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Somalia Report Weekly Newsletter -Volume 18

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Saturday September 17, 2011 - 05:28:43 in Reports by Super Admin
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    Somalia Report Weekly Newsletter -Volume 18

    Issue 1, Volume 18

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Issue 1, Volume 18

Dear Readers,

This week's big story was the kidnap of British citizen Judith Tebbutt from the Kiwayu Safari Village resort in Kenya, close to the Somali border, and her spiriting into territory controlled by militant Islamist group al-Shabaab.

Somali gunmen burst into a hut in the remote location (the Tebbutts were the only guests) and shot dead her husband David. Mrs. Tebbutt was then whisked off in the speedboat the gunmen arrived in, leaving the security guards and police - whom anybody living in Kenya knows were likely asleep - to rub their eyes and watch its wake.

Mrs. Tebbutt was taken to the al-Shabaab-controlled port of Kismayo late Monday evening, and we have since been told by several sources that she has since been whisked off to a remote location in Lower Shabelle, which we won't reveal due to concerns over her safety.

The location we were given points strongly to some kind of al-Shabaab involvement, despite the group's unofficial denial of involvement to Reuters, be it a faction of the group operating independently or higher levels looking to ease their financial crisis by claiming a few million dollars. We have been given the names of several men with links to piracy, operating out of the Bajuni archipelago, which stretches south from Kismayo, as likely candidates for carrying out the actual grab in collaboration with the insurgents, and we will publish information if we can actually confirm any of this.

Regardless of whether it is al-Shabaab, pirates or Somali bandits, the action will do little to improve Kenya's opinion of its neighbor, which it sees as a major security risk and the source of hundreds of thousands of refugees now camping out in Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex. The tourism industry is a key earner for Kenya, and any further such damaging attacks could lead to firmer action from a country that has already trained militia operating in the border region of Gedo.

Still on the subject of al-Shabaab, the group showed different sides of its character during the week, when it launched fierce attacks that saw it briefly take control of El-Wak and attempt to seize control of Dhusamareb, continuing its policy of re-focusing troops on areas outside of Mogadishu, then allowed Turkish aid workers to enter areas under its control.

There were again reports of airstrikes carried out on training camps in Lower Juba. We haven't heard many of these reports for a while, and it is unclear if this is a one-off raid or the beginning of attempts to take out more senior insurgent leaders.

Humanitarian

We have been told by aid insiders that many deals have been struck with al-Shabaab in various areas, and aid will begin getting in to the areas where it really counts in the coming weeks.

Sound like good news? You would think so, but not to the Transitional Federal Government, which stopped more Turkish aid workers from entering al-Shabaab-controlled areas on the outskirts of the city.

The mayor of Mogadishu on Friday then announced a ban on foreign aid workers entering al-Shabaab territory. Not to state the obvious here, but the international community has been calling for exactly this kind of access for many months. Banning aid workers from helping people in insurgent areas looks suspiciously like an attempt to use people's lives for military and political gain.

This decision is even harder to understand when al-Shabaab is trying to stop people draining out of its territories to Kenya and Mogadishu, as was once again evidenced this week. Equally, the news that Somalia has the highest mortality rate for under-fives in the world and that a wave of disease could hit the malnourished children in al-Shabaab areas should help the TFG swallow its objections, whatever they may be, and allow aid workers to do their job where they are most needed.

Puntland

According to senior Puntland officials, drilling for oil will begin either this month or next in one of the two blocks that three companies (Africa Oil Corp, Range Resources and Red Emperor Resources) have a stake in.

The companies seem untroubled by the unrest (except Africa Oil is in the middle of a complicated deal to offload its interests that you need a degree in business chicanery to understand) that has plagued the semi-autonomous region of late, perhaps soothed by Puntland officials saying that the local communities are behind the project, which is supposed to bring development through infrastructure, education and so on. If that does come to pass, the Puntland government should be applauded for spending its oil income wisely. However, many people will point to Nigeria, where local communities who were supposed to benefit from oil in the Niger Delta ended up being polluted and marginalized, leading to a long-running campaign of sabotage and violence.

The unrest in Puntland this week extended to a militia run by a former intelligence officer taking over a few villages in east Bosaso and a journalist being shot and seriously wounded in Galkayo.

Special Features

After weeks of probing, this week we published our rather lengthy look into aid diversion, which found that huge amounts of food aid are on the markets of Mogadishu through a combination of theft, looting and re-selling by internally displaced persons.

We are not the first to flag this up (the Associated Press ran a big story several weeks ago) yet we still continue to hear from the WFP and the TFG that it is not happening on any significant scale. Considering both Somalia Report and the AP easily found locations where aid was being sold by the truckload, which can't be put down to monetization of aid by suffering Somalis, we sincerely hope a deeper investigation is forthcoming from the powers-that-be.

Also, our publisher, Robert Young Pelton, had his first look at contractors operating in Mogadishu.

He will next look at maritime security contractors, which is a significantly bigger job since the market is as crowded as the free buffet at the rare press conference where hospitality is laid on (take note, press officer: journalists are far more likely to come to your event if there is a freebie in it). If you run such a company and wish to be included, please send an email to [email protected]

Piracy

Mrs. Tebbutt aside, who may or may not have been taken by pirates, it has been a relatively quiet week. For the rundown on the few goings on, please check out today's weekly piracy report.

Try to ignore the parts where I have lazily cut-and-pasted some of the Tebbutt-related discussion into the top of this email, and also try not to put this down to the fact I am just about to go on holiday. Ahem.

On that note, which I hope injects a certain amount of jealousy, I will end here. For the next two weeks, somebody else will be making the bad jokes in our weekly newsletter, so I take no responsibility for what is to come.

Have a good weekend.

Best Regards,

The Editor



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