Somalia: Warlords Steal Aid Meant For Starving Millions


April 5, 2006: The mini-war between local warlords and supporters of the Islamic Courts movement in and around Mogadishu is typical of the tribal politics that characterize Somali society. The courts are being supported by some clans and sub-clans, while the warlords belong to other clans and sub-clans. Two weeks of fighting has left nearly 400 killed or wounded.

The Islamic Courts are actually a coalition of warlords who have accepted the use of Islamic law to settle disputes and return some sense of order to the country. The warlords are still allowed to run some of their scams, but are obliged to cut back on the more barbaric practices. There are now eleven different Islamic Courts militias, and some are more Islamic than others, but they all pay at least token obedience to the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts.

April 4, 2006: A 160 foot long South Korean fishing boat was seized by pirates about 120 kilometers off the coast. Nearby, a U.S. destroyer and Dutch frigate became aware of this and came to the rescue. But the warships backed off when the pirates threatened to begin murdering the crew.

The UN says Somalia needs at least $326 million in food aid, to deal with the current drought. But few nations want to make donations, because they doubt that the aid can be delivered. Pirates at sea and warlords on land are ready to steal any aid sent to the starving millions of Somalia. No foreign country wants to risk their soldiers to suppress the warlords and pirates.

April 3, 2006: The two self-proclaimed "Republics" of Somaliland and Puntland share an ill-defined border, over which they have engaged in desultory warfare over the past few years. Due to an inter-clan dispute about pasturage, this dispute is again threatening to break out into war.

April 2, 2006: The increased fighting over the last two months has been a bonanza for arms dealers. Shipments are arriving from Ethiopia and Puntland, despite the UN embargo. Even with the new supplies, demand is so great that the price of an AK-47 has doubled, to about $500.

April 1, 2006: Fighting broke out again in Mogadishu, with at least two dead.

March 31, 2006: The Indian Navy may soon initiate "routine" patrols in pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa.

March 29, 2006: The hijacked Indian dhow Bhakti Sagar was released by the Somali "pirates" who had been holding her for several weeks. Once the ship cleared Somali waters, she was boarded by U.S. Navy personnel, who provided medical assistance and some supplies. Apparently the crew was debriefed, but no information has yet been released. There has also been no announcement by any parties as to why the ship was released. As the alleged act of "piracy" was later revealed to be the result of a trade dispute (possibly involving smuggling), it's possible that a substantial ransom was paid by the ship's owners.

Off the coast north of Mogadishu, a fuel tanker was seized by a dozen pirates, and is being held for ransom.




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