Over a hundred Islamic militants are driving around southern Somalia,
raiding towns for loot and headlines. Most towns and villages have a smaller
force of troops or police on duty, so the Islamic raiders can roll in, take
control for a few hours, then flee before they are outnumbered by local gunmen
rushing to the scene. This band of Islamic warriors keeps everyone on their
toes, and provides foreign journalists with a steady supply of stories. Any warlord
with a hundred or so gunmen, a dozen trucks and a willingness to play foreign journalists,
can get into the news. Most strong men prefer to stay in one place and extort
from the locals and use roadblocks to shake down travelers. But the ICU has
sponsored at least one travelling gang of thugs.
in southern Somalia has created nearly two million refugees of the drought or
the clan battles over what few things that are left to steal. Some of these
marauders are doing it under religious supervision, but all are murderous and
out for themselves.
National Government (TNG) has opened negotiations with the Islamic Courts Union
(ICU). The ICU has a base in Eritrea (which seeks to do whatever it can to hurt
traditional enemy Ethiopia). The ICU were one of the few factions in Somalia
that refused to join the TNG. But the ICU were not strong enough to take
control of the entire country (or at least the southern half, the north is
controlled by quasi independent Puntland and Somaliland). This was especially
true once Ethiopia came to the aid of the TNG (mainly because the ICU urged
clan militias to raid into Ethiopia.) The problem is that too many clan leaders
have too high an opinion of themselves, are paranoid, or just plain greedy, and
will not compromise and make a deal. This is changing very slowly.
2008: In Somaliland, three terror bombs have gone off in the last two weeks.
This is blamed on party politics, where the minority parties see violence as
more practical than discussion.
2008: France have a frigate keeping an eye on the seized cruise ship "Le
Ponant", and has flown in a team of commandos to Djibouti, just north of
2008: In Puntland, gunmen tried to rob
two foreign aid workers driving in the countryside. But the police escort
fought back and arrested the four attackers.
2008: Somali pirates seized a small French cruise ship (the 288 foot long "Le
Ponant," described as a yacht, but it has 32 cabins for 64 passengers) in
the Gulf of Aden. This is another use of a larger mother ship, to spot prey and
launch a speedboat full of gunmen. In this case, one or more speedboats and
about ten gunmen scrambled aboard and took the 30 crew (22 of them French) prisoner.
The "Le Ponant" was then directed to the central Somali coastal
village of Garaad. There, the pirates got into a gun battle with local clan
militia. The yacht then moved north to the village of Garacade in Puntland. The
maritime community is demanding that the worlds naval powers do something about
the pirates. Now that the attacks are taking place in the Gulf of Aden, this
could lead to a huge jump in insurance rates for ships headed for the Red Sea
and the Suez Canal. That would motivate nations with navies to consider a
military campaign against the pirates. This would involve land operations, to
destroy the coastal villages that the pirates use as bases. No one wants to get
involved with fighting Somalis on land, because the Somalis are fierce and
persistent fighters. The traditional solution to that, of killing entire
populations until the others calmed down, is no longer possible. The
alternative is unattractive as it takes too long and gets more of the
peacekeeper troops killed.
2008: Two foreign aid workers were kidnapped in the south. There are about 250 foreign
aid workers in Somalia, most of them in the north (Puntland and Somaliland).
Only a third are in the south, and only a dozen or so in Mogadishu, where most
of the fighting is taking place.
2008: Somali pirates seized a Yemeni fishing boat and are holding it for ransom.