the pirates are now seeking other employment, often with bandits or anyone who can supply a weapon and some cash.

While little of the pirate income went to al Shabaab, the Islamic terror group has found its income sharply cut in the last year. They have lost control of several lucrative ports (especially Kismayu) and donations (often extorted) from expatriate Somalis in the West which have been reduced by the successful prosecution of those sending the money to Somalia. Other al Shabaab activists in the West have been jailed, making it difficult to get donations in the first place.

December 13, 2012: Kenyan intelligence officials revealed that they intercepted al Shabaab emails that offered bounties of up to $8,000 (depending on rank) for killing Kenyan soldiers or policemen. This offer was mainly directed at Somali refugees and ethnic Somali Kenyans living in northeast Kenya. It’s believed that these bounties may have been responsible for some of the recent deaths (10 police, four soldiers) in northeast Kenya. While al Shabaab has been greatly reduced in size in the past year, there are still small cells (of up to a dozen or so men) of al Shabaab in northern Kenya and throughout Somalia. Cell phones and email make it possible for these groups to stay in touch and make plans. It also enables the police to find and track them. Al Shabaab is on the defensive but still fighting.

December 11, 2012: Kenyan police stopped a vehicle near the Somali border and arrested six Somalis and accused them of being Islamic terrorists. That’s because of the weapons and ammo found in the vehicle and the attempt by vehicle passengers to escape when police approached. The three grenades found in the vehicle are a favorite terror weapon in Kenya.

December 9, 2012: AU (African Union) peacekeepers conducted a security sweep of the central Somali town of Beledweyne. The objective was to find illegal weapons, known criminals, and suspected al Shabaab members. Somali troops assisted but were kept back from the actual searches because the Somalis are more likely to accept bribes.

AU peacekeepers and Somali troops chased al Shabaab fighters out of the crossroads town of Jowhar (90 kilometers from Mogadishu). Al Shabaab took control of this town three years ago and this was one of the last large towns the Islamic terrorists controlled. Most of the fleeing al Shabaab men appear to be heading for Puntland, where a hilly area there has become something of a sanctuary for displaced Islamic terrorists.

December 7, 2012:  In Nairobi, Kenya a bomb went off outside a mosque in a Somali neighborhood, killing two and wounding 16. Two days earlier another bomb went off in the same neighborhood, wounding eight. No one claimed responsibility for these attacks, which may be retaliation for several recent grenade or gunfire attacks in Kenya by Somalis supporting al Shabaab.

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