Somalia: A Bad Year For Pirates


January 17, 2012: After three months in Somalia, Kenya claims to have killed 700 al Shabaab fighters, while only losing 12 troops (five to a helicopter accident). While some doubt the Kenyan claims, the evidence seems to reveal a much weaker al Shabaab along the Kenyan border. There was no major al Shabaab counter-attack against the few thousand Kenyan troops that moved into Somalia 93 days ago.  Even guerilla type resistance has been weak and ineffective. It's not just the Kenyans who are hammering al Shabaab. There was also a major AU peacekeeper operation last year that chased al Shabaab out of Mogadishu and a recent move by Ethiopian troops into central Somalia, an operation that pushed al Shabaab out of a key town. At the same time, al Shabaab is much hated by most Somalis and split by feuds between several factions. Al Shabaab is trying to regain its strength and momentum, but it's questionable if the group can avoid further damage this year.

Most aid agencies have suspended operations in the largest Somali refugee camp in Kenya, which houses nearly half a million people. Al Shabaab has long had an armed presence in the camp. There, al Shabaab gunmen have been terrorizing Somali camp leaders in the camps, causing some of these men to flee the camps. In addition, the al Shabaab men have been attacking Kenyan security forces that guard the camps (from bandits, especially Somali ones). Crime is common in the camps, with refugees subject to robbery and assault (especially rape). Foreign aid workers are kidnapped or robbed.

The Somali pirates had a bad year in 2011, capturing only four large ships, compared to 26 in 2010 and the same number in 2009. Last year, pirates managed to attack 52 large ships, compared to 68 the year before. The international anti-piracy patrol finally developed tactics that the pirates were unable to counter. The patrol went after pirate mother ships while also closely guarding ships passing through the Gulf of Aden (to and from the Suez Canal). The use of more maritime reconnaissance aircraft (including UAVs) made it possible to identify mother ships and go after them.

At the moment, the pirates are holding only six ships for ransom, along with 175 sailors. In turn, over 1,100 pirates are under arrest and awaiting trial, most of them in the Seychelles or Kenya. The pirates continue to be more successful in attacking and seizing smaller cargo or fishing ships. But these vessels yield little ransom potential and are usually used as mother ships.

January 16, 2012: A UN investigation concluded that Eritrea did not fly weapons into al Shabaab controlled Baidoa two months ago. Eritrea has supplied al Shabaab with weapons, usually via ships delivering the stuff at the port of Kismayo.

Kenyan jets attacked al Shabaab forces in the town of Afmadow, killing at least nine people. Al Shabaab are trying to protect themselves from these attacks by surrounding themselves with civilians. This is getting an increasing number of civilians killed.

January 15, 2012: In Somaliland, clan fighting left at least 12 dead and 20 wounded. The government has had problems with rebellious clan militias and is fighting back. In the last week, the government has arrested 25 journalists and closed a TV station. This was all an effort to reduce reporting on the various rebellious clans threatening to dissolve Somaliland into a number of smaller statelets.

Kenyan jets bombed  al Shabaab fighters in the town of  Jilib (120 km north of Kismayu), killing at least fourteen people.

January 14, 2012:  In the Indian Ocean, a British warship found and boarded a Somali pirate mother ship. Weapons and 13 pirates were found. The pirates were arrested.

January 13, 2012: Air groups have halted food shipments to 1.1 million Somalis after al Shabaab blocked, or stole, earlier shipments.

January 12, 2012: A small boat full of Somali pirates approached a Spanish navy supply ship off Mogadishu and opened fire. The Spanish security detachment returned fire and the six surviving pirates surrendered.

January 11, 2012: In northeast Kenya, a group of al Shabaab gunmen attacked a police camp, killing six Kenyans.





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