Somalia: So Much To Die For

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July 9, 2010: Increased tensions within Islamic terror groups are being fueled by the growing number of foreign terrorists in the country. These are largely experienced Islamic terrorists who have fled defeats in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya and other areas where Islamic radicals are taking a beating. While these guys have some experience, they are also desperate, extreme and not to be messed with. It's these foreigners who are behind the Islamic extremist lifestyle rules that most irritate Somalis. The Somali Islamic radicals feel they have to try and keep up with the foreigners, and that leads to some of the bizarre demands (women can't wear bras, for example). While some intel agencies have a good idea how many of these foreign fanatics are in Somalia, there is no good number available to the general public. Based on reported sightings, there appear to be 500-1000 of these foreigners, and they appear responsible for a disproportionate amount of the fighting and violence. Somalis don't like foreigners in general, and these alien religious fanatics are widely hated. Locals turning on foreign Islamic terrorists has been common in the last decade. It happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this is starting to happen in Somalia as well. But for the moment, the foreigners fight in groups, and are more than a match for the tribal militias they normally encounter.

The fighting is a daily occurrence in Mogadishu, but most of it is wild firing and fewer than a dozen casualties a day. But several days a week, the combat is more intense, and there are twenty or more casualties and ten or more dead. It's low grade stuff, but it's been going on for months.

The Transitional Government (TG) has patched things up with its Sufi (moderate Moslem) militia allies. The Sufis took up arms and organized militias two years ago, when it became clear that al Shabaab was following through on its threat to kill Sufis for their heretical (according to Sunni Moslem extremists) religious ways. The government promised senior government positions and cash for the Sufi militia leaders, and took their time delivering. Government posts are notable mainly for increased opportunities to steal foreign aid. But the Sufis need some of that cash, in order to maintain their armed strength. While many Somalis will fight for free to defend their immediate area, most of the organized gunmen get paid. This is why al Shabaab and other Islamic radical groups are so successful; they get lots of cash from Iran, Islamic charities and other backers, to pay their gunmen. These fighters often have family to feed, and being an Islamic terrorist is, if nothing else, a paid job.

Al Shabaab's continuing effort to conquer Mogadishu is blocked by the Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers, who slaughter the Islamic gunmen whenever there is an encounter. Al Shabaab has tried to use roadside bombs against the peacekeepers, but this has not changed the military balance. Meanwhile, the city has been wrecked, with much of the population fleeing, or being trapped inside their homes. The constant threat of gunfire has halted most commerce, and made it very difficult to get relief aid in. Even the two remaining hospitals are being fired at from time to time.

July 8, 2010: In a refugee settlement south of Mogadishu, Islamic radicals are believed responsible for throwing a grenade into a room full of football (soccer) fans watching the World Cup. Two died, and many more were injured. At least four World Cup viewers have been killed by Islamic militants so far. The militants believe that organized sports are un-Islamic.

July 7, 2010:  Al Shabaab, growing more frustrated at their inability to intimidate or defeat the peacekeeping troops (from Uganda and Burundi), have called on Islamic terrorists everywhere to help out by attacking Ugandan and Burundian diplomats and government officials wherever they may be in the world. Al Shabaab had earlier threatened terror attacks inside Uganda and Burundi, but nothing came of that, and it made al Shabaab look weak. This latest call for help is unlikely to produce any action. The problem is that, against professional soldiers, untrained Somalis are at a big disadvantage. Although Somalis have a reputation for being fierce and resourceful fighters, they are not disciplined, nor do they have a lot of basic combat skills. So the pros usually prevail, especially when they are playing defense, as is the case in Mogadishu.

Al Shabaab organized an anti-UN demonstration in Kismayu, a port town south of Mogadishu. But the Islamic radicals made the mistake of allowing the few reporters in attendance, to speak to the demonstrators, who admitted they had been paid or coerced into participating. The demonstration was prompted by UN plans to increase peacekeeper strength in Somalia from 6,000 to 8,000 troops and, eventually, 20,000.

July 5, 2010: South of Mogadishu, gunmen from al Shabaab fought with rival terror group Hizbul Islam. There were as many as fifty casualties, including at least ten dead. Some al Shabaab factions favor the use of foreign Islamic radicals, while Hizbul Islam and many in al Shabaab (and nearly all Somalis) oppose this.

July 4, 2010: For the first time, Somali pirates seized a merchant ship in the Red Sea. A 13,000 ton chemical tanker was taken just north of the Bab el Mandeb straits that separate Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden. In the last month, there have been at least five serious (speedboats full of gunmen chasing down large ships) hijacking attempts in this area. The anti-piracy patrol is shifting resources to the Red Sea, as the approaching monsoon storms shut down pirate operations in the Indian ocean.

East African states agreed to supply another 2,000 troops for the Somali peacekeeping force. The new troops would arrive within two months.

 

 

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