Sunday, March 26, 2006
SOMALIA IS NOT A FUN PLACE TO BE
Warring factions have been leaving behind death and destruction in the Somali capital of Mogadishu for several days now (or is it years). This recent violence started Wednesday, pitting fighters who are loyal to Islamic clerics against gunmen allied with local warlords.
According to some Islamic fighters are seeking to boost the power of a group of fundamentalist clerics that has tried recently to assert itself as a new military and political force in the lawless country. Somalia has had no effective government since 1991, when warlords ousted a dictatorship and then turned on each other, carving the nation of 8.2 million people into a patchwork of fiefdoms.
UN sources say the fighting sucked in forces of the Alliance for Peace and the Fight Against International Terrorism, which comprises several Mogadishu-based faction leaders and militiamen loyal to Bashir Raghe. Other members of the alliance include Muhammad Qanyare Afrah, Muse Sudi Yalahow, Omar Finnish and Abdirashid Shire Ilqeyte.
On the other side is Abukar Omar Adan who controls the El-Ma'an beach port - which has served as Mogadishu's port since the closure in 1995 of the city's main port - is reportedly close to the Islamic courts and is receiving support from the Islamic court militia.
According to Aljazeera, the fighting was sparked by a row over land ownership in which one militia leader, Abukar Omar Adan, attempted to grab the piece of land attached to the Aisaley airport north of the capital and that is controlled by rival warlord Bashir Raghe Shirar.
The two men belong to the Warsangale sub-clan of Abgal within the larger Hawiye which is dominant in Mogadishu and its surroundings, but they have different political affiliations.
Adan is allied to the Islamic courts of Mogadishu, which control pockets of the lawless capital, while Shirar is a co-founder of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT).
The ARPCT, a coalition of warlords which was formed last month, aims to curb the influence of Islamic extremism in Somalia, while the Islamic militia say they want to maintain law and order.
Seizing control of the disputed piece of land would give Adan strategic means to control the roads leading to the natural port of Elmaan, which became the busiest port after the closure of Mogadishu's main port in 1995 over a revenue dispute among warlords.
Can you imagine what it must be like just to be a regular person trying to go about your life?
The following report was taken off the blog Flogging the Simien...whatever. The second article comes from the South Africa Broadcasting Company.
PS - The spelling of people's names differ below, but you'll figure out who is who.
Shaky Ceasefire in Mogadishu
Submitted by soj on March 26, 2006 - 18:01.
The good (but cautious) news out of Somalia is that the fighting has subsided after 4 days of fighting. The militias and their heavy armaments are still in position, so this could be just a temporary lull.
The fighting has occurred in the Galgalato area of northeast Mogadishu in a struggle between two factions over the control of the main functional seaport as well as a small airport. The area had been under the control of Abukar Omar (C)addan, one of the richest mafia members in the city, who is allied with the "Islamic Courts militias".
Another mafia leader, Bashir Rage, allied with the ARPCT (Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism) launched an offensive to seize control. Initially it was (C)addan's militia versus Rage's but soon their various allies joined in, the ARPCT hoping to expand their territory. It looks like the fighting is over partially because the Islamic courts side "won" the battle, although at the cost of 100 civilians dead and at least 200 injured.
Rage denies that he lost, but sounds like sour grapes to me. Of course the ARPCT has said their sole motivation for launching an attack into (C)addan's territory was to "capture foreign terrorists" but that is pure bunk. It was a turf war, pure and simple, although of course saying the word "terrorist" keeps the American financiers of this gang of warlords happy. It looks good in the internal reports going back to Jerry "I saw Satan in photographs of Mogadishu" Boykin or whomever is running this little operation.
There might be some genuine terrorists or card-carrying members of Al-Qaeda operating in the areas under the control of the Islamic Courts militias, but the ARPCT just doesn't have the weaponry or tactics to do anything about it. Meanwhile I'm pleased to see that city elders are working on a negotiated truce. Not only did the fighting displace thousands of civilians, it has also prompted the UN to vacate its offices in Jowhar, some 90km away, where the "national government" is attempting to operate.
Let's hope the dust settles on this one soon and that the ARPCT go back to doing what they do best - extorsion and smuggling khat, drugs, weapons and stolen electronic goods.
Trail of death as fighting subsides in Somalia
March 26, 2006, 15:45
Fighting in Somalia's capital Mogadishu subsided today and residents said militia linked to Islamic courts had taken an upper hand after four days of fierce exchanges of fire that killed at least 70 people. Residents said the group had taken control of the area surrounding the Elmaan port and pushed rival militia loyal to a new "anti-terror" alliance of warlords from the area.
"The warlords have been pushed away from their stronghold, it looks like the Islamists have won the battle," said Ali Abdi, a resident of Mogadishu who managed to visit the battleground on Saturday to collect the body of his relative. But a spokesperson for the newly-formed political group, the Mogadishu Anti-Terrorism Coalition, which comprises many of the city's warlords opposed to the growing influence of the Islamic courts, denied that his group had been defeated.
"Since there was heavy crossfire within the Elmaan port, we decided to halt the fighting in order to open up the port," Hussein Gutale the spokesperson, told Reuters.
Residents flee their homes
The clashes, which began on Wednesday, have killed between 70 and 90 people according to witnesses and hospital sources, most of them militias, but also civilians caught in the battle, including women and children. Dahir Mohamed, the head of the medical department at Madina hospital said the hospital had received 98 people since the fighting started with chest, head and abdomen bullet wounds. Most of the victims were heavily bandaged.
In what Somalis say is the worst fighting in their lawless Horn of Africa country for years, 37 people also died in clashes between the two sides last month. Warlords have dominated the nation of 10 million since the ousting of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
In the 14th attempt to restore normal government to Somalia, an interim administration set up in Kenya returned last year but has been unable to impose authority. It remains based in Jowhar, outside the capital, because of security fears.