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Somalia Report Weekly Newsletter-Volume 16

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Friday September 02, 2011 - 19:17:21 in Reports by Super Admin
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    Somalia Report Weekly Newsletter-Volume 16

    Issue 1, Volume 16 Dear Readers,

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Issue 1, Volume 16 Dear Readers,

Mogadishu (Sunatimes) In a departure from our normal backward-looking format, driven in part by the relatively quiet week in Somalia as people celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, we are going to begin this week by looking forward.

The long-delayed consultative meeting between the United Nations, African Union, the Transitional Federal Goverment and regional representatives - aimed at ending the long period during which the government has stretched the definition of the word "transitional" further than the skin on Joan Collins' face - gets underway in Mogadishu on September 4. Nobody should be expecting a sudden end to Somalia's political woes, but many are expecting attempts by al-Shabaab to target the hordes of UN staff that will hit the city.



Since al-Shabaab pulled its forces out of Mogadishu early last month in what is said was a switch from conventional warfare to guerrilla tactics, the militant Islamist group has harried and harassed the forces of the AU and TFG. The group has also gone on a beheading spree in Mogadishu in what analysts say is both a show of force and due to concern that spying will derail its attempts to launch surprise attacks. But the group has yet to pull off a major attack to show it is still a force to be contended with in Mogadishu.

Security officials and analysts have expressed private concern that the safety of Mogadishu has been overestimated now that the insurgents have pulled out most of their forces. Beyond the beheadings and occasional attacks on TFG and AU forces, al-Shabaab needs to make a big statement, and there will be no better target than such a high-profile meeting.

Al-Shabaab may be even more motivated to demonstrate its might after withdrawing from several villages in the Gedo region. As usual, the insurgent group said the forces were pulled out as a tactic, but ceding more ground in a region that pro-government forces have been slowly taking control of this year is likely to be viewed in many quarters as another sign of weakness.

The chances of an attack - be it a suicide blast or an ambush - targeting the meeting are high.

Puntland and Galmudug chaos

In a shift from the norm, much of the bloodshed of the last week came in Puntland and Galmudug. We have seen growing violence in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland this year, but this week has been particularly extreme.

Thursday and Friday saw heavy fighting in Galkayo between security forces and what Puntland says is a pro-al-Shabaab militia. At least 16 people were killed on Thursday, while Friday's casualty count is not clear. Puntland had earlier expressed concern that al-Shabaab would move north, but it is not clear if this fighting is part of that process. Some sources have disputed Puntland's assertion that al-Shabaab is involved, saying the fighting is with a local clan milita.

In Galmudug, two clans who have long clashed over water continued hostilities, with at least ten dead, while a grenade tossed at a checkpoint in southern Galkayo killed three Galmudug forces.

The way things are going, Somaliland may well become the only region that can truly lay claim to being peaceful, which should at least motivate its rivals in Puntland to get a lid on the fighting, if only for bragging rights.


Humanitarian

There was little to report on the humanitarian front, other than a repeat call for the international community to do more to deal with the famine.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence to show that anybody heeds such calls, which is tragic considering the conditions Somalis, even those who have fled to Dadaab, are living under. One of our correspondents spent time in the outskirts of the overcrowded complex in Kenya, and found that many woman are being targeted for rape and sexual assault as they gather firewood outside the official camp.

Ifo II, the new camp in Dadaab at the center of a long disupte between Kenya and the international community, has finally started taking families in, but too many refugees are still being forced to set up outside Dadaab and are thus prone to such abuses.

Piracy

As usual, we shall direct you to our weekly piracy report for an in-depth look at the week's happenings.

For those who either don't have the time to read it or have suffered a sprain of the mouse-clicking finger, here is brief rundown: The MV Polar was released for a reported $7.7 million; a Yemeni fishing boat was taken for use as a mother ship; the MV Dover and Danes are still not free despite many sources saying a ransom deal was agreed; and three people died when a militia battled Puntland security forces trying to arrest an alleged pirate investor in Bosaso.

That is it from us until next week.

A belated Eid Mubarak to all!

Regards,

The Editor



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