Fighting continues in the south, where al Shabaab battles rival Islamic radical militias, as well as more moderate Islamic militias and forces from the Transitional Government. The Islamic radicals are on the defensive. Fighting is concentrated in three towns, and there have been over 600 casualties in the last two weeks. Over 60,000 civilians have fled their homes as well, to get away from the fighting.
In Kenya, police have arrested over 400 Somalis in a largely Somali suburb of Nairobi. Among the illegals rounded up were 16 members of the Somali parliament. There are thousands of Somalis illegally in Kenya, and many of them are simply using Kenya as a rest camp, and a place to safely house wives and children, while the men carry on fighting, or doing business, in Somalia. There are many al Shabaab members, and supporters, in Kenya, and some of both were present in the January 15th demonstration, and subsequent police raids.
In the village of Harardhere, 300 kilometers up the coast from Mogadishu, two rival clans fought over a $5 million cash ransom. Apparently one clan had financed another (which seized the tanker). There is apparently a dispute over how much of the ransom the financiers should receive.
The UN is having a hard time raising money for Somalia. Too many former donors are put off by the rampant corruption and theft in Somalia, and the UN has corruption problems as well. Since the early 1990s, the international community has contributed over $8 billion for Somalia, and accomplished very little that was positive. Italy, however, has offered to run a training program, in Kenya, for Somali counter-terror police and coast guard. Italy risks arming and training guys who will quickly turn into bandits or members of some warlord militia.
The piracy continues unabated, with 4-5 ships attacked each week, and 3-4 captured each month. The pirates are getting rich, and the shipping companies pass on the extra expense to their customers.
January 18, 2010: In Mogadishu, some mortar shells, believed fired at al Shabaab targets, missed and killed at least eleven civilians in a residential neighborhood. Government forces are advancing into neighborhoods long held by al Shabaab, and pushing the Islamic radicals out.
January 17, 2010: In the north, pirates aboard a Greek oil tanker, about to receive a $5 million ransom, called on a nearby Greek warship, for help in keeping speedboats full of gunmen, from a rival gang that sought a cut of the ransom, off the tanker. The Greek warship sent two helicopters that drove off the rival pirates. A civilian helicopter then showed up, dropped the cash ransom on the deck of the tanker (carrying $150 million worth of oil), and the pirates left with their loot the next morning, and the tanker crew got underway and left as well. Apparently an additional $2 million was transferred electronically. When the pirates reached shore (the village of Harardhere), fighting broke out with a rival gang of pirates over the ransom, and at least four people were killed.
January 15, 2010: In Nairobi, Kenya, a demonstration by Somalis, protesting the arrest of an Islamic radical cleric (Sheikh Abdullah al Faisal), turns violent. Police open fire and kill five. Dozens more are wounded. Al Faisal is a Jamaican, who converted to Islam, studied under Islamic radicals in Saudi Arabia, and was sent to Britain in 1992, where he became a popular proponent of religious hatred (of Moslems against non-Moslems). He was convicted of inciting violence and spent four years in jail, before being deported back to Jamaica three years ago. The Moslem community in Jamaica rejected him, and two years ago he went to Africa, where he has been travelling from country to country, preaching of the need for violence against non-Moslems. But as soon as local governments become aware of his presence, he is expelled. Thus he was expelled from Kenya on January 7, but no African country would take him, and he remains in Kenyan custody. His Somali supporters have been demonstrating to get al Faisal released, and the Kenyans are having none of it.
In Puntland, someone attacked three radio stations with grenades, injuring three journalists and one security guard. No one took credit for the attacks, but apparently someone did not like what the stations were saying about them.