Topic: Strategy
Australian Report Examines Industry and Government Entry into Maritime Security

Piracy studies tend to be heavy on the "need for regulation" side and light on the "fix piracy" side. One area where undisputed success has been shown has generated few studies. The use of armed guards aboard ships to deter pirate attacks is a solution that appears to not only have a 100% success rate but is hard to argue the pros and cons. It is important to speculate on potential risks and typically there is plenty of data to grind through to come to a prognostication.

A recent report by James Brown, part of the “Privateers in Australia’s Conflict and Disaster Zones research project” was funded by the Australian military. Brown is a former Australian Army officer with degrees in economics and strategy.

His focus has been on the use of private security contractors and his previous work did not display bias or agenda other than to better understand the sector.

Despite that lack of bias on land based private security, this report unfairly sets up the private maritime security industry as being problematic. His point is that government military entering the same sector will be more problematic.

He states, “Already private contractors and vessel protection detachments have shot and killed suspected pirates.” Fair enough. Killing "suspected pirates" may be a problem but other than the one incident, the author does not provide sufficient data to back up or illustrate that claim. Killing "actual pirates" is not a problem since the law of sea and the use of deadly force is on the side of the crew and security team that is being pirated. Despite the UN's attempt to make piracy a social disease, it is against the law to rob vessels at sea and killing pirates is a justifiable reaction. Laws governing piracy at sea are actually more problematic if the pirates surrender or are arrested.

Armed Security Guard At Sea
©Somalia Report, all rights reserved
Armed Security Guard At Sea

One Incident Does Not A Trend Make

The only negative incident Brown can cite is the case of Italian marines aboard the MV Enrica Lexie, an Italian-flagged oil tanker whose guards fired on fishermen, killing them after mistaking them for pirates. Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone said they fired two warning shots at what they thought were pirates, but were arrested for murder when it turned out that two Indian fishermen were killed. The Italians were eventually released on bail by the government of Kerala, India. What Brown doesn't tell you is that this incident happened about 10 to 20 miles off the South Western coast of India, 2,200 miles from Somalia and nowhere near the focus of his study. There is no evidence offered of problematic private security operators at sea. Quite the contrary, his numbers show the opposite to be true.

There is a lack of focus on the use of deadly force by Somali pirates who fire on commercial vessels manned by unarmed mariners from a wide spectrum of nations. To hold up one government created maritime security incident as problematic but ignore thousands of violent potentially violent attacks repelled is typical of the academic view of piracy where legislating legal entities somehow solves the actions of illegal ones.

Ship owners do not have to make contact or after action reports public and there is no proof either way that private security guards are a problem. So an assumption that they are, seems to go against academic due process. With 2012 recording few pirate attacks, no hijacked commercial vessels and the problem of piracy appearing to be on its way out, there may be even less reason to even debate the hypothetical concept.

There are still over 200 hostages in the region and there are numerous emotional and financial repercussions of sailing in that region, but focusing on complicating the solution rather than solving the root problem is counterproductive.

Organizations and governments are becoming more pragmatic about piracy. Statistically the UKMTO and other organizations have responded to Somalia Report’s criticism and began listing all kidnapped ships and mariners. It is slowly dawning that perhaps ship owners have abandoned their responsibility to kidnapped mariners and governments may have to save them.

Piracy is effectively over as a major threat to shipping but only because the presence of armed guards have denied the pirates the cash flow needed to fund new efforts. The ultimate discussion of who is responsible for protecting and rescuing crews, cargos and ships has yet to be addressed as an action item. So families and mariners are supposed to be content with hypothetical discussions like this.

The next real step is to focus on rescuing the growing number of land-based hostages, many of them taken off ships and left to their fates on land. Pirates are criminals, (never terrorists because that would prevent the payment of ransoms) so it makes sense that a direct response by putting armed on ships was the most logical and so far, the most effective response to pirate attacks. Reading the report it is clear the the shipping industry will never turn to their host nations to actually free their citizens or property so why would they seek their oversight? They chose flags of convenience and hired guns. Brown turns his attention to the “18 month boom” in the use of private security aboard commercials vessels. Before this period it was actually an accepted practice to provide armed guards on slow, high value ships, it just didn’t get much publicity. The insurance company mandate for security on ships. The government prodding in support of the industry came only after the tactic proved 100% successful.

Another glaring omission is the lack of data that actually helps the reader understands Brown’s main focus “The boom in PMSCs responding to the piracy threat in the Indian Ocean raises serious questions about the quality of the contractors.” There is no data in this report that defines the "quality of contractors" nor adds to the debate or decision making. We don’t hear from ship operators, insurance companies, security personnel, captains, pirates or even freely available legal experts. So even his helpful forays into state provided military security does not have the statistical data to make any point, good or bad.

Enter the Vessel Protection Detachments, or VPDs

Brown predicts that "by the end of next year almost 2000 naval personnel may be operating in the Indian Ocean under private hire to protect commercial interests." That is a stunning number if one compares that to the 2700 private hires in the region. Granted the navies won't be working on the cheap or in small numbers but it could dramatically change the effectiveness and cost of anti-piracy operations.

Private companies have been offering this service for ships that do not or cannot have armed guards on board for years but the ship owner was free to choose whether a small sniper team or a large fast vessel alongside would do the job better. If governments get involved it might open up a whole new set of problems.

The report says that, "The Netherlands, France, Spain, Belgium, and Italy all offer private shipping companies the opportunity to hire VPDs for use during transits of the Indian Ocean." The UK is missing perhaps because, "Almost one-third of piracy ransoms paid last year flowed through the UK and the majority of maritime insurers and PMSCs are based in London." The UK government is the main hub for both the security industry and the ransom payment industry.

Where this report does open a Pandora's box is the examination of the military getting involved in providing onboard security.

Vessel Protection Details or VPDs are a government hybrid that hope to extend the reach and legality of military support on commercial vessels. He brings up an example of Dutch government demanding that the ship owner pay half of the cost of the ten man teams the put aboard vessels. "So far, the Dutch have deployed 26 VPD missions and plan on deploying 100 teams with ten personnel each this year, and 175 next year. Total operating costs for Dutch teams are estimated at US$29m this year, of which shipping companies are expected to pay approximately half."

The problem is that very few shipping companies operate with the flag of their host nation and even less want to be dictated to how to secure their ships. If anything, it would seem logical that a government forcing local shipowners to hire their government to protect them is going to drive more business to the flag of convenience countries.

Although Brown does not provide any new research he has an unbiased view of the existing data and the report is worth reading because it makes the point that having the deterrent on board the targeted ship is better than a Naval presence designed to deter. Brown correctly points out that putting national military under the direct control of a commercial ship captain is an invitation to disaster; essentially making a commercial vessel a warship.

“The private hiring of national military personnel (VPDs) is potentially even more problematic, raising a range of legal and political questions.” He explores this area enough to raise more questions than answers. This government forged solution may be more of a problem as he admits that VPD’s are, “often more expensive than private alternatives and often in short supply."

The report suggests that the apparently unregulated private sector now interface with the government sector to create a byzantine world of regulation in a lawless region even though the one incident were Italian armed forces who directly worked for the government of Italy.

Any discussion of private maritime security is always tainted with assumptions on the use of private security in Iraq. Assumptions that "cowboys" and violent acts translate directly from a war zone to the ocean are assumed. Despite numerous videos showing massive violence used by navies against pirates, there is still an obsession with private security companies using minimal force at sea and only when under attack.

What is missing from this report most is perhaps the most obvious. That pirates are essentially out of business because the multi national shipping industry fixed the problem of attacks themselves. They might not actually need to be told by governments how to run their ships safely.

The shipping and insurance industry, frustrated by years of inaction, promises and ridiculous solutions from governments simply came up with a solution that appears to work. His final takeaway that “There is a legitimate and long-term role for private companies to provide security at sea. But their use requires more regulation and coordination than we have seen thus far” is not supported by any evidence.

Brown’s premise that the government may have to regulate its own entry into the maritime security business does have merit based on the past inability of international governments to defeat piracy over the last decade.

Funny Numbers

Brown says, “No less than 26 per cent of civilian ships transiting the Gulf of Aden officially declare the use of armed PMSCs onboard,” which is misleading since just under half of ships have armed guards according to the UKMTO which actually briefs ships in Jebel Ali, UAE. The number may be much higher since ships do not have to register and there are a number of escort and regional security providers aboard ships.

Also the figures he presents are sometimes without context. It would be correct to say that “$4.58m and captured ships and crew are held for an average 158 days” but there are a handful of ships currently in pirate captivity that would generate that type of ransom. Of the six commercial ships held by Somali pirates, only the Liberian flagged Suexmax tanker Smyrni will reach a ransom of over $10M and the MT Royal Grace and MV Free Goddess may get $5M the rest have been abandoned like the Iceberg or Albedo or ransomed on the cheap like the Orna, all captured in 2010. If the current inventory is ransomed it would only generate a meager $20M. Dramatically less than the $140M supposedly collected by pirates in 2011.

Brown estimates that 2700 armed guards are operating onboard commercial ships. He also uses the figure "Individual contractors earn up to $500 per day and companies can charge out contractors for $1000 per day.”

Much like Oceans Beyond Piracy’s reverse "cost of piracy" calculator in which they confuse profits with costs, Brown’s own numbers don’t quite jibe.

One Earth Future took a WAG and guessed that “1 billion dollars per year on private armed guards." They also estimate that about 50 percent of commercial ships transiting across the Indian Ocean now have armed guards.

Brown figures that half that number use private security. He guesses that only 26% of the 23,000 ships that transit the Gulf of Aden for three days have minimum four man crews on board. That would be 5980 ship transits generating 23,920 days at a thousand dollars billed day is $23,920,000 per day (a typical transit can be 4 to 7 days) just for the minimum transit labor manpower cost and $100M for a four days GoA run.

Clearly these are not meant to be hard numbers but its a long way from Brown's stingy estimate to OBP's ridiculous estimate. Someone needs to check their math. Or fess up to not knowing the actual numbers. The reality is that the threat of piracy in the GoA at it's highest was less than one per cent and much lower now. Conversely the use of armed guards has increased along with the general drop of contact by pirates in the region.

The estimate of 2700 of private operators will be joined by 2000 military operators create a doubling of actors in the region also seems a little hard to believe.

The truth, once again, is that nobody knows the truth or the correct numbers.

The report has plenty of numbers that can be read as the author wants you to or as conversely defeating the point of the author: "9 out of 10 failed attacks by pirates on merchant ships were repelled by armed PMSCs" or "One company reports over 90 encounters with pirates, 18 of which were resolved through the firing of shots" but none bring clarity to the industry. The take away should be that 72 of those encounters were resolved with no action, BMP drills or simple warnings like magnesium flares. That would seem to be a good thing if the vast majority of pirate encounters are deterred by private security are peaceful.

The take away of this report seems to be that the last entity that should be involved in anti-piracy security should be the government so why should they be encouraged to regulate what appears to be a successful response to violence at sea?

Somalia's Special Forces Operating in Mogadishu
By QAA 06/14/2012
As part of Somalia Report's "What is" series, we investigated Somalia's Alpha Group, a highly trained and specialized unit of the Somali National Army, that operates out of a base within Mogadishu's international airport.

Alpha Group
©Mogadishu Times
Alpha Group

Over the last two years Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its foreign counterparts have been training the Alpha Group, an elite unit of Somalia’s national security forces capable of responding to any security crisis in the capital of Mogadishu.

Credible sources in the government told Somalia Report that Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was behind the idea of creation of this elite unit to beef up the capability of the police and military units in responding to emergency situations, aid the police in special operations and investigations into areas abandoned by the al-Shabaab fighters, and to protect the security of the foreign diplomats coming to the capital.

Some of the 300 forces who are former al-Shabaab fighters can identify the remnants of militants in the areas of Elasha Biyaha, Bakara Market or throughout the capital. Many of its soldiers are also reported to be former Islamists or members of the Islamic Union courts (IUC) and also include some former Somalia’s national armed forces with insight into the people of the city.

“The Somali government is moving slowly to recruit special security forces including former al-Shabaab defectors as well as some former Islamist members who were part of Islamic Courts Union's (ICU),” said a former Hisbul Islam fighter who asked to be remained unnamed.

Alpha Group, a well-organized unit based near Aden Adde International Airport, operate to a higher standard and exhibit better discipline than other government soldiers who are often accused of looting the locals. They have sophisticated equipment and their faces remain covered when conducting operations in the capital.

Source close to this Unit told Somalia Report that these forces receive a regular salary from a US government-contracted security company in Mogadishu, although the name of the company remains confidential. Ahmed Mo’alin Fiqi, the director of the Somali National Security Agency, manages the salary of this unit with the consultation of the concerned parties like including the president.

The elite unit also carries out operations involving the detonation and removal of explosives, and searching for weapons and remnants of the al-Shabab fighters in those areas seized by the TFG. After the TFG forces seize land from the al-Shabaab, Alpha Group soldiers step in to ensure the area is safe for residents to return.

In keeping with their secret nature, their commanders are only known to the top officials, but not to regular TFG army officers. They operate without the support of any other TFG forces, and haven't been part of the street fights with the al-Shabaab militia.

These forces were first seen in Mogadishu when United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visited Somalia's capital on December 9th, 2011. When Ban Ki-Moon visited Mogadishu, all major roads in Mogadishu were closed, and many Alpha Group soldiers were seen securing the streets.

Earlier this month, Alpha Group accompanied a delegation led by the head of the Somali police force, Sheriff Sheikuna Maye, and the head of TFG military, General Abdikadir Sheik Ali Dini to Afgoye after it was seized by allied forces. During the operations in Afgoye, Alpha Group arrested many people who were linked with al-Shabaab militia were captured.

Previously the Alpha Group secured the capital during the London Conference in February of this year and during the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on August 19, 2011.

Ahmed Jamaal, a Somalia police officer who spoke to Somalia Report, confirmed the existence of the Alpha Group saying that they are part of the Somalia national army.

“The Alpha forces do exist, and it is one of the projects the government has undertaken to ensure security is achieved throughout the country. They are working hand in hand with the security forces. The Alpha forces are neither foreign forces nor were they established to harm the citizens, but they are fellow Somalis who are there to protect the people from those factions that would sabotage the peace,” Jamaal said.

Alpha Group Training
©Mogadishu Times
Alpha Group Training

Somalia Report spoke to several local residents in Mogadishu to get their impressions of Alpha Group.

Hassan Farale, a teacher and resident of Hamar Wayne, said the local residents appreciate these forces.

"They are more disciplined and they carry out their duties well. Everyone wants peace and security, so as to reach their goals. This force is working towards achieving that goal, and generally people are happy to see these forces at work. The TFG should make the whole of Somali national forces operate like this special unit. If they are equipped and given enough salary, they can do a lot to bring peace in the country," said the teacher.

"When the Alpha Group is on duty, they don’t allow people to approach them and disturb them from their operations. They point guns at those they capture, especially the boys and they immediately instruct the captives to remove their shirts or t-shirts and wrap those around their eyes, and then take them for investigations and questioning," he added.

"They are about 300 soldiers and they are of Somali origin. Most of the people will tell you they are not Somali, but they are definitely Somali. They communicate with each other in Somali language, and during operations they communicate with locals in Somali. They are well-armed and trained. They are feared by civilians and don’t intermingle with them, and they are only seen when there is an operation in an area," Hassan told Somalia Report.

Sayyid Adnan, a local resident of KM4, said sometimes the group dresses in civilian clothes but still covers their faces, creating confusion for locals.

“The Alpha forces resemble al-Shabaab in their mode of dress, and many civilians confuse these forces with al-Shabaab militia, who are notorious for covering their faces and are also heavily armed. The only observable difference between the al-Shabaab forces which were ousted out from Mogadishu, and the Alpha Group forces that were recently established, is the color of their masks and the wearing of black sunglasses. Al-Shabaab wear black scarves over their faces, whereas the Alpha Group force wear light-grey scarves, spectacles and heavy helmets. No parts of their body are visible. They are covered with a uniform and even gloves,” Sayyid said.

Halima Sadiya, a resident of Hamar Wayne, described their operations in his area.

“The Alpha Group forces are present in Mogadishu. Initially, we didn't know who they were. I thought they are part of the foreign armies. They dress in similar uniforms and are all well armed. When foreign dignitaries visit, they are seen moving in groups of about 15. These forces are very different from the other TFG forces and don't behave like other Somali forces,” she told Somalia Report.

Editor's Note: For more in our "What is...?" series, please see:
What is Galmudug?
What is the Galgala Conflict?
What is Bandar Beyla?

Accomplishments and Challenges for ASWJ
By HANI MOHAMED 03/24/2012
ASWJ Fighters
ASWJ Fighters
Somalia Report interviewed Sheikh Dawud Moalim Ibrahim, a senior Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamma (ASWJ) officer in the Galgadud region of central Somalia, to better understand the challenges of intelligence, and what the ASWJ have achieved.

Thank you Sheikh Dawud for giving us this opportunity to have an exclusive interview with you. Could you please briefly tell us something about ASWJ?

ASWJ is an independent Islamist group who shares a common history with diverse Somali communities and stands to protect the interest of people under our control. Our main aim is restore independence to Somalia and ensure security.

Are there other ASWJ intelligence officers and where do they operate?

There are other ASWJ intelligence officers, and they operate mostly in southern Somalia.

Have you directly participated in the war against al-Shabaab?

No, it is not my duty to go to the frontlines, but I collect information from various parts of the country, my challenge is to understand the battlefield.

Where do you get the information you collect?

I collect the information from those Somali people who are always analyzing and discussing politics, and other citizens.

How long have you been intelligence officer?

I have been an intelligence officer since 2009, and I was promoted to senior officer. This promotion came after hard work, as I brought very sensitive information about the al-Shabaab militants in the Galgadud region.

Where have you taken intelligence training?

I cannot tell you where I was trained, because it is our policy to not spread such information to the media.

As senior intelligence officer, where are you based?

There is no one particular area that I am based, but where I reside and operate is sensitive information that I cannot give you.

What do you do for ASWJ?

As senior intelligence officer, I advise ASWJ commanders in the frontlines as to the most strategic areas for fighting.

Does ASWJ have women intelligence officers?

No, because women cannot go to dangerous places and collect the requested information. We are not even planning to include them.

Does ASWJ recruit children and women to join the fighting against al-Shabaab?

No, we neither train children and women, nor force them to participate in war. Our policy is different from that of the al-Shabaab militia, because they deliberately force underage children to be recruited, which is against both the Islamic Shariah law and human rights codes.

What tangible achievements have you seen?

There a number of achievements I conducted, but most recently on March 20, the al-Shabaab militia captured Dhusamreeb for a while. I gave the strategic plan which facilitated the killing of 48 al-Shabaab fighters and the recapture of Dhusamreeb. I observed that al-Shabab could not maintain control of the town.

TFG forces have captured most of the Bay and Bakool regions, including the recently captured town of Hudur. Would you like to comment?

I can say it is a great achievement for the TFG forces to have captured Hudur and Baidao, and as the ASWJ, we welcome and encourage TFG troops to continue hunting the remaining few weak al-Shabaab militants.

Anything else you would like to say?

I would like to encourage other intelligence officers to double their duties. I also encourage the people under ASWJ control to work with us, so we can restore peace and remove the poisonous militia from the region.

Thank you Sheikh Dawud for your interview.

You are welcome.

Al-Shabaab Insists They Will Hold Onto Kismayo, Abu Mansur Not Threatened
Shabaab militants moving near Kismayo
Mahad Omar Diriye
Shabaab militants moving near Kismayo
Somalia Report had an interview with senior al-Shabaab intelligence officer in the Gedo region, Sheikh Hassan Abi-Waqas.

How many other intelligence officials are in al-Shabaab?

I myself do not know the exact number of intelligence officials, but they exist.

Who do you collect information from, and what do you do with the information?

I collect information from all over Somalia, depending on the need, and bring it to the officials who are senior to me.

How senior are you? How long have you been with al-Shabaab?

My seniority is evident, since I am an intelligence officer who tries to know the secret of enemies and spies within al-Shabaab. I have been working with al-Shabaab for the last four years.

How long have you been serving in this capacity?

I have been serving for four years, and was selected from the troops based in Kismayo, and had my competency tested by officials in Mogadishu.

Which areas do you have authority to cover?

My salary is sensitive information. There is no specific area over which I have authority, but the intelligence I submit is highly considered and taken seriously.

How old are you? Do you have family members who also support al-Shabaab? In what capacities?

I am 28 years old, and have no family members who are with al-Shabaab.

Who are your closest associates in al-Shabaab? Whom do you hang out with? Who do you regularly meet with?

My closest associates are the committee of intelligence experts, and I regularly meet with the chairman of the committee, but at this time I am not ready to give you his name. The information I gather will be well framed, and appropriate action will be taken by the committee.

Have you ever been on the front lines?

No, I do not participate in fighting, but advise the army commanders.

Do you believe that al-Shabaab can resist the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) who are heading towards Bardhere, to take Gedo?

Yes, I believe we can fight against them and defend themselves from any group who try to capture Bardhere.

Does al-Shabaab have enough power to do this?

Yes, we are fully prepared and Allah is with us all the time because we are defending his religion from infidels and the hypocrites. Our expectation is to inflict heavy casualties and destroy their power, and we will do this by carrying out explosions and suicide bombings.

How can al-Shabaab engage in face-to-face fighting against TFG and Kenyan forces, who are well equipped and prepared to capture the region of Gedo?

As an intelligence officer, I have seen tactics for dealing with their strategy and they will meet bad consequesnce when they try to attack Bardhere. If they are well equipped or outnumber us, it does not frighten or worry our mujahideen.

Do you think that al-Shabaab have the power to defend the port city of Kismayo?

We have deployed more suicide bombers and brave mujahideen to Kismayo to defend it, and I assure you that Kismayo will not fall from our hands.

Are there some al-Shabaab fighters who fled to Yemen?

Definitely there are no members amongt us who fled to Yemen. We are all ready to die for the sake of Allah, and we will achieve our target, which is to impose Islamic Shariah law in the regions of Somalia, and we will continue throughout east Africa.

Why did al-Shabaab withdraw from the Bay region?

That is military strategy, and we remain in the region invisibly while our operations continue. If the TFG forces captured Bay region, why don’t they move about safely? Inshallah, we will soon recapture the regions where the infidels and their allies are poisoning the religion of the people.

Al-Shabaab insurgents are accused of harassing innocent people. Is this true, Sheikh?

No, this is not true, and I want to say this is what the TFG, Ethiopia and Kenya use to mislead the people. Islam is mercy and does not allow mistreatment or to violate the rights of innocent people.

Does al-Shabaab arrest and torture people under their control?

I already answered this question. We do arrest people who violate Shariah law, or refuse to implement the rules we impose. There are some cases where we slaughter people who spy for the TFG, Ethiopia and Kenya, and that is under Islamic commands.

Al-Shabaab militants were flushed out from Mogadishu, Hiran, Galgadud and most of Gedo region, so where are they continuing?

Actually, we remain inside the towns and regions which TFG and their groups control, and everyday we carry out our operations.

Abu Mansur Al-Amriki, one of the top al-Shabaab officials, fears that al-Shabaab will assassinate him. What can you say about this?

It is totally false information that al-Shabaab are planning to kill their muslim brother, Mansur Al-Amriki.

Sheikh Hassan Abi-Waqas, I appreciate the time you gave to Somalia Report.

You are welcome.

Aweys and Robow Appointed Commanders of Bay and Bakool Military Operations
By AK 03/13/2012
TFG soldier replacing al-Shabaab flag in Bakara
© Somalia Report, all rights reserved
TFG soldier replacing al-Shabaab flag in Bakara

After al-Shabaab fighters vacated Baidoa town and other parts of Bay region in Southern Somalia, the insurgent group has escalated hit and run attacks against Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops and their allied Ethiopian forces.

A week ago, a general meeting was held among al-Shabaab officials, pro-al-Shabaab elders and intellectuals in the Dinsor District of Bay region where new military operations and offensives were discussed.

Senior officials including Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Mukhtar Robow (Abumansur) were present at the meeting, according to al-Shabaab officials in Dinsor district.

The members of the group discussed the loss of ground in south-west Somalia and how the militia could regain control of Baidoa and other districts in Gedo region.

Sheikh Abdirahin Ali, an al-Shabaab public awareness officer, told Somalia Report that during the meeting a new plan was unveiled for the group regarding Ethiopia and TFG’s alliance in Bay and Gedo region.

“We gathered all of the traditional elders and intellectuals who come from Bay, Bakol, Gedo and other areas under control of al-Shabaab. They focused on increasing attacks against Ethiopian infidels who invaded our Islamic country,” he said.

Officials have suggested the adoption of new military tactics and recruitment of new fighters who will boost the hit and run attacks in the main cities of Bay, Bakol and Gedo regions.

“I don’t want to tell you about the new tactics that we agreed on initiating. It is not a public issue,” he added.

The increase of guerrilla attacks against TFG troops in Baidoa as well as conducting more successful assassinations included the final outcome of the Dinsor meeting.

According to Sheikh Ali, the militia will carry out night offensives and suicides attacks on Ethiopian bases in Baidoa town. The defense of Wajid District, a former base for United Nations (UN) agencies is one of the group’s major targets.

Other sources in Dinsor indicate that the group also announced a warning to local people especially traders who may deal with Ethiopia troops. One of the al-Shabaab officers is said to have publicly threatened that they will kill anyone who tries to deal with Ethiopian troops in Bay region.

On Monday afternoon, while speaking to Dinsor residents, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow called on civilians to support the new operations by al-Shabaab and warned that they will target anyone who works with Ethiopians and anti Islamist groups in Somalia.

“We will seize Baidoa and the Mujahideen will have to face that danger. Always Islam will gain success. They are infidels, so what is your role? Your role is to fight, to kill an infidel is of benefit to you and you’re here after,” Robow stated.

This created a lot of stress among civilians and traders who are not involved in the fighting between al-Shabaab and TFG’s Ethiopian allied front.

Solid sources in al-Shabaab say that Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Robow Mansur were appointed to lead the new al-Shabaab operations in southern Somalia after experiencing failures in various military operations conducted in Mogadishu, Jubba , Gedo and Bay regions.

Some of the group’s officials believe that the leadership of these two commanders will bear fruit because of their alliance and influence upon residents in those regions. Many local officials are likely to respond positively to the words of Aweys and Robow rather than Ahmed Godane's who is the senior leader of al-Shabaab.

“The late massive fighting in Yurkud was an experiment of our offensives against Ethiopian infidels and government forces. We killed at least 80 and this proves that we are capable,” Sheikh Ali asserted.

TFG's Response to Al-Shabaab's New Strategies

TFG officials in Baidoa town said that they will defend the town and eliminate al-Shabaab from the area.

Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade, a Somali Member of Parliament told Somalia Report by telephone that they are on the side lines of the activities planned by the militia and are aware of what they are going to do.

“We know everything. They fled from here and went to Dinsor but what I want to tell you is that TFG will reach all Bay districts. We will confirm our movements, we are currently organizing our troops,” he said.

Government troops plan on advancing upon the districts of Bay and Bakool regions, where some al-Shabaab militants are in hiding. Mr. Habsade called on foreign fighters to move out of the region and promised that they will finalize the fighting against al-Shabaab within a month.

Al-Shabaab is arming hundreds of fighters in southwest Somalia in an attempt to re-capture Baidoa which is one of the most strategic goals that they intend to achieve as part of their new military strategy.