Somalia: One Man With A Mortar Makes A Difference

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March 8, 2007: Gun battles in the streets are a daily occurrence, as groups of gunmen face off to decide who will stay, and who will flee. On one side are the police or pro-Transitional Government militiamen , on the other side are pro-Islamic Courts gunmen, or a clan based gang that is defending, or expanding, its turf. A typical incident occurred today, as a convoy of Ugandan peacekeepers drove into Mogadishu from the airport. A group of men opened fire on the convoy, the Ugandans returned fire, and about ten civilians died in the cross fire. The attack took place at a crowded crossroads, a favorite Somali tactic (gunmen hiding amongst civilians). The Ethiopian troops, who are almost entirely gone from Mogadishu, were quick to fire back at their attackers, no matter how many civilians were in the way. As a result, there were fewer attacks on the Ethiopians.

March 7, 2007: About 400 Ugandan peacekeepers have landed, and one of their first tasks will be to track down the guys with the 82mm mortar. This crew fires 5-10 shells a day, at various targets. The mortar is apparently not using a forward observer, because the shells are not landing close to any particular target. The mortar crew appears to be firing "in the general direction" of their target. An 82mm mortar weighs 90-100 pounds, so a vehicle is apparently being used to move it around. It is being moved, because the ten pound shells only travel about four kilometers, and shells have been landing over a wide area in the city. The mortar might even be mounted on the back of a truck.

The U.S. has hired DynCorp, a military contractor, with many former American military personnel on its payroll, to provide logistical support for Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia.

March 6, 2007: In Mogadishu, rival vigilante groups are gunning for each other, causing over a dozen casualties a day. Whichever group wins, basically becomes the power in a neighborhood. Businesses pay tribute, and life goes on until the city or national government bothers to try and impose police on the area. The police usually cut deals with the vigilantes, who have local ties, and are quick to violence. The neighborhoods of clans that supported the Islamic Courts have additional problems, because now some clan members support the Transitional Government, while others want to continue fighting in support of the Islamic Courts.

March 3, 2007: Kenyan border guards are still finding groups of Islamic Courts gunmen trying to enter Kenya, to escape capture by pro-government militias. Apparently, some of the Islamic Courts gunmen want to establish bases in Kenya, and then raid into Somalia. There are not many Islamic Courts gunmen involved here, perhaps a few hundred at most, which will add to the banditry problem that has long troubled the border area.

March 2, 2007: Another six mortar shells were fired, as the first Ugandan peacekeepers checked out where the 1,600 Ugandan peacekeepers would operate from in Mogadishu. Some men in the clans that had supported the Islamic Courts have continued to fight. A mortar and a few dozen men with AK-47s is all it takes to keep the media pot boiling. In response, the pro-government clans have been harassing members of the pro-Islamic Courts clans. That has caused over 20,000 people to flee Mogadishu, because of fear that the violence will get a lot worse.

 

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