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Somalia Report Weekly Newsletter - Volume 22

Friday October 21, 2011 - 20:14:00 in Reports by Super Admin
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    Somalia Report Weekly Newsletter - Volume 22

    Issue 1, Volume 22 Dear Readers,

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Issue 1, Volume 22 Dear Readers,

Mogadishu (Sunatimes) It was a long time coming, butKenyahas finally had enough of the chaos spilling over its borders fromSomaliaand sent in the military to pursue al-Shabaab. While Kenya hopes to secure its borders and protect its vital tourist industry, the move opens up a giant can of potentially very wriggly worms for the Kenyans.

Kenya has long suffered the effects of two decades of unrest in Somalia. Dadaab refugee complex has been growing steadily since the early 1990s, now standing at over 400,000 residents, making it the second-largest settlement in Kenya. Al-Shabaab militants have crossed the border freely, and thenorth-easternregions have long been a source of concern. Kenya attempted - unsuccessfully - to deal with the issue by training militia to fight in the borders, and backing the creation of the autonomous Azania region from Gedo, Middle Juba and Lower Juba.

However, it took a series of kidnaps and murders: the taking of British tourist Judith Tebbutt and the killing of her husband David, as well as the kidnap of Frenchwoman Marie Dedieu, who died in captivity, from the coastal area of Lamu; and the seizure of two Spanish aid workers from Dadaab, to finally spark Kenya into action.

Kenyan forces have madestrong initial gains, advancing as far as Qoqani before getting bogged down in the mud, and helping the TFG take Ras Kamboni - the coastal area in southern Somalia where al-Qaeda fighters had been based.According to Kenya's army spokesman, the seizure of Ras Kamboni will allow the Kenyan forces to push on to the insurgent base of Kismayo, where they hope to begin destroying the command structure of the insurgents and prevent further attacks on tourist resorts along the coast.

The early gains make it look as though the push could be a success, but al-Shabaab appears to be withdrawing to marshal its forces, and Kismayo and other towns along the way will not be taken without an almighty fight. Al-Shabaab has already shown what it can do in the battle for Daynile inMogadishu, which is still ongoing, by ambushing reinforcements on the way to the front line and killing dozens, including AU peacekeepers. The insurgents paraded the bodies in Elasha Biyaha. Somalia Report did not run the graphic images, but you can view them atthis pro-al-Shabaab websiteif you want evidence.Kenya's forces may be well-equipped and well-trained, but this is their first time in a real battle, and it remains to be seen if they can keep up the pace.

Of wider concern to Kenya is the increased possibility of suicide attacks inNairobiand on tourist resorts. Al-Shabaabmade just this threat, and has already shown it is capable of carrying out attacks outside Somalia's borders with the twin blasts inKampalalast year.

It would take a while to put together a big attack in Nairobi, where there are many soft targets, including shopping malls where UN and NGO workers unwind, but the group could also go quick and dirty. We have already seen from the Dedieu and Tebbutt kidnappings that small boats can reach Kenya's coastal tourist industry. A speedboat stuffed with AK-47-wielding gunmen could claim high casualties in one of the many upscale resorts dotting the coast. Kenya's seizure of Ras Kamboni, and its plan to advance up the coast, may reduce that risk, but without an effective naval force Kenya is still vulnerable from the sea.

Then there is the risk of Kenya's incursion boosting flagging support for al-Shabaab. Ethiopia's 2006 invasion was widely credited with sparking support for al-Shabaab, before people got sick of their hardline stance, and Kenya must tread carefully, minimizing civilian casualties and ensuring it doesn't overstay its welcome. Kenyan military officials have at least indicated they are aware of what happened whenEthiopiacame barging in, but they are walking a fine line, particularly as ordinary Somalis arealready splitover the presence of Kenyan boots on Somali soil.

Kenya's decisions to launch acrackdown on suspected al-Shabaab sympathisersin Nairobi could have similar repercussions if they are not careful who they target, pushing many of the community into backing al-Shabaab and increasing the chances of bombings in the Kenyan capital.

We are also hearing from insiders that Ethiopia, which already has forces in the border regions, could launch a push for Baidoa in coordination with the Kenyans. Ethiopia is still extremely unpopular, and this would not go down well with most Somalis. It also raises questions over what happens next should al-Shabaab be ousted. While Kenya has been supporting Azania, Ethiopia has its own rival dog in the fight in the border regions. Tensions could follow.

While all of this conventional fighting has been going on, al-Shabaab has continued with its renewed campaign of bomb blasts in Mogadishu, following on from the suicide attack that killed around 100 at a government building. First, a suicide bombertargeted the foreign ministrywhile a high-level Kenyan delegation was in town.Casualties were minimal as the Kenyans weren't there and the building was empty as it is being refurbished. Then alandmine targeting TFG soldierswounded two children.

The upshot of all this blather is that, while Kenya's entry into the picture on a large scale looks like changing the course of the conflict, al-Shabaab are far from a spent force, and it is likely to be weeks, if not months, before a clear idea of where Somalia is going emerges.


Meanwhile, Marie Dedieu - whose kidnapping was one of the sparks for the invasion -has diedwhile in the hands of the Somali gunmen who took her from Lamu. Her death was not unexpected, as the 66-year-old French woman was tetraplegic, had suffered from cancer, had heart problems and was on anti-depressants. Despite all these health problems, the pirates took her without her wheelchair, and failed to give her the wide-ranging list of drugs she needed daily to keep her alive.

You would think kidnapping such a frail woman was despicable enough, but the group who took her are aiming for new lows in the already unpleasant kidnap industry. They want toransom her dead body.It is hard to imagine anything more distasteful, and no amount of words can express the disgust we feel at this move.

On the wider piracy front, it was once again a dry week for the criminal gangs, with no ships successfully taken back to pirate dens to boost to the dwindling pot being held for ransom.For full details on the failed hijackings and the IMB's news that successful pirate attacks are still falling, please see ourweekly piracy report.

Special Features

This week, our publisher, Robert YoungPelton, took time out from speaking at an anti-piracy conference inSwedentopick apart a reportclaiming $55 billion has been thrown at Somalia with little tangible effect.As ever, Robert does not pull his punches, and considering he is a rather large man with meaty fists and the facial hair of an early 20th-century pugilist, the blows are rather severe.

Finally, just a reminder that we are recruiting a new Managing Editor. We have had healthy interest so far, but there is always room for top-quality candidates. If you want to throw your hat in the ring, the job specification can be foundhere.

We wish you a great weekend, and will catch up with you all next week.


The Editor

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