Somalia: The Pirates of Puntland


December 11, 2007: A Japanese chemical freighter, seized six weeks ago, is now held by pirates in a village on the coast of Puntland. Offshore are U.S. and German warships. The pirates are demanding a million dollars in ransom, and threatening to start killing some of the 22 crew members if they don't get the cash fast.

December 9, 2007: Government forces were temporarily forced out of the town of Bule Burte, 220 kilometers north of the capital, because of a feud with clan elders over money. This was misreported by some as an attack by Islamic Courts fighters, because some of the clan elders had Islamic conservative supporters.

December 8, 2007: After a week of relative calm, fighting, or at least a lot of firing, broke out in Mogadishu, as Ethiopian troops pulled out of a camp in the southern part of the city. The Ethiopians have chased about half the population of the city from their homes, because of searches for Islamic radicals and their weapons. Clan elders have been negotiating with the Transitional Government to halt the Ethiopian operations. The Islamic Courts fighters can harass the Ethiopians, but cannot stand up to them in a battle. The Ethiopians are better trained, led and armed than the irregular Somali fighters. Moreover, the Ethiopians have shut down movement from neighborhoods that support Islamic radicals, putting a lot of pressure on the families if Islamic Courts supporters.


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