Somalia: Kismayo Falls To Amphibious Assault

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September 28, 2012: Kenyan and government troops have entered Kismayo, facing light resistance. Most of the attackers began moving in at 2 AM from the land side. Some of the attacking Kenyans came in from the sea at night, landing on beaches and fighting surprised al Shabaab fighters camped nearby. Some al Shabaab fighters put up a fight, but most appear to have fled or gone into hiding. Losing control of Kismayo, and its port and airfield, is a major blow to al Shabaab, who found the city a major source of income. Al Shabaab still controls large parts of rural central Somalia but obtains less income from these areas. Cash keeps al Shabaab going and loss of income means fewer al Shabaab gunmen. Over 10,000 civilians had fled Kismayo in anticipation of the attack, and most of those will probably return soon. As these civilians fled the city over the last few weeks they reported seeing hundreds of armed al Shabaab supporters heading into the city. These reinforcements did not put up much of a fight initially but may go underground and wage a terror campaign, as was done in Mogadishu and other towns. The loss of Kismayo will probably lead to more desertions and factionalism within al Shabaab. The terrorist group has lost over a thousand members recently due to surrenders, defections, and factions leaving the group. There are still a lot of Islamic radicals out there but fewer of them follow orders from al Shabaab.

Several thousand additional peacekeepers will be sent to towns outside Mogadishu to help locally recruited troops and police keep the peace. There areas, away from the coasts, are the last bastions of al Shabaab support. Here, the Islamic radicals are defeated one village at a time. Often all it takes is for a hundred or so peacekeepers to make a deal with a village militia to confront the local al Shabaab gunmen. The al Shabaab guys can count and will usually flee if they decide the odds are against them. Those al Shabaab men are more likely to desert the Islamic radical cause or surrender to the government and accept amnesty.

Pirate activity is way down. Ransoms paid so far this year are estimated at $30 million, which is a decline of over 70 percent from last year. The main reason for the sharp decline is the widespread use of armed guards on the large merchant ships that bring the biggest ransoms. The pirates have been quick to note that no ship with armed guards has been successfully attacked. The use of armed guards was long resisted, largely because of the fear that it would cause more violence. That has not happened, as the pirates do not press attacks on ships that fire back. The armed guards are usually professionals and have the advantage of height (and a more stable firing platform), better training, and superior weapons. Shipping companies and others close to the situation warn that the pirates are not going out-of-business. The pirates are searching for new technology and tactics and are trying to get larger ransoms for the few ships they do take. In other words, the pirates are not going away and neither should the anti-piracy effort. Meanwhile, a lot fewer Somalis are working for the pirate gangs because there is less money to pay them.  Leaders of the anti-piracy operations believe that going after the financiers and people who supply the pirates with weapons and consumer goods is doing a lot of damage to the pirates. But it is understood that the piracy problem can be eliminated only once the ports the pirates operate from are shut down. That is not going to happen as long as the pirates are better armed and wealthier (and able to bribe officials) than what passes for local government (in most cases, Puntland).

After al Shabaab is eliminated from an area more foreign officials for aid groups can enter the country. These officials find themselves facing a nasty problem with how local aid officials, hired to distribute foreign aid, have used their positions to sell access to the aid and the refugee camps. These corrupt aid officials are often armed and have gunmen working for them.

September 26, 2012: Warships again bombarded al Shabaab targets in Kismayo.

September 24, 2012:  Al Shabaab threatened to assassinate all 274 remaining members of parliament. This threat came after the Islamic terror group took credit for killing a member of parliament on the 22nd. Ten days earlier al Shabaab launched an unsuccessful attempt to kill the new president.

September 23, 2012: Kenyan Air Force warplanes bombed the airport outside Kismayo, destroying buildings used by al Shabaab.

September 22, 2012:  Some 80 kilometers outside Mogadishu 200 al Shabaab members surrendered to peacekeepers.

September 20, 2012: Two suicide bombers attacked a restaurant popular with journalists, leaving fifteen dead (including three journalists). Al Shabaab took credit for this attack. Al Shabaab has long killed journalists who criticized the Islamic radical group.

September 17, 2012: Kenyan and Somali troops kept advancing towards Kismayo and are now 40 kilometers from the port city. This appeared to spur several hundred al Shabaab men to flee Kismayo. Residents reported dozens of trucks and cars being used by some al Shabaab factions leaving.

 

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