Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Despite the security gains
during the last few years, Somalia isn’t safe. It is safer, especially
if you are armed or have bodyguards. But if you are unarmed, you are
still in danger, especially if you are a foreigner (and seen to have a
lot more worth stealing).
Too many Somalis are armed and many of those
are also deliberately dangerous. It is also dangerous for Somalis,
especially if they are journalists or Christians. Al Shabaab gunmen seek
out both and often murder them in public. This sort of thing, and the
continued presence of some al Shabaab men (and lots more bandits and
larceny minded Somali men with guns) is discouraging many of the half
million refugees in Kenyan camps from returning home.
The government is pleading with foreign governments
(especially Britain and the U.S.) to let up on new banking regulations
that cut off cash transfers to Somali money transfer services that will
not or cannot comply with new rules meant to halt the use of these firms
to move money for terrorists and other criminals. About a quarter of
the Somali GDP comes from these transfers from Somalis outside the
The piracy problem off Somalia has declined so much in the
last two years that in 2012 there was actually more pirate activity off
West Africa. Over the last five years Nigeria (and neighboring
countries) have seen a steady growth in piracy incidents. Last year
ships containing 966 sailors were attacked off West Africa while off
Somalia only 851 sailors were threatened. Nigerian pirates rarely try to
ransom ships but instead prefer to loot them. This sometimes includes
meeting with another (pirate controlled) ship to transfer cargo (bulk or
oil) at sea. That sort of thing rarely happens off Somalia.
The fighting in Jubaland continues, with lots of gunfire and
few casualties. It is mainly about who will control the port of Kismayo,
which is the second largest in Somalia and a cash cow for whoever
controls it. Local clans cannot agree on who will get what and that has
turned Kismayo into an occasional battleground.
June 23, 2013: The Somali government warned foreign fishing
boats that if they don’t apply for, and pay for fishing permits, their
boats will be subject to seizure in Somali waters and the crews will be
arrested until fines are paid. The government has been trying to create a
new coast guard for work like this. Foreigners fear that the new permit
system will turn into another extortion scam.
June 22, 2013: In the south (Lower Juba) a new peacekeeper
base (manned by Sierra Leone troops) was attacked with RPGs and gunfire.
There were no casualties and Al Shabaab took responsibility.
June 21, 2013: Two al Shabaab factions are fighting each other
in central Somalia (near the town of Hudur, capital of the Bakool
region). Al Shabbab has controlled Hudur on and off for over five years.
A local militia was supposed to provide security but these fellows are
often intimidated when large groups of heavily armed al Shabaab men roll
into town. The government has been working with the militia to improve
their effectiveness. Meanwhile, the local al Shabaab forces have been
taking a beating and now different factions are fighting each other.
In northern Kenya two Somali clans have been fighting in and
around a refugee camp for the last few days. This has left at least 16
dead and two dozen wounded. The fighting was apparently over a several
issues that have caused retaliatory attacks and growing violence between
the Garre and Degodia clans over the last few months.
June 20, 2013: In northern Kenya police seized a truck seeking
to enter Somalia while carrying 27 tons of chemicals, some of them used
in making explosives for terrorists. The shipment had recently arrived
in the Kenyan port of Mombasa and may have been legitimate. Police are
In Brava (220 kilometers down the coast from Mogadishu) at
least six al Shabaab men died as two Islamic terrorist factions fought
each other outside the town. Over the last two years al Shabaab has lost
control of nearly all towns they once occupied and lived off, forcing
the remaining Islamic terrorists out into the countryside where there
was a lot less to steal.
June 19, 2013: In Mogadishu al Shabaab gunmen attacked a UN compound, leaving 14 dead and dozens wounded.
June 17, 2013: In the Kenyan port city of Mombasa police
raided a house believed to be occupied by Islamic terrorists. Two men
found there fired at the cops and were killed during a brief gun battle.
The two dead men were believed to be members of al Shabaab and
responsible for some recent terrorist activity in the area.
June 15, 2013: In Wanlaweyn (90 kilometers inland from
Mogadishu) seven were killed and 12 wounded when a bomb went off in a
tea shop popular with soldiers. Most of the casualties were civilians.
June 14, 2013: In the southern port city of Kismayo at least ten people have died from clan violence over the last few days.