Somalia: Khat Fight


November20, 2006: Islamic Courts say their gunmen ambushed an Ethiopian convoy, destroying several trucks and armored vehicles, and killing at least six Ethiopians. Apparently, the Islamic Courts men used anti-vehicle mines to stop the convoy, then attacked with assault rifles. The ambush took place near Baidoa, the last stronghold of the Transitional Government which, while democratic, is not very effective or Islamic. Thousands of Ethiopian troops are in Somalia, trying to prop up the Transitional Government, and keep the Islamic Courts from expanding into Ethiopia. The Ethiopian province of Ogaden, right next to Somalia, is populated mostly by ethnic Somalis, and about half the population of Ethiopia is Moslem (who are often in rebellion against the Christians, who have dominated the region for over a thousand years.)

Uganda, Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia are all looking for ways to shut down the Islamic Courts. None of these countries wants an Islamic terrorist base in their backyard. Eritrea is supporting the Islamic Courts because of a border dispute with Ethiopia. Other Arab countries are supporting the Islamic Courts for religious and emotional reasons. The United States has a large counter-terrorism force just north of Somalia, in Djibouti. These forces have not been heard from yet, although U.S. operators have been inside Somalia collecting information, or running Somali agents to do it for them. Many known al Qaeda personalities have been spotted inside Somalia, hanging with the Islamic Courts. Presumably, once a solid enough case has been built, to prove that the Islamic Courts is providing a new base for al Qaeda, the American hammer will fall. Just how this will play out is either secret, or undecided.

November 17, 2006: The Islamic Courts imposed an official ban on the possessing, selling or using Khat, and threw in a night time curfew in Mogadishu for good measure. The Islamic Courts have also banned smoking tobacco, watching films or videos, and live music. This has made the Islamic Courts unpopular, but since the Islamic Courts are on a mission from God, popularity is not an issue.

November 16, 2006: Kenya has halted flights carrying the narcotic leaf Khat, into Mogadishu. This has cut off the supply of Khat, and left thousands of addicts very unhappy. Khat gives you more of a buzz than caffeine or nicotine, but less than stronger drugs. For the last 16 years, Khat chewing has made militiamen more surly and trigger happy than they would normally be. That's all over now, and a demonstration by unhappy Khat users led to one of them getting shot dead by Islamic gunmen. Khat is grown in Kenya, and about fifteen light aircraft delivered it to Mogadishu each day. Khat must be relatively fresh, or else it losses its effect. So other forms of smuggling will not be very effective, because they take too much time.




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