Topic: Al-Shabaab
Last Major Stronghold of al Shabaab Falls To "Operation Sledge Hammer"
Kismayo Port
© Somalia Report, All Rights Reserved
Kismayo Port

Kenya has finally made it to Kismayo. Feeling confident enough to enter the long suffering port city of 150,000 people with the invasion force, Spokesman Col Cyrus Oguna credited an air, land and sea operation called "Operation Sledgehammer" for the success of the invasion.

Oguna said this was the first time any such attack has been carried out by an African Army. What the media spokesman lacks in history knowledge he makes for in enthusiasm. South Africa, North Africa and even Mogadishu have been the scene of numerous amphibious and air assaults executed or accompanied by African troops. His excitement may be more due to the lack (so far) of any major disaster. It's not easy moving untested troops by small boat into a hostile region at night.

Somehow the Kenyans managed to coordinate air strikes by aging Northrop jets with no smart bombs, even less precise rocket strikes from helicopters and artillery strikes from aging ships. All the while offloading terrified Kenya land forces from bobbing ships onto beaches north of the city at night.

Kenyan troops now control the north boundary of the town, which includes the old airport, road junction and University grounds.

The military may not actually control Kismayo, but strategy was solid, execution well done and U.S. and ally-provided intelligence and coordination is credited with some of the success. Not to mention constant training by both US forces in Kenya and onsite foreign advisors contracted through the AU (but paid for by the UN and the US)

Anvil and Sledgehammer

The 10 pm to 2am assault required 7 ships of the Kenyan navy including the recently delivered Jasiri. An anti piracy patrol ship that finally showed up in August.

Although flummoxed at first, local Somali militias like the Ras Kamboni were hired to restart the Kenyan campaign. slowly the Kenya war machine began to make headway. Somali Army Units were also brought in to support the Kenyans. Using painfully slow clearing operations and proxy forces the Kenyas slowly cleared al Shabaabtraining camps and secured villages around Kismayo creating the anvil for which they had to yet reveal the hammer.

The arrival of the newly built 83 meter, 140 ton, 28 knot Jasiri gave the Kenyans the confidence to launch a sea going operation. The Jasiri was purchased in 2003, was built, sat without upkeep for seven years, impounded and then finally sold at a discount to the Kenyans. The other "new" ship pressed into service was the ancient P400 KNS Harambee II formerly known as "La Rieusse" from Reunion. The patrol boat was donated by France because of its 40mm cannon. This augmented the rather sparse Kenyan naval assets. Kenya is not known for naval expertise having declared a blockade and promptly blasted a group of Ras Kamboni fishermen who were returning from being out fishing at night. This time the Kenyans were blasting the right targets although children and civilians have been killed by the inaccurate naval and air shelling.

But war is an inexact matter and by all accounts the invasion was successful. There are still pockets of resistance inside the city that will be left to the militas to clear. Kismayans will awake tomorrow morning under the rule of a foreign army, giving some pause to the orignal purpose of AMISOM and the Djibouti accords which were designed to keep self interested neighbors from meddling in Somali affairs.

Running Out of Space?

It could be that Kenya has checkmated al Shabaab from their normal route of exit. Around midnight Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, spokesman for al Shabaab, admitted that the remaining fighters had been ordered to execute a "tactical retreat". Although Al Shabaab admitted they had made yet another strategic withdrawal they have been pulling out of the south since early this year. Fighters have also retreated to the islands around Kismayo. In anticipation of the final assault, Somalia Report interviewed a number of al Shabaab commanders including those in charge of suicide attacks. Back in June of this year the terrorist group gave every indication of holding the line at Kismayo. But almost exactly our years after they entered, al Shabaab has abandoned Kismayo.

It is not clear where exactly, al Shabaab is going withdraw to. Typically the foreign and experienced islamist fighters have left by skiff or dhow and moved up the coast while sending their families across land to the Ogadan region to meet them along the coastal areas in Somaliland and Puntland. From there its a short boat ride to Yemen. Many fighters have moved into the Golis mountains where they have easy access to weapons and supplies across the Gulf of Aden. Al Shabaab has historically entered areas where there are minor conflicts and then escalated those disputes into control positions. They began when the ICU was driven out of power by Ethiopia and quickly harnessed Somali anger at foreign occupiers. After fighting an inept army and ineffective leaders, al Shabaab was literally at the gates of Villa Somalia by the end of 2010.

A renewed effort using more Ugandan soldiers, in concert with Ethiopia and foreign mentors pushed the islamists back. The entry of Kenya posed more of a problem than an opportunity. Uganda had at least fought bush wars and had no long term ambitions for Somalia. Kenya clearly wanted to expand its area of control into southern Somalia, and wanted to use an untested army to do it.

Although Kenya considers Al Shabaab surrounded, Al Shabaab may consider having 17,000 foreign troops locked down in fixed positions a victory. Maintaining an operational army requires a lot more money than networks of cels who blow themselves up or attack strategic targets. A fan site run by a British Somalia called HSM Press has been tweeting comments that range from the boastful Sept 28th tweet: The Kuffar invaders are about to learn that we are an Ummah that has never been defeated, and the coming days will bear testimony to that." to waking up the next morning with a much meeker approach to the invasion. "Last night, after more than 5 years the Islamic administration in #Kismayo closed its offices. to the less than confident " Last night, after more than 5 years the Islamic administration in #Kismayo closed its offices."

A good anti insurgency campaign requires a vigilant, supportive population and a benign occupier. Somali's are adept at quickly reshaping social structures and ousting malcontents. It remains to be seen how benign the KDF, new Somali government and their proxies will be to the lucrative port city.

As the second and more difficult phase begins. Kenyans and AMISOM must support a new government and maintain fixed positions ideal for attack by terrorist tactics. For now there will be calm as Kenyan troops and Somali militias begin mopping up.

It must be remembered that al Shabaab successfully pulled its entire force out of Bakara market right under the noses of AMISOM. They did it in one August night leaving behind a small group to guard their retreat. Al Shabaab has not been seen grouping in large formations but has carried out a number of devastating attacks on politicians, journalists and security forces.

Residents said fighters were seen leaving early this morning heading out of town. Somalia Report has been notified that al Shabaab leaders have been spotted in Jilib, Bu'ale and Diinsor making preparations to defend their 2006 and 2009-era strongholds. They also complained that al Shabaab had urged them to head towards the port and found themselves in the path of the oncoming Kenyans. Al Shabaab knows how to retreat and more importantly let armies and administrations settle in before attacking again.

The Second Act Is the Hardest

As the Kenyans are welcomed to Kismayo they know that al Shabaab sympathizers have stayed behind waiting to strike. Thankfully local residents have long since tired of al Shabaab. They might exactly find a devastated desperate place.

The port has been humming because prices have been kept strategically lower than Mogadishu's port. the Somali government may shift those prices causing a drop in dock jobs as more goods head back up to the main port. The administration has not been selected but historically Kismayo has been a contentious price due to the lucrative taxation the port generates.

Al Shabaab survived off charcoal exports and the taxes on those 7 million sacks of charcoal shipped to the UAE and Saudia Arabia are supposed to have kept al Shabaab flush. The UN estimates that al Shabaab or at least the al Shabaab governor made an estimated $25M in taxes in 2011.

The reality is that al Shabaab has always survived by taxation, extortion or simple theft. They have always been their own worst enemy, declaring Somalia for Somalis but bringing in foreign fighters and an less than Somali interpretation of islamic sharia. Somali's have been adept at harnessing the more mediative xeer when needed as well as sharia and western legal systems. As a port, Kismayo will need a forward thinking administration that shares the economic benefits of an open port.

The local population has been under the control of al Shabaab since August of 2008. The people have suffered under al Shabaab, not prospered. Western aid has been restricted, NGO's have feared to work here, there will be a surge of money jobs and goodwill. Until the bombing and attacks start.

Many Somali's hope this is Kenya's last act and they have gone out with a bang. A Hollywood-style beach landing with no casualties that will stir the home country and allow them to hand over control of Kismayo to locals. Over the last year of fighting, Kenya insists it has killed over 700 insurgents and only sustained less than three dozen casualties. That low casualty figure actually says more about Kenya's real tactics of letting the proxy miitias fight while they provide the armored backup. It is doubtful the mostly Christian army of Kenya will have much to do once Kismayo is locked down. It is equally doubtful that Kenya will simply turn their aircraft and armored vehicles and head back across the 682km long Somali/Kenyan border.

A Long Way To KIsmayo

What should have been a short drive from the border to Kismayo on October 16, 2011 appears to have become a yearlong slog for the Kenyans. It is not the goal of getting control of Kismayo goes back to the Ajuuraan State in the middle ages. The region was once controlled by the Sultan of Oman, Britain, Italy, warlords, Ethiopia, the ICU, al Shabaab and now AMISOM acting on behalf of the new Somali government. The Kenyan push to control the region using Ogadanis began in 2010, but the Ethiopians are not blind to the strategic importance of an avenue to the ocean controlled by elements hostile to their fight against Somali Ogadani insurgent elements.

It is not clear where the Kenyans go from here. The Kenyans, like the Ugandans, make money having their troops stationed inside Somalia. The Somali government seems to sleep better at night in Villa Somalia being guarded by western-trained guards and Ugandan soldiers.

There is also the embarrassing matter of contested off shore oil blocks off the Somali/Kenyan border There is economic benefit in controlling the port and the border Speculation would be premature but a quick review of the unexpected invasion shows that something other than national security has driven this expedition.

"Operation Linda Nchi" began on a trumped up premise. The need to pursue kidnappers who had snatched tourists and aid workers from Kenya's northern borders. "Shiftas" of Somali bandits were neither new nor that critical to Kenya's security.

The kidnap and murder of an elderly French woman, the murder and abduction of British tourist and the kidnapping of two Spanish aid workers from the Dadaab refugee camp.

The timing for the invasion was terrible. The rainy season quickly impeded any rapid movement. Coordination, training, funding and political will began to wane. The TFG was caught unprepared and vociferously rejected yet another foreign invader. A day or so of behind the scenes schooling and everybody seemed thrilled that yet another neighbor was blundering around the bushland chasing al Shabaab. But despite a rosy face painted on the punitive expedition, Linda Nchi seemed to be a disaster.

Worse according to the Kenyan government the operation was costing them $2.8M in personnel costs against a $3.1 billion dollar national deficit.

Finally choosing pragmatism over optimism the U.S. began supporting the invasion and AMISOM welcomed Kenya as fellow journeymen mercenaries earning their $1028 dollars a month while drowning in ammunition and weapons. The $5 million a month for the 5000 Kenyan troops was also bolstered with funds and training. The blundering blitzkrieg was "rehatted" , funded and absorbed into AMISOM. Kenya is seeking $164 million dollars from the UN to reimburse the cost of the invasion.

Jubaland or Somalia?

An agressor had become a peacekeeper even though their stated mission was to seize control of Kismayo. Kenya's real goal was to control the southern part of Somalia with a Kenyan friendly administration. Over the next few weeks the real battle will shape up as citizens of Kismayo see their government being shaped for them. As Somalia Report reported on last year, a hodgepodge of potential contenders await.

President Hassan was on message in the local and congratulated Somali forces first, then "local forces" followed by "AMISOM" forces.But he also made it clear that he wants locals to form a government and is quite wary of the negotiations ongoing in Nairobi to form a government. If history is indication (ex- President Sharif had no idea Kenya was invading and lashed out at them) Kenya along with the UN will have their say and not the new President. The Jubaland initiative has an ugly history of being force fed to Somali. They were neither invited or consulted Back in January of 2010 the Kenyans had lobbied the U.S. on the invasion to install a proxy government. This is the quiet battle that should be paid attention to rather then the booming and small arms fire of Kenyans clearing al Shabaab from Kismayo.

At press time two Spanish aid workers last known to be held in Kismayo are still being held captive.

Breaking News
Small Port Was Once Captured By Islamist Sheik Sharif In 2008
Merka (Marka, Merkah)
Merka (Marka, Merkah)

The liberation of Merka by foreign paid, trained and supported troops was inevitable. Proxy forces now numbering over 17,000 hired guns and militias like the Ras Kamboni, rehatted forces like the Kenyan Defence Force, religious and ethnic groups like ASWJ and even U.S intelligence providers are providing overwhelming force albeit in cautious steps.

Merka is a minor port and home to around 100,000 people in hard times and up to 300,000 people in good. The strategic value is that it is a day south of Mogadishu and yet another stepping stone towards Kismayo. Historically Somalia's coastal cities have had much different influences than the arid interior. Merka has as much connection with seafarers, the Swahili culture, Islamic missionaries and the Gulf as the interior. Control of Merka also controls the commerce that tends to flow from inland out to the ocean rather than by land. Although the strategy of AMISOM is to march down the coast to "trap" al-Shabaab in Kismayo, the reality is that al-Shabaab has flowed out of the seaports and into the population. Leaving a disturbing calm and a sense of "impending showdown". The reality will be after the demise of the group as a controlling militia there will be a slow escalation in violence against the fledging government. Attempts to oust those who supported al Shabaab will create new dynamics of violence. New imports of violence can flow into Merka as easily as they flowed out.

There is no word of Merka's most famous resident, American Omar Hammammi aka "al Amriki". Most of the al Shabaab leadership moved south to Merka a year ago as their hold on Mogadishu began to crumble. In January, Somalia Report, began to receive numerous reports of foreign and senior fighters leaving Merka northward along the coast. A recent U.S. airstrike in Puntland's Northeast town of Qandala and the movement of pirate militias may portend a new coalition and a new battleground as the Islamists accept the inevitable. Other than the fierce fighting in Mogadishy, al-Shabaab has yet to directly confront AMISOM forces. Choosing to pull back in very organized, overnight moves, leaving a token force to provide cover.

Despite their claims of easy victory. AMISOM has been taking their sweet time and despite their soldiers being paid by the month. The last major victory was the clearing out of Laanta Buuro, the site of an al Shabaab training camp, just west of Mogadishu. That was over a month ago and only 18 miles from Merka. Even back in July most al-Shabaab fighters were heading towards Barawe away from Merka.

The Worst Best Choice or Best Worst Choice?

Abandoned by al-Shabaab and little resistance to the Ugandans and Somali militias, Merkah has yet to fully embrace their new masters.

The government of Somalia is yet a few days old and it's ability to replace "the youth" with sage experience has yet to be demonstrated. For example the election of president to negate the nattering nabobs in parliament has yet to appear. One of the people who wants to run Somalia is Sheikh Sharif who has an interesting history with Merka.

In November of 2008 experts cast dire warnings that have been turned around with American bought weapons, training and equipment. It is hard for most to beleive that the insurgent group that was literally hammering at the walls of the TFG have become elusive ghosts. Much like the feared Taliban in Afghanistan who vanished in 2002 only to regroup in stronger and stronger waves.

The liberation or occupation or Merka depending on the point of view carries with it an interesting political foot note. In mid November of 2008 The leader of Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), a cerain Chairman Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed took control of Merka in the name of the Islamic Court Union (ICU). At the time Merka's primarily population felt they were being occupied by the Habr Gedr and Ayr froces of General Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siyad "Indha-Adde." The former warlord made a show of support to the TFG back in late 2011. and has kept a fairly low profile other than being a "spolier" in the constitutional debate.

Al-Shabaab compared to cleric turned warlord Indha Adde was a welcome relief when their technicals rollin on November 12, 2008. However since 2008 al Shabaab became increasingly tiresome to the population, forcing residents to grow beards, attend executions be denied life saving aid and even subjecting them to the terror of drone and air attacks by virtue of their high level leaders being present.

AMISOM said there was little fighting and that al-Shabaab had fled. They had plenty of time to prepare. AMISOM Contingent Commander Brigadier Paul Lokech told the media on June 4, 2012, “We are planning to move to Merka which is 90 kilometres from Mogadishu. How will you evacuate causalities in that distance if you do not have helicopters?”

“Having them would be force multiplier. Our mission will continue but it will be slowed down because we have to be more cautious,” he added. At that time AMISOM had no air support for casevac or cover.

The "surprise" appearance of Mi-24 gunships was revealed in headlines as on August 12, 2012, three out of the four recently refitted gunships crashed into Mount Kenya on their way to support the AMISOM mission to retake Kismayo via Merka. Any Uganda combat casualties would be flown to the hospital at the airport to be stabilized before repatriation. Kenyan military forces have been using helicopter transport and smaller gunships since their invasion of Somalia. Kenyan politician George Saitoti was killed in a helicopter crash west of Nairobi in a nonS-omali related flight. Mi 24s are big heavy and fast and can be used to remove battle field casualties but is more likely that smaller transport aircraft are on their way from a donor nation.

It would be expected that northern based forces of primarily Ugandan soldiers will continue down the coast through Barawe to form up to the "hammer" to the north of Kismayo while the less experienced Kenyan and hired militias under warlord Madobe will create the southern half of the anvil. Naval and air forces were to decimate and scatter fighters up until four Hind gunships were plowed by their untested pilots into Mount Kenya. A measure of Uganda's preparations for the fight is that the first rescuer on the crash scene was a charter helicopter with a news crew. AMISOM has gone from jungle fighters, to urban street brawlers to liberators on the march. They are not equipped for it and the helicopter disaster and the Ugandan and Kenyan killings of civilians are a perfect example of what happens when outside forces rapidly ramp up and retask military units. The Somali trained units operate at a lower level of efficiency and competence and usually unrelated to the regions they enter and hold.

There is also the minor but very important problem of desperate al-Shabaab recruits cut off from funds and their superiors. Somalia Report has been tracking the location of the two Spanish MSF hostages who were last reported in Merka in July. A new video has been made and we will be make it available if appropriate.

For now the residents of Merka are happy to see AMISOM and the Somali Army; whether they welcome the new government is yet to be seen.

Air and Land Based Attacks Hit Shabaab Stronghold
By MHD 08/11/2012
Kenyan F-5 fighter
©Northrup Grumman
Kenyan F-5 fighter

At 6:40pm Saturday evening, air and sea based strikes hit the port city of Kismayo, a stronghold of the al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia's Lower Juba region, killing three civilians. Residents believe the strikes were carried out by Kenyan naval and air forces which are preparing to seize the city from the Islamic militants with the help of forces from the Somalia government, African Union, and the pro-government Ras Kamboni militia.

Airplanes have been spotted flying low level over the city for the last week, likely conducting reconnaissance missions for this evening's attack. Residents also believed today's attack was a test of the city's defenses in preparation for the upcoming battle for control of Kismayo. Today's operation started from warships and then followed by fighter jets which targeted known military and residential sites for al-Shabaab fighters, according to residents.

As of this publishing, confirmed causalities include four members from one family. Mr Barre Jiis and one son were injured while two of his other children were killed in their home in Laanta Ganacsiga village. Elsewhere the strikes also hit at Marina village and killed an older woman.

“I received two injured people, a father and his son, who were hit by the strikes at their home this evening as well as the bodies of three civilians including an old mother. The father's condition is not as serious as compared to his son and we hope their health will be okay after we give them the necessary treatment. We can handle such patients and even in the future, which we expect with the coming offensive,” a local doctor who asked not to be named told Somalia Report.

Other sources contacted by Somalia Report said the building targeted was adjacent to the home of Shabaab’s chief security official, Sheikh Abdirahman Fiillow. His home, residents said, was damaged on one side.

After the strikes, one of Shabaab’s former religious officials, Sheikh Abdinasir Yussuf Abdalla, consoled Kismayo's civilians asking them to stay calm. He said the airstrikes were conducted by the Christian forces in anticipated of their plan to seize Kismayo and he urged the Islamic community to get ready to defend against the invasion. He ordered the people to take their weapons to the frontlines to defend their religion and themselves.

Kismayo civilians are tense and many have fled as fighting appears imminent.

©Somalia Report

“We feel frustrated about this incident today as well as the other fighting that is expected to take place soon. The community will be the most affected as the likely fierce fighting that will surface within the city. Al-Shabaab is expected to fight in the city which will add to the suffering of the civilians and the allied forces are inching to capture the city. At the present, the situation is tense and the future is unpredictable. We have families and children and we can’t flee. We don’t know where to escape as the situation deteriorates day-by-day,” Amina, a local resident, told Somalia Report.

The strikes came as the allied forces prepare to capture the city port by August 20th as promised by the Somali and Kenyan govenrments.

Once the allies seize Kismayo, governance of the city has yet to be determined with African Union, Somali, Kenyan and local militias vying for control. One militia, Ras Kamboni, is planning to be front and center on the advance to capture Kismayo. Their leader, Ahmed Madobe recently departed Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, for Afmadow to strategize the military operation to oust al-Shabaab from the city.

Somalia Report will continue to update this as more information becomes available.

Militants Resort to Criminal Tactics in Bay and Bakol Regions
By WSP 08/10/2012
Al-Shabaab Fighters (File Photo)
Al-Shabaab Fighters (File Photo)

The al-Shabaab Islamic group battling for control of Somalia are notorious for their implementation of strict Islamic sharia rule in areas under their control and harassment of local residents. As they lose more territory to the allied forces of Somalia and the African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM), the militia has rapidly resorted to common criminal acts including carjackings and robberies to keep their jihad funded, as residents and victims complained to Somalia Report.

According to Mama Hawa Ali, a businesswoman who trades in fabric in Dinsoor town in Bay region, militant fighters continue to loot the shops in the town in broad daylight.

“We are being harassed by these young men who people tell me are al-Shabaab fighters. They can come anytime and confiscate our properties. Most of the businesses here are at risk of closing down and I personally also have the same plans. Maybe we will take a month off until the level of security improves," she told Somalia Report.

What is causing the hardline Islamists to commit criminal acts when they were the ones tasked to prevent such behavior? To learn more, Somalia Report spoke with residents of Hudur, the capital of Bakol region and one of the towns recently seized by allied forces that still has pockets of fighters scattered throughout the town.

"We are finding it difficult to believe what the mujahidins are doing to the same people on whom they once implemented strict Islamic rules. For example, only two days ago a car belonging to one of our residents was forcibly taken by al-Shabaab. Insecurity in the town is rampant nowadays," explained Hassan Gedi.

"In addition to carjacking, robberies are on the rise. The masterminds behind these robberies are the militia themselves. It is so difficult to see your resources being confiscated and you can do nothing about it especially in the villages that are fully under their control. It is no longer the al-Shabaab we knew who implemented sharia law. Now they are the real thugs. On the other hand the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has done little in eradicating the al-Shabaab militia and their sympathizers in the town that they have taken control of,” he added.

In response, the Hudur town district commissioner, Mr. Mohamed Maalin, condemned the acts in a harshest manner possible.

“Insha’Allah (God willing) the TFG will not rest until the Somali population - wherever they are - is safe from the danger of terrorist attacks from the al-Shabaab militants and their foreign fighters. It just feels good that we gaining more grounds from them and that is why they are frustrated now more than ever. This is certainly not the militia we knew. They have transformed into criminals and consequently giving us and the Somali population rough time. But Insha’Allah we will overcome them," the commissioner told Somalia Report.

One of the hardest hit sectors is that of transportation, according to residents and officials. Recently vehicles that were operating along the road that connects Hudur and outlying towns including Ceelbarde have encountered difficulties from the militia. Drivers reported the militants have gone so far as beating up the passengers on board and as an additional punishment took any valuable item with them. The number of checkpoints has also risen throughout southern Somalia.

Nuur Ali was one of the lucky passengers who escaped with only a few bruises when al-Shabaab tried to stop his vehicle by firing recklessly at it as he traveled from Hurdur to a village where his livestock are being held.

“It is cowardice on the part of al-Shabaab to turn their backs on the Somali population. They used to be criticized all over the world, but personally I didn’t see their evil side until a week ago when I narrowly escaped death," explained the herdsman.

"For me, it started when the fighters fired at our overcrowded lorry until the driver lost control and decided to stop. They came to the lorry and started beating up the passengers especially men and some women who were protesting and then ordered us to lie on our stomachs. Almost fifteen minutes they left and we got up and realized that they stole our valuable items including them sugar. We were really traumatized and we no longer know what to do. The same militia whose hymn we have been singing for so long are now the ones who are becoming traitors. Or are they taking revenge out on us because Hudur is now under the control of the government? What are we to do? I can't drive on this road anymore but must reach my livestock," Mr. Nuur told Somalia Report.

It is clear the group is suffering financially by losing ground to the allied forces and the residents are the ones suffering from their losses. Al-Shabaab controlled the southern Somalia for almost three years and had a stable source of income from taxes. During that time, they imposed a consistent form of sharia. In cases relating to theft and robbery, the militia severely punished the criminals by amputation. Today, however, sharia seems to be a thing of the past as those tasked with its implementation are the same people who have become criminals.

To understand this shift in dynamics, Somalia Report spoke to Mr. Maalim Adan Yare, the al-Shabaab leader representing Tiyeglow district in Bakol region.

“Alhamdulillah, I thank God for this opportunity to address this sensitive issue of public interest. As we all understand Harakatul Shabaab al Mujahidin has never failed to deliver justice to the population since it took control of Bay and Bakol regions of southern Somalia, so why now? The answer is no. Al-Shabaab would never do stupid things such ambushing and looting public transportation in the area we control or even in the areas we don’t control. But the interesting thing is why is all this insecurity happening as soon as the foreigners invaded our land? This simply means that TFG solders and their Kafir allies had something to do with this."

Mr. Yare emphasized that the militia has vast support in the districts of Hudur, Ceelbarde, Dinsor and Burhakaba and Teyeglow in both Bay and Bakol regions.

This comes as the allied forces advance towards the port city of Kismayo, al-Shabaab's last stronghold and a financial center, in Somalia's Lower Juba region.

Militants Believe Economic Embargo Will Harm TFG and AMISOM
By HAMZA DHORE, MHD 08/06/2012
Business in Kismayo
©Somalia Report
Business in Kismayo

As the hard-line Islamist group al-Shabaab prepares to defend Kismayo, one of its last and most important strongholds, it has announced a new strategy that it hopes will deliver a crippling blow to the military efforts of its opponents - the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and AMISOM.

In a move likely to bring additional hardship to communities still suffering from the effects of drought and famine, al-Shabaab has over the last week declared that it will block the transportation of goods and foodstuffs from the port of Kismayo to areas no longer under its control in the Gedo, Lower Juba and Bay regions of Somalia. The reason provided by al-Shabaab is that this economic embargo will have a devastating effect on the logistics of the TFG and its African Union allies.

“I swear the almighty Allah who created this earth, the infidels and their supporters will face (a) hard time that (will) force them to return (to) their home countries. From now on, the mujahedeen are stopping the vehicles transporting goods from Kismayo port to the areas that are controlled by the allied and TFG forces. We are going to starve them to death and those remaining will be going back to their homeland without carrying any weapons,” said Sheikh Habeeb, the al-Shabaab governor in Kismayo, said to pro-al-Shabaab media outlets.

Further emphasising the seriousness with which this new policy will be implemented Sheikh Habeeb then went on to say any person caught attempting to smuggle items into areas controlled by the “enemies of God” would face “the wrath of the mujahideen and his or her judgment will be heavy.”

This is not however the first time that al-Shabaab has moved to impose restrictions on trade between areas under its control and those controlled by the TFG and its allies. Prior to this most recent announcement, a ban on the movement of goods into some areas of Gedo region was being enforced by the Islamist militia, despite efforts by local clan elders to have the restrictions lifted. As a result of this pre-existing embargo, the town of Garbaharey in particular has experienced difficulties and hardships not seen by other towns that are located closer to the borders of Kenya or Ethiopia such as Dolow, El-Wak and Beled Hawo.

Now as a result of this new embargo Somalia Report has received information that additional towns in the Lower Juba and Bay regions that, like Garbahrey, are likewise facing shortages of goods and supplies they would normally receive through Kismayo. One such town is Diinsoor in Bay region, where the shortages of goods are already being experienced as a direct result of the new decree.

“Since last week, the prices of basic commodities like sugar, rice, soups and small items increased. We are worried about the shortage of the goods that used to be transported from Kismayo to Afmadow. Since last week, no vehicles reached the town due to the restriction of Al-Shabaab in the areas controlled by the TFG and her allies,” Hamdi, a resident in Afmadow told Somalia Report.

Unloading a ship in Kismayo Port
©Somalia Report
Unloading a ship in Kismayo Port

Many of the vehicles that would normally be delivering goods and other supplies to towns such as Afmadow are now sitting idle either in the port area of Kismayo or in garages. One driver who regularly transports goods between Kismayo and Afmadow spoke to Somalia Report and described his experience following the announcement of the new restrictions on trade:

“I was about to take off from the port on Thursday last week and drive to the town of Afmadow when al-Shabaab announced that no vehicle will carry goods to those towns controlled by the TFG and the allied forces. I have parked my lorry loaded with goods in one of the garages in Kismayo and up until now there has been no announcement from al-Shabaab to allow us to continue our journey. The tyres of the lorry have been punctured because of the weight of the goods and the number of days the vehicle has remained loaded and it can’t be offloaded to a store a store because it is expensive,” said the driver.

While the shortage of goods in some areas and towns is now beginning to be felt by their residents, local business people are also beginning to express their own feelings of frustration at the impact of this decision on their businesses.

Somalia Report was also able to talk to Mr Abdiwelli Salald, a businessman who supplies goods directly from Kismayo to Badade and Dobley which are located in the areas covered by the recently announced embargo. He pointed out that while the ban on trade has created a shortage of goods and other essential commodities in areas not controlled by the Islamist militia some goods are still making their way through to them. This is being achieved by acting as if goods and supplies are intended for delivery to Bardere, a stronghold of al-Shabaab, and then taking long and cumbersome routes actually delivering them to Dobley, Badade and other small locations. However, due to the difficulty of these routes, the danger of detection and the threat of heavy punishment if caught, the numbers of deliveries reaching these prohibited areas are not enough to meet even the most basic demand for goods and foodstuffs.

The impact of the policy on the business community in Kismayo is also undermining any support that the Islamist group may have maintained in the city. Some have expressed their frustration not only at the financial cost to them of this policy but also at what they see as its flawed logic. This was expressed to Somalia Report by a local businessman who asked to be called YA.

“I believe al-Shabaab is not fighting to defend the religion and the Somali people but they have a hidden agenda as evident in what they are doing in the community. They claim that they are starving their enemy which is impossible but they are causing problems to the citizens who are living those areas not controlled by them. Their enemies have many other accessible ports in the country like Mogadishu port and are superior as they carry all their food staffs. Al-Shabaab is detrimental to many business people in the region. For example, I used transport at least 200 sacks of 50kg of sugar and rice every two weeks from the port of Kismayo to all the way to the towns of Lower Juba and Gedo regions but now I can’t and therefore, my business is prone to collapse,” YA explained.

Coming at a time when the group is under increasing military and financial pressure it is likely that this policy, already having such a negative impact on both business and day-to-day life, will continue to erode support for al-Shabaab among clan leaders, the business class and also civilians who are forced to suffer shortages of goods ordinarily acquired through the port of Kismayo.

This report was prepared with the assistance of Phillip van Gaalen-Prentice, an Australian-based researcher and consultant.

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