Floods threaten Somalia’s displaced families

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Troubles in Somalia

October 17, 2012

Yep. the miltant group al Shabaab lost its main stronghold of Kismayu earlier this month, and its forces fled the city for the hinterlands. But as the following article from the website points out, there have been problems in Somalia since the fall of Kismayu. Al Shabaab fighters have, as predicted, begun attacking isolated units of Kenyan army and Somali government troops in the countryside outside the city, and there have been a growing number of attacks inside the port city of Kismayu itself. The situation hs not been helped by reports appearing in the local press that Somali government troops have engaged in looting and other disreputable acts.

Let’s remember that the Somali troops are, according to a Ugandan officer now stationed here in Washingtn, little more than a motley militia. The officers and NCOs may have undergone formal training (which the U.S. government paid for), but most of the troops have not. Their weaponry and supplies are pitiful, and their morale varies depending on how long it has been since they have been paid. Somali government officials still steal a lot of the money meant for the troops.

Here is the article:

The Bad Old Days Return

October 17, 2012: The government is trying to play down reports of their soldiers looting and killing civilians in Kismayu. While most of the army soldiers have undergone months of training, their NCOs and officers are not experienced. The Kenyan troops, by comparison, are very professional and disciplined. Once cause of the problems with civilians is an effort to find and arrest al Shabaab members who have stayed behind pretending to be civilians. Normally al Shabaab gunmen do not wear uniforms, but do tend to adopt an identifiable style of civilian dress that can be easily changed. For over two weeks now military age men in Kismayu have been questioned and residents asked to report any suspected al Shabaab members. Over 300 suspects have been arrested so far. A similar operation has been underway in Mogadishu, with similar results.
Meanwhile, there is another source of violence in Kismayu and that is disagreements between pro-Kenyan and pro-government militias about who would control what once Kismayu was captured. Kenyan military commanders thought they had worked out a power sharing deal, but apparently some of the clan militia leaders changed their plans and now want more. This is a problem throughout areas cleared of al Shabaab control. The local clans were always there, but backed off when confronted with the threat (of massive retaliation) from al Shabaab (who are pretty fanatic and scary even by Somali standards.) Now that al Shabaab is gone, the clan leader are back to their fractious and warlike ways.

Peacekeepers and soldiers continue clearing al Shabaab from towns along the road from Mogadishu to Baidoa. The current target is Buurhakaba (180 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu). Al Shabaab is fighting to maintain control of portions of this road, which makes it easier to sustain its forces in central Somalia. Al Shabaab still controls dozens of towns and large villages in central and southern Somalia. These places provide food, water and other supplies for the al Shabaab men (who in turn keep local bandits from operating in or around the town). But to the locals, al Shabaab is just another armed gang living off them. While less likely to rob and rape at random, the al Shabaab do try to impose their severe form of Islamic lifestyle on everyone. That is very unpopular. Most Somalis are not unhappy to see al Shabaab go, but they would like some help in dealing with the resulting crime wave. There are always young men attracted to the life of a bandit. It’s something of a Somali tradition.

Kenya reported that so far, its year of operations has killed over 3,000 al Shabaab members and driven the Islamic terror group out of 200,000 square kilometers (77,200 square miles) of Somali territory. Doing that cost the lives of 22 Kenyan troops and greatly reduced the violence along the border.

Up north, the pirates are hurting. Last year they seized 47 ships for ransom, so far this year only five have been taken. Shipping companies are not willing to pay higher ransoms and several large pirate gangs have gone out of business because there’s not enough money to maintain a lot of pirates who are unable to seize ships. The remaining pirates are more active now, with the end of the Monsoon Season (and all the stormy weather). But the anti-piracy patrol is quick to seize any pirate boats it spots leaving Somalia. Increased air patrols are helping a lot with that.

October 16, 2012: On the road to Beledweyne (near the Ethiopian border) al Shabaab gunmen ambushed an army convoy, killing at least twelve soldiers and civilians. The army admitted there was a clash, the first major one since al Shabaab was driven out of the area last year, and insists that the attackers were repulsed. There’s obviously a large group of al Shabaab in the area and they will have to be hunted down.

October 14, 2012: An army base in Mogadishu was attacked (with gunfire and RPGs) by al Shabaab. There were casualties and the attackers were driven away. There was a smaller clash outside a government compound in another part of the city.

October 12, 2012: In the Kenyan capital a bomb went off in a Somali neighborhood, wounding three policemen.

October 11, 2012: In the north, pirates released a Greek owned ship and its 21 man crew after being paid a $2.3 million ransom. The pirates had originally demanded $9 million and the ship was held for eight months until negotiations succeeded.

October 10, 2012: In Kismayu a roadside bomb went off killing one person and wounding two others.

October 8, 2012: A night curfew was imposed in Kismayu, to make it easier to spot and deal with illegal activity (especially al Shabaab men trying to carry out attacks.)

In the north, pirates are threatening to kill seven Bangladeshi sailors if someone (like the Bangladeshi government) does not pay $700,000 in ransom. The sailors were on a ship captured two years ago. The Malaysian shipping company pled poverty and would not pay ransom. The countries representing the 23 crew, except for Bangladesh, eventually paid ransom for their citizens. Another group of pirates are holding seven Indian sailors, from a ship that was ransomed, and demanding that over a hundred captured Somali pirates be released from Indian captivity.

Al-Shabaab Stronghold Captured, Kenyan Military Says

September 28, 2012

A spokesman for the Kenyan military announced this morning that troops from the Kenyan Defense Forces and the Somali Transitional Federal Government have captured the Somali port city of Kismayu, the last major city held by the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. According to wire service reports, residents of the city reached by telephone reported that scattered fighting was still taking place along the beachfront, and Kenyan warships were still bombarding reported al-Shabaab positions.

Despite the fall of Kismayu, al-Shabaab still retains a significant fighting capacity. Most of the al-Shabaab fighters and leadership cadre withdrew from Kismayu almost a week ago after Kenyan forces captured a number of key towns south of the city. And al-Shabaab apparently took advantage of the sloth-like pace of the Kenyan army advance over the past week to pull out its few remaining fighters from the city. Al-Shabaab will most likely revert to guerrilla attacks on isolated Kenyan garrisons and their extended supply lines in the coming weeks until the rainy season begins in about a month.

Al-Shabaab Guerrillas Reportedly Fleeing Main Stronghold in Somalia

September 19, 2012

The Associated Press is reporting that fighters belonging to the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, al-Shabaab, are fleeing the port city of Kismayo, which is their main stronghold in southern Somalia. According to the United Nations, Kismayo has a population of about 193,000 people.

According to news reports from the region, Kenyan troops are currently advancing on Kismayo from multiple directions, with Kenyan military sources stating that their troops had reached the village of Jana Abdalla (also transliterated as Jana Abdalle), just twenty miles from the outskirts of the port city.

News reports indicate that al-Shabaab fighters began fleeing Kismayo on Sunday, with most of the militant group’s fighters reportedly making for the village of Jilib, 80 miles northeast of Kismayo. The expectation is that al-Shabaab will continue to conduct guerrilla raids on Kenyan and Somali government forces from Jilib and other towns and villages that it still controls in the hinterlands of southern Somalia.

Somali Rebels Are Said to Flee Their Last Coastal Stronghold as African Troops Approach
Associated Press
September 18, 2012

GALKAYO, Somalia — Fighters from Somalia’s Islamist extremist rebels have started to leave their remaining coastal stronghold in the face of advancing allied African troops, residents and a military official said Tuesday.

Armed militants from al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida, left the coastal town of Kismayo in pickup trucks after freeing prisoners in the town’s jail, Muse Hassan, a Kismayo resident said by phone.

The spokesman for the Kenyan army, which is part of the African Union forces fighting al-Shabab militants, said the fighters were fleeing because they sensed defeat. Col. Cyrus Oguna said the al-Shabab militants are moving toward the town of Jilib about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northeast of Kismayo. Oguna said Kenyan forces are about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Kismayo in a town called Jana Cabdalla.

Kismayo resident Hassan also said the militants are moving toward the town of Jilib but that it was not clear if they had abandoned all their positions in Kismayo.

However an al-Shabab spokesman said on Twitter that the reports of militants fleeing Kismayo are “blatant lies.”

“The Islamic administration in (hash)Kismayo is going about its business as usual, & the city remains calm & firmly under the control of HSM,” one posting said.

Claims and counter-claims made during fighting in Somalia are difficult to verify.

But Yusuf Hashi, another Kismayo resident, said that a few fighters in military dress could be seen along Kismayo’s streets. He said government buildings were empty.

“It feels like the town is under no one’s control now. We hope there’ll be no fighting but a peaceful change,” he said.

Oguna said the militants had dismantled the transmitters for Radio al-Andalus which the group used to broadcast propaganda.

Abdirashid Hashi, a horn of Africa analyst with the International Crisis Group, says he is not surprised that the militants are moving. The militants have not put up cohesive resistance in the southern Somali towns they once controlled, he said, noting that al-Shabab doesn’t have the firepower to match the tanks, warships and military planes the Kenyan military is using in southern Somalia.

Hashi said the capture of Kismayo by the allied force is imminent and would be a significant victory against the militants who until August 2011 controlled large parts of the capital city, Mogadishu, and much of southern Somalia. However, he said al-Shabab would remain a threat as an insurgent force using hit-and-run attacks for a long while.

Oguna said when faced with overwhelming force al-Shabab fighters often hide their guns and melt into the population so it is difficult to say how many al-Shabab fighters remain in Kismayo.

The U.N.’s refugee agency said Tuesday that at least 5,200 residents have fled Kismayo since Sept 1.

Kismayo residents have said that al-Shabab barred them from the leaving the town with threats of brutal punishment. Al-Shabab is known for carrying out lashings, amputations and stonings.

Somalia elected a new president last week and he is expected to set up the country’s first functioning government since warlords overthrew a longtime dictator in 1991 and turned against one another. Two days after being elected, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud survived an attack by suicide bombers who detonated explosives at his temporary residence.

At the United Nations in New York, the Security Council welcomed Mohamud’s election as a milestone in the troubled nation’s “path to a more stable and accountable” government, but warned much remains to be done to improve security, human rights and fight corruption.

British U.N. ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the council voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse Mohamud’s inauguration, signaling the end of an 8-year-long U.N.-backed transition which helped establish a parliament and constitution.

“Somalia now has a real opportunity to progress toward a more peaceful future,” Grant said. “The end of the transition is however only the beginning. Somalia still faces a significant threat from al-Shabab.”

A high-level meeting on Somalia will be held at this month’s U.N. General Assembly, where Mohamud will have a chance “to set out his vision for Somalia,” Grant said.

Regaining Kismayo has “always been a long-term objective” of the U.N.-backed AU force, Grant said.


Odula contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya. Associated Press writer Ron DePasquale contributed from the United Nations.