The self-declared Republic of Somaliland – a de facto independent state formed from Somalia’s north-western regions – is often described as an island of stability in a sea of conflict. Much of the security enjoyed by its estimated 3.5 million people is attributed to a “hybrid” governance system marrying traditional authority with modern Western style democratic governance.
But Somaliland’s main donors have expressed concern over recent developments that beg the question whether its mixed political arrangements are robust enough. Claire Elder and Cedric Barnes from the International Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project discuss why a decision by the so-called Guurti – the Upper House of Elders – worries Somaliland’s international partners and risks causing a dangerous political and clan polarisation.
The government organised the religious conference to tackle extremism
Some 160 Somali religious scholars have issued a fatwa denouncing al-Shabab, saying the group had no place in Islam.
Correspondents say it is the first time Somali religious leaders have come up with a fatwa against the group, which controls many rural areas.
At a conference on the phenomenon of extremism in Mogadishu, the scholars said they condemned al-Shabab’s use of violence.
Al-Shabab, or “The Youth”, is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.
Despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years, it still remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside.
Jaar-sm (Photo credit: Julian Stallabrass)
Yemen: Yemen military recaptures Jaar and Zinjibar; interview with AQAP military spokesman features details on May 21 suicide attack, battle for Abyan; findings from May 21 suicide attack in Sana’a to be released next week
Horn of Africa: TFG, Kenyan troops clash with al Shabaab near Qoqani; al Shabaab recaptures Mahas from Ahlu Sunna and Ethiopian forces; al Shabaab arrests four people in Elbur; Somali peacemaker in Beledweyne assassinated; Kenya asks for financial assistance from U.S. ahead of assault on al Shabaab’s stronghold in Kismayo; newly trained TFG soldiers arrive to Beledweyne
Yemen Security Brief
- Yemen’s commander of the southern military zone General Salem Qatan reported that the former Ansar al Sharia strongholds of Zinjibar and Jaar in Abyan governorate have been “completely cleansed.” The Yemeni Defense Ministry said that the Yemeni military, backed by armed tribesmen, entered Zinjibar and Jaar where they clashed with Ansar al Sharia militants. At least 20 militants, four soldiers, and two civilians were killed in the attack. Twenty more Yemeni soldiers were also injured. The Defense Ministry added that between 200 and 300 Ansar al Sharia militants, including foreign fighters, fled from Jaar, Zinjibar, and Shaqra. Residents in Jaar reported that militants left behind flyers stating that Ansar al Sharia did not want to “cause any harm to Jaar and its inhabitants.” Additionally, the Yemeni Navy reportedly sunk 10 boats carrying Ansar al Sharia militants.
- In an interview with al Quds al Arabi released on June 12, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) military commander Qasim al Raymi provided details on Sana’a’s May 21 suicide attack. When asked why AQAP targeted Yemeni troops when it claims it is at war with the U.S., Raymi explained that the attack was in retaliation for the Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s campaign against militants in Abyan and demonstrates AQAP’s ability to “bring the attack to them.” He added that the battle for Abyan will continue for years.
- Yemeni Interior Minister Abdul Qadir Qahtan announced on June 11 that the findings from the investigation of the May 21 Sana’a suicide bombing will be released next week. The attack claimed by AQAP killed over 100 Yemeni soldiers.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Local residents reported that Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers, backed by Kenyan troops, clashed with al Shabaab militants near Qoqani in Lower Jubba region. Reports on casualties and injuries have yet to surface.
- Al Shabaab militants recaptured the town of Mahas in Hiraan region on June 11, reported locals. TFG and Ahlu Sunna wa al Jama’a forces withdrew before al Shabaab fighters arrived. Ahlu Sunna official Saney Mohamud Farah stated that the town fell to the militants due to the increased pressure felt from the growing presence of al Shabaab militants on the outskirts of Mahas.
The U.S. government is offering $33 million for information leading to the capture of seven of Somali al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab‘s top leaders, including $7 million for founder Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed, also known as Abu Zubeir or Godane, and $5 million apiece for Mukhtar Robow (left) and Mohamed Khalaf. (Rewards for Justice)
By MOHAMED IBRAHIM
June 9, 2012
The Somali government and Somali observers say the new $33 million U.S. bounty on the heads of seven al Shabaab leaders may be just what is needed to help crush the al Qaeda affiliate, which is already reeling from military assaults on all sides and from the air.
“The announcement from the U.S. government . . . will certainly help the Somali government’s efforts to end al Qaeda’s reign of terror in Somalia,” said Somalia’s transitional government in a statement Thursday. “This is an important juncture in Somali history, where the possibility of full recovery from years of chaos is within reach.”
Through its Rewards for Justice program, the State Department this week offered $7 million for information leading to the capture of al-Shabaab founder and commander Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed, AKA Godane or Mukhtar Abu Zubeir, $5 million apiece for four other Shabaab leaders and $3 million a head for two more. By comparison, the U.S. had offered only $1 million for Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was killed in a U.S. strike in Pakistan on Monday and was described by U.S. officials as a bin Laden confidante al Qaeda’s second-in-command.
Officials Watch for Body Bombs on Planes Watch Video
A shocking rise in pirate attacks over the last decade has left many in the shipping industry scrambling for protection, leading to a new market for security forces trained to fight off the swashbuckling foes. Photographer Amnon Gutman witnessed this scramble for security first-hand as he sailed one of the most dangerous waterways in the world with a crew, their cargo — and a private security detail trained in pirate-deflecting techniques. The fear of attack, especially near Somalia, is a well-founded one. As Gutman notes, of the 439 attacks reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in 2011, 275 attacks took place off Somalia’s east coast and in the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa. However, while Somali pirates continue to account for the majority of attacks — approximately 54 percent – and while the overall number of Somali incidents increased from 219 in 2010 to 237 in 2011, the number of successful hijackings decreased from 49 to 28. The 802 crew members taken hostage in 2011 also marks a decrease from the four-year high of 1,181 in 2010.
This may be because of more aggressive policing — the European Union recently authorized its most expansive mission against pirates in Africa — but many ships aren’t taking any chances. On this journey through the Indian Ocean on a shipping vessel that wishes to remain anonymous, SeaGull security walked through the methods still being developed to combat modern piracy.
Above, crew members secure barbed wires on the side of the tanker to prevent potential pirates from climbing aboard two days before going into the high-risk zone.
The EU (European Union) agreed, on March 23rd, to allow its anti-piracy force off Somalia (EUNAVFOR) to attack coastal targets and coordinate military operations with the Somali TNG (Transitional National Government). This means that EUNAVFOR ships and aircraft can attack pirate targets on land. Most of the pirate bases (coastal towns and villages) are in Puntland, a self-declared state in northern Somalia. While less violent and chaotic than southern Somalia, Puntland officials are bribed and intimidated (by the superior firepower of the pirate gangs) into inaction. Technically, Puntland is opposed to the pirates, so the EU is hoping that Puntland won’t make a stink when EU forces begin shooting at pirates on the coast.
The EU plan apparently involves going after pirate logistics and fuel supplies in their coastal havens. This could be tricky, as the pirates are well aware of how the Western media works and could easily put many of these targets in residential neighborhoods. The EU could respond by blockading the pirate bases, and attacking pirate attempts to truck in fuel and other supplies. Pirates could put civilians on trucks, or even captured sailors from ships held for ransom. There is no easy solution to the Somali pirates. This new policy is not a radical shift in policy, but a continuation of a trend that has been under way for a while. For example, in the last year, the EU, and other members of the anti-piracy patrol, have taken a more aggressive approach to the pirates. Pirate mother ships (usually captured ocean going fishing ships) have been attacked on sight and any speedboat carrying armed men face similar treatment. Read the rest of this entry »
Anyone seeking to find the roots of yesterday’s successful rescue mission in Somalia should start by looking in the sands of Iran.
It was only following the disastrous attempt to rescue hostages there in the spring of 1980 that the US military invested in special operations capacities and capabilities that could better respond to contingencies demanding specially selected and highly trained forces.
Monday’s rescue reflects both the lessons learned over three decades as well as capabilities now organic to the US military that were not present during the Carter administration.
The United States was not the first nation to develop direct-action special operations forces capable of performing counter-terror and hostage rescue missions. The United Kingdom, France, Germany and Israel all had counter-terror forces before the United States stood up its first “special missions unit” within the US Army.