Somalia: Al Shabaab Splits Over Foreign Terrorists

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October 7, 2010: Despite the lack of reinforcements, AU (African Union) peacekeepers in Mogadishu have gone on the offensive. The 7,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops, and several thousand Transitional National Government (TNG) troops (trained by European instructors) have pushed al Qaeda out of many Mogadishu neighborhoods in the last week, leaving over a hundred people dead and several hundred more wounded. This has been aided by growing rifts inside al Shabaab. A major al Shabaab leader  in Mogadishu (deputy commander-in-chief, Mukhtar Robow) has split with the terrorist organization and withdrawn his forces from the city. The weakened and disorganized al Shabaab forces are thus having a difficult time resisting the TNG/peacekeeper offensive. Robow's complaint is that foreign terrorists are increasingly taking over al Shabaab, sometimes killing those who object. Currently, six al Qaeda foreigners are members of the ten man Sura Council (the al Shabaab supreme command), versus four Somalis. This situation has already led to constant friction with fellow Islamic radical group Hizbul Islam, which opposes the growing power of the al Qaeda foreigners. The defection of Robow means al Shabaab has lost about a quarter of its gunmen. Al Shabaab is recruiting more teenagers (who are easier to recruit, but aren't as effective in combat) to replace the older, more experienced men. Al Shabaab also has to contend with the fact that most Somalis hate the Islamic radicals, and flee areas ruled by al Shabaab or Hizbul Islam.

EU troops are training another thousand Somali troops in Uganda. This, and the 4,300 Ugandan troops in Somalia, has made Uganda a major ally of Western nations in Somalia. The al Shabaab terror attack in Uganda last July created more popular support for operations in Somalia, but only if the West provides cash, equipment and services (mainly training and logistics). Despite this, there are many Ugandans opposed to growing involvement in Somalia.

Despite al Shabaab spreading its terror attacks into Kenya and Uganda, no other African nations were willing to send troops to expand the peacekeeper force in Somalia. Not happy with this lack of help, Uganda has offered to supply all the additional troops needed to bring the Somali force up to 20,000. Uganda wants the West to supply the money and training help to prepare the additional peacekeepers. Uganda has also asked for Somali airspace to be declared a no-fly zone to halt weapons smuggling and the movement of terrorists. This is unlikely, because it would be expensive to station radar and fighter aircraft in Kenya and Djibouti. Moreover, weapons and terrorists could still move by ship. The inability to control Somalia's 3,000 kilometers  of coast has allowed piracy, as well as weapons smuggling and terrorist movements, to happen. People smuggling, to Yemen, has long been a big business, and currently, over 25,000 Somalis illegally cross to Yemen each year. Yemeni police has caught some Islamic terrorists among those refugees.

Inside Somalia, an informal refugee camp, home for over 400,000 people, has developed west of Mogadishu. Actually, it's a string of encampments. Foreign aid organizations have a hard time getting food and other assistance to these refugees, because al Shabaab and bandits steal so much of the material sent in.  

Kenya is reneging on its deal to try and jail Somali pirates captured off Somalia. So far, 92 captured pirates have been transferred to Kenya, and 35 have been tried. Western nations have provided millions of dollars for this, but apparently Kenya wants more, to build another prison and pay larger bribes to Kenyan politicians and officials. That last bit is never mentioned, but it's of paramount importance inside Kenya. But at the same time, Kenya is ever more dependent on the West for aid against Somali pirates and Islamic terrorists like al Shabaab and al Qaeda. The growing Somali refugee population in Kenya (many of them illegal, and living outside refugee camps) is infiltrated by al Shabaab, which has the money and ideology that is attractive to young Somalis (who are aggressive and prone to violence anyway). The corruption in Kenya makes it easier for al Shabaab to operate there.

Again, security firms are raising the possibility of establishing a Somali coast guard funded by shipping and  insurance companies. But sea going nations won't allow this, because the risk of politically incorrect incidents (pirates being attacked and killed by "mercenaries") occurring, and exploited by the media, is too high. It's politically easier to tolerate the pirates and the costs of ransoms and hijacked ships and crews.

In Somaliland, police have made a series of raids in the past few days and arrested 17 terrorism suspects. Weapons and bomb making equipment were captured. Somaliland officials blamed al Shabaab for recruiting and supporting these terrorists.

 

 

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