Somalia: Steal Until It Hurts


November 12, 2010: Skirmishing continues in Mogadishu, with both sides halting offensive operations. The Islamic radical groups are still at each other's throats over ideological and religious differences. The Transitional National Government (TNG) members are trying to form a new government, with new arguments over money (access to foreign aid and anything else that can be stolen). Western donors continue to pressure the TNG to clean up their act, without much success.

Aside from being hated by most Somalis, al Shabaab's biggest problem is money, or the lack of it. Many of the 4,000 or so al Shabaab members get paid, mainly to take care of families or other dependents. There are also hefty costs for imported goods, especially weapons and communications equipment. Cash must be found for all this. So it's no surprise that al Qaeda has been moving north, so that they could shake down the pirates. The pirates have fought back. Another source of cash has been contributions from Somalis overseas. This money is often raised without mentioning al Shabaab. But police investigations in the past year or so has revealed many of these operations, and arrests have been made among overseas Somalis. So there's a lot less cash coming in from overseas. The growing money problems has caused morale problems, and the inability to carry out some attacks. So fund raising efforts have been increased. Inside Somalia, al Shabaab steals whatever it can, demanding "taxes" from anyone they can point a gun at. Most of the money obtained comes from businesses (traders in the markets, cell phone service providers, money changers) and foreign aid agencies. In doing this, many enterprises have been put out of business. That means less to steal. Because of paranoia and greed, many foreign aid operations have been shut down. That means less to steal, especially food aid.

The Islamic radicals have an image problem. Their execution of women and children does not go over well, in Somalia or overseas. Their harsh treatment, and frequent expulsion, of foreign aid groups is seen as cruel and self-destructive. With over a million internal refugees, these policies are just getting Somalis killed. But al Shabaab doesn't seem to care, preferring to be "more Islamic than thou".

November 11, 2010: Pirates seized a chemical tanker, and its crew of 31, in the Indian Ocean (1,500 kilometers east of Somalia).

November 6, 2010: Pirates received over $6 million ransom for a South Korean tanker they had held captive for seven months. This is a record ransom, and will encourage even more piracy. But, as before, no major nation is willing to send troops ashore and shut down the pirate bases. This would cause civilian deaths and negative media coverage, which is seen as less tolerable than the growing piracy problems.






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