Islamic Courts militia continue to push back warlord gunmen in Mogadishu.
In three months of fighting, there have been over 2,000 casualties, including over 400 dead. Over half of those losses occurred in the last three weeks because of the Mogadishu fighting. A coalition of warlords, calling themselves the Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter Terrorism (ARPCT) are losing their war with the Islamic Courts. The reason is simple. The Islamic Courts (actually a coalition of eleven militias led by clerics or religiously inclined clan leaders) are more motivated, and more numerous. The Islamic Courts movement has been around for twelve years, and has grown slowly. The Islamic Courts leaders are still rapacious warlords, but they observe Islamic law (Sharia), well more or less. The bottom line is that life is easier in an area controlled by an Islamic Courts militia. For that reason, the growing number of successful businessmen in Somalia, have hooked up with an Islamic Courts militia for protection (for which they pay). At least with the Islamic Courts, when a businessman pays, he is more likely to get what he paid for. On the down side, the Islamic Courts back Islamic terrorism, al Qaeda and restrictive Islamic customs. There are several known al Qaeda leaders hiding out in Somalia. And there are dozens of foreigners (Arabs and Pakistanis) fighting for the Islamic Courts, and who appear to be there as al Qaeda trainees. The Islamic Courts are another Taliban, although they officially deny it. But many Somalis realize that, if the Islamic Courts take over, and they provide a safe base for al Qaeda, the Americans will return. Somalis know what happened in Afghanistan, and the know what really happened in Mogadishu in 1993 (a few hundred surrounded American Rangers killed over 500 Somali gunmen, wounded many more, while taking fewer than a hundred casualties themselves). While CNN declared this an American defeat, the Somalis know better. They don't want to see American Rangers again. But because Somali politics is based on clan politics, much mutual distrust and a chronic inability to work together, the Somali Taliban, and the American Rangers, may both show up and do what they are meant to do.
May 31, 2006: Islamic Courts militias in Mogadishu resumed their attacks, and seized several more neighborhoods from warlord fighters, who appear to be cowed and demoralized by the better organized, and more enthusiastic Islamic Courts warriors.
May 30, 2006: The Transitional Government admitted that al Qaeda members have been hiding out in Somalia since the mid 1990s, and insisted that the U.S. is at fault for the current fighting. Anti-American NGOs outside Somalia support this sort of thing as well. Actually, it's the Islamic Courts that are doing the attacking, but the Transitional Government wants foreign peacekeepers to come in and impose peace on the country. The Islamic Courts are opposed to the Transitional Government, and want to establish a religious dictatorship. No foreign nations are willing to supply peacekeepers for Somalia, although American Special Forces have been seen occasionally. But those American troops are only collecting information, trying to get a better idea of just how much Islamic terrorist activity there is in Somalia.
May 29, 2006: Islamic Courts gunmen seized the Keysaney hospital in Mogadishu. The hospital, set up by the Red Cross in 1992, and run by the Red Crescent since 1994, is the only major hospital in the area. The neighborhood the hospital is in used to be controlled by a warlord, until the Islamic Courts militia drove the warlord forces out over the weekend. Armed men are supposed to stay away from the hospital, and because the Islamic Courts gunmen are now all over the place, most of the staff and patients have fled.
May 28, 2006: No major battles today in Mogadishu, but Islamic Courts and warlord gunmen were close enough to let off the odd shot at each other. The lull in the fighting allowed civilians in areas thought to be the next battlefields (key crossroads or neighborhoods still held by warlord forces) to flee.
May 27, 2006: Islamic Courts militias in Mogadishu opened fire again with artillery and mortars, followed by the arrival of dozens of gunmen riding pickup trucks with heavy machine-guns mounted in the back (these are commonly called "technicals.") These tactics tend to unnerve the warlord forces, who often flee, giving the Islamic Courts another cross roads or market place to call their own.
May 26, 2006: Despite the UN arms embargo, gunrunners and neighboring nations have been shipping in weapons and other equipment for the militias. There is no shortage of weapons or ammunition. Ethiopia, which has an incentive in keeping the violence down, has supported the Transitional Government, and has shipped weapons and ammo to warlords who comprise the government. Eritrea, which currently has a border dispute with Ethiopia, has responded by shipping equipment to the Islamic Courts. Italy (a former colonial power in Somalia) and Yemen (a long time, thousands of years, trading partner with Somalia) have shipped in trucks and other military equipment. Gunrunners and other smugglers, financed by Islamic conservative charities, have shipped weapons and equipment to the Islamic Courts militias.