Somalia: Radicals Reined In


September 26, 2006: Islamic Courts gunmen continue to confront angry civilians in Kismayo, but so far have managed to keep things from getting out of control. The Transitional Government, meanwhile, is falling apart. Even the warlord who controls Baidoa, the "capital" of the Transitional Government, has threatened to evict the bureaucrats. The problem is that the warlords have earned themselves a bad reputation by not enforcing much discipline on their gunmen. The Islamic Courts, in contrast, impose a sense of law and order, and expect their gunmen to behave. This won't last, because the "traditional" attitudes are the ones expressed by the warlords. But the strict religious discipline of the Islamic Courts pops up every few generations in Somalia, and then fades away with the crumbling discipline. In the meantime, Islamic terrorists are finding a welcome among the more radical factions of the Islamic Courts alliance, and this is getting a lot of attention from counter-terrorism forces in the region. For the moment, the Islamic Courts alliance is united by religion. But personal and clan differences are always there, and will eventually dominate. It's happened many times in Somali history, and this iteration is no different.
September 25, 2006: More Ethiopian troops have moved into Somalia, to help prop up the faltering transitional government.
September 24, 2006: Dozens of truckloads of Islamic Courts gunmen rolled into the port of Kismayo (the third largest city in Somalia). Crowds of civilians confronted the gunmen, to protest the takeover, but were dispersed with gunfire. The Islamic Courts now control all the major ports south of the Puntland and Somaliland.
September 22, 2006: In Mogadishu, the Islamic Courts held their first public execution. A man was shot after being found guilty, in a jury trial, of murdering a businessman. This showed that the Islamic Courts were not being arbitrary, were punishing criminals, and protecting the businessmen who are providing what little economic activity there is in the country. The Islamic Courts have managed to prevent their radical factions from dominating. The radicals are still there, and the Islamic Courts leadership lets the radicals run around harassing people for "unIslamic behavior." But at the same time, the Islamic Courts allows people to pretty much live as they have in the past, and keep their movies theaters, videos and music. Non-radical Islamic Courts gunmen will sometimes have confrontations with Islamic radicals over these things, but in those situations, the radicals will back down. The Islamic Courts don't want to disband the radical gangs, because these guys are also the most fearless and effective fighters. But if an ambitious cleric decides to stir up the radical factions, there could be trouble.




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