Somalia: Peace Among Predators

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October 8, 2009: The Transitional Government wants foreign help to defeat the Islamic radical militias. The government believes it is not strong enough to defeat al Shabaab, and other Islamic radical groups, all alone. The radicals are more fanatic, and have suicide bombers and assassins who are not afraid to get killed while attacking government leaders. The clan coalition that comprises the government, feels that its armed followers cannot (or will not) fight it out with the al Shabaab gunmen, or their al Qaeda allies (most of them foreigners). The 5,000 AU peacekeepers will go after al Shabaab, but only in Mogadishu. The government would like more money (for economic reconstruction, and bribing clans and warlords to not assist, or be tolerant towards, al Shabaab) and trainers (to make pro-government fighters more effective, even if they will still not fight al Shabaab.) Potential foreign donors are reluctant to give the Transitional Government cash, because in the past, this has resulted in government officials stealing most of the money. The Transitional Government says that will not happen this time, but few donor government believe this. Even aid in the form of goods (food, medical supplies or weapons) tends to get stolen and sold for cash, which the Transitional Government leaders pocket.

Meanwhile, French soldiers are training 500 Somali soldiers in Djibouti. This will provide the Transitional Government with a battalion of infantry, trained to fight, and better led. Russia  agreed to help out with this training effort, when the French announced that they were spread thin with this training effort.  

October 7, 2009: Hizbul Islam and al Shabaab have agreed to a truce and are working out their differences. The Transitional Government has also tried to make a deal with Hizbul Islam, but so far has not been successful.

October 6, 2009: Islamic radical group Hizbul Islam, after about a week of fighting rival terrorists al Shabaab, has asked for a ceasefire, and discussions on how the two Islamic radical groups can co-exist, and support each other against the Transitional Government and foreigners (like the AU peacekeepers and American commandos.) In the north, five pirates in a speedboat began attacking a French navy support ship (believing it was a merchant ship), which turned on the pirates, chased them down, and arrested them. In Uganda, the Somali Defense Minister (Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad), was released from custody, after being held for a day. The Minister is, like most members of the Somali Transitional Government, also a warlord, who has switched sides many times. When Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad showed up, unannounced, in Uganda to visit some family members, military security officials saw him as suspicious (another Somali gang leader?) and decided to double check. They eventually confirmed Siad's identity and current job, and let him go.

October 5, 2009: Pirates in the north have released a Turkish ship taken last July. A ransom of $1.5 million was paid. A rival pirate group then attacked the now wealthy pirates, and attempted to steal the $1.5 million. This resulted in casualties, but the money did not change hands.

October 4, 2009: Hizbul Islam and al Shabaab gunmen continued fighting each other for control of villages outside the port of Kismayo. Off the coast, a Spanish warship caught up with the hijacked Spanish fishing ship "Alakrana", and arrested two pirates who were headed for shore in a speedboat. A Spanish judge charged the two pirates with terrorism and kidnapping.

October 3, 2009: Fighting in September left over 200 dead and caused nearly 20,000 to flee their homes (over half of the refugees were from Mogadishu). On a positive note, Islamic terrorists in the south released three foreign air workers they had kidnapped in northern Kenya last July. It's unknown if a ransom was paid.

October 2, 2009: After several days of fighting, and several hundred casualties, Islamic radical group Hizbul Islam pulled out of the disputed port of Kismayo, leaving al Shabaab in control. In the north, rival factions in Somaliland have forged an agreement, to end a weeks long standoff that had paralyzed the government.

Some 600 kilometers off the east coast, pirates seized a Spanish tuna fishing ship, the "Alakrana" , and took the crew of 36 prisoner. The ship was among 20 Spanish fishing vessels in the area. The pirates claimed the ship was illegally taking fish that belonged to Somalia.

 

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