Somalia: Radicals Rally Against Al Qaeda


January 12, 2010: Al Shabaab power in the south has collapsed due to a power struggle with rival Islamic radicals Hizbul Islam, and local militias. In particular, the moderate Sufi Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jamaa militias are taking control of towns and setting up their own government. Sufis are believers in a more mystical form of Islam, and are looked down on by many radical Sunni groups. But the Somali Sufis got tired of being harassed by al Shabaab, and have armed and organized themselves for defense over the last year. Meanwhile, the second largest Islamic radical group, Hizbul Islam, has been at war with al Shabaab over al Qaeada. Hizbul Islam, and some al Shabaab factions, want no part of al Qaeda and its war against the world. Hizbul Islam wants to concentrate on Somalia. Meanwhile, in places, like the port city of Kismayo, where al Shabaab is still in charge, they erode that power by inflicting punishments (beatings, floggings, or worse) for lifestyle offenses (not having a beard, dating without a chaperone, etc.) Thus, down south, the fighting in the last week has left dozens dead, and over a hundred wounded. Al Shabaab is now under pressure to withdraw fighters from Mogadishu, in order to hang onto towns to the west and south. But there is disagreement within the al Shabaab high command, where capture of Mogadishu is seen as paramount. But the 4,000 African Union peacekeepers there have been too powerful to defeat or drive out. Thus al Shabaab faces a catastrophe, as it is stretched too thin, and increasingly hammered by a growing number of hostile Somali militias.

Up north, pirates are determined to get better media exposure. So the warlords who operate the pirate groups, have leaned on the Puntland government to harass or jail journalists (Somalis working for foreign news organizations) providing unflattering stories about the pirates, or the local politicians who also prosper from the piracy.

January 10, 2010: In the northern statelet of Somaliland, security forces detected and prevented a suicide bombing and rocket attack on a mosque where clerics preached against such violence.

January 9, 2010: Fighting for the southern town of Dusamareb led to the capture and execution, by a Sufi militia, of one of the al Shabaab leaders (who had made a point of insisting that Sufis were not really Moslems).

January 8, 2010: In Mogadishu, al Shabaab and government forces traded fire (machine-gun and mortars), killing mostly civilians. About two dozen died, and another fifty were wounded. The head of the Transitional Government armed forces escaped a roadside bomb attack, which killed two of his bodyguards.

January 7, 2010:   The Somali clans along the Kenyan border are forming militias to defend the border from al Shabaab attacks. The clans along the border area are also talking about breaking away from Somalia and forming statelets, like Puntland and Somaliland up north. That would be more difficult down south, where the clans have more grudges, and more guns.

January 5, 2010: The UN has halted food shipments to areas controlled by al Shabaab. Theft of the food, and al Shabaab demands for payments (in the form of  "taxes" or "fees"), and restrictions on UN staff, made the feeding of over a million starving Somalis impossible. Much of the food wasn't getting through, and al Shabaab was trying to export more cash than the food program had. Donors have been less generous over the last few years, because of the increasing thefts, and extortion demands of local militias.

January 4, 2010:  On January 1st A Somali migrant, living in Denmark, tried to kill a cartoonist (Kurt Westergaard) who drew illustrations, five years ago, critical of Islamic tolerance of terrorism. The cartoonist had been threatened with death by Islamic radicals ever since, and was often under police guard. The attacker, who had recently returned from Somalia, was found to have received training by Islamic terror groups in Somalia, and was trying to recruit other Somali migrants for violence in Somalia and their host countries.




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